Justifying Self-Censorship: A Perspective from Ethiopia

Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2010

24 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2011

See all articles by Terje Skjerdal

Terje Skjerdal

Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication

Date Written: December 18, 2010

Abstract

This study investigates self-censorship practices in Ethiopian state media institutions. Through indepth interviews with 61 journalists, the study discloses extensive use of self-censorship on the part of journalists who try to conform to the expected reporting style of the state media. The journalists are largely critical of self-censorship, but continue with the practice despite their reservations. The study suggests that editors and reporters assume a set of underlying justifications to validate the practice on a personal level and make it appear professional for outsiders. The justifications are found to follow four lines of argument: (1) relegation of ethical responsibility; (2) elasticity of journalistic editing; (3) confidence in critical audiences; and (4) adherence to social responsibility. It is further found that there is a remarkable discrepancy between the relatively open-minded official editorial policy of the Ethiopian state media and the restrictive reporting practices followed by the journalists. It is suggested that discourses of fear play a significant role in the reproduction of self-censorship in the concerned media organizations.

Keywords: ethical reasoning, Ethiopia, self-censorship, state media

Suggested Citation

Skjerdal, Terje, Justifying Self-Censorship: A Perspective from Ethiopia (December 18, 2010). Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1742843

Terje Skjerdal (Contact Author)

Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication ( email )

Postboks 410 Lundsiden
Kristiansand, 4604
Norway

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