Ethiopia Blocking of Websites During Protests – Widespread, Systematic and Illegal

Amnesty International accused Ethiopia of ‘systematically and illegally’ blocking social media.

Ethiopia “systematically and illegally” blocked social media and news sites to crush dissent, Amnesty says.

By Amnesty International

The Ethiopian government systematically and illegally blocked access to social media and news websites in its efforts to crush dissent and prevent reporting of attacks on protesters by security forces during the wave of protests that started in November 2015 and led up to the state of emergency, a new report released today shows.

Research conducted by Amnesty International and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) between June and October 2016 shows that access to WhatsApp was blocked, as well as at least 16 news outlets.

ethiopia-internet“It’s clear that as far as the Ethiopian government is concerned, social media is a tool for extremists peddling bigotry and hate and therefore they are fully justified in blocking internet access. The reality, though, is very different. The widespread censorship has closed another space for Ethiopian’s to air the grievances that fueled the protests,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“The internet blocking had no basis in law, and was another disproportionate and excessive response to the protests. This raises serious concerns that overly broad censorship will become institutionalized under the state of emergency.”

The report also found that the Ethiopian government uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology to filter access to websites. DPI is a technology that can be bought and deployed on any network. Though it has many legitimate functions, it can also enable monitoring and filtering of internet traffic.

“Our findings provide incontrovertible evidence of systematic interference with access to numerous websites belonging to independent news organizations and political opposition groups, as well as sites supporting freedom of expression and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights,” said Maria Xynou of OONI.

ethio-internet“Tor Metrics data illustrate that more and more people were trying to access censorship circumvention tools, such as TOR, which indicated that the internet was inaccessible through the normal routes. This all paints a picture of a government intent on stifling expression and free exchange of information.”

The study was conducted to investigate whether and to what extent internet censorship was actually taking place, after Amnesty and OONI contacts inside Ethiopia consistently reported unusually slow internet connections and inability to access social media websites.

They also reported that internet access on mobile devices had been completely blocked in Amhara, Addis Ababa and Oromia in the lead up to protests in the three regions on 6 and 7 August. This was confirmed in Google’s transparency reports for the period between July and November 2016, which showed a dramatic drop in internet traffic out of Ethiopia on the two days when at least 100 people were killed by security forces during the protests.

“Rather than closing off all spaces for people to express their concerns, the authorities need to actively engage with, and address the underlying human rights violations that have fueled the protests over the last year. The authorities must allow people to express their opinions even when they criticize government policies and actions; both online and offline,” said Michelle Kagari.

“We urge the government to refrain from blocking access to internet sites and instead commit its resources to addressing its citizens’ legitimate grievances.”

15 thoughts on “Ethiopia Blocking of Websites During Protests – Widespread, Systematic and Illegal

  1. Humm. Amnesty International should focus on what it is set up to do. It is one thing to say the TPLF gangs should be held responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians in the last 25 yrs. This is a legit question. However, it is another for Amnesty International to say the TPLF regime illegally blocking the internet. Really? It seems to me Amnesty International is up to no good here. Are they now in the business of interpreting and adjudicating the laws of individual countries? I am not sure ….but I there is more to this.

    1. Well…. given the low internet penetration in Ethiopia, it’s safe to say that the primary victims of its blockage are not Ethiopians…..rather, the NGO’s who have been bleeding that country for a quarter of a century in cahoot with the Mekelle illiterates.

      Amnesty’s cry is simply a turf war with its ‘partner’!

      1. I agree with you. If the NGOs were doing what they were supposed to do, there should be no one hungry in Ethiopia, considering the many NGOs operating in Addis Abeba. Internet being slow is only “western problem”.

  2. All the Woyane has to do is send $50,000 to Amnesty International to get it off their back.
    Amnesty International is a CORRUPT ORGANIZATION that shows up only if it isn’t bribed enough.

    1. I hope every TN member watches to this video clip. It is very important that we all understand the media’s psychological warfare used against any government that is not inline with the interest of Western governments. If this is happening against Syrian government that is fully supported by Russia, imagine what more is done against countries simply minding their business with no super power help (Eritrea). I hope everyone uses this clip and extrapolates on what goes on much against “weaker” countries.

      Thank you TN for all your Edmucation 🙂

  3. Human Rights Groups to Ethiopia: Where Is Jailed Journalist?


    Human rights groups are asking Ethiopia’s government to immediately disclose the whereabouts of a popular local journalist who has been behind bars since October 2014.

    The Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia and DefendDefenders on Wednesday called it “unacceptable” that the government was unwilling or unable to provide Temesgen Desalegn’s relatives with information after two years of detention.

    The groups say Temesgen was jailed on “spurious charges.” The journalist is serving a three-year sentence on charges of defamation, incitement and false publication.

    The public relations head of the Ethiopian Federal Prison Administration, Gizachew Mengiste, tells The Associated Press he has no information about Temesgen’s whereabouts

    Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in October amid massive anti-government protests, leading to the arrest of at least two journalists.

  4. This article is a self- serving article. What they’re supposed to say is, for the weyane to stop massacring people in broad daylight allover the country and not prioritize the internet, before the dying and the maimed. How many thousands are languishing in jail and brutally tortured? Has Amnesty said anything about that? Hardly!

    As long as people insist on seeing Ethiopia’s history none- holistically, they’ll end up in meaningless squabbles like this. The weyane is an apartheid and racist regime.

  5. Really?! Concerned with blocking of the Internet… Instead of the hundreds of Oromo and Amhara ppl who died and are dying in the hand of Woyane-Tigray. Wow!! They talk so little about the ppl, that are being hunted and murdered in cold blood by TPLF regime. This shows the Amnesty International are on the side of the apartheid regime=> TPLF. Cuz if they lose their puppet regime it means controlling Ethiopia is going to be hard for them.

    The ppl of Oromia should arm themselves to defend the innocent ppl from the TPLF junta.. just like the ppl of Amhara are doing. Sometimes violence against apartheid regime like the TPLF is the only way to freedom. Show the West that u are capable of defending yourselves, and soon they will listen. Cuz Woyane-Tigray only cares for its survival and they don’t care how many innocent ppl they kill to keep their Tigrayan dominated power.

    Down Down Woyane-Tigray!! ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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