In a sharp break from a quarter century of repression, Ethiopia has embarked on a reform process that is both encouraging and fragile that deserves international support, a United Nations human rights expert said after visiting Ethiopia.
The remark was made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, after concluding his week-long mission to the East African country, from December 2 to 9, at the invitation of the Ethiopian government.
“Less than two years ago, Ethiopia’s human rights record was atrocious, repressing civil society, crushing independent media, and jailing journalists and activists,” Kaye said, in a preliminary statement at the end of his week-long mission.
Kaye, who is the first mandate holder of the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures system to visit Ethiopia since 2006, also stressed that “only 18 months ago Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — who will receive the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10 — initiated change by ending the state of emergency, freeing journalists and human rights defenders, opening up civil society and launching a reform process.”
“Ethiopia has made remarkable progress towards freedom of expression,” said the UN human rights expert. “However, this is only the start of a process that will take years of legal and policy commitment, and persistent dedication to public participation and human rights oversight.”
Kaye, however, noted widespread concern that hate speech, in the broadcast, print and social media, posed a threat to the stability of the reform process, in which in October this year, some 86 people were reportedly killed in unrest that many attribute, in part, to an environment of hate speech and disinformation, including on social media.
The expert also expressed concern about the government’s continuing use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which he urged the government to repeal as swiftly as possible. He also condemned the fact that the government, without clear authority, had shut down the internet at least eight times this year. Enditem