Towards the end of the 19th century, missionaries and trade representatives set up weekly and monthly papers in French…

By Elias Gebreselassie |

Although the state controls most broadcasting outlets, including the sole national television network, there are a few private radio stations in Ethiopia. This text provides an overview of the media landscape in the East African nation, particularly as it relates to the country’s music industry.

History

Towards the end of the 19th century, missionaries and trade representatives set up weekly and monthly papers in French.  The first publication to be introduced was a weekly newspaper (La Se-maine d’ Ethiopie, 1890), published in French by a Franciscan missionary living in Harar. In 1905 the name of the publication was changed to Le Semeur d’Ethiopie[i].

The first Amharic newspaper was issued in 1895, a four-page weekly newspaper named Aemero (intelligence). The first issues of Aemero were hand-written, but by 1902 the paper had a weekly circulation of more than 200 copies as it was printed using mimeograph machines.  The paper ceased publication in 1916 but was later revived in 1924 before collapsing again after a few years. Between 1912 and 1915, weekly newspapers like Melekete Selam, Yetor Wore (‘War News’), and many others emerged. In 1923, Emperor Haile Selassie I established the first printing press, Berhanena Selam (Light and Peace).

Between 1923 and 1936, Ethiopia had six publications: Aithiopicos Kosmos (Ethiopian World) in Greek in 1925, L’EthiopieCommercialein French in 1932, AtbiaKokab (The Morning Star) in Amharic in 1934, and from 1934 to 1936, Ye-Ethiopia Demts (Voice of Ethiopia) in Amharic. Ye-Ethiopia Demts was silenced by the Italian aggression on Ethiopia and was reissued in 1958.

In the three decades after liberation (between 1941 and 1974), a number of legal measures we taken that encouraged the growth of the print media in Ethiopia. The major ones were: the decrees of 1942 and 1944, the Revised Constitution of 1955, the Penal Code of 1957, the draft constitution that was presented to the country’s highest constitutional assembly in July 1974, and a decree published in Addis Zemen in March 1975. A year after the formation of The Press and Information Department, in 1943 The Ethiopian Herald[ii] was started as a weekly, published in English. This newspaper and Addis Zemen became dailies at the end of 1958, and are still being published by the Ministry of Information to this day.

More quarterly and annual departmental journals and publications emerged. These included publications by the State Bank of Ethiopia and various government ministries. Magazines too were published during this period. Some of these monthly magazines were: The Ethiopian Mirror (English), Menen (one each in English and Amharic), Addis Reporter (English) and others published by the Ministry of Information.

The first two or three years of the Derg regime (1974-1987), often referred to as “the golden era”  by Ethiopian journalists, held much promise and hope of freedom of the press. Dialogues between opposing political groups were seen in print and electronic media, and journalists became extremely open and critical of the government. Relevant national issues such as democracy, land tenure and the form of government the country should have were openly discussed in the public print media.

The landmark event in the history of print media in Ethiopia began after the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power in May 1991. The EPRDF soon declared the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which ensured freedom of the press and speech. The Ethiopian publishing industry mushroomed after the Press Bill of 1992. Figures differ, but according to the Government, 385 publications were registered between October 1992 and July 1997, of which 265 were newspapers and 120 magazines.

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