Media in transition : The cost of increased freedom of expression in Ethiopia

University essay from Stockholms universitet/JMK

Author: Oscar Svernlöv; [2020]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: This thesis aims to portray the professional challenges for journalists in the private Ethiopian media sphere during a time of historical political change. Several liberal reforms have been enacted since the inauguration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018. Journalists have been released from prison, numerous websites have been unblocked and government intervention of independent media actors has declined. However, these changes are not without new challenges. The study uses qualitative, in-depth interviews with several key actors in the private media sector as the method of data collection and numerous findings that describe the new situation for journalists surfaced. While the interviewees commonly perceived an increase in media freedom and decrease in government threats, other challenges remain, and new ones have appeared. The data indicate that there are still considerable difficulties in accessing government information, as well as a significant uncertainty as to whether the transition will occur, as new media laws have yet to be put in place. The most prevalent finding was, however, the distinct and unanimous shift in perceived threats towards journalists. As government intervention has declined, public unrest and intimidations have increased to the point where several of the respondents no longer felt safe reporting from to certain geographical areas in the country. The investigation concludes that there is a need for further research into the often profound impact that political developments have on journalistic practice in sub-Saharan countries, as well as the impact of sudden increases in freedom of expression in countries with a history of heavily censored authoritarian leadership.

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