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Justifying Self-censorship: A Perspective from Ethiopia


Terje S Skjerdal

Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, Kristiansand, Norway
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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.

How to Cite: Skjerdal, T.S., 2010. Justifying Self-censorship: A Perspective from Ethiopia. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, 7(2), pp.98–121. DOI:
Published on 01 Oct 2010.
Peer Reviewed


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