Ethiopia’s media environment is primarily Government owned and controlled with some private news media struggling to survive the limitations of a small market base and political pressure. The current Government has allowed the operations of the private press and political opposition for the first time in the country’s history. However, the challenge for these entities to enjoy a genuinely free political space is formidable particularly following the hugely disputed general elections in 2005. The media in general and the private press in particular seem to have faced difficulties related to gaining access to official information and generally enjoying a free political space to communicate their news and views. Self-censorship seems to have become a common practice among journalists.
The research attempts to look into these challenges and the place of international media as alternative sources of information on local affairs reporting of the Ethiopian press as perceived by local reporters and editors. Its main objective, therefore, is to explore situations that lead the Ethiopian press to utilize international media outlets as sources of news on local state of affairs. Employing various techniques with the qualitative research paradigm, data was gathered through in-depth interviews, qualitative document and newspaper content analyses.
Findings indicate that the private press operates under challenges such as lack of access to official information and a climate of fear of Government harassment and persecution. As a consequence, the private press tends to use more international media sources for locally available information that it would not be able to obtain itself. The generally critical reporting of the international media on Ethiopia also seems to suit the tendency of the private press to focus more on criticizing Government activities. The Government press, on the other hand, largely praises and promotes the Government in such a way that it finds little relevance in international media sources except to launch attacks against their coverage of Ethiopia.