Democracy and Freedom: two sides of a coin

Democracy and Freedom: two sides of a coin

By Mengistu Ebabey


“No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power." — António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General


World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference. Since then, 3 May, the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

The 26th celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2019 is jointly organized by UNESCO, the African Union Commission and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The main event is taking place in Addis Ababa, from 1 to 3 May at the African Union Headquarters. This year's theme “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” discusses current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s   potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.

The Day also examines concerns such as the safety of journalists and how we can better push back against a growing climate of disinformation.

Hosting this international event is great for Ethiopia. No doubt that the celebration helps the country to enhance its way towards democracy. Lessons could be learnt from experiences of journalists, media institutions, education institutions who came from different corners of the globe. Ethiopia is given this honor to host the event because of the big role played by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration.

Until April 2018, Ethiopia was a country where journalists were jailed, and one of the countries who suppressed the press. It was 150th on the list of world’s press freedom of the press. Since Prime Minister Dr. Abiy assumed power,  all journalists who were jailed have been released. Those who were expelled were also returned home. According to the press rights group, Reporters without Borders; currently there is no journalist who has been held in jail in relation to their work. This better achievement made Ethiopia to become 110th on the list of world’s press freedom of the press and relatively free -censorship country.

Prime minster Abiy’s administration also released all political dissidents and activists who had been detained under vague legislations which are now under review.

The celebration of world press freedom day is continuing with different issues related to journalism and journalists. Participants also mentioned that governments need to do more to ensure journalist’s freedom. It is through these efforts that development could be achieved. On the other hand participants strongly expressed their beliefs that the media owners and practitioners have to fight to get their own freedom.