Ethiopian Media industry: Ownership and Regulations From Historical Point of View

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Addis Ababa University


This paper aims at analyzing the history of the Ethiopian media industry from the imperial period to the current federal system - focusing on ownership and regulations. In Ethiopia, the media institutions had been under the monopoly of the government until 1991. The coming of the Ethiopian Peoples‘ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) into power in 1991 has laid a historical legal framework for the Ethiopian press, with all its challenges on the ground. However, the Press Proclamations of 1992, 1999, and the Broadcast Proclamation of 2007 have not been able to guarantee journalists and media workers freedom in carrying out their duties with ease. According to Ethiopia‘s legal frameworks, religious institutions and political parties cannot own broadcast media. Although the law provides for the private ownership of broadcasting, it is yet to be realized in practice (especially ownership of television), leaving the sector virtually under the control of the government. As a result, it is difficult to call the Ethiopian broadcast media as public media. The private press - newspapers and some magazines - have continued to produce contents which often tend to be highly critical of the government. Some of these papers appear to be pro-opposition parties as their counter-part, the ―public media,‖ is pro-government – and thus two opposing polls created in the media industry. What is more, the profession is underdeveloped, and this situation coupled with the low conscientious level of the wider public and the prevalence of weak legal institutions, has made the challenge monumental. The findings of this study reveal that different factors have contributed to the low level of journalism profession in Ethiopia. Ownership has a big role to play in terms of controlling what and how the media should operate. As noted earlier, except a few FM Radios, the vi broadcast media are under the government control and they hardly discharge their watchdog role in exposing officials‘ misdeeds without a green light from the same. As most of the private newspapers are critical of the government, they are often subject to accusation, imprisonment and intimidation. On the other hand, the absence of credible national journalists‘ association has negatively contributed to the profession‘s predicament. Even though many in the profession believe that having a press council is vital for the development of the profession, it has not yet come to fruition, and the one that is still in the process does not seem to win the trust of some journalists in the private sector. Furthermore, financial problems have posed a serious challenge to the survival of the private newspapers; this in turn has put them under different pressures. Last but not least, there is a lack of clear and shared conceptual understanding of the notion of development journalism among the practitioners of the profession, making coherence difficult among them. Thus, the paper calls for a sustained deliberation on the issue of journalistic professionalism among the various stakeholders so that the Ethiopian media industry could be transformed. It also calls on media scholars to look into the Ethiopian media predicament seriously and come up with a relevant media model for the Ethiopian context.



Ethiopian Media