On the occasion of the Consultative Workshop on Fostering the Tripartite Relationship among the EHRC, CSOs, and the Media held on 19 May 2022, Honourable Commissioner Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Sonoo, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, highlighted the importance of national human rights institutions (NHRIs), civil society organisations (CSOs), and the media in the dissemination of human rights principle. She underscored the key role of the media in society, and the role that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and CSOs have to advocate for the creation of an enabling environment for press freedom and to strengthen the capacities of media institutions and professionals. The Special Rapporteur called on CSOs and EHRC to combat hate speech but to also ensure that the terms in Proclamation No. 1185-2020 on Hate Speech and Dissemination Prevention and Suppression in Ethiopia, are interpreted in line with international human rights instruments.

A representative of the academic community from Addis Ababa University, School of Journalism, noted that while NHRIs, CSOs, and the media have a common role in advancing human rights and protecting civic space, prevailing misunderstandings and misconceptions has been an impediment in building a constructive working relationship. The representative stressed the need to build mutual trust and understanding of each other’s roles, mandates, and functions.

Workshop participants

A representative of the media indicated that the media is in a precarious situation in Ethiopia, with a concerning increase in arbitrary arrest and detention as well as enforced disappearance of media professionals. A representative from civil society organisations indicated that while there has been a significant improvement in the opening up of civic space in recent years including revision of the CSOs proclamation, the civic space has been shrinking in recent months.

The meeting unanimously agreed on the need for improved coordination among the EHRC, CSOs, and the media in advocating for human rights promotion and protection. Participants identified the gaps and challenges that exist in the tripartite partnership and identified opportunities for improved synergy.