The Impact of Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Law on Freedom of the Press: The Case of the Ethiopian Private Press

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Addis Ababa University


The study examines the impact of Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism proclamation on the private press' ability to investigate and report on matters of public interest. The topic started to grab attention since Ethiopia introduced an Anti-terrorism Proclamation in early 2009, which became a part of the country's legal book on 28 August 2009. Since then, there have been contradictory arguments made by various parties. The freedom of expression activists and journalists, for example, have argued that the law is being used by the government as an instrument of suppressing dissenting views ~nd criticisms of the government, while the government officials have argued otherwise. Thus, the study pays attention to examining how this debate has shaped the real world of journalism and thereby affected the ro le ofthe private press. To this end, the study employed both qualitative and quantitative methods for collecting the data. In-depth interview, documents and survey questionnaire were the specific data collecting tools used. The data was gathered over a three- month period [from September 1 to December 28]. What is more, the libertarian theoretical framework was used to inform the study. The f indings of the study reveal that overbroad and vague definition of terrorism and other vaguely defined provisions in the anti-terrorism law are having a chilling effect on the media landscape in the country. Particularly, the controversial use of the terms 'terrorism', 'terrorism acts' and 'encouraging' terrorism has created a lot of gray areas and the government appears to be exploiting them to its advantage.Furthermore, provisions that affect the journalists' privileged relations with their sources as well as the diminutive understanding of the law from the journalists' side were found to be making the task of reporting challenging. These factors along with the prosecution of a number of journalists under this law seem to have in sti lled fear among journalists and dissuaded them from investigating issues related to politics, good governance, sensitive religious matters and humanitarian works. As a result, self-censorship abounds in the private press, hampering the media's ability to investigate and report on matters of public importance, which in turn affects the public right to know.



Anti-Terrorism Law on Freedom, EthiopianPrivate Press