The UK government has announced a £15.5 million support to help Ethiopia run transparent, free and fair elections next year.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the announcement at the 2019 World Press Freedom Day celebrations that started in Addis Ababa yesterday.
The money will build the capacity of the elections board to run the election which will make electoral operations more transparent and enhance communications and engagement for the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).
It will also prevent electoral violence through enhanced monitoring and early warning to improve the effectiveness of electoral dispute mechanism.
“If successful and peaceful, the elections in May 2020 will be a major step towards building a democratic culture in Ethiopia and will lay a platform for a continuation and deepening of Prime Minister Abiy’s political and economic reforms,” he said.
The Foreign Secretary also expressed his delight “to be in Ethiopia, where under Prime Minister Abiy’s leadership the new government has transformed political discourse by allowing the creation of hundreds of websites, blogs, and newspapers.”
“Since the Prime Minister assumed office last year, Ethiopia has climbed the World Press Freedom Index faster than any other country, rising 40 places and showing just how much can be achieved when the political will exists.”
The Foreign Secretary also announced a new Chevening Africa Media Fellowship programme that will provide 60 exceptional African journalists over the next five years to gain experience in the newsrooms of Britain’s leading media organizations.
This year, applicants from ten African countries will be eligible, including Ethiopia.
In his remark at the event, Jeremy Hunt set out his vision to improve media freedom around the world, calling on leaders to recognize that “media freedom is not a “Western” value, but instead a force for progress from which everyone benefits.”
“Whatever we politicians claim during election campaigns, no single party or leader or philosophy has a monopoly on wisdom. Instead of the progress of humanity clearly shows that wisdom arises from the open competition between ideas when different viewpoints are given the oxygen to contend freely and fairly,” he said.
Hunt indicated that a free media “provides a channel for people to voice discontent without resorting to violence. If problems and tensions are bottled up, then they are far more likely to boil over. Stopping journalists from reporting a problem does not make it go away.”
Jeremy Hunt also made the link between a free media and lower levels of government corruption, saying that “far more effective than the crackdowns regularly launched by authoritarian regimes is the sunlight of transparency – just witness the striking overlap between the least corrupt countries in global indices and those with the freest media.”