The Embassy of France in Ethiopia has announced it will provide EUR 944,000 (57 million birr) to support independent media in advance of Ethiopia’s national dialogue.
The lion’s share of the funds will be split between the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) and the Ethiopian Media Council (EMC), an umbrella group representing private media outlets to strengthen the media sector.
The Corporation plans to digitize its historical archives with the funding.
The Council will use the fund to implement the Ethiopia Media Support Program from 2023 to 2025.
The program launched by France and its partners will have three components. In the first component, Canal France International (CFI) will guide Ethiopian media trainers on two main themes: combating false information and hate speech; and practicing journalism in sensitive contexts.
Under its second component, the program will provide support to the Council for the reinforcement of its institutional capacities, including the media ombudsman, and the improvement of the legal and regulatory environment of the media.
Canal is a subsidiary of France Televisions Group and cooperation agency of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Communication strategies to promote the freedom to inform and the rights of the media professions will also be valued, in order to guarantee public and citizen debates in a brand-new National Dialogue momentum which must favor citizens’ expression.
“Our Council has identified selected activities to implement during the 24 months of the project that will strengthen the capacities of our organization and its members,” Amare Aregawi, chairperson of the Council’s Executive committee, said.
These activities, Amare says will include the reinforcement of the press ombudsman and the institutional capacities of the Council.
“We have also planned to organize trainings and workshops for 1000 journalist and public administrators using innovative tools,” Amare said.
The third component of the program aims to preserve Ethiopia’s audiovisual heritage, which is part of France’s previous commitments on cultural preservation. The French National Audiovisual Institute (INA) will partner with the Corporation to help safeguard and digitize EBC’s archives. This will contribute not only to preserving Ethiopia’s memory but the African continent’s memory as well.
EBC, the oldest TV and radio broadcaster in Africa, has a rich archive of Ethiopian and African history and culture.
The Media Council is an independent institution established in 2016 with the sole purpose of setting media standards and ensuring compliance, as outlined in Article 29 of Ethiopia’s Constitution. It serves as an umbrella organization for private and state-run media outlets, community radio stations, and journalist associations.
“France reaffirms its commitment to contributing to stability, lasting peace and social cohesion in Ethiopia by strengthening the media’s ability to produce pluralistic, reliable and inclusive information, and by safeguarding the country’s audiovisual heritage,” the French embassy said in a statement after signing the agreements on June 22, 2023 with the Corporation and the Council.
Allowing national initiatives aimed at strengthening the media to emerge, and reinforce their legitimacy as key governance players is a challenge for every democratic society, according to the statement.
Attacks on journalists and information manipulation have increased worldwide in recent years. Last year, 57 journalists were killed – the highest on record – while 12 more have died so far in 2023. Reporters Without Borders says 560 journalists and media workers remain imprisoned.