By Freze Zewude and Mekdes Endale
In relation to World Press Freedom Day, 2019, students of Journalism and Communication, Addis Ababa University, talked with people on the street of Addis Ababa about press freedom. They have positive opinions about the political changes which are taking place since last year, April 2018. Yet, they expressed their concerns about the potentials of the changes to generate sustainable improvement of press freedom in Ethiopia.
It is hard for me to say that there is remarkable improvement:
Wudnesh Hayle, Civil Servant
I don’t know about press freedom day. But about press freedom, it is hard for me to say that there is remarkable improvement in the area since the current prime minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed took the leadership of the country. I don’t see media institutions and the society showing any positive change of great significance. Media practitioners fabricate and spread fake news and the society consume and act on those information without being critical. It is important for the government to have real grasp of the situation and provide some guidelines and maybe impose some restrictions on media practices. It should create awareness on responsible media practice that would beneficial to all.
Suppressing press freedom leads to severe problems:
Alemgena Abebe, Newspaper and magazine vendor
Society needs press freedom. But, we had been seriously hungry for it in the past. Particularly, our print media suffered a lot. Many of our newspapers are weak, produced by poorly organized newsrooms. Yet, after a long period of hard times now we are in a changing situation that has positively affected the media practice. I can say there is better press freedom today than it was before a year. Newspapers have started to commonly report on issues which were regarded as daring. I think denying press freedom brings lots of problems and results in violent popular reactions and oppositions which create lots of problems.
The media should be a source of reliable information:
Emebet Weldemichael, Financial Expert
I don’t know about press freedom day. But I can say that there is an improvement in press freedom since Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed assumed the leadership of the country. What is seen among the various media institutions is really sad, though. These institutions are supposed to be neutral and impartial, especially in reporting on sensitive issues or issues of great impact on the country. Instead they are taking sides and are reflecting their own opinion or the point of view of some political groups they are affiliated with. This has to stop immediately before further damage is done. The media should be a source of reliable information. They are supposed to act as watchdogs and expose wrong doings through objective reporting, instead of being a mouthpiece for some political group.
It seems we forget the responsibilities that press freedom entails:
Berhanu Kenea, Health Officer
Human beings can really feel that they are human beings when they can freely speak, write and read; that is freedom of expression.
In Ethiopian, the current change since April 2018 has resulted in the improvement of the media situation. It seems that press freedom is being enjoyed by the journalists, the media as well as the audience. But, the practitioners appear to forget the responsibilities that press freedom entails.
We can currently observe less responsible media reports, sensationalism, incomplete and unbalanced stories, hate speeches and fake news and the like.
The spread of fake news on social media…spinning out of control:
Hiwot Getachew, Entrepreneur
I am not familiar with press freedom day. But there certainly is a great improvement which we all have witnessed during these past few months. We have witnessed freedom of expression flourishing in the country like never before. Nonetheless, the current media freedom is exposed to an abuse whereby spreading bias and confusion among the public is becoming a dominant feature. The spread of fake news on social media platforms mainly on facebook is continuously increasing and spinning out of control. We all need to calm down, and should refrain from believing everything that is posted on different social media platforms.
The media should promote dialogue and mutual understanding: Bogale Tigestu, Self-employed citizen
Press freedom is vital for the society. The current political reform in Ethiopia has made the press free from oppression. I appreciate it as citizen. The problem however is that journalists or the media professionals are publishing insincere self-centered opinions which are promoting mistrust and hostilities among members of the society. The media should promote dialogue and mutual understanding. It is better to use the emerging press freedom responsibly for the benefit of the society.
Newspapers mismatch front page news and inside articles: Tadele Ageza, Businessman
I think press freedom is important not only to express ideas and opinions freely in the conditions we live in; but, it could also be a transforming factor in the political, economic and social aspects of our society, to improve the status of the nation for the next generation.
Before April 2018 we had a difficult time as far as press freedom is concerned. Newspapers were disappearing suddenly from circulation. Journalist were being jailed, and forced to flee out of the country. Now things look different; jailed journalists were released a year ago, no journalist has been imprisoned since April 2018, journalists have more press freedom than ever before.
Yet, the question now is how to practice journalism in a context of improved press freedom. The trends in the experiences of newspapers and magazines show that recklessness is a serious problem. Newspapers mismatch front page news and inside articles. They also lose impartiality and national feeling.
Press freedom is being used as a tool for partisan political goals: Ephrem Arka, Civil Engineer
The public opinion seems to agree that the condition of press freedom in Ethiopia is better today than before. Unfortunately, the press freedom that media practitioners are enjoying is used to serve parochial political interests. Unfair and unbalanced news stories are common in reporting on political issues and conflicts. We need to use press freedom responsibly in order to make it sustainable.