Ethiopia, Gambia most improved in 2019 Press Freedom Index


Ethiopia and Gambia have shown the most improvement in the latest Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

While press freedom around the world is generally declining, Ethiopia and Gambia are fighting the trend by breaking down restrictions placed against members of independent media. Meanwhile, Eritrea continues to be Africa’s worst performer in the index ranking press freedom in 180 nations across the world.

‘Marked progress’ in Ethiopia, Gambia

“Ethiopia (110th), which used to be near the bottom of the Index, has soared a spectacular 40 places following a change of government,” RSF said about the East African nation’s performance in the 2019 Press Freedom Index.

“Between releasing journalists and bloggers, lifting the ban on several hundred websites and media outlets, and embarking on an overhaul of legislation that is extremely repressive for journalists, the new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has taken swift and promising steps to improve press freedom and, for the first time in more than ten years, no journalist was in prison at the end of 2018.”

It’s a similar story in Gambia, which has also jumped up scores of places following a change of leadership.

“Gambia (92nd) has jumped 30 places, confirming the promising evolution seen after dictator Yahya Jammeh’s departure,” RSF said about the country. “New media outlets have been created, journalists have returned from self-imposed exile and the criminalization of defamation has been declared unconstitutional.”

Angola has also seen progress following regime change, although improvement has been more modest. However, the report notes that regime change in the past couple of years hasn’t always resulted in improved press freedom with the cases of Tanzania and Zimbabwe highlighting the negative impact of political change.

Zimbabwe finds itself one place lower in the ranking (now 127th) while Tanzania has dropped 25 places to 118th after a series of attacks against press freedom by current president John Magufuli.

Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia continue to rank among the world’s worst countries for press freedom with Eritrea taking 178th place out of 180.

Featured image: RSF


About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.