Freedom of expression and the contours of political speech in Ethiopia: Lessons from a comparative study
Tadeg, Mesenbet Assefa
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The doctoral thesis studies the scope and application of the right to freedom of expression and the contours of political speech in Ethiopia. In particular, the research focuses on two fundamental areas of speech regulation-the regulation of incitement to terrorism and incitement to genocide. Drawing from both the general theory of freedom of expression and international and comparative law, it looks into how political speech is regulated in the context of incitement law in general, and the emerging comparative developing law in the area of incitement to terrorism and incitement to genocide. The overall research is premised on the utility and significance of comparative study in resolving legal problems and social orderings associated with a particular society by drawing lessons from other societies and the framework of international law. Broadly speaking it employs both free speech doctrine and criminal culpability theory in addressing the challenges of determining the boundaries of political speech vis-à-vis inciting speech. Theoretically, building from the works of Alexander Meiklejohn and contemporary free speech scholars, it argues that a principled application of freedom of expression requires adherence to a democracy-based justification of free speech. This theory underscores the privileged position of core political speech made in the furtherance of public discourse as the basis for any judicial scrutiny of speech regulation. It argues that this collectivist view which conceives free speech as a public good and its broader societal significance has structural resonance with the normative constitutional framework of non-liberal, emerging and transitional democracies such as Ethiopia. Normatively, the objective is to draw common principles on the regulation of speech from international and comparative law in an effort to develop an optimal model of normative constitutional theory and principles of law that could serve as a normative guidance for the regulation of political speech in the context of Ethiopia. Accordingly, it provides a theoretical and normative framework for the application of the right to freedom of expression and the regulation of political speech under the constitutional framework of Ethiopia. Its broader objective is, however, taking the case study of Ethiopia and similarly situated emerging and transitional democracies to demonstrate the utility and significance of comparative study in free speech in fostering robust public discourse while at the same time accommodating the national security and public order demands of these States. By doing so, it uses free speech doctrine and criminal culpability theory in analyzing the justified limits of political speech in international and comparative law that could have broader significance in resolving similar problems in the constitutional and legal framework of emerging and transitional democracies while at the same time accommodating the national idiosyncrasies associated with these polities.
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