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Amnesty International UK Press Releases: Ethiopia: Social media and news websites blocked by government to prevent protests. #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution December 13, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Internet Freedom.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomistAmnesty International

Viber, twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp Are strictly forbidden in Fascist regime (TPLF) Ethiopia


Ethiopia: Social media and news websites blocked by government to prevent protests

  • Google transparency report shows dramatic drop in internet traffic out of Ethiopia on two days when at least 100 people were killed by security forces during protest
  • 16 news sites and access to WhatsApp blocked between June and October

“As far as the Ethiopian government is concerned, social media is a tool for extremists… The reality, though, is very different” – Michelle Kagari

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 a wave of protests over the last year, a new report released today shows.

Research conducted by Amnesty International and the Open Observatory of Network Interference shows that between June and October this year during times of heightened tension and protests, access to WhatsApp and at least 16 news outlets was blocked, especially in the Oromia region.

Since November last year, thousands of people from Oromia have taken to the streets to protest against possible land seizures under the government’s Addis Ababa Masterplan, which aims to expand the capital’s administrative control into the region. The government declared a six-month state of emergency in October this year in response to the protests.

The study was conducted to investigate whether and to what extent internet censorship was actually taking place after contacts of Amnesty and the Open Observatory of Network Interference in Ethiopia consistently reported unusually slow internet connections and inability to access social media websites.

Testimonies gathered by Amnesty from different parts of Oromia found that social media mobile applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, have been largely inaccessible since early March this year, especially in the Oromia region where residents were waging protests against the government since last November.

The Ethiopian government is also reported to have blocked access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Viber during the National University Exam week (9 – 14 July 2016) so as “to prevent students being distracted from studying during the exam period”.

Amnesty contacts 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 this year, 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.

Amnesty International’s Deputy East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes Director Michelle Kagari said:

“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 fuelled the protests.

“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 institutionalised under the state of emergency.

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

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology used to filter websites

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.

The Open Observatory of Network Interference’s Maria Xynou said:

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

“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.”



Ethiopia has been hit by a wave of protests since November 2015 when ethnic Oromos took to the streets to protest against possible land seizures under the government’s Addis Ababa Masterplan, which aimed to expand the capital’s administrative control into Oromia.

The protests later spread to Amhara, with demands for an end to arbitrary arrests, as well as respect for regional autonomy rights enshrined in the constitution.

Most of the protests were met with excessive force from the security forces. The worst incident involved the death of possibly hundreds of protesters in a stampede on 2 October at Bishoftu.

Protest groups say the stampede was caused by the security forces’ unnecessary and excessive use of force. The government has denied this, instead blaming the deaths on “anti-peace forces.”

The digital divide (Top and worst for digital): World Internet population and Penetration December 2, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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According to World Internet population statistics, countries Such as DR Congo, Chad and  Ethiopia barely exist on world map.


World internet population and penetration

(World Economic Forum, Nov. 30, 2015): Digital rights are basically human rights in the internet era. The rights to online privacy and freedom of expression, for example, are really extensions of the equal and inalienable rights laid out in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to the UN, disconnecting people from the internet violates these rights and goes against international law. British Prime Minister David Cameron recently pledged to give all UK homes and businesses access to fast broadband by 2020, adding that access to the internet “shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be a right”.

Singapore has overtaken Finland to become the most effective user of digital technology in the world, according to the latest Networked Readiness Index (NRI). However, it is European nations that dominate the leader-board, with seven top 10 places this year. Singapore is the sole remaining Asian Tiger following the demotion of Hong Kong and South Korea.

The NRI is part of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2015: ICTs for Inclusive Growth. The NRI identifies the capacity of countries to leverage Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), by assessing the overall political and business environment, the level of ICT readiness and usage among the population, businesses and government, as well as the overall impacts of ICTs on the economy and society at large.

The 2015 results, which cover 143 economies, confirm the dominance of advanced economies and the persistence of the multiple-faceted digital divides not only across but also within economies. They reveal the pervasive digital poverty that deprives the neediest from the opportunities offered by ICTs.

Beyond this diagnosis, the 2015 edition of the report provides solutions from leading experts and practitioners to alleviate digital poverty and make the ICT revolution a global reality.


Here is a list of the top 10 economies making the most of the digital age, according to the NRI:

list of the top 10 economies making the most of the digital age, according to the NRI


Here are the top 10 sub-Saharan digital countries:


The top 10 sub-Saharan digital nations


Here are the worst 10 sub-Saharan digital countries:

(They are also making among the worst in the world)


The worst 10 sub-Saharan digital countries

Ethiopia: The Italian spyware firm Hacking Team took no effective action to investigate or stop reported abuses of its technology by the Ethiopian government August 19, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Internet Freedom, The Ethiopian government’s systematic repression of independent media, The Tyranny of TPLF Ethiopia.
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???????????Hacking team hackedHacking team hacked1

Ethiopia: Hacking Team Lax on Evidence of Abuse

Leaked Documents Show Need to Regulate Surveillance Sales

hrw(New York, August 13, 2015) – The Italian spyware firm Hacking Team took no effective action to investigate or stop reported abuses of its technology by the Ethiopian government against dissidents, Human Rights Watch said. A comprehensive review of internal company emails leaked in July 2015 reveals that the company continued to train Ethiopian intelligence agents to hack into computers and negotiated additional contracts despite multiple reports that its services were being used to repress government critics and other independent voices.

The Italian government should investigate Hacking Team practices in Ethiopia and elsewhere with a view toward restricting sales of surveillance technology likely to facilitate human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Hacking Team emails show that the company’s training and technology in Ethiopia directly contributed to human rights violations,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internetresearcher at Human Rights Watch. “Despite multiple red flags, Hacking Team showed a striking lack of concern about how its business could damage dissenting and independent voices.”

On July 5, 400 gigabytes (GB) of Hacking Team’s internal emails, documents, and source code that had been hacked were leaked online. The leaked emails confirm that the company had sold surveillance systems, training, and support and maintenance services to the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) as early as 2011, with contracts worth US$1 million in 2012. On November 5, 2012 Hacking Team congratulated INSA on infecting its first target.

Leaked Hacking Team emails showed that it reviewed independent reports published in 2014 and 2015 that presented findings that the government was targeting Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) employees based in the United States using Hacking Team technology. Yet the company’s internal emails show only a superficial effort to investigate these findings and end the abuse.

Hacking Team states it sells exclusively to governments. Human Rights Watch first contacted Hacking Team in February 2014 after the Toronto-based research center Citizen Lab reported that the Ethiopian government had attempted to use Hacking Team’s spyware, Remote Control System, to hack into the computers of ESAT employees. ESAT is an independent, diaspora-run television and radio station. On December 20, 2013, a third party made three separate attempts to target two ESAT employees who live outside of Ethiopia. In each attempt, ESAT employees received a file through Skype.

The ESAT employees did not open the files, which were presented as and appeared to be a Word document or PDF file. However, if the employees had opened them, the files would have covertly installed a program that would have given the Ethiopian government access to files, emails, passwords, and Skype calls made on the infected computer. Testing by researchers at Citizen Lab found that the program appeared to be spyware that matched previously established characteristics of Hacking Team’s Remote Control System.
In response to a Human Rights Watch inquiry about this incident, the company stated that under its “Customer Policy,” “when questions about the proper use of our tools are raised either internally or come to our attention from outside the company, we investigate.” If a government agency is found to have misused its software, the company states, it will suspend support for the agency’s system, leaving it “vulnerable to detection and therefor useless”. However, until the firm’s recent data breach, the company has been unwilling to disclose any information on its clients or whether it opened an investigation into how the Ethiopian government has been using its technology under its customer policy.
A second report published in March 2015 by Citizen Lab further corroborated evidence that the Ethiopian security agency continued to use Hacking Team’s system to target ESAT journalists. It also showed that the company provided at least one software update to the agency in between the attacks, despite clear indications of abuse of the software. This raised considerable questions about whether the company took the action set out in its customer policy on earlier reports.
Although Hacking Team point out that the leaked information is partial, arguing that it does not include a record of phone calls or discussions held during internal meetings at the company, the company’s leaked internal emails do not show that the company conducted a serious investigation in response to allegations that the security agency had misused the system in 2014. As Hacking Team staff debated over email about how to respond to media reports of the Ethiopian government’s hacking activities, they were also discussing the security agency’s requests to upgrade its system and purchase additional services.
In March 2015, in response to reports from Human Rights Watch and Citizen Lab, Hacking Team asked Ethiopian officials for a written response to allegations that it was conducting abusive surveillance. The government responded that its targets are members of Ginbot 7, a banned Ethiopian opposition organization that the government considers to be a terrorist organization. The emails show no further inquiry by Hacking Team to the government’s response.
The Ethiopian government has invoked national security to clamp down on core freedoms and human rights. Human Rights Watch documented in a March 2014 report that the Ethiopian government uses its surveillance capacities to unlawfully monitor the activities of perceived political opponents inside the country and among the diaspora. Individuals with perceived or tenuous connections to even registered opposition groups are arbitrarily arrested and interrogated based on their phone calls. Recorded phone calls with family members and friends – particularly those with foreign phone numbers – are often played during abusive interrogations in which people who have been arbitrarily detained are accused of belonging to banned organizations.

The Hacking Team emails show that the company’s training and technology in Ethiopia directly contributed to human rights violations. Despite multiple red flags, Hacking Team showed a striking lack of concern about how its business could damage dissenting and independent voices.

Cynthia Wong

Senior Internet Researcher

Human Rights Watch and others have documented that the country’s anti-terrorism law has been used to target journalistsand others critical of government policies. Dozens of journalists, bloggers, and media publishers have been criminally charged and at least 60 journalists have fled the country since 2010. The clampdown on dissent culminated in the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition taking 100 percent of parliamentary seats in the May federal election.

Human Rights Watch wrote to Hacking Team in July to request comment on these findings. The company stated that it “suspended the relationship [with Ethiopia] last year and terminated all relations with Ethiopia earlier this year.” The company also stated that since its stolen information is publicly available, “the record demonstrates that the company followed all laws and regulations as well as its own customer policy.”
The firm specified that it investigated allegations of abuse in 2014 raised by Citizen Lab by “interrogating the client,” but the facts were “inconclusive.” The firm however noted that “there were several within the company who argued that irrespective of the reasons for this particular surveillance attempt, the Ethiopian investigators were inept, and the relationship with the client should be suspended for that reason alone,” and Hacking Team suspended support to the Ethiopian security agency in the fall of 2014. According to statements from Hacking Team to theWashington Post, Hacking Team suspended support, but the government “would still have had some ability to collect data from existing surveillance.”
In internal discussions revealed by the leaked emails, Hacking Team staff appeared toaccept the government’s justification that the surveillance was “lawful.” Hacking Team briefly suspended service to Ethiopia in March 2015, though seemingly due to concerns that the government’s “incompetent” and “reckless and clumsy” use of the company’s system would expose Hacking Team’s technology to detection, rather than concerns over possiblehuman rights abuses.Hacking Team’s surveillance tools are designed to be undetectable by commercial anti-virus programs and other analysis. According to internal emails, Hacking Team believedthat the Ethiopian government’s flawed use of the tool put its covert nature in jeopardy, along withthe confidentiality of the firm’s other customers.In a leaked email, one staff member also expressed concern that if the company continued the relationship with the Ethiopian security agency, it would have “demonstrated that [Hacking Team doesn’t] take seriously [its] own policies” regarding customer misuse of its technology to violate rights. The leaked emails reflect that the government continued to have access to Hacking Team’s tools after March 2015 and the company issued a temporary license to Ethiopia while they began negotiations in April on a new contract worth at least $700,000. At the time Hacking Team was hacked in July, the Ethiopian security agency had allowed its previous license to expire and the agency and the firm had not yet finalized a new contract.

Hacking Team wrote to Human Rights Watch that its “software is operated by the client, not by Hacking Team, and the subjects of surveillance, the information gathered and the reasons for the surveillance” are not available to Hacking Team. Yet the leaked emails suggest that Hacking Team had multiple opportunities to assess whether the government’s surveillance activities violated human rights and take action to stop these abuses. As part of the company’s support and training services, it repeatedly asked Ethiopian officials for information about intended surveillance targets so that the company could better assist the government in carrying out a successful attack, including through more sophisticated “social engineering” techniques to gain access to a target’s computer.

Social engineering often involves sending highly personalized emails from seemingly trusted sources to entice surveillance targets to open documents infected with spyware, which requires knowledge of the target’s contacts and interests. The released emails show no indication that the company conducted any human rights due diligence based on this kind of information, which may have raised red flags about possible abuses. The new 2015 contract that the company was negotiating with Ethiopia at the time of the data breach included “many months of training combined to [sic] our continuous on-site presence — in order to assist them, teach them, and supervise their investigative activities” according toleaked emails.

Previous reporting by Citizen Lab and others described how the Ethiopian government had used tools provided by FinFisher, a UK and Germany based competitor to Hacking Team, to target or monitor computers owned by other individuals in the Ethiopian diaspora in the US, UK, and Norway. In February 2014, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Ethiopian government on behalf of one of the victims for violating US privacy laws.

Italy and other governments should ensure that all sales of Hacking Team systems and similarly controlled technologies are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, Human Rights Watch said. At a minimum, controls should require an inquiry into the human rights climate of the destination country, the end user and likely end use, technical specifications of the technology, and marketing materials employed by the companies to sell to government agencies.

“The Hacking Team leaks show this industry cannot be depended upon to regulate itself,” Wong said. “Italy and other governments should not turn a blind eye to these revelations, but should immediately investigate the practices of international spyware companies and impose real oversight and control over the exports of surveillance technologies.”


The sale of surveillance technologies is largely unregulated at the national and international level. In December 2013, countries participating in the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies added “intrusion software” to its multilateral export control list. As a result, the European Union and 41 member countries to the Wassenaar Arrangement have begun to introduce regulations to control the sale of systems like those sold by Hacking Team. The EU regulations, which apply to Italy, went into force in December 2014.

On February 25, Hacking Team released a statement saying it was “complying fully” with the Wassenaar’s intrusion software controls. The company stated that “under the procedures agreed to by Hacking Team and the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, HT will request from the Italian Government export authorization for its technologies.”

The company’s leaked emails show the company’s lobbying efforts to ensure that it would not be required to seek specific authorization to export its technologies for all countries, undermining the Italian government’s ability to exercise oversight over its sales. In October 2014, the Italian Ministry of Economic Development briefly halted Hacking Team’s exports and proposed a broad control on the firm’s sales that would require a case-by-case review to approve each export, citing “possible uses concerning internal repression and violations of human rights.”

Leaked emails showed that company executives lobbied top Italian officials and government contacts to intervene. As a result, the Economic Development Ministry rescinded the broad control in November 2014, and instead granted a one-time “global license” for exports to countries that were part of the Wassenaar Arrangement in April 2015. It is unclear whether the Italian government has required Hacking Team to seek specific authorization for services, updates, and support the firm continues to provide under contracts signed before April.

Properly implemented export controls can be a valuable tool to help curb the unregulated spread of these systems and promote responsible business and human rights norms. Controls also act as an essential accountability and transparency mechanism. Greater transparency can assist governments and nongovernmental organizations in monitoring the human rights impact of their businesses, improving policies to address abuses, and enhancing remedies where violations occur.


Lawsuit alleges that TPLF Ethiopian tyrannic regime used private technology to monitor Internet communications of dissident-linked American. Wayyaaneen Lammii Ameerikaa tokko waan basaasteef himatamte. July 15, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Censorship, Internet Freedom.
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“We caught the Ethiopian government red-handed,” Cardozo said.

Ethiopia spying case casts spotlight on cyber surveillance in US

Lawsuit alleges that Addis Ababa used private technology to monitor Internet communications of dissident-linked American

A first-of-its kind lawsuit that resumes in a U.S. District Court on Tuesday has drawn attention to the private surveillance-technology industry as a potential enabler of spying on Americans. The case involves a U.S. citizen who alleges that “clandestine computer programs” assumed “what amounts to complete control” over his personal computer and relayed copies of his electronic activity — including Skype calls, Internet searches and emails — to the Ethiopian government.

Kidane — the pseudonym under which the complainant is known in the case to protect his family from retribution — says his computer was monitored by spyware placed on his computer while he was living in the United States. He is an Ethiopian-born naturalized U.S. citizen who sought asylum in the U.S., where he has lived for more than two decades. His case is being closely watched by activists and civil liberties campaigners because of its potential implications for domestic cybersurveillance by security agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA).

A victory for Kidane “would be a clear statement from a U.S court to say that wiretapping without court authorization is illegal, no matter who does it. And yes, absolutely that would have implications for the NSA,” said his legal counsel, Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“We know that the NSA engages in full content wiretapping … without a court order authorizing it,” he added. “That conduct is simply illegal, and I think a U.S. court order holding Ethiopia responsible for doing the same thing but on a much smaller scale here hopefully would at least raise some eyebrows at the NSA.”

The suit alleges that FinSpy, an intrusion and surveillance program, was transmitted by a Microsoft Word document attachment sent to Kidane’s computer via email by or on behalf of the Ethiopian government. It began targeting Kidane’s machine in late October 2012.

Ethiopia was accused of deploying FinSpy in a March 2013 report by Citizen Lab, an organization that studies surveillance, on the basis of the IP address from which the software was transmitted. The attack on Kidane’s computer was found to have originated from the same server. Days after the Citizen Lab report appeared, the Ethiopian government tried to shut down FinSpy on Kidane’s computer, Cardozo alleged. However, there was a malfunction, and traces of the software remained on his client’s machine.

“We caught the Ethiopian government red-handed,” Cardozo said.

Kidane is seeking damages and an acknowledgment from the Ethiopian government that it acted outside the law. Ethiopia has stated in court documents that “computer addresses can be and are easily [faked],” but it has not denied the allegations. It has argued that because it is a foreign sovereign power, a U.S. court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

Freedom House reported last year that the Ethiopian government has upped its efforts to target dissidents with surveillance malware. U.K.-based Ethiopian opposition figure Tadesse Kersmo also alleges his computer was infected with FinSpy, in a criminal complaint filed on his behalf by Privacy International, a U.K.-based nonprofit.

FinSpy’s capabilities

FinSpy can pull users’ passwords from Internet browsers and emails. It can record telephone calls and audio from a computer microphone, turn on a webcam and save keystrokes and text messages, according to company documents released via WikiLeaks. The software can extract files from a hard disk, poach deleted files and take screen shots of a computer screen.

It is designed to evade detection and can bypass 40 anti-virus systems, according to the leaked company files.

The spyware tool is a part of the FinFisher product suite formerly under the umbrella of the U.K.-based Gamma Group, which, according to its website, provides “advanced technical surveillance, monitoring solutions and advanced government training.”

The FinFisher company, based in Munich, maintains that the products are sold to “government agencies only” and that the spyware is designed to target individuals and is not to intended for mass surveillance.

But the British government has criticized the group. Gamma lacks “due diligence processes that would protect against abusive use of its products,” according a U.K. government report.

Gamma does not say to which countries it has sent products, and it did not respond to an Al Jazeera query.

Even if the manufacturer’s intent is that FinSpy be used lawfully, human rights groups say the technology has been used to facilitate abuses. FinFisher command and control servers are said to be active in some three dozen countries, including Brunei, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Romania, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates, according to 2013 report by Citizen Lab.

Some of those countries have come under fire for suppressing political dissent. A document appearing to show a contract with FinFisher was allegedly found in the offices of Egypt’s secret police in 2011.

Bahraini authorities have been accused of using it to target three Bahraini activists who have been granted asylum in the United Kingdom. And the Lahore High Court is set to hear a case about the use of the spyware in Pakistan. The suit alleges that the government indiscriminately spied on its citizens with the help of the FinFisher technology.

But for many experts, the issue goes beyond just one company, as the surveillance industry has swelled to asector worth some $5 billion a year. Earlier this year, the European Union implemented export controls on spyware technology.

But laws in many other countries governing the use of surveillance have not kept up with its rapid development and global reach. “The lawful interception of communications must be performed with proper legal authorization, but what this authorization looks like varies across jurisdictions,” said Privacy International.

“Often, laws are vague and broadly interpreted, courts authorize and review surveillance in secret, and individuals are monitored surreptitiously and are not notified that they were placed under surveillance,” the group said.

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Itoophiyaan,Lammii Ameerikaa tokko waan basaasteef himatamte.

(OMN:Oduu Adol.15,2015) Himannaa Mootummaa Itoophiyaa irratti lammii Ameerikaa basaasuun banamee tureef Abukaattoon Motummaa Itoophiyaa kibxata kana mana murtitti dhihaachuun deebii kennan.
Lammiin Ameerikaa dhalootaan Itoophiyaa ta’e bara darbe Motummaan Itoophiyaa moosaajji basaasaatti fayyadamuun Komputera isaa akka basaasaa ture beeksisuun himannaa bannnee ture.

Dhaababnnni Elektiroonik Firoonteerri jedhamu lammii Amerikaa dhalootaan Itoophiyaa ta’e maqaa Kidaanee jedhamuun beekamu bakka bu’uun bara 2014 Mootummaa Itoophiyaa irratti himata dhiheesseera.

Akka himata Motummaa Itoophiyaa irratti baname kanaatti,Moootummaan Itoophiyaa Moosajjii yoonkaan Spyware dhoksaa fayyadamuun koomputera lammii Ameerikaa dhalotaan Itoophiyaa ta’e maqaa kidaanee jedhamuun beekamu cabseera bilbila dhuunfaa isaa dhoksee waraabeera akkasumas itti fayyadama Koompuutera maatii isa hundaa torbanootaaf to’ateera jedha.

Dhaababanni Elekiroonk Firoonteer namicha kana bakka bu’ee nageenya maatii isaa Ameerikaa fi Itoophiyaa jiraniif jecha maqaa Kidaanee jedhamutti akka fayyadamu Mana Murtii Fedralaa Ameerikaa irraa iyyama argatteera.

Abuukaatoon Mootummaa Itoophiyaa Ameerikaa jiran fi Mana Murtii sanatti dhihaatan akka jedhanitti Manni Murtii Ameerikaa dhimma kana falmisiisuuf mirga hin qabu waan ta’eef himanni kun haqamuu qaba jechuun gaafatan.

Abuukaatoon Dhaabbata Elektirronik Firoonteer Nate Cardozo gama isaaniin Mootummaa Itoophiyaa basasaa seeraan ala gaggeeseef fuula dura mana murtitti gaafatamuu qaba jechuun falman.

Vaayiraasiin basasaa Dhaabbanni Elektiroonik Firiinteer Faawundeshin komputera Obbo Kidaanee irratti arge kun qaama duula Motummaan Itoophiyaan mormitoota isaa fi gaazexxesitootaa irratti gochaa jiruu ti jedhameera.

Sooftweeriin kun sagnataa FinSpy fi sooftweerii basaasaa kaampaanii Gamma Group jedhamuun Mootummotatti gurguramuu dha.

Oddeeffannoon torbe darbe dhoksaan bahe akka mullisuttis// kaampaaniin Hacking Team jedhamu sooftii weerii basaasaa doolara Miliyoona tokkoon akka Mootummaa Itoophiyaatti gurguraree fi Mootummaan Itoophiyaa immoo gaazexesitootaa fi mormitoota akka ittiin basaasu beeksiseera.

Mootummaan Itoophiyaa gaazexeessitoota miidiyaa dhuunfaa irra hojjetan fi biyya irraa baqatanii biyya alaa jiraatan irratti haleellaa saayberii dhaqqabsiisuudhaan lammiin biyyattii odeeffannoo akka hinarganne godha jechuudhaan dhaabbanni qorannoo intarneetii magaalaa Toroontoo Citizen Lab jedhamu mootummaa Itoophiyaa yakkee tureera.

Alamaayyoo Qannaatu gabaase.


Elections, Ethiopian style. #Africa. #Oromia May 5, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Sham elections, The Ethiopian government’s systematic repression of independent media, The Tyranny of TPLF Ethiopia.
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Opinion: Elections, Ethiopian style

By Felix Horne, Horn of Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Since the last election, the ruling party has exerted more control and increased its repression of basic liberties.

Dissent of any type, particularly in rural areas, is dealt with harshly. The long-standing 5:1 system of grassroots surveillance – under which one individual is responsible for monitoring the activities of five households – has let local officials clamp down on dissent before it spreads beyond the household level.

This is what an election campaign looks like in Ethiopia, where the ruling coalition took 99.6 percent of parliamentary seats in the last national elections, in 2010.

Jirata, who asked that his real name not be used, is a 19-year-old student who was campaigning for a legally registered opposition party recently, when security officials arrested him.

They told him that he was working for a “terrorist group” that sought to forcibly bring down the government. He was badly beaten over the course of three nights and released on the condition that he end his involvement in politics. He is still limping from his injuries, and he told me he no longer has any interest in getting involved in politics. He says he will vote for the government party “because life is easier that way”.

Jirata was working for an Oromo party, representing an ethnic group long targeted by the government. But as Ethiopians go to the polls in late May, the prospects for opposition parties to fully and fairly campaign are grim.

Since the last election, the ruling party has only exerted more control and increased its widespread repression of basic liberties, including the rights to free expression, assembly, and association.

The courts provide no justice in cases of political importance. While election day is unpredictable, it’s clear that the avenues by which opposition parties can fully function and citizens can engage on political issues are largely closed.

While there are 75 registered opposition groups, several of the largest parties have talked of boycotting the elections because of flawed electoral processes. Challenges with registering candidates, acquiring the funds they are legally entitled to, mobilising their supporters, and keeping their members out of prison have taken their toll.

In short, there is limited space for government critics to play a peaceful and constructive role.

Suppression of non-governmental voices

The Ethiopian media provides little coverage of relevant political issues ahead of the election since what vestiges of independent media existed have largely been eliminated since 2010.

Reporters critical of the government are regularly harassed, threatened and detained. In 2014 alone, over 30 journalists fled Ethiopia and at least six publications were closed down.

Sources providing information to media and human rights groups are regularly targeted. Many diaspora media websites, while heavily politicised, remain blocked in Ethiopia. Journalists must choose between self-censorship, harassment, imprisonment, and exile.

The situation hasn’t been much better for opposition parties that want to organise peaceful protests and rallies ahead of the election. The Semayawi party (Blue Party), for example, is one of the newcomers in Ethiopia’s electoral landscape, and since 2013 has tried to hold regular and peaceful issue-based protests.

Protesters and organisers have frequently been arrested and harassed, their equipment has been confiscated, and permits unfairly denied. One of their leaders is on trial on trumped-up terrorism charges.

The lone opposition parliament member is not running this time due to a split in his party, the Union of Democracy and Justice, in which Ethiopia’s national electoral board played favourites. The net effect is that the government awarded the party name to an offshoot of the party that is more closely aligned to government policies and interests.

No dissent allowed

There are few ways for Ethiopians to peacefully express dissent or to contribute to the national political dialogue. Dissent of any type, particularly in rural areas, is dealt with harshly. The long-standing 5:1 system of grassroots surveillance – under which one individual is responsible for monitoring the activities of five households – has let local officials clamp down on dissent before it spreads beyond the household level.Telephone surveillance is commonplace, and the ongoing trial of a group of bloggers called Zone 9 has resulted in increased self-censorship online.

In short, there is limited space for government critics to play a peaceful and constructive role. The only international observers to the election will be the African Union. The European Union is not sending observers, noting that Ethiopia has not implemented recommendations by previous election observers. As Human Rights Watch documented after the 2010 elections, those who complain about election irregularities risk arrest and harassment.

“If we have an issue with government where do we go?” an Ethiopian who lives in a rural area recently told me, summing it up: “There is no media that will write our story, there are no more organisations that work on issues that the government does not like, if we take to the streets we are arrested, and if we go to their office to question we are called terrorists. If we go to the courts, there is no independence – we go to jail. There are no large opposition parties to vote for in the election, and even if there were, if we vote for them our lives then become very difficult. So what can we do? The elections are just another sign of our repression.”

Felix Horne is a Horn of Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.


Descent into hell continues in the Horn of African Country: Ethiopia is ‘not free’, global press freedom survey finds April 30, 2015

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Freedom of the press around the world has plummeted to the worst level in a decade, a survey warned Wednesday, with the United States and China both tightening the noose.

Journalists globally encountered more restrictions from governments, militants, criminals and media owners, the annual report by the human rights group Freedom House said.

“Journalists faced intensified pressure from all sides in 2014,” said Jennifer Dunham, project manager of the report.

“Governments used security or antiterrorism laws as a pretext to silence critical voices, militant groups and criminal gangs used increasingly brazen tactics to intimidate journalists, and media owners attempted to manipulate news content to serve their political or business interests.”

One factor was the passage and use of restrictive laws, often on national security grounds.

“One of the most troubling developments of the past year was the struggle by democratic states to cope with an onslaught of propaganda from authoritarian regimes and militant groups,” Dunham said.

“There is a danger that instead of encouraging honest, objective journalism and freedom of information as the proper antidote, democracies will resort to censorship or propaganda of their own.”

Of the 199 countries and territories studied in 2014, a total of 63, or 32 percent, were rated “free” for the news media, while 71 (36 percent) were “partly free” and 65 (32 percent) “not free.”

Only 14 percent of the world’s inhabitants live in countries with a free press, Freedom House said.

The rating for the United States fell due to detentions, harassment, and rough treatment of journalists by police during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the report said.

Elsewhere in the Americas, declines in press freedom were seen in Honduras, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and Ecuador.

The report said only five percent of people in the Asia-Pacific region have a free press, and that the rating for China fell as “authorities tightened control over liberal media outlets.”

Europe as a region had the highest score but also experienced the second-largest decline over the past 10 years.

The report also cited tougher conditions for journalists in Russia, Syria, Algeria, Nigeria and Ethiopia, while Tunisia “registered the best score of any Arab country.”

Social Progress Index 2015: The lowest five countries in the world on Social Progress are Ethiopia, Niger, Afghanistan, Chad, Central African Republic. #Africa. #Oromia April 26, 2015

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In measuring national progress, Ethiopia as in its GDP per head records one of the lowest in Social Progress Index 2015. Ethiopia ranks 126 of 133 countries.

Ethiopia is the one of the lowest in social Progress 2015

‘The Social Progress Index offers a rich framework for measuring the multiple dimensions of social progress, benchmarking success, and catalyzing greater human wellbeing….  Economic growth alone is not enough. A society that fails to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for many of its citizens is not succeeding. We must widen our understanding of the success of societies beyond economic outcomes. Inclusive growth requires achieving both economic and social progress.’


Click to access 2015%20SOCIAL%20PROGRESS%20INDEX_FINAL.pdf


Ethiopia (126), Niger (127), Yemen (128), Angola (130), Afghanstan (131), Chad (132) and Central African republic (133).

Ethiopia’s outcome:

One of the lowest in GDP (Income) and in SOCIAL PROGRESS Index.
Social Progress Index : 41.04 (126th)
Basic Human Needs: 44.04 (120th)
Opportunity: 28.59 (126th)
Foundations of Wellbeing: 50.49 (126th)

Water and Sanitation: 23.50
(Access to piped water, Rural access to improved water source, Access to improved sanitation facilities).
Personal Rights: 25.76
(Political rights, Freedom of speech, Freedom of assembly/association, Freedom of movement, Private property rights).
Access to Information and Communications:33.09
(Mobile telephone subscriptions, Internet users, Press Freedom Index)
Tolerance and Inclusion: 34.01
(Discrimination and violence against minorities, Religious tolerance,Community safety net).
Access to Advanced Education:5.74
(Years of tertiary schooling, Women’s average years in school,Inequality in the attainment of education, Globally ranked universities).
  • Ten countries in the world have been ranked as Very High Social Progress Countries as these countries generally have strong performance across all three dimensions. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 94.77, Foundations of Wellbeing is 83.85, and Opportunity is 83.07.
  • As with most high-income countries, the top 10 countries score lowest on Ecosystem Sustainability and Health and Wellness.
  • Nearly all of the top 10 are relatively small countries, with only Canada having a population greater than 25 million.
  • The top three countries in the world on Social Progress are Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland with closely grouped scores between 88.36 and 87.97.
  • Canada is the only country among the G7 countries that has been ranked in top ten on SPI 2015
  • Under the High Social Progress Countries tier, there are 21 countries. This group includes a number of the world’s leading economies in terms of GDP and population, including the remaining six members of the G7: the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, the United States, France, and Italy. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 90.86, Foundations of Wellbeing is 77.83, and Opportunity is 73.82
  • The third tier of Upper Middle Social Progress Countries comprises of 25 countries.  This group reveals that high GDP per capita does not guarantee social progress. Average scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 80.66, Foundations of Wellbeing is 73.52, and Opportunity is 57.73.
  • The fourth tier Lower Middle Social Progress Countries comprises of 42 countries. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 72.34, Foundations of Wellbeing is 66.90, and Opportunity is 47.14
  • Under the Low Social Progress Countries tier, there are 27 countries which include many Sub-Saharan African countries. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 50.03, Foundations of Wellbeing is 58.01, and Opportunity is 38.35.
  • Under the Very Low Social Progress Countries tier, there are 8 countries. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 38.46, Foundations of Wellbeing is 48.55, and Opportunity is 26.05.
  • The lowest five countries in the world on Social Progress are Ethiopia, Niger, Afghanistan, Chad, Central African Republic.

The Social Progress Index, first released in 2014 building on a beta version previewed in 2013, measures a comprehensive array of components of social and environmental performance and aggregates them into an overall framework. The Index was developed based on extensive discussions with stakeholders around the world about what has been missed when policymakers focus on GDP to the exclusion of social performance. Our work was influenced by the seminal contributions of Amartya Sen on social development, as well as by the recent call for action in the report “Mismeasuring Our Lives” by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.

The Social Progress Index incorporates four key design principles:

  1. Exclusively social and environmental indicators: our aim is to measure social progress directly, rather than utilize economic proxies. By excluding economic indicators, we can, for the first time, rigorously and systematically analyze the relationship between economic development (measured for example by GDP per capita) and social development. Prior efforts to move “beyond GDP” have comingled social and economic indicators, making it difficult to disentangle cause and effect.
  2. Outcomes not inputs: our aim is to measure the outcomes that matter to the lives of real people, not the inputs. For example, we want to measure a country’s health and wellness achieved, not how much effort is expended nor how much the country spends on healthcare.
  3. Holistic and relevant to all countries: our aim is to create a holistic measure of social progress that encompasses the many aspects of health of societies. Most previous efforts have focused on the poorest countries, for understandable reasons. But knowing what constitutes a healthy society for any country, including higher-income countries, is indispensable in charting a course for less-prosperous societies to get there.
  4. Actionable: the Index aims to be a practical tool that will help leaders and practitioners in government, business and civil society to implement policies and programs that will drive faster social progress. To achieve that goal, we measure outcomes in a granular way that focuses on specific areas that can be implemented directly. The Index is structured around 12 components and 52 distinct indicators. The framework allows us to not only provide an aggregate country score and ranking, but also to allow granular analyses of specific areas of strength and weakness. Transparency of measurement using a comprehensive framework allows change-makers to identify and act upon the most pressing issues in their societies.

These design principles are the foundation for our conceptual framework. We define social progress in a comprehensive and inclusive way. Social progress is the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.

This definition reflects an extensive and critical review and synthesis of both the academic and practitioner literature in a wide range of development topics. The Social Progress Index framework focuses on three distinct (though related) questions:

  1. Does a country provide for its people’s most essential needs?
  2. Are the building blocks in place for individuals and communities to enhance and sustain wellbeing?
  3. Is there opportunity for all individuals to reach their full potential?

These three questions define the three dimensions of Social Progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity.



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OEnemies of Internet


By Claire Lauterbach

Trovicor brochure25 March 2015 (Privacy International) — German surveillance technology company Trovicor played a central role in expanding the Ethiopian government’s communications surveillancecapacities, according to a joint investigation by Privacy International and netzpolitik.org.

The company, formerly part of Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), provided equipment to Ethiopia’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in 2011 and offered to massively expand the government’s ability to intercept and store internet protocol (IP) traffic across the national telecommunications backbone. Trovicor’s proposal was to double the government’s internet surveillance capacity: two years’ worth of data intercepted from Ethiopian networks would be stored.

Trovicor’s predecessor in intelligence solutions, Siemens Pte worked closely with its British partner Gamma Group International via an offshore company in Lebanon to expand lawful interception in the east African country. Gamma Group’s highly intrusive FinFisher malware suite was used to target Ethiopian dissidents. Forensic traces of FinFisher malware have also been traced back to one of Gamma’s Lebanese operations.

Together, the companies and their Lebanese offshore subsidiaries helped one of Africa’s most repressive governments spy on one of its largest populations.

Backdoors to the backbone

Since 1991, Ethiopia has been governed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPDRF), a coalition of ethnically-based political parties that has severely restricted freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Police has and security forces have been accused of torture. The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), an Ethiopian intelligence agency has used intercepted communications data to identify and punish targets it perceives as opposed to the government. Journalists, activists and average citizens widely assume that their communications are extensively monitored. Phone records and transcripts have also been used to extract confessions under torture, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Information Network Security Agency (INSA), created in 2011, consolidated and extended the state’s surveillance and censorship of internet traffic. It is reported to have used ‘deep packet inspection’ which allows for the inspection and rerouting of internet traffic as it passes an inspection point and fulfils certain criteria defined by the inspecting agent. In 2012, it blocked access to the anonymous browsing service Tor, further restricting safe spaces for communication. INSA is alleged to be the agency responsible for using offensive malware from Italy-based Hacking Team in 2013 and 2014 to target journalists.

Ethio Telecom runs the country’s phone and internet services as a state-owned monopoly. In 2010, the Ethiopian government contracted France Telecom to manage the company, changed its former name and embarked on a serious expansion of the country’s infrastructure. While good news for rural Ethiopians who have much less access to quality communications services, the government also expanded its surveillance capacities to match.

Trovicor was central to this expansion plan. The Munich-headquartered company sells monitoring centres to government and law enforcement clients worldwide to capture, monitor, analyse and store all data acquired during investigation activities transmitted on a wide spectrum of networks. Trovicor technicians work to integrate interception gateways provided by Trovicor or partner companies into network infrastructure of service providers to funnel communications data to the monitoring centres.

Trovicor continues the work of Nokia Siemens Network (NSN), a Helsinki-based joint venture of German conglomerate Siemens AG and Finnish telecoms company Nokia. In 2009, NSN sold its intelligence wing ‘Siemens Intelligence Solutions’ to Perusa Partners Fund 1 LP, a private investment firm, amid controversy that it supplied of surveillance systems to Iran. Perusa renamed its new acquisition ‘Trovicor.’

In January 2010, two representatives of the company presented an Ethiopian customer with a detailed operational plan to massively expand the government’s capacity to monitor IP traffic, according to a document obtained by netzpolitik.org.

Ethiopia’s fiber optic backbone carries the country’s mobile and internet traffic. Signals travel across Ethiopia through many different traffic routers including local and regional routers and international gateways. IP traffic originating or travelling abroad, for example to and from Gmail’s US-based storage servers, would pass through internet gateways at three sites. In 2010, the existing fiber optic cable routes radiated from Addis Abeba along the country’s roadways to key towns including Gonder and the Sudan border to the northwest, Mek’ele to the North, Nekemte to the West, Awassa to the south, Dire Dawa to the East and out to the Red Sea via Djibouti. That year, the government planned to add 37 new fiber routes covering a distance of around 10,000 kilometers and reaching further into rural Ethiopia.

The government required massively expanded powers to intercept IP traffic across the new and existing cables. The government was to add new local-level ‘edge routers’ (ER) to 25 new locations. At each of these ER, Trovicor proposed, the company would install its own next generation network (NGN) taps. These taps would not interfere with the transmission of the signal. Instead, they would also transmit traffic from the ER to a Trovicor aggregation switch that would transmit the signal to the government’s monitoring centre – provided by Trovicor. The monitoring centre would require data from all 25 new aggregation switches to be provided to it on a single 10GbE link.

The government would double its storage and archiving capacity under Trovicor’s plan. Two years’ worth of data transmitted across Ethiopian networks could now be analysed. A total of 3 terabytes could be stored online and actively queried by monitoring centre analysts; a further 28 terabytes of material could be archived.

With Trovicor’s plan, analysts would be able to locate a mobile caller based on his or her proximity to cell phone towers. Trovicor offered to add this geolocation capacity – a “very cheap solution in comparison to the positioning systems” – to the monitoring centre and to integrate the centre with the network architecture provided by Chinese company ZTE.

Throughout this period Ethio Telecom regularly conducted business with Nokia and Siemens companies, some of it for lawful interception, according to records obtained by Privacy International. It is not clear whether Trovicor was ultimately chosen to expand network interception capacities according to the January 2010 plan. Trovicor was, however, doing business in Ethiopia in 2011. In June 2011 the company sent a shipment to the NISS security agency from Munich to Frankfurt and onwards to Addis Abeba via an Ethiopian Airways flight, according to company records. Its exact contents are unknown. Trovicor and Siemens did not respond to requests for comment.

The Lebanese Connection

The 7th floor of Broadway Building in Beirut’s fashionable Hamra district houses two surveillance technology companies – Elaman and Gamma Group, or rather, their offshore affiliates.

Headquartered in Munich, Elaman sells a range of surveillance equipment, from communications monitoring centres to specialist cameras and body-worn call interception devices. It is also a distributor and close partner of the British surveillance consortium Gamma Group. Elaman marketed FinFisher, a malware suite that allows its user to access all stored data and even to take control of the microphone and camera, before Gamma took over the promotion and leadership behind the product in the late 2000s. The Elaman-Gamma partnership had “successfully been involved over the past five years in projects and contracts worth more than 200 million euros”, according to one brochure.

Both companies provide powerful surveillance technology via Lebanon. Four joint stock companies – Elaman – German Security Solutions SAL, Gamma Group International SAL, Gamma Cyan SAL Offshore, and Cyan Engineering Services SAL – share the same registered address, above the Beirut offices of humanitarian charity Save the Children.

Siemens paid one of these companies, Gamma Group International SAL, for an “Ethiopia Lawful Interception” project sometime before July 2011. Gamma Group International SAL’s business is facilitated by Nabil Imad who appears as a beneficiary on a bank account attributed to Gamma, according to information obtained by Privacy International. Lebanese law requires joint stock companies, known by the French acronym SAL, to have between three and 12 shareholders, the majority of whom must be Lebanese. Nabil ‘Sami’ Imad is listed as the director of both Gamma Cyan SAL and Elaman SAL while ‘Sami Nabil Imad’ appears as director of Gamma Group International SALMohammad Farid Mattar, a lawyer representing the heir of assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, is also listed as a director of Gamma Group International SAL. The Lebanese company’s only listed non-Lebanese shareholder is its chairman, John Alexander Nelson Louthean. Louthean directs Gamma Group International Ltd. Gamma Group and Mattar both declined to offer comment.

In a written response to Privacy International’s and Netzpolitik’s questions regarding the operation, a lawyer for Gamma would neither confirm nor deny the details of this report. The same lawyer, speaking on Mr. Mattar’s behalf, would neither confirm nor deny Mr. Mattar’s involvement.

The “Ethiopia Lawful Interception” project could have been to integrate FinFisher into an Ethiopian Trovicor monitoring centre. Trovicor has offered to supply Gamma products to governments worldwide, including inTajikistan in 2009. A 2010 Gamma Group newsletter celebrated a new partnership with Trovicor based on successful collaboration in joint ventures. Wikileaks has identified that Gamma employees Stephan Oelkers and Johnny Debs visited Ethiopia in 2013 and Elaman CEO Holger Rumscheidt visited in 2012.

The combination of the two companies’ capabilities at the time – massive monitoring centres and the deployment of the FinFisher malware – presents a very concerning capability in the hands of a repressive government. FinFisher was used to target members of the Ethiopian political movement, Ginbot 7. Researchers at the Citizen Lab, a technology laboratory based in Canada, analyzed malware samples and determined that a FinFisher campaign originating in Ethiopia used pictures of Ginbot 7 members as bait to infect users – the corrupted files, when opened, would install the spyware onto the user’s device.

FinFisher was deployed against Ethiopians living abroad as well. Tadesse Kersmo is a London-based lecturer and member of Ginbot 7. Suspecting that his device was compromised, in 2013, he submitted his computer to Privacy International which, in collaboration with a research fellow of the Citizen Lab, analysed the device and found traces of FinFisher malware. The Citizen Lab’s forensic analysis of FinFisher samples obtained elsewhere have linked certificates for the samples to Cyan Engineering Services SAL. Kersmo used to use his computer to keep in touch with his friends and family and continued to advocate for democracy back in Ethiopia. With his chats and Skype calls logged, his contacts accessed, and his video and microphone remotely switched on, it was not only Kersmo that was threatened, but also every member of the movement.

Meanwhile in Germany, where Trovicor is headquartered and Gamma GmbH had an office before they transformed into FinFisher GmBH, German authorities maintain that they are unaware of either company supplying surveillance equipment to Ethiopia. After an investigation prompted by mounting evidence that German companies are leaders in the sale of surveillance technology worldwide, the German export agency said in a letter to the Bundestag that it found no records of any sale of surveillance technology to Ethiopia. However, the absence of records does not mean that no sales were made; unlike the sale of arms and other military equipment that necessitate the consideration of the human rights implications of a sale by export authorities, the sale of surveillance technology was not covered by any export regulation at the time of its export, allowing companies and their customers to trade free from any public scrutiny.

Back in Ethiopia, journalists, activists and many ordinary citizens self-censor in the face of constant government surveillance of their private communications. “We use so many code words and avoid talking directly about so many topics that often I’m not sure I know what we are really talking about” said one person who spoke with Human Rights Watch.

Thousands of kilometres away, European companies and their slightly closer Lebanese entities are responsible for these silences.

The European Union is currently considering if and how to regulate exports of surveillance technologies that lead to abuses of human rights. For more information, visit Privacy International or the Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports.

Source: Privacy International


Repressive Ethiopia comes out as the worst place in #Africa for internet freedom. #BecauseIAmOromo December 21, 2014

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OEnemies of Internetinternet freedom



Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and founder of the Web Foundation, has called for the Internet to be recognised as a basic human right.  Sir Tim noted that in our increasingly unequal world, the Web has the potential to be a great equalizer, but only “if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access and net neutrality into the rules of the game.”

In order to reverse this slide and leverage the power of technology to fight inequality, the Web Foundation is calling on policymakers to:

  • Accelerate progress towards universal access by increasing access to affordable Internet and ensuring that everyone can use the Web all of the time, safely, freely and privately.
  • Level the playing field by preventing price discrimination in Internet traffic, and treating the Internet like any other public utility.
  • Invest in high-quality public education for all to ensure that technological progress doesn’t leave some groups behind.
  • Promote participation in democracy and protect freedom of opinion by reversing the erosion of press freedom and civil liberties, using the Web to increase government transparency, and protecting the freedoms of speech, association, and privacy.
  • Create opportunities for women and poor and marginalised groups by investing more in ICTs to overcome key barriers in health, education, agriculture and gender equity.


Internet freedom in Africa: Ethiopia and The Gambia most repressive; South Africa and Kenya freest


ETHIOPIA, The Gambia and Sudan are some of the most repressive places in Africa for online freedom, a new report by watchdog organisation Freedom House indicates, while South Africa and Kenya are the among the most free for internet users in the continent.

But the 12 African countries surveyed show a worrying trend – the majority are becoming more repressive compared to last year. Just South Africa – the best ranked – Kenya, Uganda and Malawi have maintained the same score as last year; Nigeria, Angola, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Ethiopia have deteriorated. Zambia and The Gambia are new entrants on the list this year.

The negative trajectory in internet freedom is mirrored around the world – the report states that in 36 of the 65 countries surveyed, internet freedom scores have become worse, as governments become increasingly nervous about their national security, and more sophisticated in surveillance and control.

“Very few countries registered any gains in internet freedom, and the improvements that were recorded largely reflected less vigorous application of existing internet controls compared with the previous year, rather than genuinely new and positive steps taken [by governments],” the report states.

Although most African countries do not explicitly censor content much, there has been an increasingly harsh manner in which users are targeted for the things they say online – in some countries, Freedom House reports, “the penalties for online expression are worse than those for similar actions offline”.

A higher score means a more repressive environment. Source: Freedom House

In July 2013, for example, the Gambian government passed amendments to the Information and Communication Act that specifically criminalised the use of the internet to criticise, impersonate, or spread false news about public officials. Anyone found guilty could face up to 15 years in prison, fines of roughly $100,000, or both—significantly harsher punishments than what the criminal code prescribes for the equivalent offenses offline.

The report reveals that breaches in cybersecurity are also eroding freedom, as government critics and human rights organisations are subject to increasingly sophisticated and personalised malware attacks, documented in 32 of the 65 countries examined.

Low internet penetration, state monopoly

Ethiopia comes out as the worst place in Africa for internet freedom. In the first place, lack of telecoms infrastructure, government monopoly and oppressive regulation means that internet penetration is just 2%, one of the lowest in Africa.

A law enacted in November 2013 gives the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) carte blanche to inspect private online activities without oversight. Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and CNN were inaccessible for 12 hours in July 2013, while the number of permanently blocked webpages also increased.

In the Gambia, as well as setting out punitive new laws, internet cafe registration regulations were tightened in September 2013, requiring operators to provide thorough details for a license, as well as mandating the physical layout of cafes and the signs that must be displayed.

In Nigeria too, cybercafés have to keep a log of their customers – although the mobile revolution means that these attempts at controlling internet use will become increasingly irrelevant.

But if you can’t control access, then persecution and punishment becomes the next measure – and African governments show remarkable sophistication here.

In Ethiopia, the government launched high-tech surveillance malware against several online journalists in the Ethiopian diaspora and dissidents in exile; six bloggers of the prominent Zone9 blogging collective were arrested in April 2014 on charges of terrorism.

This year shows a more repressive environment than last year in many countries. Source: Freedom House

The same was observed in Angola, where “insider sources” affirmed that a German company had assisted the Angolan military intelligence in installing a sophisticated communications monitoring system on a military base, the report states. Further evidence, as of November 2013, found that at least one major ISP hosts a spyware system directly on its server.

In Rwanda, a growing number of independent online news outlets and opposition blogs were intermittently inaccessible in Rwanda in the past year. The Law Relating to the Interception of Communications enacted in October authorised high-ranking security officials to monitor email and telephone conversations of individuals considered potential threats to “public security”.

In Sudan, a localised internet service disruption in June and a nationwide blackout in September corresponded with large anti-government protests; the blackouts were reportedly directed by the government.

Even in the countries ranked as relatively free, harassment and intimidation of journalists and bloggers – and even ordinary citizens – is a widespread form of internet control. In Malawi online journalists are “periodically detained and prosecuted for articles posted on news websites”.

Most recently, Justice Mponda,  a correspondent for the online publication Malawi Voice, was arrested in November 2013 for allegedly “intimidating the royal family” in an investigative story about former President Banda’s connection to the theft of millions of Malawian kwacha from government coffers in a scandal known as “Cashgate.”  He was later acquitted.

Mugabe’s digital ‘death’

But it’s Zimbabwe that has had some of the most bizarre persecutions. An editor at the Sunday Mail state newspaper, Edmund Kudakwashe Kudzayi, was arrested in June on accusations of running the Baba Jukwa Facebook account, an activist page of over half a million followers harshly critical of the government. In July, the government took down the facebook page, and Kudzayi’s case remains unresolved.

It gets crazier – in January 2014, teenage Facebook user Gumisai Manduwa was arrested for allegedly insulting the president after he posted on his Facebook page that President Mugabe “had died and was being preserved in a freezer.” Manduwa was released on bail two days after his arrest. His case remains on the court’s docket as of mid-2014.

And another court case, this one against 21-year old Shantel Rusike is still being dragged through the magistrate courts in Bulawayo as of mid-2014.

Rusike was arrested on December 24, 2012 and held for four days after she was reported to the police for sending an image depicting President Mugabe “in a nude state” via WhatsApp on her mobile phone. Rusike faces charges of “causing hatred, contempt or ridicule of the president”.

2013                                                                        2014
Internet Freedom Status                   Not Free                                                                Not Free

Obstacles to Access (0-25)                22                                                                                23
Limits on Content (0-35)                  28                                                                               28
Violations of User Rights (0-40)      29                                                                               29
TOTAL* (0-100)                                  79                                                                               80
* 0=most free, 100=least free

Population: 89.2 million

Internet Penetration 2013:  2 percent
Social Media/ICT Apps Blocked: Yes
Political/Social Content Blocked: Yes
Bloggers/ICT Users Arrested: Yes
Press Freedom 2014 Status: Not Free
Key Developments: May 2013 – May 2014
• Telecom services worsened, characterized by frequently dropped phone calls, prolonged internet service interruptions, and slow response times to service failures (see Obstacles to Access).
• Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and CNN were inaccessible for 12 hours in July 2013, while the
number of permanently blocked webpages also increased (see Limits on Content).
• A law enacted in November 2013 gives the Information Network Security Agency (INSA)
carte blanche to inspect private online activities without oversight (see Violations of User
• The government launched sophisticated surveillance malware against several online journalists
in the Ethiopian diaspora and dissidents in exile (see Violations of User Rights).
• Six bloggers of the prominent Zone9 blogging collective were arrested in April 2014 on
charges of terrorism (see Violations of User Rights).

Ethiopia continues to have one of the lowest rates of internet and mobile phone connectivity in the world, as meager infrastructure, government monopoly over the telecommunications sector, and obstructive telecom policies have significantly hindered the growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the country. Coupled with highly repressive laws and tactics aimed at restricting freedom of expression and access to information, internet freedom in Ethiopia is consistently rated the worst in sub-Saharan Africa and among the worst in the world.
Despite the country’s extremely poor telecommunications services and a largely disconnected population, Ethiopia is also known as one of the first African countries to censor the internet, beginning in 2006 with opposition blogs.1. Since then, internet censorship has become pervasive and systematic through the use of highly sophisticated tools that block and filter internet content and monitor user activity. The majority of blocked websites feature critical news and opposition viewpoints run by individuals and organizations based mostly in the diaspora. Surveillance of mobile phone and internet networks is systematic and widespread, enabled by Chinese-made technology that allows for the interception of SMS text messages, recording of phone calls, and centralized monitoring of online activities. The government also employs commentators and trolls to proactively manipulate the online news and information landscape.
During the report’s coverage period, internet freedom in Ethiopia worsened due to increasing restrictions on access to social media and communications tools, such as Storify, and the temporary blocking of Facebook and Twitter in July 2013. A new law passed in November 2013 gave the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) carte blanche to track private online communications and investigate electronic devices without oversight. In addition, a number of diaspora journalists and exiled dissidents were targeted with surveillance malware, demonstrating a growing level of sophistication in the government’s effort to silence critical voices that extends beyond the country’s borders.
In 2014, the Ethiopian authorities increased their crackdown against bloggers and online journalists, using the country’s harsh laws to prosecute individuals for their online activities and quash dissent. Most alarmingly, six bloggers from the critical Zone9 blogging collective and three journalists associated with Zone9 were arrested in late April 2014 on charges of terrorism, which, under the Telecom Fraud Offenses Law and anti-terrorism proclamation, can entail a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if the bloggers are found guilty. The Zone9 case was repeatedly stalled by the courts throughout 2014, leaving the bloggers in pre-trial detention for over six months as of late-2014. Meanwhile, two online radio journalists were arrested and detained for a week without charges in August 2013, and the prominent dissident blogger, Eskinder Nega, and award-winning journalist, Reeyot Alemu, continue to serve lengthy prison sentences, despite international pressure for their release. The overall crackdown has had a major chilling effect on internet freedom and freedom of expression in the country, leading to increasing levels of self-censorship among online journalists, bloggers, and ordinary users alike.

Obstacles to Access
In 2013 and 2014, access to ICTs in Ethiopia remained extremely limited, hampered by slow speeds and the state’s tight grip on the telecom sector. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), internet penetration stood at a mere 1.9 percent in 2013, up from 1.5 percent in 2012. Only 0.25 percent of the population had access to fixed-broadband internet, increasing from 0.01 percent in 2012.Ethiopians had more access to mobile phone services, with mobile phone penetration rates increasing from 22 percent in 2012 to 27 percent in 2013 though such access rates still lag behind a regional average of 80 percent. Meanwhile, less than 5 percent of the population has a mobile-broadband subscription. Radio remains the principal mass medium through which most Ethiopians stay informed. While access to the internet via mobile phones increased slightly in the last year, prohibitively expensive mobile data packages still posed a significant financial obstacle for the majority of the population in Ethiopia, where per capita income in 2013 stood at US$470.8 Ethiopia’s telecom market is very unsaturated due to monopolistic control, providing customers with few options at arbitrary prices. Prices are set by the state-controlled Ethio Telecom and kept artificially high. As of mid-2014, monthly packages cost between ETB 200 and 3,000 (US$10 to $150) for 1 to 30 GB of 3G mobile services.

The computer remains the most practical option for going online, though in 2014, personal computers are still prohibitively expensive. The combined cost of purchasing a computer, initiating an internet connection, and paying usage charges makes internet access beyond the reach of most Ethiopians. Consequently, only 2 percent of Ethiopian households had internet access in their homes in 2013. The majority of internet users rely on cybercafes to log online, leading to a growth of
cybercafes in recent years, particularly in large cities. A typical internet user in Addis Ababa pays between ETB 5 and 7 (US$0.25 to $0.35) for an hour of access. Because of the scarcity of internet cafes outside urban areas, however, rates in rural cybercafes are more expensive.
For the few Ethiopians who can access the internet, connection speeds are known to be painstakingly slow. For years, logging into an email account and opening a single message could take as long as six minutes at a standard cybercafe with broadband in the capital city.12 According to May 2014 data from Akamai’s “State of the Internet” report, Ethiopia has an average connection speed of 1.2 Mbps (compared to a global average of 3.9 Mbps). Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s broadband adoption (characterized by connection speeds greater than 4 Mbps) is less than 3 percent,14 while the country’s narrowband adoption (connection speed below 256 Kbps) is about 20 percent among those with access. Numerous users reported that internet and text messaging speeds were extremely slow during the coverage period, with services completely unavailable at times. Frequent electricity outages are also a contributing factor to poor telecom services. Despite reports of massive investments from Chinese telecom companies in recent years,17 Ethiopia’s telecommunications infrastructure is among the least developed in Africa and is almost entirely absent from rural areas, where about 85 percent of the population resides. The country is connected to the international internet via satellite, a fiber-optic cable that passes through Sudan and connects to its international gateway, and the SEACOM cable that connects through Djibouti to an international undersea cable. In an effort to expand connectivity, the government has reportedly installed several
thousand kilometers of fiber-optic cable throughout the country over the past few years. Construction of the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) was completed and launched in July 2010, but its effects on Ethiopia have yet to be seen as of mid-2014. The space for independent initiatives in the ICT sector, entrepreneurial or otherwise, is extremely
limited, with state-owned Ethio Telecom holding a firm monopoly over internet and mobile phone services in the country. Consequently, all connections to the international internet are completely centralized via Ethio Telecom, enabling the government to cut off the internet at will. As a result, the internet research company Renesys classified Ethiopia “as being at severe risk of Internet disconnection,” alongside Syria, Uzbekistan, and Yemen in a February 2014 assessment. During the coverage period, one Renesys report found that 40 percent of Ethiopia’s networks were down for a few hours on July 18, 2013 as a result of a disruption on the SEACOM network, though the exact reason for the disruption was unknown. In September 2013, a number of cybercafe owners in Ethiopia reported an increasing trend of unpredictable internet connections and speeds beginning in June that resulted in a significant decline in business, with internet connections reported as unavailable for up to 15 days in a month. Mobile phone networks—also completely centralized under Ethio Telecom—are similarly vulnerable to service disruptions and shutdowns by the government, which often occur during politically sensitive times. During the coverage period, there were frequent reports of dropped cell phone and landline calls, complete network blackouts in many parts of the country, and overlapping voices in calls. The latter phenomenon led people to suspect government engagement in a widespread eavesdropping scheme (see “Violations of User Rights” for details on surveillance). Meanwhile, cybercafes are subject to onerous requirements under the 2002 Telecommunications
(Amendment) Proclamation, which requires cybercafe owners to obtain an operating license with Ethio Telecom via a murky process that can take months. During the coverage period, Ethio Telecom began enforcing its licensing  requirements more strictly in response to the increasing spread of cybercafes, reportedly penalizing Muslim cafe owners more harshly. Violations of the stringent requirements, such as a prohibition on providing Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services, entail criminal liability. Despite repeated international pressure to liberalize telecommunications in Ethiopia, the government
has not eased its grip on the sector. In June 2013, the prime minister publicly affirmed that the government would maintain a monopoly over the country’s telecoms. In the meantime, China has emerged as a key investor and contractor in Ethiopia’s telecommunications industry, and in July 2013, the government signed a US$1.6 billion agreement with the Chinese telecom companies,
Zhongxing Telecommunication Corporation (ZTE) and Huawei, to upgrade its broadband network to 4G in Addis Ababa and expand 3G across the country. The networks built by the Chinese firms have been criticized for their high costs and poor service, though the partnership has enabled Ethiopia’s authoritarian leaders to maintain their hold over the telecom sector. Furthermore, the contracts   have led to increasing fears that the Chinese may also be assisting the authorities in developing more robust internet and mobile phone censorship and surveillance capacities.
The Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) and the Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency (ETA) are the primary regulatory bodies overseeing the telecommunications sector. These two organizations were established as autonomous federal agencies, but both are highly controlled government bodies.
Limits on Content
During the coverage period, over a hundred websites remained inaccessible in Ethiopia, with a greater number of online tools and services targeted for blocking. A June 2014 report affirmed the government’s efforts to recruit and train progovernment citizens to attack politically objectionable content online.
The Ethiopian government imposes nationwide, politically motivated internet blocking and filtering that tends to tighten ahead of sensitive political events. The majority of blocked websites are those that feature opposition or critical content run by individuals or organizations based in the country or the diaspora. The government’s approach to internet filtering generally entails hindering access to a list of specific internet protocol (IP) addresses or domain names at the level of the Ethio Telecom-controlled international gateway. A more sophisticated strategy of blocking websites based on a keyword in the URL path, known as deep-packet inspection (DPI),  was detected in May 2012 when the Tor network—an online tool that enables users to browse anonymously—was blocked. In January 2014, an independent test conducted by a researcher based in the country found 120 unique URLs that were inaccessible in the country, 62 of which were Ethiopian news websites, 14 of which were political party websites,  of which were blogs, and 7 of which were television and online
radio websites. During the test, some websites opened at the first attempt but were inaccessible when refreshed. The test also found that select tools and services on Google’s Android operating system on smart phones were inaccessible at irregular intervals but for unclear reasons. A separate test on over 1,400 URLs between July and August 2013 by the OpenNet Initiative in partnership withHuman Rights Watch similarly found 62 websites blocked altogether and numerous others intermittently inaccessible. International news outlets were increasingly targeted for censorship. Al Arabiya, a Saudi Arabia-based media outlet, and both of Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English websites were intermittently blocked during the coverage period. In July 2013, websites belonging to Yahoo and CNN were reportedly inaccessible for about 12 hours. Facebook and Twitter were also targets of the short-term July 2013 blocking. There was no evident impetus or reason for the short-term blocking, and other major services such as Gmail and new outlets such as the New York Times remained accessible. Nevertheless, the incident further increased worries over reports of government plans to block popular social media tools completely. Facebook and Twitter platforms were otherwise generally accessible, although some individual Facebook groups belonging to opposition individuals remained blocked altogether, particularly when accessed via the unencrypted (http://) URL pathway. Meanwhile, the social media curation tool Storify—first blocked in July 201241—remained blocked during the coverage period, while the URL shortening tool Bit.ly was inexplicably blocked in late 2013.
In the past few years, the authorities have become more sophisticated in their censorship techniques, electing to block select webpages as opposed to entire websites. Critical online news articles are usually targeted, such as an August 2012 Forbes article titled, “Requiem for a Reprobate Ethiopian Tyrant Should Not Be Lionized,” which was blocked for criticizing the local and global praise of the former prime minister’s debatable economic growth achievements; the article remained blocked as of June 2014.44 A July 2013 YouTube video of the anti government Muslim protests that occurred from 2012-13 was also blocked as of late 2013.
International blog-hosting platforms such as Blogspot have been frequently blocked since the disputed parliamentary elections of 2005, during which the opposition used online communication tools to organize and disseminate information that was critical of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. In 2007, the government instituted a blanket block on the domainnames of two popular blog-hosting websites, Blogspot and Nazret, though the authorities have
since become more sophisticated in their censorship techniques, now blocking select pages such as the Zone9 independent blog hosted on Blogspot, as opposed to the entire blogging platform. Nazret, however, remained completely blocked as of June 2014. Circumvention strategies have also been targeted, with the term “proxy” yielding no search results on Google, according to an independent source. Meanwhile, the terms “sex” or “porn” are still searchable.
In addition to increasing blocks of online content, politically objectionable content is often targeted for removal, often by way of threats from security officials who personally seek out users and bloggers to instruct them to take down certain content, particularly critical content on Facebook. The growing practice suggests that at least some voices within Ethiopia’s small online community are being closely monitored. Some restrictions are also placed on mobile phones, such as the  requirement for a text message to obtain prior approval from Ethio Telecom if it is to be sent to more than ten recipients. A bulk text message sent without prior approval is automatically blocked. There are no procedures for determining which websites are blocked or why, which precludes any avenues for appeal. There are no published lists of blocked websites or publicly available criteria for how such decisions are made, and users are met with an error message when trying to access
blocked content. This lack of transparency is exacerbated by the government’s continued denial of its censorship efforts. Meanwhile, the decision-making process does not appear to be controlled by a single entity, as various government bodies—including the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Ethio Telecom, and the ministry of ICT—seem to be implementing their own lists, contributing to a phenomenon of inconsistent blocking. Lack of adequate funding is a significant challenge for independent online media in Ethiopia, as fear of government pressure dissuades local businesses from advertising with politically critical websites. Local newspapers and web outlets receive their news and information from regime critics and opposition organizations in the diaspora. While the domestic Ethiopian blogosphere has been expanding, most blogging activity on Ethiopian issues still originates in the diaspora. Few Ethiopian journalists work for both the domestic print media and overseas online outlets due to the threat of repercussions. Increasing repression against journalists and bloggers has had a major chilling effect on expression online, particularly following the arrest of the Zone9 bloggers in April 2014 (see “Violations of User Rights”). Fear of pervasive surveillance has led to widespread self-censorship, and many bloggers publish anonymously to avoid reprisals. Notably, users on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter seem to practice a lower degree of self-censorship, which may be due to poor awareness of privacy settings, or the perception that posts on social media are anonymous or more secure. Despite extremely low levels of internet access, the authorities employ progovernment commentators and trolls to proactively manipulate the online news and information landscape. Acrimonious exchanges between commentators on apologist websites and an array of diaspora critics and opposition figures have become common in online political debates. There was a noticeable increase in the number of progovernment commentators during the coverage period, as confirmed in a June 2014 report by the Ethiopian Satellite Television Service (ESAT) that detailed the government’s efforts to recruit and train progovernment citizens to attack politically objectionable content online. According to the ESAT report, hundreds of bloggers who report directly to government officials had been trained on how to post progovernment comments and criticize antigovernment articles on social  media platforms. As the country prepares for the upcoming 2015 National Election, the state media has stepped up its campaign against the press in general and the use of social media in particular, claiming that foreign agents and terrorists are using social media to destabilize the country. Consequently, many civil society groups based in the country are wary of mobilizing against the government, and calls for protest come mostly from the Ethiopian diaspora rather than from local activists who fear the government’s violent crackdowns against protest movements. Nevertheless, over the past few years, Facebook has become one of the most popular mediums through which Ethiopians share and consume information. Social media services have also become significant platforms for political deliberation and social justice campaigns. For example, in September 2013, a group of young Ethiopian bloggers and activists based in Addis Ababa launched a Facebook and Twitter campaign on the occasion of Ethiopia’s New Year celebration to share their vision of a better Ethiopia, using the hashtag #EthiopianDream.52 In November 2013, Ethiopians responded to the Saudi government’s crackdown on undocumented Ethiopian immigrants in Saudi Arabia by organizing the online campaign, #SomeoneTellSaudiArabia, to protest the abusive treatment of Ethiopian immigrants. Netizen activism was particularly pronounced and widespread following the arrest of six Zone9 bloggers and three journalists for their alleged affiliation with the Zone9 collective (see “Violations of User Rights”). Ethiopian bloggers and social media users flocked online to spread the #FreeZone-9Bloggers hashtag in a campaign that quickly swept across the social media sphere and garnered

widespread support from around the world. Within five days, the #FreeZone9Bloggers hashtag had been tweeted more than 8,000 times. Unfortunately, the international campaign elicited no response from the government, and the imprisoned bloggers and journalists are still awaiting trial on charges of terrorism as of late-2014.

Violations of User Rights 
During the coverage period, the Ethiopian government’s already limited space for online expression continued to deteriorate alongside its poor treatment of journalists. A new proclamation passed in November 2013 empowered INSA with sweeping surveillance capabilities without judicial oversight. Sophisticated malware was launched against online radio journalists and dissidents in exile, while repression against bloggers and ICT users in the country increased notably. Six bloggers of the critical Zone9 blogging collective were arrested for their alleged terrorist activities. The 1995 Ethiopian constitution guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and access to information, while also prohibiting censorship. These constitutional guarantees are affirmed in the 2008 Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation, known as the press law, which also provides certain protections for media workers, such as prohibiting the pre-trial detention of journalists. Nevertheless, the press law also includes problematic provisions that contradict  constitutional protections and restrict free expression. For example, media outlets are required to obtain licenses to operate through an onerous registration process that applies to all outlets, regardless of size, though it is uncertain whether the press law’s broad language encompasses online media. Penalties for violating the registration requirement and other restrictions on content, such as defamation, involve high fines and up to two and three years in prison, respectively.
In September 2012, the government codified specific restrictions on various telecommunications activities through the passage of the Telecom Fraud Offences law,  which revised a 1996 law that had placed bans on certain communication applications, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)60— including Skype and Google Voice—call back services, and internet-based fax services. Under the new law, the penalties under the preexisting ban were toughened, increasing the fine and maximum prison sentence from five to eight years for offending service providers, and penalizing users with
three months to two years in prison. The law also added the requirement for all individuals to register their telecommunications equipment—including smart phones—with the government, which security officials typically enforce by confiscating ICT equipment when a registration permit cannot be furnished at security checkpoints, according to sources in the country.

Most alarmingly, the Telecom Fraud Offences law extended the violations and penalties defined in the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and 2004 Criminal Code to electronic communications, which are broadly defined yet explicitly include both mobile phone and internet services. The anti-terrorism legislation prescribes prison sentences of up to 20 years for the publication of statements that can be understood as a direct or indirect encouragement of terrorism, vaguely defined.64 Meanwhile, the criminal code holds any “author, originator or publisher” criminally liable for content allegedly linked to offenses such as treason, espionage, or incitement, which carries with it the penalty of up to life imprisonment or death. The criminal code also penalizes the publication of a “false rumor” with up to three years in prison. In 2014, the Ethiopian authorities increased their crackdown against bloggers and online journalists, using the country’s harsh laws to prosecute individuals for their online activities and silence dissent. Most alarmingly, six bloggers from the critical Zone9 blogging collective and three journalists associated with Zone9 were arrested in late April 2014 on charges of terrorism. They were accused of “working with foreign organizations that claim to be human rights activists… and receiving finance to
incite public violence through social media,”  though the arrests had occurred just days following Zone9’s Facebook post announcing plans to resume its activism. The blogging collective had been inactive for seven months as a result of “a considerable amount of surveillance and harassment” the bloggers had suffered at the hands of security agents for their writings and social media activism. Despite widespread international condemnation of the Zone9 arrests, the detainees were denied bail in August and remained in jail as of fall 2014, awaiting trial. Meanwhile, the well-known dissident journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega is still carrying out an 18-year prison sentence handed down in July 2012 under the anti-terrorism law. Numerous other journalists and media outlets—both online and print—were targeted for arrest and prosecutions during the coverage period, including Darsema Sori and Khalid Mohammed who were arrested in August 2013 for their work with the online radio station, Radio Bilal, which is known for its extensive coverage of the 2012-13 anti government protests organized by Ethiopian Muslims.

They were released after being held for a week without charges,71 but the arrests were in keeping with the government’s concerted efforts to silence the protests. Given the high degree of online repression in Ethiopia, some political commentators use proxy servers and anonymizing tools to hide their identities when publishing online and to circumvent filtering, though the ability to communicate anonymously has become more difficult. The Tor Network anonymizing tool was blocked in May 2012, confirming that the government has deployed deep-packet inspection technology, and Google searches of the term “proxy” mysteriously yield no results. Anonymity is further compromised by strict SIM card registration requirements. Upon purchase of a SIM card through Ethio Telecom or an authorized reseller, individuals must provide their full name, address, government-issued identification number, and a passport-sized photograph. Ethio Telecom’s database of SIM registrants enables the government to cut-off the SIM cards belonging to targeted individuals and to restrict those individuals from registering for new SIM cards. Internet subscribers are also required to register their personal details, including their home address, with the government. In 2013, an inside informant leaked worrying details of potential draft legislation that seeks to mandate real-name registration for all internet users in Ethiopia, though there are no further
details of this development as of mid-2014. Government surveillance of online and mobile phone communications is pervasive in Ethiopia, and evidence has emerged in recent years that reveal the scale of such practices. According to 2014
Human Rights Watch research, there are strong indications that the government has deployed a centralized monitoring system from the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE, known as ZXMT, to monitor phone lines and various types of communications, including mobile phone networks and the internet.73 Known for its use by repressive regimes in Libya and Iran, ZXMT enables deep-packet inspection (DPI) of internet traffic across the Ethio Telecom network and has the ability to intercept emails and web chats. Another ZTE technology, known as ZSmart, is a customer management database installed at Ethio Telecom that provides the government with full access to user information and the ability to intercept SMS text messages and record phone conversations. ZSmart also allows security officials to locate targeted individuals through real-time geolocation tracking of mobile phones. While the extent to which the government has made use of the full range of ZTE’s sophisticated surveillance systems is unclear, the authorities frequently present intercepted emails and phone calls as evidence during trials against journalists and bloggers or during interrogations as a scare tactic. In November 2013, a new Cyber Security Law expanded the surveillance powers of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA)—the government body established in 2011 to preside overcurity of the country’s critical communications infrastructure. According to reports, the law states that “social media outlets, blogs and other internet related media have great capabilities to instigate war, to damage the country’s image and create havoc in the economic atmosphere of the country”—
setting the logic for expanding INSA’s duties to include developing offensive cyber capabilities and ICT tools. The proclamation also empowers INSA to investigate computers, networks, internet, radio, television, and social media platforms “for any possible damage to the country’s social, economic, political and psychological well being.” INSA reportedly uses sophisticated spyware, such as the commercial toolkit FinFisher—a device that can secretly monitor computers by turning on webcams, record everything a user types with a key logger, and intercept Skype calls—to target dissidents and supposed threats. A leaked document confirmed that the UK-based company, Gamma International, had provided Ethio Telecom with the FinFisher surveillance toolkit at some point between April and July 2012.80 In addition, research conducted by Citizen Lab in March 2013 worryingly found evidence of an Ethio Telecom-initiated  inSpy campaign launched against users that employed pictures of the exiled prodemocracy group, Ginbot 7, as bait. There has been an increasing trend of exiled dissidents targeted with surveillance malware in the past few years. In April 2013, Tadesse Kersmo, a senior member of Ginbot-7 living in exile in the United Kingdom since 2009, came across the above-mentioned Citizen Lab FinSpy report and noticed that one of the spyware campaign’s bait was a picture of himself. He contacted Citizen Lab to have his computer examined and found that FinSpy had been active on his computer over two days in June 2012. The spyware may have transmitted any or all of Kersmo’s emails, chats, Skype calls, files, and web searches to a server based in Ethiopia, which could have provided the authorities with names of contacts, colleagues, and family members still living in the country. In February 2014, Privacy International filed a criminal complaint to the UK’s National Cyber Crime Unit on Kersmo’s behalf, urging them to investigate the potential unlawful interception of communications.
In the same month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a similar suit in the United States on behalf of another Ethiopian dissident (and American citizen) identified publicly under the pseudonym Mr. Kidane. Kidane’s computer had also been found infected with the FinSpy malware sometime between late October 2012 and March 2013, which had secretly recorded dozens of his Skype calls, copied emails he had sent, and logged a web search conducted by his son on the history of sports medicine for a school research project.86 The FinSpy IP address was linked to a server belonging to
Ethio Telecom. Recent Citizen Lab research published in February 2014 uncovered the use of Remote Control System
(RCS) spyware against two employees of the diaspora-run independent satellite television, radio, and online news media outlet, Ethiopian Satellite Television Service (ESAT), based in Alexandria, VA.87 Made by the Italian company Hacking Team, RCS spyware is advertised as “offensive technology” sold exclusively to law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, and has the ability to steal files and passwords, and intercept Skype calls/chats. 88 While Hacking Team claims that they do not deal with “repressive regimes,” the RCS virus sent via sophisticated bait to the two ESAT employees made it clear that the attack was targeted, and researchers have strong suspicions of the Ethiopian government’s  involvement.
While the government’s stronghold over the Ethiopian ICT sector enables it to proactively monitor users, its access to user activity and information is less direct at cybercafes. For a period following the 2005 elections, cybercafe owners were required to keep a register of their clients, but the requirement has not been enforced since mid-2010.91 Nevertheless, some cybercafe operators revealed that they are required to report any “unusual behavior” to security officials, and officials often visit cybercafes (sometimes in plainclothes) to ask questions about specific users or monitor user activity themselves.
Government security agents frequently harass and intimidate bloggers, online journalists, and ordinary users for their online activities. Independent bloggers are often summoned by the authorities to be warned against discussing certain topics online, while activists claim that they are consistently threatened by state security agents for their online activism. Bloggers from Zone9, for example, reported suffering a considerable amount of harassment for their work, leading them to go silent for several months. Shortly after the blog announced on Facebook that it was resuming activities in April 2014, six Zone9 bloggers were arrested and sent to a federal detention center in Addis Ababa where the torture of detainees is reportedly common. The active Gmail accounts belonging to several of the Zone9 bloggers94 while in detention suggests that they may have been forced give their passwords to security officials against their will.

Read more @ https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FOTN_2014_Full_Report_compressedv2_0.pdf