The Ethiopian government has stated that free and independent media is one of the cornerstones in building a new and open society. It is still early days but there is a visible change regarding freedom of expression in the country. There is an urgent need for Ethiopian journalism to organise through strong structures which can act as independent entities and strengthen the universal right to access to information and freedom of expression.
In 2017 Fojo, on behalf of the Swedish Embassy, conducted a feasibility study to assess if there was a possibility to support the media reform process. With further support from the Swedish Embassy, Fojo is currently implementing the project: Ethiopia Media Reform during 2018-2019 with the aim to promote a conducive environment for democratic media reform and sector-wide dialogue in Ethiopia.
Since September 2018 Fojo in collaboration with local partner Nubia Media has held five workshops focusing on different themes such as Media Business Management, Social Media and Disinformation, Gender Equality, Election coverage and self-regulation. These seminars have proven to be an essential first platform and meeting place for discussions and exchange of ideas, concerns, needs and solutions. After a long period of a repressive media climate, there is an enormous need for safe spaces to meet and discuss.
The project has also done a first mapping of the social media landscape and internet connection in Ethiopia and a handbook will be produced with contributors from inside and outside Ethiopia discussing vital issues to be considered during a media reform process. The handbook will be a key resource for media professionals, law-makers, future training in media houses, journalism schools, social media users and interested citizens.
In April 2019 Fojo will host a regional conference: “Promoting journalism and democracy in Practice, media reform in a time of change” in Addis Ababa (9-10th April).
Another component of the Fojo program is the innovate exchange of ideas by students at the Addis Technicon, and The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden regarding media literacy for youth in a digital media world.
All of these engagements will provide a sound, transparent and result-orientated basis for future support and projects to enhance press freedom and professionalism within the media industry.