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COVID-19 Ethiopian Media Resource Center

Challenges and Opportunities for New Reform

Political, Legal and Regulatory Pressure

Over the last decade, professional organizations and rights based civic groups in Ethiopia operated under stifling legal restrictions. The Charities and Societies Proclamation of 2009 dealt the Ethiopian civil society a crippling blow through mandatory funding and registration requirements. The government regulated the formation and function of professional and business associations, trade unions and charity and advocacy groups. These groups were required by law to finance their operations and projects with a 10 percent cap on foreign funding. To ask the civil society to raise 90 percent of their funding locally, in a country whose economy is driven by state control and where the majority of the population lives on less than dollar a day, was a death sentence. As resources dried up, the civic space shrunk.

Why Support Ethiopian Media Institution​s?

The fundamental question many are asking is how to build a stable, peaceful and prosperous Ethiopia where diversity of views, identities and interests are respected and engrained in public discourse facilitated by a professional and responsible media.

The urgency of this matter is amplified by the volatile political undercurrent shaping the country’s future. Elections are planned for next year in the backdrop of a political rhetoric heavily influenced by ethnic strife. At an event commemorating his first year in office, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stressed the need for a responsible and ethical media that promotes healthy and pluralistic political debate.

In reality, the Ethiopian media is just starting to revive from decades of systemic authoritarian repression and struggling to find its footing. The media landscape in Ethiopia today is characterized by partisan reporting, politically affiliated ownership and lack of professionalism. The good news is that the current government has embarked on sweeping reform of policy and legislation governing the media and other institutions.This report evaluates the role journalist associations and media organizations play in the development of professional standards in the media sector in Ethiopia.

It analyzes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to determine what journalist associations and other media institutions need to be watchdogs of public interest and constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and information. 

This report lays out a vision for media policy and interventions aiming at the development of independent and professional media institutions. It evaluates the functions and obligations of government, civil society, media owners and journalists in media policy and regulation under existing laws and planned legislative reforms and their impact in the sector. 

This document explores innovative models for journalism training that open avenues for local entrepreneurs, media training and research institutions, as well as in-house training facilities for Ethiopian media.  If the media landscape in Ethiopia is to improve, sustained investment in the sector to build its human resources capacity and business sustainability are critical. New reform efforts to amend restrictive laws is a positive step. Institutional resistance from government agencies to implement planned reform on access to information, free expression and media regulation calls for strong execution strategies. Institutionalizing governance accountability during political transitions is a difficult process; but it is the only way to consolidate a functional democracy. 

Research Report

This report is the result of a study conducted by MERSA Media Institute, in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, with the aim of examining the role journalist associations play in the development of professional standards, regulatory mechanisms and advancement of free speech in Ethiopia. The study identifies existing professional associations, legal and political restrictions limiting their functions, and their capacity to fulfil their civic duties. 


MERSA Media Institute is a nonprofit media policy think tank. We work to help create vibrant, responsible and independent media, professional unions and education centers through research, capacity building and institutional support in Africa.

We are based in Washington, D.C. and work in sub-Saharan Africa, with particular emphasis on Ethiopia. We believe free and independent media are lifelines to the development of peaceful, prosperous, and democratic societies. 


MERSA Media Institute works to support objective journalism and strengthen media institutions to be self-governing, sustainable and committed to inform the public on issues that affect their lives. We value and work towards the development of professionals and institutions that have strong ethics and public interest, and are devoted to create accountable governance.

Our media research and training partnerships are designed to create stable, peaceful and prosperous nations where diversity of views, identities and interests are respected and engrained in robust public discourse. 



We provide data-driven research to equip policy makers with information to help them make sound policy decisions in setting media regulatory frameworks and legal reforms. We build the capacity of journalists through training; conduct business sustainability studies for media houses; and help create and develop press councils, unions and codes of ethics.


We are a team of journalists, educators, researchers and knowledge management experts who are passionate about the role of independent media in the development of informed and self-governing citizens.