September 23, 2018 - Just five months into the new government of Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the administration is back into the old habit of tampering with internet in times of crisis, according to Netizen Report.
According to the report, "on September 17, in what appeared to be an effort to quell social unrest, mobile internet networks were shut down across the capital city. Ethio Telecom, the country’s sole, government-owned internet and phone service provider, did not offer any public statement about the shutdown."
Dr. Abiy Ahmed came into office in April 2018 partly on promise of widening the political space and gauranteeing freedom of speech. The new government subsequently unbanned 264 blocked websites by previous EPRDF governments. It also allowed many opposition parties and poltical figures who were previously banned or forced to flea to return into the country.
However, the new government seems to be falling into the old habit of using the brute force tactic of tampering with the internet to control information. Ethiopia already has one of the poorest internet reach and coverage in the world. Many African countries have far supperior and cheaper internet system than Ethiopia. According to Internet World Stats, 15.3 percent of the population uses internet in Ethiopia, as opposed to 53.7 percent for South Africa.
Internet shutdowns are believed to cost Ethiopia millions of dollars every month, making business communications into and out of the country difficult. This practice also deprives citizens access to crucial information, especially in times of crisis.
The Committee to Protect Journalists today urged Ethiopian authorities to ensure internet is available, including during times of unrest when access to information provided by journalists is crucial.
'Mobile internet was unavailable in the capital Addis Ababa, from September 17 to the morning of September 19 amid protests and clashes, according to media reports and Berhan Taye, who leads Access Now's #KeepItOn campaign against internet shutdowns, which CPJ is part of."
"Berhan told CPJ on September 18 that she was able to verify access to the internet had been cut by analyzing traffic data and speaking with about 20 people across the city. Ethiopian authorities did not to respond to CPJ's questions about whether they ordered access to be cut."
The Ethiopian government has denied the reports that internet was shut down during the stated period.