South Sudan has been embroiled in a violent conflict since 2013, when a split between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar, escalated into outright war. The brutal conflict has forced parts of the country to the brink of famine. More than a quarter of South Sudanese have since fled their homes, 2 million of them seeking safety in neighboring countries. Continue reading President Salva Kiir Downplays Refugee Crisis, Blames Social Media→
Facing the worst drought in half a century, Ethiopia had managed to avert a crisis without significant foreign aid, boasted a December 27th report on state-run news agency ENA. A day later Eshetu Homa Keno, a U.S.-based online activist, posted on Facebook a figure released by the United Nations showing that the amount of foreign humanitarian aid Ethiopia received in 2016 was more than a billion U.S. dollars while the government’s share was a relatively meager 109 million dollars. Continue reading Ethiopia State Media Face Scrutiny from Facebook Fact-Checkers→
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.
“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.
“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.”
Ethiopia has blocked social media sites for the next few days, after questions from end-of-year exams were posted online last month, sparking a national scandal and leading to to the cancellation of the entire exam.
A government spokesperson said the ban was aimed at stopping students taking university entrance exams this week from being “distracted”.
During the struggle for Eritrea’s independence, with the gag order on any information on Eritrea in academia and in the mainstream media in place, it may have been difficult, but it was not impossible for Eritreans to get information about the liberation movement and developments in Eritrea.
The few landlines that were available in Eritrea at that time meant that news from home was still slow in coming and Eritreans were at the mercy of the mainstream media for information. But that changed when the Eritrean Diaspora decided to help with the establishment of the Voice of the Masses (DimtsiHafash) in 1979. Taped reports and faxes of reports, were distributed widely throughout the Eritrean Diaspora communities and Eritreans were able to get direct information from the ground. Continue reading Cyber Eritrea→