Clampdown in Addis: Ethiopia’s Journalists at Risk

Table of Contents

Introductory Essay by Josh Friedman

Clampdown in Addis: Ethiopia’s Journalists at Risk

The Press Proclamation and the Prosecution of Journalists

Censorship and Libel

Freedom of Information

The Private Press: The Challenges Facing Independent Journalists

The State Media: The Government Press and the Broadcast Monopoly

Ushering Ethiopian Journalism into the 21st Century
Recommendations to the Ethiopian and U.S. Governments

Appendix i:

  • Distribution of Print Media
  • Printing Presses
  • The New Technologies
  • Foreign Media Presence
  • Professional Associations
  • Training

Appendix ii:

  • Attacks on the Press in Ethiopia, 1992-1996

Appendix iii:

  • A List of Ethiopian Media
  • Government Newspapers
  • Government-run Broadcast Media and Wire Services
  • Private Newspapers
  • Private Magazines


The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) thanks the many reporters and editors who generously shared their time as we conducted research for this report. We would also like to thank the following Ethiopian government officials who formally received CPJ to discuss our requests and concerns about press freedom: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Justice Minister Mahteme Solomon, and Speaker of Parliament Davit Yohannes. CPJ is indebted as well to the representatives we met with from local nongovernmental organizations, the international diplomatic community, and international donor agencies working on media-related issues in Ethiopia.


In May 1996, CPJ Africa program coordinator Kakuna Kerina and board member Josh Friedman conducted a 12-day fact-finding mission to Ethiopia. The primary reasons for the mission were:

  • The alarming fact that for three consecutive years, Ethiopia has imprisoned more journalists than any other African country;
  • The mass arrests of journalists in 1995 for their coverage of an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as he attended an Organization of African Unity (OAU) meeting in Addis Ababa, and on Ethiopia’s former Communist dictator Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is living in exile in Zimbabwe;
  • A critical need for a firsthand analysis of the Ethiopian media, especially in light of the unprecedented social and political changes that have transpired in the five years since Col. Mengistu’s regime was overthrown and democratic elections (albeit boycotted by the opposition) were held in 1995 for the first time in the country’s history.

CPJ held more than 50 in-depth discussions with journalists from the private and state press, government officials, and representatives of international donor agencies and local nongovernmental organizations. It is important to note that in most of those informative and often lengthy discussions, numerous government officials and private citizens spoke on the condition of anonymity.

CPJ is releasing this report on Oct. 7, 1996–the day Ethiopia’s Parliament reconvenes–to focus attention on important media issues that legislators will address, such as an update on the Press Proclamation No. 34/1992, a restrictive press law enacted in 1992; the establishment of a media committee within the Parliament; the creation of a press council and a government Department of Information; and the structuring of a regulatory framework for future private ownership of broadcast media.

 Josh Friedman, a CPJ board member and a former chairman of the Committee, is the U.N. bureau chief for Newsday and an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. In 1985, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his coverage of the famine in Ethiopia.

Kakuna Kerina, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, is an editor, author, and award-winning documentary filmmaker. She has lived and studied in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Botswana, and traveled throughout Africa.

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