Ethiopia: social network is accessible again after 5 months of being blocked

A journalist for AFP and the Observatory of Open Network Interference (OONI) said that messaging and social media services including Facebook, Telegram, TikTok and Youtube were free to access again in Ethiopia on Wednesday after more than five months of restrictions.

OONI, an association that monitors online censorship, has reported on such websites and apps being blocked since February 9, when leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church called for opposition to the creation of a dissident council.

Since then, these social networks have been accessible only through a virtual private network (VPN), a device that allows users to connect virtually from one location to another.

On Wednesday, July 19, these sites were freely accessible from the Ethiopian network, an AFP journalist noted. According to local news agency Addis Standard, which also reported the end of the restrictions, they were introduced in response to anti-government protests stemming from tensions in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the nonprofit Center for the Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD), denounced the administration’s decision.
Amnesty International condemned the blocking “a clear violation of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information”.

The government and the public operator Ethio Telecom refuse to respond to AFP’s requests.

Last June, (CARD) said in a campaign that internet restrictions were affecting “the survival of modern businesses”.

The OONI Probe app, which detects online restrictions and blocks, also reports free access to these sites. Ethiopia government have restricted access to the internet on certain platforms in a number of cases in recent years.

The previous government did this several times between 2015 and 2017, when it faced a protest movement that had not been seen in 25 years.

This has also happened since Mr Abiy came to power in 2018.

The area north of Tigray, which was in armed conflict with the federal government from November 2020 to November 2022, was largely deprived of all means of telecommunications for two years.

The networks have been partially restored since the signing of the peace accord last November.

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