Hate Speech, Misinformation Challenge Press Freedom, Democracy


Addis Ababa August 31/ 31 It has been more than a year since Ethiopia has widely open the door for dissent, criticism and freedom of expression. 

However, unable to differentiate between rights and responsibilities has become a challenge to the democratization process, as many people according to Gebru Gebremariam are mistaking freedom of expression with insulting individuals.

The spread of hate speeches and misinformation on social media are challenging and posing dangers on the proper exercising of press freedom and the long way towards democratization, said Gebru, who is the Vice Chairperson of the Oromo Federalist Congress.

Gebru, a former MP, believes that improper use of social media is barring the proper exercising of press freedom and democratization in the country.

“It is very unfortunate in this country…we don’t really know how to use this social media. In this country, especially it is being used for evil deeds; for insulting an individual, despising and not supporting the democratic way we are engaged in,” Gebru said.

“Press freedom is not insulting an individual and violation of rules and regulations that the country is abiding by,” he added.

“This country is learning press freedom, so those who are using this social media for evil things are barring the way to democratize this country and that does not help anybody,” Gebru said.

Communication Director at the Federal Attorney General, Zenabu Tunu agreed on the fact that freedom of expression has mixed with insulting others and violating rules and regulations.

He said that irresponsible contents that disseminate online are posing serious threats to the proper exercising of freedom of expression and building democracy.

“Spreading hate speech and misinformation on social media is very dangerous. It caused deaths, displacements and loss of properties across the country,” he said.

“We assessed that law enforcement is required to alleviate these dangers and a draft law has been discussed among stakeholders where it is now under scrutiny by pertinent government body to be enacted by parliament,” Zenabu said.

“The law enables to protect defamation campaigns and discriminations on those who exercise their press freedom, targeting their religion, nationality and gender identities,” the communication director stated.

Gebru agreed on the need to regulate social media practice, saying that “Using social media needs a carful way of administering it.”

“We do not either know how to exercise press freedom or those so called elites are sabotaging this change that could cause a negative impact on the democratic process,” said Gebru urging the need to take measures before this practice jeopardize the reform.

“So, government should be proactive and take measures before they jeopardized the change, otherwise we cannot move forward as things stand now,” urging for urgent action from the government.

“I am not saying everything that this government is doing is right but there are things being improved in front of our eyes,” he said referring to the achievements gained in various areas.

“The rules and regulations of press freedom should be exercised properly. The government is deliberately lenient because this was a society that was in jail of press. So they wanted to see how people exercise it. Idea should fight against idea not individual against individual. We cried for press freedom and when we are given we are abusing it.” Gebru added.