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Ethiopia soars in world press freedom index

Ethiopia soars in world press freedom index

registers the highest jump in ranking of 40 places

The World Press Freedom Index-2019, an annual index published since 2002 by the French based Reporters without Boarders aka Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), has ranked Ethiopia 110th out of 180 countries in general level of media freedom exhibiting an improvement of 40 places in ranking since last year where the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) took over the reins of power at Arat Kilo.

According to an excerpt of the 2019-Index, which was provided exclusively to The Reporter by the non-governmental media advocacy group this week, the year was not only good for Ethiopia with respect to media freedom but for the entire continent as Africa registered the “smallest deterioration” in its regional score in 2019 in the face of one of the worst years for the global journalism fraternity.

According to RSF’s assessment, “an intense climate of fear has been triggered-one that is prejudicial to safe reporting environment.” And an increased level of hostilities fueled by “politicians” is “inciting frequent and serious” act of violence to wards journalists.

The report’s gloomy outlook for the global media environment is better accentuated by the growing trend of “hatred for journalists that is degenerating into violence and contributing to an increase in fear”. In fact, RSF assessment observed that the number of countries where journalists can work in complete security is in a continuous decline, as “authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media”.

“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” said RSF secretary-general, Christophe Deloire, under scoring that “halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value freedoms acquired in the course of history”.

Nevertheless, the index asserts that Africa is not only doing better as a region but some of the best performers of the year came from this continent. In this regard, the report details, how after the change of leadership in Ethiopia, the country was inspired to free all of its detained journalists and activities,lift the ban on websites and media outlets and embark up on a comprehensive legislative overhaul in connection to media regulation.

“For the first time in more than ten years there is no journalist in prison I Ethiopia at the end of the year 2018,” the report says, therefore the “spectacular soaring” in media freedom exhibited his year.

“For the first time 15 years, no journalists are being held in connection with their work I Ethiopia. A total of 264 previously banned websites and blogs have been given permission to operate. Leading Ethiopia TV channels that been forced to operate from bases outside the country, such as OMN and ESAT, can now operate in Ethiopia. Also 23 new publications and six TV channels have been approved in recent months,” the reports details.

Accordingly, RSF’s index shows an improvement in score for Ethiopia from 50.17 in 2018 to 35.11 in 2019, registering the biggest leap this year. 

Apart from Ethiopia,Gambia, which jumped 30 places in 2019 to be ranked as 92nd, is also another African nation which managed to register big improvements during the year in question. “Promising evolution” has been observed in the Gambia since the departure of the long-serving president YahyaJammeh, the report states.

However, still the situation in Namibia (23rd), once more the best ranking African country with regard to press freedom, Burkina Faso (36th) or Senegal (49th)is diametrically opposed to the states of press freedom in Eritrea (178th) and Djibouti (173rd), where no independent media are permitted which RSF dubs as “information black holes”.

Globally, Norway still tops the index as it did for the past three years followed by Finland and Sweden. Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand, Jamaica, Belgium and Costa Rica are the other counties at the top ten positions from the around the world. Whereas on the other hand, countries like Turkmenistan, DPRK, China, Sudan, Syria Saudi Arabia and Iran composed the bottom ranking group.

RSF index assess the level of pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legal frameworks, transparency and the quality infrastructure that supports the production of news. The actual country scores are calculated from the answers to questionnaire distributed in 20 languages which is completed by experts and supported quantitative analysis. Generally the score gauges constraints and violation and hence the higher the score the worse are the condition for a media in the country in question.