The Pan African Network for Artistic Freedom (PANAF) and Ethiopia’s film umbrella body Arkwood, have unveiled a new report, titled, An Assessment of Artistic Freedom: Ethiopia, which assesses the practices, challenges, and opportunities surrounding the freedom of artistic expression in the country. The study focused on traditional art forms such as theatre, music, and film, while also including authors, dancers, comedians, playwrights, and publishers.
The study, which evaluated the status of artistic freedom in alignment with international conventions and the legal framework of Ethiopia, examined the role of the Federal government, Addis Ababa City Administration, and Oromia Regional State. The findings highlighted several challenges that impede artistic freedom, including limited resources and expertise, a lack of galleries and educational programs, weak communication networks between artist organisations, and insufficient enforcement of copyright acts to protect artists’ exclusive rights.
Additionally, the study identified a disparity in government support for the arts, with the tourism and hotel sectors receiving preferential treatment in terms of land allocation, bank loans, and tax exemptions, while the art sector remains neglected. Furthermore, there is a tendency to prioritise art from Western countries over local creativity.
Despite these challenges, the study revealed opportunities within the artistic landscape. The commitment of artists, the current government’s support for the art sector, and the wide reach of social media platforms for disseminating artwork were among the positive factors identified.
The study concluded that while the current government has created a relatively conducive environment for artists to imagine, create, and distribute their artistic works, economic benefits and rewards remain unattractive. Notably, there has been no censorship of artistic activities in Ethiopia in recent years, and there are no legal restrictions on artistic freedom. However, law enforcement in this area has proven to be lacking.
The study’s findings underscore the multifaceted challenges impeding artistic freedom in Ethiopia while highlighting the opportunities that exist for the future development of the art sector. The insights gleaned from this study can inform policy interventions and actions to further promote and protect artistic expression in the country.
The PANAF project is being implemented with the support of the Swedish Arts Council.
The full report is available here: