UN official urges Ethiopia to sustain recent progress in protecting freedom of opinion

World Press Freedom Day

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, on Monday urged the Ethiopian government to sustain the country’s recent progress in protecting citizens’ rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, said on Monday as part of his end of mission statement after concluding an eight-day visit to the East African country, from December 2 to 9, at the invitation of the Ethiopian government.

“Throughout the mission, in which I evaluated the situation of freedom of opinion and expression in the country today, I met with government officials, members of parliament and the judiciary, human rights defenders and academics in civil society, journalists, students and other participants in the rapid legal, institutional and political change taking place in Ethiopia today,” Kaye said in his end of mission statement issued on Monday.

The UN Special Rapporteur described Ethiopia as “a vast and diverse country marked by the excitement, uncertainty and, in some quarters, fear of what one close observer called “tectonic” shifts in the institutional, legal and political environments.”

Kaye also recalled the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts over the past year, since he took office in April last year, in which Ahmed ended the state of emergency, released journalists, activists and opposition figures from prison, legalized civil society organizations, and halted rampant government censorship.

Ahmed’s government “continued with the launch of a formal process of legal and institutional reform, introducing a public participatory process of legislative drafting and advice that should be a model for democratic processes worldwide,” the UN special rapporteur said in a statement.

According to Kaye, Ethiopia has adopted a progressive law on civil society organizations and is in the process of considering other laws related to media and access to information, counter-terrorism, and computer crime.

“Nothing should take away from the progress, promise, and boldness of this transformation, as long as the government invests in it the commitment and momentum of its early days,” he said.

The UN special rapporteur also stressed that the global community “should support it where it can and, where appropriate, with robust diplomatic and financial contributions.”

“My evaluation is founded principally on the human right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Ethiopia ratified and, by virtue of its Constitution, is a part of Ethiopia’s domestic and international obligations,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression said. Enditem

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