A critical analysis of policy implementation of the freedom of the press in Ethiopia under the rule of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
This study analyses the status of press freedom in Ethiopia under the rule of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The study critically examines the implementation of the legal frameworks regarding freedom of expression and press. In order to understand the status of the press in the current democratic state of Ethiopia, the study employs an implementation analysis of press freedom by drawing from Francis Kasoma’s Theory of Independent Press in Africa. The study’s focus is limited to the Ethiopian private media during the EPRDF-led government. It is contended that due to its repressive nature, the EPRDF rule contributed to the expansion of the private press in Ethiopia. This was evident in the 1995 Constitution Article 29 and the 1992 press proclamation. The study noted that despite the constitutional provisions for press freedom in Ethiopia, as well as all the international statutes to which Ethiopia is signatory, the implementation of legal frameworks for press freedom under the EPRDF government were modest at best. The study argues that the EPRDF created two extreme situations under which the press operated in Ethiopia. These are independent versus dependent media. The independent (private) press has been dubbed oppositional to the government and hence persecuted, while the dependent (public) press has been enjoying relative freedom under the totalitarian auspices of the ruling party and the government. In both extremes the media has been constrained and had their freedom curtailed. The difference has been that the private press is overtly constrained, while the dependent press is apparently enabled, as long as it covers the positive side of the government. As such, the public space for media has been severely constrained in Ethiopia in such a manner that the traditional role of media to serve as a bridge between the society and the state is missing. The EPRDF created a situation in which both extremes fail to meet the ideals of press freedom as exemplified in economically advanced countries.