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More than a dozen diplomatic missions in Ethiopia call for release of journalists ‘unjustly detained for doing their jobs’

Addis Abeba – On World Press Freedom Day being observed today, a group of Western diplomatic missions including EU member states and the US that are based in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia called for advocacy for the release of Ethiopian journalists “unjustly detained for doing their jobs.”

The call was made in a joint statement released today in connection with World Press Freedom Day, observed every year on 03 May. “May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day, a reminder of the importance of press freedom and the need to protect journalists and the media who work tirelessly to report the facts,” the group said, adding that freedom of speech and the press is a fundamental human right that must be upheld.

But, “in Ethiopia, there are instances of journalists intimidated and unjustly detained for doing their job. We mark this day to shine a light on the issue and advocate for their release,” the statement called. “As we celebrate World Freedom Day let us continue to work towards creating a world where journalists can report freely and without fear of persecution.”

This year’s World Press Freedom Day is being marked as Ethiopia’s global index on freedom of the press continued showing a steady decline. According to the latest index by the global media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), with 15 journalists known to have been detained as of today, Ethiopia ranked 141 in the global score of press freedom out of 180 countries surveyed, showing a ten points decline from 131 out of 180 countries surveyed in 2023. In 2022 Ethiopia was ranked 114 out of the same number countries.

“Devastated by inter-ethnic conflict and civil war, most of the recent gains in press freedom have been reversed. Journalists’ fear of reprisals were reignited by the conflict in the Amhara region, which began a few months after a peace agreement was signed in November 2022 formally ending the Tigray war,” RSF said.

Ethiopia’s global index in freedom of the press showed improvement between 2018 and 2020 but continued to show alarming deterioration following the onset of the November 2020 war in Tigray.

The 2024 index by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) placed Ethiopia as one of the three countries in sub-Saharan Africa for being the worst jailers of journalists following Eritrea and Egypt.

A recent finding by Afrobarometer survey showed that “solid majorities of Ethiopians want a news media that is free of government interference and that helps hold the government accountable. A slim majority perceive the country’s media as free.”

The joint call issued today was made by a group of 18 diplomatic missions including the EU, US, UK, Germany, Austria, Finland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, The Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. AS

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