A bubbling social media space amid spreading anti-government protests was at the heart of the push for the progressively liberal media landscape that the Ethiopian press is enjoying today.
This is the view shared by Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Addis Standard news portal. She was delivering a keynote address on the second day of the 2019 World Press Freedom Day conference in Addis Ababa.
She said, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front, EPRDF, lost a war of information and was forced to reform in the wake of unrelenting protests and online activism.
Nowhere was this more visible than the four years anti-government protest in Ethiopia and the war of information that the governing party squarely lost to a bubbling social media.
“EPRDF came to the bitter realization that without allowing strong and independent media to take root, … the art of improving democratic governance as well as nurturing healthy state-society relations are empty exercises of a losing political game.
“Nowhere was this more visible than the four years anti-government protest in Ethiopia and the war of information that the governing party squarely lost to a bubbling social media,” she stressed.
Riveting keynote speech by
tselemmaof addisstandard at World Press Freedom Day underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ???️?
– Critique of the past
– Look at the “free” but fragile present
– Charge to guard what could be a bright future
#WPFD2019 #PressFreedom https://t.co/WVMrVxfXbG
— africanews (@africanews) May 2, 2019
Her address was a wholistic critique of the newly found media landscape. She celebrated the successes being chalked especially under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The current government continues to dismantle repressive laws that in the past led to mass jailing of journalists, activists and opponents.
She was quick to flag the need for regulations in the midst of an ever growing and increasingly polarizing field. She buttressed the fact that no journalist was currently being detained over their work and called for a united front to safeguard the successes for what could be a bright future.
“In the past few months alone, we were confronted with the unexpected rise of fake news’ powerful grip on these privately owned emerging media; we are also witnessing the rising collision between the world of activism and journalism, often to a dangerous effect.
“The rising influence of an anti-evidence, anti-expert, anti-sciences populist movement over the traditional and mainstream media is posing a massive threat to not only professional and ethical journalism but to the democratic transition and the bigger peace and stability of Ethiopia,” she stressed.