Ethiopia premier warns non-Ethiopian media owners

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warns non-Ethiopian media owners engaged in inciting conflicts among different communities by spreading hate speeches.

Responding to the question by a member of parliament this morning on how some media institutions in Ethiopia have been abusing press freedom lately, Prime Minister Abiy said his administration will not tolerate any more those non-Ethiopian media owners ‘whether they speak Amharic or Oromiffa language’ for the sake of defending the peace and stability of the country and well-being of citizens.

Using their second nationality and foreign passport as advantage, these media owners who have foreign passport are likely to run away to their safe heaven after inciting conflicts and leading the country into chaos, according to his explanation [NOT A DIRECT QUOTE].

The current Ethiopian media law will not allow non-Ethiopian citizens to be engaged in media business. Meanwhile the revised and expected to be approved this year media law stated that a foreigner can own up to 25% share in a media company.

Because of the previous media law and the intimidation and attacks against local independent journalists by the regime, most of the media outlets that were very instrumental in exposing the human rights violations in Ethiopia were based outside of the country and run by non-Ethiopian passport holders but Ethiopians by blood. The major ones include Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT and Oromia Media Network – OMN – many online publications such as Ethiopian Review, among others.

After the 43 years old reformist prime minister of Ethiopia came to power in April 2018, he released all political prisoners including journalists accused of terrorism. His actions has led to the opening of new independent media outlets and shifting of many exiled opposition media outlets from activism to professional journalism by setting up offices in Ethiopia.

Meanwhile some of these media outlets have continued their activism role representing one ethnic group and spreading unsubstantiated and historical rhetoric, which are often causing communal conflicts between different tribes across the country.

In addition some of the media outlets run by regional governments of Ethiopia have also been reporting one-sided narratives like that of the one ethnic group-centered satellite TV channels, mainly run by non-Ethiopian passport holders.

Over the past several months many people have been sharing the hate speeches of the extremists on social media leading to all sorts of crisis, from killing of dozens civilians in areas such as Sidama zone of Southern region, to the displacement of millions of people in the country, including the capital, Addis Ababa to attacks on religious institutions as well as blocking of roads major roads affecting the movement of people and goods for many days.

The Broadcast Authority of Ethiopia, the state agency in charge of registering ad regulating all media outlets in Ethiopia has recently been complaining about unethical reports of some media outlets.

In an interview with the state broadcaster – ETV on Monday this week the head of the Authority Dr. Getachew Dinku indicated that the broadcast authority may go as far as shutting down the media institutions, which are inciting conflicts by disseminating unethical and biased contents unless they turn their face to professional journalism.

It is recalled that last Saturday some 29 media outlets have held the first general assembly of Ethiopian Media Council, which aims to advance professional journalism in Ethiopia by self-regulating and avoiding toxic and biased reporting.