In October 2019, ARTICLE 19 analysed the draft Proclamation to Prevent the Spread of Hate Speech and False Information of Ethiopia (Draft Proclamation) for its compliance with international freedom of expression standards. The Draft Proclamation was drafted by the Government earlier that year, amidst growing concern about the ethnic tensions in the country.
ARTICLE 19 finds that the Draft Proclamation fails to comply with international human rights standards. The Draft Proclamation contains broad definitions of “hate speech” and “false information” and imposes criminal sanctions to anyone that publishes, disseminates or possesses content that falls under these expansive definitions. The prohibitions go beyond the permissible limitations on freedom of expression under provisions of international and regional freedom of expression standards.
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the efforts of the Government of Ethiopia to take action against discrimination and ethnic intolerance in the country. Nevertheless, it is crucial that any regulatory framework geared to address these historical problems fully integrate a freedom of expression approach that complies with international human rights law. Otherwise, the opportunities for political and social change are likely to fail and worsen the situation of minorities and marginalised ethnicities.
We call on the Government of Ethiopia to withdraw the Draft Proclamation and instead, initiate a participatory process that enables the development of adequate measures to confront violence, hate, intolerance and discrimination against certain groups of the population, and ensure that all its legislation complies with international human rights standards. We stand ready to assist the government in this process.