Ethiopia's new minister of information Negeri Lencho has said he is committed to promoting free press in his country. Lencho took office following a cabinet reshuffle earlier in November, which saw the appointment of 21 ministers.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn replaced some of his key allies, such as the minister of foreign affairs and finance. He said the appointments were based on people's skills rather than their political affiliations.

"We cannot build democracy without vibrant media, without public participation, without tolerance and stability," Lencho told the BBC.

"This is a challenge and I like the challenges because I want to see a better media landscape... I'm not taking this office for a luxury."

The cabinet reshuffle came as Ethiopia declared a six-month-long state of emergency following months of anti-government protests in Oromia and Amhara regions.

The response to the protests, labelled as the biggest anti-government unrest Ethiopia has witnessed in recent history, has resulted in the death of more than 500 people since November 2015, a figure the government later confirmed.

Among other things, people called for the release of political prisoners, and demonstrated against perceived disenfranchisement and lack of inclusion in the political process as the government is dominated by the Tigray minority.

Critics to the state of emergency claimed the government was trying to quell protests by, among other things, banning certain media outlets, including the Oromia Media Network (OMN).

Ethiopia has been accused of cracking down on freedom of speech and arbitrarily detaining journalists. Lencho said judges will decide whether detained journalists did anything wrong.

The government has also said it is using the state of emergency to counter "anti-peace forces" and tackle a situation that "posed a threat to the people of the country".

Some see the cabinet reshuffle as part of measures the government said it would take to meet people's legitimate grievances. However, in an exclusive interview with IBTimes UK, OMN executive, Jawar Mohammed, said people are calling for a radical regime change, not a government reshuffle.