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Ethiopia police officials trained in fostering freedom of expression

UNESCO and Ethiopian Police University (EPU) collaborate to enhance the role of police and law enforcement agencies in Ethiopia in protecting the rights of freedom of expression and safety of journalists through strengthening the training capacities of police colleges and academies. The collaboration will support police academies to integrate international standards on freedom of expression and safety of journalists into their curriculums and training.
Ethiopia police trained in freedom of expression

In this framework, from 11 to 14 April 2022, UNESCO organized a training for police officials on freedom of expression and safety of journalists in cooperation with the Ethiopian Police University (EPU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The final two days of the training included a dialogue between journalists and police officials, and practical role-play exercises on enhancing public access to information during demonstrations and elections.

The national training had brought together 31 high-level police officials, representing the riot-control and crime investigation units, as well as police academy trainers from nearly all regions of Ethiopia. The training focused on enhancing the role of police and law enforcement agencies in respecting international standards on freedom of expression and safety of journalists, while being transparent and accountable to citizens.

During the opening ceremony of the training Yumiko Yokozeki, Director of the UNESCO Addis Ababa Office, highlighted that between 2006 and 2021, over 1,200 journalists have been killed around the world, with close to 9 out of 10 cases of these killings remaining judicially unresolved, according to the UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists.

This training is an opportunity for open dialogues between law enforcement officials and journalists. The exchange of such experiences would enable a better understanding of how democracy and freedom of expression can be protected through transparent communication, and how they support sustainable development for all.
Yumiko Yokozeki Director of the UNESCO Addis Ababa Office

Deputy Commissioner General of The Ethiopian Federal Police Commission, Ato Zelalem Mengistie noted in his welcoming remarks that Ethiopia is a signatory to international agreements and frameworks for the protection of the safety of journalists and civilians.

[Police] officers and officials shall always remember to include in your orientation and operation that journalists often endanger their lives being at the frontline, covering violence and protests and hence they require protection from the police.
Zelalem Mengistie Deputy Commissioner General of the Ethiopian Federal Police Commission

He further expressed his hopes that the discussion and information shared in the training can be applied effectively in the workplace and add value to the work of the police.

A mix of theoretical and practical training elements were led by international and local experts, with an emphasis on the international legal standards on freedom of expression and safety of journalists, as well as landmark jurisprudence from Africa on these topics.

The third and fourth day of the training were conducted with the involvement of 9 journalists from various media outlets in Ethiopia. The participating journalists and police officials engaged in an interactive dialogue, and shared good practices on the access, release and withholding of information to the media; managing tense public events such as demonstrations and elections; and enhancing professional communication between media and police officials to reinforce public trust in law enforcement institutions. These good practices were further reinforced in a practical role-play exercise based on a public demonstration - conducted on the campus of the EPU - wherein both anti-riot unit and police officials engaged with journalists in a professional manner.

The training provided the opportunity to learn and understand the concerns of the police and the media in relation to each other. We discussed cases that portray the misunderstanding from both sides. This kind of training needs to be provided to all police officers.
Tadele Fentie Chief Inspector, Department Head of Research and Community Counselling of Amhara Police College
We have thoroughly discussed about how police and journalists can work together and strengthen professional relationships. The police is our main source of information and guardian of our safety. The media also assists the police, and we understood the need to create a regular forum to strengthen our ties.
Kassaye Damtie Journalist, Ethiopia Mass Media Professionals Association

The national training was supported by the Netherlands through the UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), as well as the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP).

Following the training, UNESCO and EPU are discussing strengthening the collaboration to a longer-term partnership including developing training curriculums for police academies on international standards on freedom of expression, as well as capacity building of police officers on countering illicit trafficking of cultural items, protection of World Heritage sites and human rights.

Since 2013, UNESCO and its partners have trained over 8,600 security forces  from 20 countries on freedom of expression and safety of journalists, based on the Training Manual on “Freedom of Expression and Public Order”. Within the framework of UNESCO’s recent partnership with the International Police Association, a global Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) has been launched on 11 July 2022 for members of law enforcement systems, to strengthen their capacities on freedom of expression and safety of journalists issues. Enrolment to the course remains open until September 2022: https://www.unesco-ipa-mooc.com