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Newsweek: WHY ETHIOPIA BLOCKED MOBILE INTERNET AGAIN June 1, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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WHY ETHIOPIA BLOCKED MOBILE INTERNET AGAIN


Ethiopians may have experienced a frustrating sense of déjà vu when they tried to log on to social media or use the internet on their cellphones Wednesday.

That’s because the Ethiopian government has terminated mobile internet connectivity, a tactic the administration has used repeatedly in recent years to quell anti-government sentiment.

Ethiopia’s deputy communications minister, Zadig Abrha, confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that “mobile data has been deactivated,” but declined to provide any further information. The country’s sole telecommunications provider, the state-owned Ethio Telecom, has also refused to comment.

Preliminary data from Google showed a dramatic fall in search traffic from the Horn of Africa country from Tuesday afternoon, which did not appear to have returned to normal by Wednesday evening. It is unclear whether both mobile and fixed internet connections were blocked, but the majority of Ethiopians who do use the internet do so on mobile devices: The country has 11.95 mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 people, compared to 0.66 fixed-broadband subscriptions, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

Read more: Ethiopian athlete urges the world to help stop “persecution of Oromo people”

Julie Owono, the director of Paris-based internet freedom organization Internet Sans Frontières (ISF), says that the latest reports she has received were that internet connectivity had returned by Thursday morning, but that connectivity was not stable or fast. Owono tells Newsweek that access to some social media websites remains restricted.

Despite being one of Africa’s fastest-developing economies, Ethiopia has an extremely low internet penetration rate of just 2.9 percent, according to U.S. NGO Freedom House; in neighboring Kenya, penetration stands at 43 percent.

Internet access has been patchy since the government imposed a six-month state of emergency following a year of protests that were concentrated in the Oromia region, surrounding the capital Addis Ababa, and resulted in hundreds of protesters being killed by security forces. (The state of emergency was extended by four months in March.)

Ethiopia telecoms office

A woman walks past an Ethio Telecom office in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on November 9, 2015. Ethiopia only has one telecommunications provider and a very low internet penetration rate.TIKSA NEGERI/REUTERS

This time, the internet shutdown appears to be linked to university entrance exams taking place across the country this week. Around the same time in 2016, Ethiopia blocked access to social media sites—including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram— after copies of the exams were leaked online.

The Ethiopian government has not confirmed whether the exam period, which ends on Friday, is the reason for the shutdown. Newsweek contacted the Ethiopian embassy in London for a comment, but received no immediate reply.

But Owono says that the risk of an exam leak does not justify shutting down mobile internet for the entire population, and that the Ethiopian government’s repeated use of the tactic shows that it “fears connectivity.”

“For the wrong reasons, [it] sees the internet as a threat rather than as an opportunity,” says Owono. She points out that increasing internet connectivity and availability is part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda for development. “The reaction of the Ethiopian regime is contrary to this global aim.”

Ethiopia is not alone in Africa in closing down the internet to deal with social issues. In April, Cameroon lifted a three-month internet blackout in the country’s English-speaking regions, home to about one-fifth of the population, following mass protests there in late 2016. Egyptian authorities have ordered internet service providers to block access to 21 news websites, claiming that they backed terrorism or reported fake news, in a move criticized by press freedom activists.

Internet blackouts have also proven to be financially costly to countries. Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, the internet was shut down for a period of 30 days in Ethiopia; this cost the country’s economy $8.6 million, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.


Related Articles:

Global Voices:Ethiopia Imposes Nationwide Internet Blackout

 

 

ENCA:Ethiopia shuts off mobile internet without explanation

 

ETHIOPIA SHUTS OFF MOBILE INTERNET NATIONWIDE WITHOUT EXPLANATION.  KEEPING IT REAL WITH ADEOLA  31 May 2017

Ethiopia said on Wednesday it had deactivated mobile internet service, but offered no explanation for the countrywide outage that also briefly affected the African Union headquarters and a massive UN facility.

This is the second time in recent months that Africa’s second most populous country has turned off its mobile data service, which most businesses and consumers rely on for internet access.

RSF slams Ethiopian govt over nationwide internet blackout

ETHIOPIA


The media advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has slammed the Ethiopian government for an internet shutdown believed to be linked with upcoming national exams.

According to RSF, the action was “a danger to freedom of information and press freedom.” The nationwide blackout started late Tuesday without formal communication.

A deputy communications minister later confirmed to the AFP news agency, Zadig Abrha as simply saying “mobile date has been deactivated.” It is not known when services will be restored.

The shutdown is aimed at preventing a repeat of leaks that occurred last year. We are being proactive. We want our students to concentrate and be free of the psychological pressure and distractions that this brings.

3rd day of nationwide mobile internet blackout in : a danger for freedom of information and !

The government subsequently confirmed the shutdown and said it was to protect the integrity of high school exams. Thousands of students will take the Grade 10 exams between May 31 until June 2 whiles Grade 12 papers will be taken between June 5 and June 8.

The respective exams are for university entrance purposes and also for enrollment into national vocational courses. “The shutdown is aimed at preventing a repeat of leaks that occurred last year,” Mohammed Seid, public relations director of Ethiopia’s Office for Government Communications Affairs, told Reuters.

“We are being proactive. We want our students to concentrate and be free of the psychological pressure and distractions that this brings.”

There was a widespread leak of exams papers last year leading to a cancellation of papers. Beside shutdowns related to education, the government has also blocked internet in the wake of anti-government protests that hit the country last year.

Even though it is not known exactly when services will be restored the government says only access to social media was blocked and that other essential services like airline bookings and banking outfits had access to internet. Diplomatic outfits and international organizations operating in the country also have connection.


 

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Internet: connectivity is the cornerstone to the development of digital economy in Africa March 31, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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How Connectivity Can Change the Future for African Countries


 Media Planet– In an increasingly global world, one of the most important assets for people can be narrowed down to one thing: connectivity. The direct and indirect impacts of connectivity for parts of the world that are struggling economically cannot be overstated, and organizations like Huawei, a network and telecommunications company, are driving growth in African markets, particularly in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

CONNECTED: In Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania in East Africa, individuals travel to internet cafes to get online.

Helping the economy

“Growing evidence suggests that broadband can boost GDP incomes, helping combat poverty and hunger,” says Phoebe Huang, public affairs manager for Huawei in Africa. “The innovation efficiency of countries with higher broadband penetration is 15 times that of countries with lower broadband penetration. Broadband development also influences productivity: specifically, it can lead to an increase of 5 percent in manufacturing, 20 percent in information services, and 10 percent in services. In addition, broadband development will create more job opportunities. A 10 percent increase in broadband penetration increases the employment rate by 2 to 3 percent.”

The value of connectivity, particularly in developing countries, is multifactorial and significant. For instance, the ability to access the internet and connect with others allows children to study, health care professionals to communicate, and the public to keep informed on important local developments. It has the ability to foster ideas, collaboration and growth. A technology infrastructure is also a job creator; not only are workers needed to manage retail sales, there’s a whole system of building and maintenance created once a geographical area is more connected.

Creating new jobs

“Huawei has been in Africa for more than 17 years, so we really see ourselves as an African company. We have created thousands of jobs — today we have more than 7,000 employees in Africa,” says Roland Sladek, vice president of international media affairs at Huawei.

“We hope to bridge the digital divide and build a better connected world. We are focused on connecting people to people, people to things and things to things. We are improving the broadband penetration in Africa.”

“We continuously leverage our global innovation capabilities and cooperate with governments,
customers and industrial partners to increase the telecom network coverage significantly to achieve a win-win cooperation,” says Huang. “We believe that connectivity is the cornerstone to the development of digital economy in Africa.”

A long-term investment

Sladek believes that now is a key time to address the need for this connectivity; it
has never been as cost effective as it is now to create high quality, yet affordable devices.

“We are today the third-largest smartphone vendor in the world — we’ve launched some really cutting-edge models,” says Sladek. “Africa is an important market, first because it’s one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world, and secondly because there’s a rising middle class in Africa who want a good phone for a good price. African consumers also tend to be more open-minded regarding brands — they’re not wedded to Apple, for instance.”

Investing into telecommunications networks is a long-term commitment, and more and more countries are not only aware of this commitment — they see it as a long-term goal, even keeping in mind that some economies may be growing slower than they have previously due to external factors. In spite of this fact, by 2020 mobile data traffic in Africa is expected to increase by at least 15 times in high traffic areas.

“We hope to bridge the digital divide and build a better connected world,” says Huang. “We are focused on connecting people to people, people to things and things to things. We are improving the broadband penetration in Africa.”

“If you don’t invest today in your own telecomm infrastructure network, tomorrow you will have no business,” says Sladek. “Huawei lays today the foundation of Africa’s future.”


 

Freedom of the Net 2016: Ethiopia country profile: Social Media/ICT Apps Blocked: Press Freedom Status: Not Free January 14, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Internet Freedom.
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JUNE 2015–MAY 2016

  • Internet and mobile phone networks were repeatedly disrupted around the country, particularly in the Oromia region during antigovernment protests that began in November 2015 (see Restrictions on Connectivity).
  • Social media and communications platforms were temporarily blocked several times to restrict information about antigovernment protests and police brutality (see Blocking and Filtering).
  • News websites were newly blocked for reporting on the Oromo protests and a severe drought, adding to a growing blacklist (see Blocking and Filtering).
  • In May 2016, blogger Zelalem Workagenehu was sentenced to over five years in prison for leading a digital security course (see Prosecutions and Arrests for Online Activities).
  • Prosecutors challenged the release of members of the Zone 9 blogging collective, after they were acquitted of terrorism charges in 2015 (see Prosecutions and Arrests for Online Activities).
Introduction:

Internet freedom declined in the past year as the government cracked down on antigovernment protests and the digital tools citizens used to organize them.

Starting in the Oromo region in November 2015 as a protest against the authoritarian government’s plan to infringe on land belonging to the marginalized Oromia people, the movement spread across the country in the subsequent months, turning into unprecedented demonstrations seeking regime change and democratic reform.

In a heavy-handed response, the authorities frequently shutdown local and national internet and mobile phone networks to prevent citizens from communicating about the protests. Social media platforms and communications apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and IMO were also temporarily blocked at different times. In October 2016, the government imposed a six-month state of emergency on October 17, resulting in another internet shutdown lasting several days. Under the state of emergency, accessing or posting content related to the protests on social media and efforts to communicate with “outside forces” are criminal offenses.

News websites and blogs reporting on the protests were permanently blocked in 2015 and 2016. Separately, critical news about the current drought—the worst the country has experienced in 50 years—was systematically censored. Meanwhile, the authorities arrested and prosecuted several bloggers, sentencing blogger Zelalem Workagenehu to five years in prison in May 2016. He was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government for facilitating a course on digital security. The government’s persecution of the Zone 9 bloggers continued. Though four of the bloggers were acquitted in October 2015, the prosecutor appealed their release to the Supreme Court, and they were repeatedly summoned throughout the year.

The legal environment for internet freedom became more restrictive under the Computer Crime Proclamation enacted in June 2016, which criminalizes defamation and incitement. The proclamation also strengthens the government’s surveillance capabilities by enabling real-time monitoring or interception of communications.

Internet and mobile phone networks were deliberately disrupted in many parts of the country throughout the year, particularly in the Oromia region during largescale antigovernment protests that erupted in November 2015. Meanwhile, poor infrastructure, obstructionist telecom policies, and a government monopoly on the ICT sector make ICT services prohibitively expensive for the majority of the population.

Availability and Ease of Access

Ethiopia is one of the least connected countries in the world with an internet penetration rate of only 12 percent, according to 2015 data from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).1 Mobile phone penetration is also poor at 43 percent, up from just 32 percent in 2014.2 Low penetration rates stem from underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructure, which is almost entirely absent from rural areas, where about 85 percent of the population resides. A handful of signal stations service the entire country, resulting in network congestion and frequent disconnection.3 In a typical small town, individuals often hike to the top of the nearest hill to find a mobile phone signal.

Access to ICT services remains prohibitively expensive for most Ethiopians, largely due to the government’s monopoly over the telecom sector, which provides consumers with few options. Prices are set by state-controlled EthioTelecom and kept artificially high.4 Price cuts announced in February 2016 mitigated some of the financial strain,5 bringing mobile internet prices to ETB 5 (US$ 0.25) per day for 25 MB of data or ETB 3,000 (US$ 140) per month for 30 GB. Nonetheless, the lower cost 25 MB package is extremely limited considering a standard Google search uses up to 79 KB alone. Regularly loading websites containing 1 GB of multimedia content could cost US$ 9 a day. William Davison, Bloomberg’s Ethiopia correspondent, described the issue on Facebook in March 2016: “It cost me 44 birr ($2.05) to watch Al Jazeera’s latest 3-minute dispatch on Oromo protests using 4G network on my phone, which is not that much less than the average daily wage of a daily laborer in Ethiopia.”6 Ethiopians can spend an average of US$85 per month for limited mobile or fixed wireless internet access. Better quality services in neighboring Kenya and Uganda cost less than US$30 a month.

Telecommunication devices, connection fees and other related costs are also beyond the means of many Ethiopians. As a result, Ethiopia has among the lowest smartphone ownership rates in the world at only 4 percent according to a recent Pew survey.7 In April 2016, EthioTelecom proposed a new pricing scheme to charge more for the use of popular Voice-over-IP (VoIP) platforms such as Viber and Facebook Messenger on mobile devices.8 This would make smartphone usage even more expensive.

Consequently, the majority of internet users still rely on cybercafés for internet access. 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 cybercafés are higher. In addition, digital literacy rates are generally low.

For the few Ethiopians who can access the internet, connection speeds have been painstakingly slow for years, despite the rapid technological advances improving service quality in other countries. In a test conducted in the capital Addis Ababa,9 the average connection speed during one week in March 2016 was 1.2 Mbps—five times slower than the average 5.5 Mbps connection speed in Kenya. According to Akamai, the average connection speed in Ethiopia was 3 Mbps in the first quarter of 2016, significantly lower than the global average of 6.3 Mbps (Kenya’s average speed was documented at 7.3 Mbps in the same period).10

In practice, such speeds result in extremely sluggish download times, even of simple images. Logging into an email account and opening a single message can take as long as five minutes at a standard cybercafé with broadband in the capital city, while attaching documents or images to an email can take eight minutes or more.11 On mobile connections, Akamai found Ethiopia had the world’s slowest average load time, at 8.5 seconds.12

Compounding Ethiopia’s onerous access issues, severe drought in 2015 and 2016 has had a negative impact on the country’s hydroelectric electricity production,13 resulting in frequent and extended power outages that limit users’ ability to access the internet even further.14

Restrictions on Connectivity

The Ethiopian government’s monopolistic control over the country’s telecommunications infrastructure via EthioTelecom enables it to restrict information flows and access to internet and mobile phone services. In 2015–16, the flow of online traffic into, within, and out of Ethiopia registered a significant decline, likely as a result of network throttling, repeated internet shutdowns, and increased blocking.

As a landlocked country, Ethiopia has no direct access to submarine cable landing stations; thus, it connects 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. All connections to the international internet are completely centralized via EthioTelecom, enabling the government to cut off the internet at will.

Internet and mobile phone networks were disrupted in many parts of the country throughout the year. Oromia, the largest of the federal republic’s nine regional states, has experienced frequent telecom network since November 2015 saw the start of largescale demonstrations against the government’s plan to appropriate Oromia territory.15 The protest movement escalated and remained ongoing in late 2016, leading the government to declare a six-month state of emergency and shut down mobile internet services nationwide for several days in October.16

In an incident unrelated to the protests, internet services on computers and mobile devices were shut down for 24 hours in July 2016, ostensibly to prevent students from cheating during national university exams.17

The ICT shutdowns have been costly. Network disruptions between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 cost Ethiopia’s economy over US$ 8.5 million, according to the Brookings Institution.18

ICT Market

The space for independent initiatives in the ICT sector, entrepreneurial or otherwise, is extremely limited,19 with state-owned EthioTelecom holding a firm monopoly over internet and mobile phone services as the country’s sole telecommunications service provider. Despite repeated international pressure to liberalize telecommunications in Ethiopia, the government refuses to ease its grip on the sector.20

China is a key investor in Ethiopia’s telecommunications industry,21 with Zhongxing Telecommunication Corporation (ZTE) and Huawei currently serving as contractors to upgrade broadband networks to 4G in Addis Ababa and expand 3G networks elsewhere.22 The partnership has enabled Ethiopia’s authoritarian leaders to maintain their hold over the telecom sector,23though the networks built by the Chinese firms have been criticized for their high cost and poor service.24 Furthermore, the contracts have led to increasing fears that the Chinese may also be assisting the authorities in developing more robust ICT censorship and surveillance capacities (see Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity).25 In December 2014, the Swedish telecom group Ericsson also partnered with the government to improve and repair the mobile network infrastructure,26 though ZTE remains the sector’s largest investor.

Onerous government regulations also stymie other aspects of the Ethiopian ICT market. For one, imported ICT items are tariffed at the same high rate as luxury items, unlike other imported goods such as construction materials and heavy duty machinery, which are given duty-free import privileges to encourage investments in infrastructure.27 Ethiopians are required register their laptops and tablets at the airport with the Ethiopian customs authority before they travel out of the country, ostensibly to prevent individuals from illegally importing electronic devices, though observers believe the requirement enables officials to monitor citizens’ ICT activities by accessing the devices without consent.28

Local software companies also suffer from heavy-handed government regulations, which do not have fair, open, or transparent ways of evaluating and awarding bids for new software projects.29 Government companies are given priority for every kind of project, while smaller entrepreneurial software companies are completely overlooked, leaving few opportunities for local technology companies to thrive.

Cybercafés are subject to burdensome operating requirements under the 2002 Telecommunications (Amendment) Proclamation,30 which prohibit them from providing Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services, and mandate that owners obtain a license from EthioTelecom via an opaque process that can take months. In the past few years, EthioTelecom began enforcing its licensing requirements more strictly in response to the increasing spread of cybercafés, reportedly penalizing Muslim cafe owners more harshly. Violations of the requirements entail criminal liability, though no cases have been reported.31

Regulatory Bodies

Since the emergence of the internet in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency (ETA) has been the primary regulatory body overseeing the telecommunications sector. In practice, government executives have complete control over ICT policy and sector regulation.32 The Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a government agency established in 2011 and controlled by individuals with strong ties to the ruling regime,33 also has significant power in regulating the internet under the mandate of protecting the communications infrastructure and preventing cybercrime.

News websites known for their reporting on the Oromo protests joined Ethiopia’s growing list of blocked content, while social media and communications platforms were blocked for periods of time throughout the coverage period for their role in disseminating information about the demonstrations and police brutality. The government manipulates online content, disseminating propaganda to convince Ethiopians that social media is a dangerous tool co-opted by opposition groups to spread hate and violence.

Blocking and Filtering

One of the first African countries to censor the internet,34 Ethiopia has a nationwide, politically motivated internet blocking and filtering regime that is reinforced during sensitive political events. More websites were newly blocked during the Oromia protests that began in November 2015. Targets included the websites of US-based diaspora satellite television stations such as Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) and the Oromo Media Network (OMN), which provided wall-to-wall coverage of the antigovernment protests. Ayyantuu.net and Opride.com, prominent websites also known for their reporting on the protests, were also blocked.35

In an apparent attempt to restrict news about the protests from spreading, social media and file-sharing platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Dropbox were repeatedly blocked for periods of time throughout the protests.36 The blocks on social media first impacted networks in the Oromia region but later spread to other regions,37 and eventually manifested in a shutdown of entire internet and mobile networks for days a time (see Restrictions on Connectivity).

Unrelated to the protests, the authorities blocked access to social media and communications platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Viber, IMO, and Google+, to prevent cheating during university examinations on July 9 and 10, 2016.38 The blocks followed a 24-hour internet blackout for the same reason (see Restrictions on Connectivity). A government spokesperson stated that blocking social media during the exam would help students concentrate. However, some progovernment media organizations and commentators seemed to have exclusive access to social media during the block,39 which reinforced the belief that the government imposes restrictions on citizens while keeping the web open for its own advantage. Viber and IMO, two popular voice-over-IP applications, remained blocked until July 20, according to local sources.40

Separately, coverage of a severe drought—the worst the country has experienced in 50 years—was systematically censored in the past year, with news websites and blogs blocked for reporting on the impact of the disaster that strayed from the government’s official narrative.41

In total, over one hundred websites are inaccessible in Ethiopia.42 A manual test conducted on the ground in mid-2016 confirmed that a large number of the websites tested by Freedom House each year since 2012 remained blocked. Blocked sites include Ethiopian news websites, political party websites, and the websites of international digital rights organizations, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Tactical Technology Collective. Select tools such as text messaging apps and services on Google’s Android operating system on smartphones were also inaccessible, but at irregular intervals and for unclear reasons.43

Notably, several websites that hadn’t been updated for years and appeared abandoned became accessible again in 2016, likely because the authorities deemed them no longer threatening. The social media curation tool Storify—first blocked in July 201244—was also newly accessible during the coverage period,45 in addition to the URL shortening tool Bit.ly.46

To filter the internet, specific internet protocol (IP) addresses or domain names are generally blocked at the level of the EthioTelecom-controlled international gateway. Deep-packet inspection (DPI) is also employed, which blocks websites based on a keyword in the content of a website or communication (such as email).47

Digital security tools are also pervasively blocked in Ethiopia, including Tor, the circumvention tool that enables users to browse anonymously, which been blocked since May 2012.48 As social media platforms were blocked in the past year, diaspora-based activists publicized virtual private networks (VPNs) to circumvent the censorship, but certain VPNs were also subsequently blocked.49 Local sources suspected progovernment commenters were flagging the same tools to be blocked by the authorities. The Amharic translation of the Electronic Frontier Foundations’ “Surveillance Self-Defense” web guide was blocked two weeks after it was published in October 2015.50 One source reported that key terms such as “proxy” yield no search results on unencrypted search engines,51 reflecting the government’s efforts to limit users’ access to circumvention tools and strategies.

Some restrictions are also placed on content transmitted via mobile phones. Text messages to more than ten recipients require prior approval from EthioTelecom.52 A bulk text message sent without prior approval is automatically blocked, irrespective of the content.

There are no procedures for determining which websites are blocked or why, precluding 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. 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), EthioTelecom, and the ICT ministry—seem to be implementing their own lists, contributing to a phenomenon of inconsistent blocking. This lack of transparency is exacerbated by the government’s continued denial of its censorship efforts. Government officials flatly deny the blocking of websites or jamming of international satellite operations while also stating that the government has a legal and a moral responsibility to protect the Ethiopian public from extremist content.

Content Removal

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. For instance, during the various legal proceedings involving the Zone 9 bloggers in 2015, friends and reporters who posted pictures and accounts of the trials on social media were briefly detained and asked to remove the posts.53 During protests in Oromia, activists who wrote messages of solidarity for the protestors on Facebook were also asked to delete their posts.54

Media, Diversity, and Content Manipulation

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. A 2012 Advertising Proclamation also prohibits advertisements from firms “whose capital is shared by foreign nationals.”55 The process for launching a website on the local .et domain is expensive and demanding,56 requiring a business license from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and a permit from an authorized body.57 While the domestic Ethiopian blogosphere has been expanding, most blogs are hosted on international platforms or published by members of the diaspora community.

Despite Ethiopia’s extremely low levels of internet access, the government employs an army of trolls to distort Ethiopia’s online information landscape.58 Opposition groups, journalists, and dissidents use the contemptuous Amharic colloquial term, “Kokas,” to describe the progovernment commentators.59 Observers say the Kokas regularly discuss Ethiopia’s economic growth in favorable terms and post uncomplimentary comments about Ethiopian journalists and opposition groups on Facebook and Twitter. In return, they are known to receive benefits such as money, land, and employment promotions.

The government also manipulates online content through propaganda that aims to convince Ethiopians that social media is a dangerous tool co-opted by opposition groups to spread hate and violence.60 That characterization has been debunked by research. The University of Oxford and Addis Ababa University analyzed thousands of comments made by Ethiopians on Facebook during general election in 2015, finding that hate speech was a marginal proportion of the total comments assessed.61

Meanwhile, increasing repression against journalists and bloggers has had a major chilling effect on expression online, particularly in response to the spate of blogger arrests that have increased in the past few years (see Prosecutions and Detentions for Online Activities). Many bloggers publish anonymously to avoid reprisals.62 Fear of pervasive surveillance has also led to widespread self-censorship. Local newspapers and web outlets primarily publish reporting by regime critics and opposition organizations in the diaspora. Few independent local journalists will write for either domestic or overseas online outlets due to the threat of repercussions.

Digital Activism

Despite oppressive conditions caused by poor access and the hostile legal environment, online activism has gained considerable momentum and influence in the past year, particularly as traditional media coverage of current events has become increasingly narrow and dominated by pro-government voices. Notably, social media and communications platforms helped tech-savvy Ethiopians launch the widespread antigovernment protests in the Oromia region in November 2015. Online tools have been essential to the #OromoProtests movement, enabling activists to post information about the demonstrations and disseminate news about police brutality as the government cracked down on protesters.63 The use of such tools to fuel the protest movement led the government to block access to several platforms throughout the year, and shut down internet and mobile networks altogether (see Blocking and Filtering and Restrictions on Connectivity).

The new Computer Crime Proclamation enacted in June 2016 criminalizes defamation and incitement; observers say it could be invoked to suppress digital mobilization. The proclamation also strengthens the government’s surveillance capabilities by enabling real-time monitoring or interception of communications. Several bloggers were arrested and prosecuted, with one blogger sentenced to five years in prison, while prosecutors challenged the acquittal of the Zone 9 bloggers.

Legal Environment

Fundamental freedoms are guaranteed for Ethiopian internet users on paper, but the guarantees are routinely flouted in practice. The 1995 Ethiopian constitution provides for freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and access to information, while also prohibiting censorship.64 These constitutional guarantees are affirmed in the 2008 Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation, known as the press law, which governs the print media.65 Nevertheless, the press law also includes problematic provisions that contradict constitutional protections and restrict free expression, such as complex registration processes for media outlets and high fines for defamation.66 The Criminal Code also penalizes defamation with a fine or up to one year in prison.67

Meanwhile, several laws are designed to restrict and penalize legitimate online activities and speech.

Most alarmingly, the 2012 Telecom Fraud Offences Law extends the violations and penalties defined in the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and criminal code to electronic communications, which explicitly include both mobile phone and internet services.68 The antiterrorism 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, which is vaguely defined.69 The law also bans Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype70 and requires all individuals to register their telecommunications equipment—including smartphones—with the government, which security officials typically enforce at security checkpoints by confiscating ICT equipment if the owner cannot produce a registration permit, according to sources in the country.

In June 2016, the Ethiopian government passed a new Computer Crime Proclamation that criminalized an array of online activities.71 Civil society expressed concern that the law would be used to further crackdown on critical commentary, political opposition, and social unrest.72 For example, content that “incites fear, violence, chaos or conflict among people” can be punished with up to three years in prison, which could be abused to suppress digital campaigns.73 Other problematic provisions ban the dissemination of defamatory content, which can be penalized with up to 10 years in prison,74 and the distribution of unsolicited messages to multiple emails (spam), which carries up to five years in prison.75

To quell escalating antigovernment protests that began in the Oromia region in November 2015, the government imposed a six-month state of emergency on October 17, 2016 that included restrictions on certain online activities.76 In addition to shutting down the internet for several days, the authorities criminalized the access and posting of content related to the protests on social media, as well as efforts to communicate with “terrorist” groups, a category that includes exiled dissidents. Penalties for violating the state of emergency include prison terms of three to five years.77

Prosecutions and Detention for Online Activities

In the past few years, the authorities have intensified their crackdown against bloggers and online journalists, using harsh laws to arrest and prosecute individuals for their online activities and silence dissent. The most high-profile prosecutions were against six bloggers from the critical Zone 9 blogging collective, who were arrested in April 2014,78 and charged with terrorism under the harsh Anti-Terrorism Proclamation in July.79 The bloggers were accused of intent to overthrow the government, an offense under the criminal code, by encrypting their communications to disseminate seditious writings.80

Despite widespread international condemnation, the detainees were denied bail and brought to court dozens of times for over a year,81 until two of them were unexpectedly released without charge in early July 2015, immediately before U.S. President Obama visited Ethiopia. The four remaining Zone 9 bloggers were acquitted in October 2015,82 though they were barred from leaving the country.83 The prosecutor contested their acquittal and appealed to the Supreme Court, and the four were summoned in December 2015 and in October 2016.84 They were scheduled to return to court in November 2016.85

Several other bloggers were arrested and prosecuted in the past year, including Getachew Shiferaw, editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Negere Ethiopia, in December 2015.86 Negere Ethiopia is known for its affiliation with the opposition as well as its coverage of the Zone 9 trials. Shiferaw remained in pretrial detention in mid-2016.87

The prominent opposition member Yonatan Tesfaye was arrested in December 2015 and charged with terrorism based on Facebook posts that criticized the government’s handling of the Oromia protests.88 He remained in prison in mid-2016 and faces the death sentence if convicted.89 Tesfaye’s Twitter handle has been active during his detention, leading to suspicions that the officials have been using his account to bait potential dissidents.90

In April 2016, blogger Zelalem Workagenehu was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to over five years in prison in May.91 He was first arrested in July 2014 on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government after he facilitated a course on digital security. In the same trial, bloggers Yonatan Wolde and Bahiru Degu were acquitted after spending nearly two years in detention on terrorism charges; they were also arrested in July 2014 for applying to participate in Workaegnehu’s digital security course.92 Workagenehu has appealed to the Supreme Court.93

The ongoing antigovernment protest movement has also led to numerous arrests, some for digital activities, including posting or “liking” social media content about the protests. In October 2016, police arrested Seyoum Teshome, a well-known academic and blogger for the Ethiothinktank.com website who had published an article about the Oromia protest movement inThe New York Times.94

Meanwhile, the well-known dissident journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega is serving an 18-year prison sentence handed down in July 2012 under the draconian anti-terrorism law for criticizing the law itself in an online article.95

Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity

Government surveillance of online and mobile phone communications is pervasive in Ethiopia and was strengthened under the new Computer Crime Proclamation enacted in June 2016, which enables real-time monitoring or interception of communications authorized by the Minister of Justice and obliges service providers to store records of all communications and metadata for at least a year.96

There are strong indications that the government has deployed a centralized monitoring system developed by the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE to monitor mobile phone networks and the internet, according to a 2015 Human Rights Watch report.97 Known for its use by repressive regimes in Libya and Iran, the monitoring system enables deep packet inspection (DPI) of internet traffic across the EthioTelecom network and has the ability to intercept emails and web chats.

Another ZTE technology, known as ZSmart, is a customer management database installed at EthioTelecom that provides the government with full access to user information and the ability to intercept SMS text messages and record phone conversations.98 ZSmart also allows security officials to locate targeted individuals through real-time geolocation tracking of mobile phones.99 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.100

Meanwhile, exiled dissidents have been targeted by surveillance malware. Citizen Lab research published in March 2015 said Remote Control System (RCS) spyware had been used against two employees of Ethiopian Satellite Television Service (ESAT) in November and December 2014. ESAT is a diaspora-run independent satellite television, radio, and online news media outlet, based in Alexandria, Virginia.101 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 and chats. 102

While Hacking Team has said that the company does not deal with “repressive regimes,”103 the social engineering tactics used to bait the two ESAT employees made it clear that the attack was targeted. Moreover, analysis of the RCS attacks uncovered credible links to the Ethiopian government, with the spyware’s servers registered at an EthioTelecom address under the name “INSA-PC,” referring to the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), the body established in 2011 to preside over the security of the country’s critical communications infrastructure.104 INSA was already known to be using the commercial toolkit FinFisher to target dissidents and supposed national security threats. FinFisher can secretly monitor computers by turning on webcams, record everything a user types with a key logger, and intercept Skype calls.105

Given the high degree of online repression in Ethiopia, political commentators use proxy servers and anonymizing tools to hide their identities when publishing online and to circumvent filtering, though the tools are also subject to blocking (see Blocking and Filtering).

Anonymity is further compromised by strict SIM card registration requirements. Upon purchase of a SIM card through EthioTelecom or an authorized reseller, individuals must provide their full name, address, government-issued identification number, and a passport-sized photograph. EthioTelecom’s database of SIM registrants enables the government to terminate individuals’ SIM cads and restrict them from registering for new ones. Internet subscribers are also required to register their personal details, including their home address, with the government. During the antigovernment protests in 2016, state-owned ICT provider EthioTelecom announced plans to require mobile phones to be purchased from Ethiopian companies and to create a tracking system for all mobile devices in Ethiopia. Observers believe the plan aims to allow the government to track and identify all communications from subscribers on its network.106

While the government’s stronghold over the Ethiopian ICT sector enables it to proactively monitor users, its access is less direct at cybercafés. For a period following the 2005 elections, cybercafé owners were required to keep a register of their clients, but the requirement has not been enforced since mid-2010.107 Nevertheless, some cybercafé operators have reported that they are required to report “unusual behavior” to security officials, who also visit cybercafés (sometimes in plainclothes) to ask questions about individuals or monitor activity themselves.108

Intimidation and Violence

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 report that they are regularly threatened by state security agents.109 Ethiopian journalists in the diaspora have also been targeted for harassment.110

Amidst escalating antigovernment protests in 2015 and 2016, the authorities reportedly harassed, detained, and abused several people who used their mobile phones to record footage of demonstrations.

Meanwhile, imprisoned bloggers reported being held in degrading conditions and tortured by prison guards seeking to extract false confessions.111 Yonatan Wolde and Bahiru Degu were re-arrested shortly after their acquittal in April 2016 and released the next day, reporting that officials had threatened their lives.112

Technical Attacks

Opposition critics and independent voices face frequent technical attacks, even when based abroad. Independent research has found that Ethiopian authorities have used sophisticated surveillance malware and spyware, such as FinFisher’s FinSpy and Hacking Team’s Remote Control Servers (RCS), to target exiled dissidents.113

There were no reports of technical attacks against human rights defenders or dissidents during the coverage period, though hacktivists launched attacks on government websites, including the Ministry of Defense, as a form of digital protest alongside the largescale Oromo demonstrations.114 Meanwhile, the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) reported that they had foiled at least 155 cyberattacks in 2015. Critics said they used the data to justify cracking down on the internet.115

Notes:

1 International Telecommunication Union, “Percentage of Individuals Using the Internet, 2000-2015,” http://bit.ly/1cblxxY

2 International Telecommunication Union, “Mobile-Cellular Telephone Subscriptions, 2000-2015,” http://bit.ly/1cblxxY

3 Endalk Chala, “When blogging is held hostage of Ethiopia’s telecom policy,” in “GV Advocacy Awards Essays on Internet Censorship from Iran, Venezuela, Ethiopia,” Global Voices (blog), February 3, 2015, http://bit.ly/1OpDvzz

4 Ethiopia – Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts, Paul Budde Communication Pty Ltd.: June 2014, http://bit.ly/1ji15Rn

5 Misak Workneh, “Ethio Telecom announces new mobile internet packages, tariff revisions,” Addis Fortune, February 23, 2016, http://addisfortune.net/articles/ethio-telecom-announces-new-mobile-internet-packages-tariff-revisions/

6 William Davison’s Facebook post, March 26, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/william.davison.33/posts/10153956834545792?pnref=story

7 Jacob Poushter, “Smartphone Ownership and Internet Usage Continues to Climb in Emerging Economies,” Pew Research Center, February 22, 2016, http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/02/22/smartphone-ownership-and-internet-usage-continues-to-climb-in-emerging-economies/

8 Eskedar Kifle, “Ethio telecom may charge for VoIP apps,” Capital Ethiopia, April 6, 2016, http://mereja.com/news/1149276.

9 Test conducted by Freedom House researcher in March 2016. While the speed test should not be interpreted as a standard speed for the entire EthioTelecom network speeds, the data we gathered from a repeated speed tests over a span of a week from March 16 to March 21, 2016 suggest that Ethiopia’s average speed lags behind the average speed of the region. Nearly same figures were reported by speed-test services such as http://testmy.net and http://www.dospeedtest.com.

10 Akamai, “Average Connection Speed,” map visualization, The State of the Internet, Q1 2016, accessed August 1, 2016, http://akamai.me/1LiS6KD

11 According to tests by Freedom House consultant in 2016.

12 Akamai, “State of the Internet, Q1 2016 Report,” https://goo.gl/TQH7L7.

13 William Davison, “Ethiopia Sees Nationwide Power Cuts While Drought Dries Dams,” Bloomberg, December 1, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-01/ethiopia-sees-nationwide-power-cuts-while-drought-dries-dams

14 Mengisteab Teshome, “Ethiopia: Power Outage Taken as ‘Business As Usual’ – Residents,” The Ethiopian Herald, September 4, 2015, http://allafrica.com/stories/201509040955.html

15 Endalk Chala, “Ethiopia Locks Down Digital Communications in Wake of #OromoProtests,” Global Voices (blog), July 14, 2016, https://globalvoices.org/2016/07/14/ethiopia-locks-down-digital-communications-in-wake-of-oromoprotests; Moses Karanja et al., “Ethiopia: Internet Shutdown Amidst Recent Protests?” OONI, August 10, 2016, https://ooni.torproject.org/post/ethiopia-internet-shutdown-amidst-recent-protests/

16 Stephanie Busari, “Ethiopia declares state of emergency after months of protests,” CNN, October 11, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/09/africa/ethiopia-oromo-state-emergency/; Endalk Chala, “Ethiopian authorities shut down mobile internet and major social media sites,” Global Voices (blog), October 11, 2016, https://globalvoices.org/2016/10/11/ethiopian-authorities-shut-down-mobile-internet-and-major-social-media-sites/

17 Paul Schemm, “Ethiopia shuts down social media to keep from ‘distracting’ students,” Washington Post, July 13, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/07/13/ethiopia-shuts-down-social-media-to-keep-from-distracting-students/

18 Darrell M. West, “Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion last year,” Brookings Institute, Center for Technology Innovation, October 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/intenet-shutdowns-v-3.pdf

19 Al Shiferaw, “Connecting Telecentres: An Ethiopian Perspective,” Telecentre Magazine, September 2008, http://bit.ly/1ji348h.

20 “Ethio Telecom to remain monopoly for now,” TeleGeography, June 28, 2013, http://bit.ly/1huyjf7

21 Paul Chapman, “New report explores the Ethiopian – telecoms, mobile and broadband – market insights, statistics and forecasts,” WhatTech, May 1, 2015, http://bit.ly/1L46Awu.

22 “Out of reach,” The Economist, August 24, 2013, http://econ.st/1l1UvJO.

23 “Out of reach,” The Economist.

24 Matthew Dalton, “Telecom Deal by China’s ZTE, Huawei in Ethiopia Faces Criticism,” The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2014, http://on.wsj.com/1LtSCkD.

25 Based on allegations that the Chinese authorities have provided the Ethiopian government with technology that can be used for political repression—such as surveillance cameras and satellite jamming equipment—in the past. See: Addis Neger, “Ethiopia: China Involved in ESAT Jamming,” ECADAF Ethiopian news & Opinion, June 23, 2010, http://bit.ly/1LtSYI9; Gary Sands, “Ethiopia’s Broadband Network – A Chinese Trojan Horse?” Foreign Policy Blogs, Foreign Policy Association, September 6, 2013, http://bit.ly/1FWG8X1.

26 ENA, “Ericsson to take part in telecom expansion in Ethiopia,” Dire Tube, December 18, 2014, http://bit.ly/1PkZfvA.

27 The Embassy of the United Stated, “Doing Business in Ethiopia,” http://1.usa.gov/1LtTExh.

28 World Intellectual Property Organization, “Ethiopia Custom Regulation: No 622/2009,” http://bit.ly/1NveoeB.

29 Mignote Kassa, “Why Ethiopia’s Software Industry Falters,” Addis Fortune 14, no. 700 (September 29, 2013), http://bit.ly/1VJiIWC.

30 “Proclamation No. 281/2002, Telecommunications (Amendment Proclamation,” Federal Negarit Gazeta No. 28, July 2, 2002, http://bit.ly/1snLgsc.

31 Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency, “License Directive for Resale and Telecenter in Telecommunication Services No. 1/2002,” November 8, 2002, accessed October 20, 2014, http://bit.ly/1pUtpWh.

32 Dr. Lishan Adam, “Understanding what is happening in ICT in Ethiopia,” (policy paper, Research ICT Africa, 2012) http://bit.ly/1LDPyJ5.

33 Halefom Abraha, “THE STATE OF CYBERCRIME GOVERNANCE IN ETHIOPIA,” (paper) http://bit.ly/1huzP0S.

34 Rebecca Wanjiku, “Study: Ethiopia only sub-Saharan Africa nation to filter net,” IDG News Service, October 8, 2009, http://bit.ly/1Lbi3s9.

35 “Ayyaantuu website blocked in Ethiopia,” Ayyaantuu News, March 3, 2016, http://www.ayyaantuu.net/ayyaantuu-website-blocked-in-ethiopia/

36 Felix Horne, “Deafening silence from Ethiopia,” Foreign Policy in Focus, April 12, 2016, http://fpif.org/deafening-silence-ethiopia/; Endalk Chala, “Ethiopia locks down digital communications in wake of #OromoProtests,” Global Voices (blog), July 14, 2016, https://advox.globalvoices.org/2016/07/14/ethiopia-locks-down-digital-communications-in-wake-of-oromoprotests/

37 William Davison, “Twitter, WhatsApp Down in Ethiopia Oromia Area After Unrest,” Bloomberg, April 12, 2016, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-12/twitter-whatsapp-offline-in-ethiopia-s-oromia-area-after-unrest

38 Nicole Orttung, “Why did Ethiopia block social media,” Christian Science Monitor, July 12, 2016, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2016/0712/Why-did-Ethiopia-block-social-media?cmpid=gigya-tw

39 According to activists who were able to circumvent the blocks and observe the social media activities of progoverment users.

40 @befeqadu Twitter post, July 17, 2016, https://twitter.com/befeqadu/status/754725025610104833

41 Christabel Ligami, “Defying censorship, hunger stories emerge from Ethiopia,” Equal Times, April 29, 2016, http://www.equaltimes.org/defying-censorship-hunger-stories?lang=en#.WBJZxMmFs6E; “Ethiopian police detain journalists reporting on drought, escort them back to capital,” Committee to Protect Journalists, August 17, 2016, https://cpj.org/2016/08/ethiopian-police-detain-journalists-reporting-on-d.php

42 Test conducted by an anonymous researcher contracted by Freedom House, March 2015. During the test, some websites opened at the first attempt but were inaccessible when refreshed.

43 @AtnafB Twitter post, July 17, 2016, https://twitter.com/AtnafB/status/754711725967024131

44 Mohammed Ademo, Twitter post, July 25, 2012, 1:08 p.m., https://twitter.com/OPride/status/228159700489879552.

46 Ory Okolloh Mwangi, Twitter post, November 6, 2013, 9:20 a.m., https://twitter.com/kenyanpundit/status/398077421926514688.

47 Daniel Berhane, “Ethiopia’s web filtering: advanced technology, hypocritical criticisms, bleeding constitution,” Horns Affairs, January 16, 2011, http://bit.ly/1jTyrH1

48 “Tor and Orbot not working in Ethiopia,” Tor Stack Exchange, message board, April 12, 2016,

http://tor.stackexchange.com/questions/10148/tor-and-orbot-not-working-in-ethiopia; “Ethiopia Introduces Deep Packet Inspection,” Tor (blog), May 31, 2012, http://bit.ly/1A0YRdc; Warwick Ashford, “Ethiopian government blocks Tor network online anonymity,” Computer Weekly, June 28, 2012, http://bit.ly/1LDQ5L2.

49 Ismail Akwei, “Ethiopia blocks social media to prevent university exam leakage,” Africa News, July 10, 2016, http://www.africanews.com/2016/07/10/ethiopia-blocks-social-media-to-prevent-university-exam-leakage/

50 Endalk Chala, “Defending against overreaching surveillance in Ethiopia: Surveillance Self-Defense now availabile in Amharic,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, October 1, 2015, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/09/defending-against-overreaching-surveillance-ethiopia-surveillance-self-defense-n-0

51 A 2014 report from Human Rights Watch also noted that the term “aljazeera” was unsearchable on Google while the news site was blocked from August 2012 to mid-March 2013. According to HRW research, the keywords “OLF” and “ONLF” (acronyms of Ethiopian opposition groups) are not searchable on the unencrypted version of Google (http://) and other popular search engines. Human Rights Watch, “They Know Everything We Do,” March 25, 2014, 56, 58,http://bit.ly/1Nviu6r.

52 Interview with individuals working in the telecom sector, as well as a test conducted by a Freedom House consultant who found it was not possible for an ordinary user to send out a bulk text message.

53 Reporters prevented from reporting on the trial of Zone9 Bloggers. See, Trial Tracker Blog, http://trialtrackerblog.org/home/ .

54 Kevin Mwanza, “Is Ethiopia restricting access to social media in Oromia region?” Afk Insider, April 13, 2016, http://afkinsider.com/123180/ethiopia-restricting-access-social-media-oromia-region/

55 Exemptions are made for foreign nationals of Ethiopian origin. See, Abrham Yohannes, “Advertisement Proclamation No. 759/2012,” Ethiopian Legal Brief (blog), September 27, 2012, http://bit.ly/1LDQf5c.

56 “Proclamation No. 686/2010 Commercial Registration and Business Licensing,” Federal Negarit Gazeta, July 24, 2010, http://bit.ly/1P3PoLy; World Bank Group, Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency, Economy Profile 2015, Ethiopia, 2014, http://bit.ly/1L49tO6.

57 Chala, “When blogging is held hostage of Ethiopia’s telecom policy.”

58 “Ethiopia Trains Bloggers to attack its opposition,” ECADF Ethiopian News & Opinions, June 7, 2014, http://bit.ly/1QemZjl.

59 The term “Koka” is a blend of two words: Kotatam and cadre. Kotatam is a contemptuous Amharic word used to imply that someone is a sellout who does not have a respect for himself or herself.

60 Endalk Chala, “Ethiopia protest videos show state brutality, despite tech barriers,” Global Voices (blog), January 6, 2016, https://advox.globalvoices.org/2016/01/06/ethiopia-protest-videos-show-state-brutality-despite-tech-barriers/

61 Iginio Gagliardone et al., “Mechachal: Online debates and elections in Ethiopia. Report One: A preliminary assessment of online debates in Ethiopia,” working paper, October 2, 2015, http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2016-06-23-mapping-online-hate-speech

62 Markos Lemma, “Disconnected Ethiopian Netizens,” Digital Development Debates (blog),November 2012,  http://bit.ly/1Ml9Nu3.

63 Jacey Fortin, “The ugly side of Ethiopia’s economic boom,” Foreign Policy, March 23, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/23/no-one-feels-like-they-have-any-right-to-speak-at-all-ethiopia-oromo-protests/

64 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (1995), art. 26 and 29, accessed, August 24, 2010, http://www.ethiopar.net/constitution.

65 Freedom of the Mass Media and Access to Information Proclamation No. 590/2008, Federal Negarit Gazeta No. 64, December 4, 2008.

66 Article 19, The Legal Framework for Freedom of Expression in Ethiopia, accessed September 10, 2014, http://bit.ly/1Pl0f33.

67 Criminal Code, art. 613, http://bit.ly/1OpHE6F.

68 Article 19, “Ethiopia: Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offences,”legal analysis, August 6, 2012, http://bit.ly/1Lbonjm.

69 “Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009,” Federal Negarit Gazeta No. 57, August 28, 2009.

70 The government first instituted the ban on VoIP in 2002 after it gained popularity as a less expensive means of communication and began draining revenue from the traditional telephone business belonging to the state-owned EthioTelecom. In response to widespread criticisms, the government claimed that VoIP applications such as Skype would not be considered under the new law, though the proclamation’s language still enables the authorities to interpret it broadly at whim.

71 “Ethiopia Computer Crime Proclamation Text Draft,” Addis Insight, May 9, 2016, http://www.addisinsight.com/2016/05/09/ethiopia-computer-crime-proclamation-text-draft/

72 Kimberly Carlson, “Ethiopia’s new Cybercrime Law allows for more efficient and systematic prosecution of online speech,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, June 9, 2016, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/06/ethiopias-new-cybercrime-law-allows-more-efficient-and-systematic-prosecution-online; Tinishu Soloman, “New Ethiopian law targets online crime,” The Africa Report, June 9, 2016, http://www.theafricareport.com/East-Horn-Africa/new-ethiopian-law-targets-online-crime.html

74 Article 13, “Crimes against Liberty and Reputation of Persons,” Computer Crime Proclamation.

75 Article 15, “Dissemination of Spam,” Computer Crime Proclamation,

76 “Seven things banned under Ethiopia’s state of emergency,” BBC News, October 17, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37679165

77 “Social media blackout in Ethiopia,” Jacarandafm, October 17, 2016, https://www.jacarandafm.com/news-sport/news/social-media-blackout-in-ethiopia/

78 “Six members of Zone Nine, group of bloggers and activists are arrested,” [in Amharic] Zone9 (blog), April 25, 2014, http://bit.ly/1VJn6ow.

79“Federal High Court Lideta Criminal Bench court, Addis Ababa,” http://1drv.ms/1OqAjlC.

80 Endalk Chala, “What You Need to Know About Ethiopia v. Zone9 Bloggers: Verdict Expected July 20,” Global Voices (blog), July 17, 2015, http://bit.ly/1jTDO9b.

81 Ellery Roberts Biddle, Endalk Chala, Guardian Africa network, “One year on, jailed Ethiopian bloggers are still awaiting trial,” The Guardian, April 24, 2015, http://gu.com/p/47ktv/stw; “Nine Journalists and Bloggers Still Held Arbitrarily,” Reporters Without Borders, “Nine Journalists and Bloggers Still Held Arbitrarily,” August 21, 2014, http://bit.ly/1P3TW4I.

82 Committee to Protect Journalists, “In Ethiopia, Zone 9 bloggers acquitted of terrorism charges,” news statement, October 16, 2015, https://www.cpj.org/2015/10/in-ethiopia-zone-9-bloggers-acquitted-of-terrorism.php.

83 Gregory Warner, “Freed from prison, Ethiopian bloggers still can’t leave the country,” NPR, May 31, 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/05/31/480100349/freed-from-prison-ethiopian-bloggers-still-cant-leave-the-country

84 “Netizen Report: Ethiopia’s Zone9 Bloggers Go Back to Court,” Global Voices (blog), March 30, 2016, https://advox.globalvoices.org/2016/03/30/netizen-report-ethiopias-zone9-bloggers-go-back-to-court/

85 “Netizen Report: As Protests Rage in Ethiopia, Zone9 Bloggers Return to Court,” Global Voices (blog), October 21, 2016, https://globalvoices.org/2016/10/21/netizen-report-as-protests-rage-in-ethiopia-zone9-bloggers-return-to-court/

86 “Ethiopia arrests second journalist in a week, summons Zone9 bloggers,” Committee to Protect Journalists, press release, December 27, 2015, https://www.cpj.org/2015/12/ethiopia-arrests-second-journalist-in-a-week-summo.php

87 “Getachew Shiferaw – The Price of Freedom of Expression in Ethiopia,” Ethiopian Human Rights Project, May 3, 2016, http://ehrp.org/getachew-shiferaw-the-price-of-freedom-of-expression-in-ethiopia/

88 Salem Soloman, “Ethiopia’s Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?” VOA News, May 31, 2016, http://www.voanews.com/a/ethiopia-anti-terrorism-law-security-silencing-dissent/3356633.html

89 “Ethiopia: Release opposition politician held for Facebook posts,” Amnesty International, press release, May 6, 2016, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/05/ethiopia-release-opposition-politician-held-for-facebook-posts/; “Facebook post leads to serious charges for Ethiopian politician,” Enca, May 6, 2016, https://www.enca.com/africa/facebook-post-leads-to-serious-charges-for-ethiopian-politician

90 @befeqadu Twitter post, April 12, 2016, https://twitter.com/befeqadu/status/719963259911188480/photo/1

91 Tedla D. Tekle, “Ethiopian blogger and activist sentences to five years and four months,” Global Voices (blog), May 16, 2016, https://advox.globalvoices.org/2016/05/16/ethiopian-blogger-and-activist-sentenced-to-five-years-and-four-months/

92 Tedla D. Tekle, “’I was forced to drink my own urine,’: ‘Freedom’ for netizen after 647 days locked up, but not for all,” Global Voices (blog), May 2, 2016, https://globalvoices.org/2016/05/02/i-was-forced-to-drink-my-own-urine-freedom-after-647-days-locked-up-but-not-for-all/

93 “Co-blogger Zelalem Workagegnehu’s appeal heard, appointed to tomorrow,” De Birhan (blog), July 20, 2016, http://debirhan.com/?p=10035

94 “Oromo protests: Ethiopia arrests blogger Seyoum Teshome,” Al Jazeera, October 5, 2016,

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/oromo-protests-ethiopia-arrests-blogger-seyoum-teshome-161005071925586.html

95 Such trumped-up charges were based on an online column Nega had published criticizing the government’s use of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to silence political dissent and calling for greater political freedom in Ethiopia. Nega is also the 2011 recipient of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.“That Bravest and Most Admirable of Writers: PEN Salutes Eskinder Nega,” PEN American Center (blog), April 13, 2012, http://bit.ly/1Lm89Y7; See also, Markos Lemma, “Ethiopia: Online Reactions to Prison Sentence for Dissident Blogger,” Global Voices, July 15, 2012, http://bit.ly/1OpKaKf; Endalk Chala, “Ethiopia: Freedom of Expression in Jeopardy,” Global Voices Advocacy, February 3, 2012, http://bit.ly/1jfIEO3.

96 Article 23, “Retention of Computer Data” and Article 24, “Real-time Collection of Computer Data,” http://hornaffairs.com/en/2016/05/09/ethiopia-computer-crime-proclamation/

97 Human Rights Watch, “They Know Everything We Do,” 62.

98 Human Rights Watch, “They Know Everything We Do,” 67.

99 Ibid, 52.

100 Committee to Protect Journalists, “Ethiopian Blogger, Journalists Convicted of Terrorism,” January 19, 2012, http://cpj.org/x/47b9.

101 Bill Marczak et al., Hacking Team Reloaded? US-Based Ethiopian Journalists Again Targeted with Spyware, Citizen Lab, March 9, 2015, http://bit.ly/1Ryogmr.

102 Hacking Team,“Customer Policy,” accessed February 13, 2014, http://hackingteam.it/index.php/customer-policy.

103  Declan McCullagh, “Meet the ‘Corporate Enemies of the Internet’ for 2013,” CNET, March 11, 2013, accessed February 13, 2014, http://cnet.co/1fo6jJZ.

104 Marczak et al., Hacking Team Reloaded? US-Based Ethiopian Journalists Again Targeted with Spyware.

105 Fahmida Y. Rashid, “FinFisher ‘Lawful Interception’ Spyware Found in Ten Countries, Including the U.S.,” Security Week, August 8, 2012, http://bit.ly/1WRPuap.

106 Endalk Chala, “Ethiopia Locks Down Digital Communications in Wake of #OromoProtests.”

107 Groum Abate, “Internet Cafes Start Registering Users,” The Capital republished Nazret (blog), December 27, 2006, http://bit.ly/1Lm98aX.

108 Human Rights Watch, “They Know Everything We Do,” 67.

109 SIMEGNISH (LILY) MENGESHA, “CRAWLING TO DEATH OF EXPRESSION – RESTRICTED ONLINE MEDIA IN ETHIOPIA,” Center for International Media Assistance (blog), April 8, 2015, http://bit.ly/1IbxFie.

110 “ክንፉ አሰፋ በስለላ ከሆላንድ የተባረረው የጋዜጠኛውን አንገት እቆርጣለሁ አለ,” ECADAF Ethiopian News & Opinion, April 12, 2015, http://ecadforum.com/Amharic/archives/14790/.

111 Tedla D. Tekle, “’I was forced to drink my own urine,’: ‘Freedom’ for netizen after 647 days locked up, but not for all.”

112 Tedla D. Tekle, “’I was forced to drink my own urine,’: ‘Freedom’ for netizen after 647 days locked up, but not for all.”

113 Marczak et al., Hacking Team Reloaded? US-Based Ethiopian Journalists Again Targeted with Spyware.

114 Kinfemicheal Yilma, “Hacktivism: A New Front of Dissent, Regulation,” Addis Fortune, February 14, 2016,

http://addisfortune.net/columns/hacktivism-a-new-front-of-dissent-regulation/

115 “Ethiopia: The cyber attack that probably never was,” Zehabesha, July 13, 2016,http://www.zehabesha.com/ethiopia-the-cyber-attack-that-probably-never-was/

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

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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.”

 

Background

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.”

IRIN News: Ethiopia’s internet crackdown hurts everyone November 19, 2016

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Ethiopia’s internet crackdown hurts everyone

IRIN, 17 November 2016


Ethiopia has never been an easy place to operate. But a six-month state of emergency, combined with internet and travel restrictions imposed in response to a wave of anti-government protests, means it just got a whole lot harder.

The government has targeted the mobile data connections that the majority of Ethiopians use to get online. Internet users have also been unable to access Facebook Messenger and Twitter, with a host of other services also rendered unreliable.

This has impacted everyone: from local businesses, to foreign embassies, to families, as well as the extensive and vital international aid community.

“Non-governmental organisations play crucial roles in developing countries, often with country offices in the capitals, satellite offices across remote regions, and parent organisations in foreign countries,” said Moses Karanja, an internet policy researcher at Strathmore University in Nairobi.  “They need access to the internet if their operations are to be efficiently coordinated.”

A political decision

The Ethiopian government has been candid about the restrictions being in response to year-long anti-government protests in which hundreds of people have died.

It has singled out social media as a key factor in driving unrest. Since the beginning of October, there has been a spike in violence resulting in millions of dollars’ worth of damage to foreign-owned factories, government buildings and tourist lodges across Oromia Region, initially ground zero for the dissent.

“Mobile data will be permitted once the government assesses that it won’t threaten the implementation of the state of emergency,” government spokesman Getachew Reda – who has since been replaced – told a 26 October press conference in Addis Ababa.

Security forces
James Jeffrey/IRIN
Security forces ready to crackdown

The Oromo are the country’s largest ethnic group, constituting 35 percent of the country’s nearly 100 million population. They have historically felt ignored by successive regimes in Addis Ababa. In August, similar grassroots protest broke out among the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group. The ruling EPRDF is portrayed by opponents as a narrow, unrepresentative clique that refuses to share power.

Ethiopia is not alone in its approach to political unrest. Around the world, as countries become increasingly integrated with online technology, the more autocratic governments are blocking the internet whenever they deem it necessary.

“The trend appears to be growing because more people are going online and using the internet, often through the use of mobile connections,” said Deji Olukotun of Access Now, which campaigns for digital rights. In 2016, it documented 50 shutdowns, up from less than 20 in 2015.

“People are enjoying the freedom and opportunity that the internet provides, which enables them to organise themselves and advocate for what they want,” Olukotun told IRIN. “In response, governments are shutting down the net to stop this practice.”

Bad timing

An aid worker, who didn’t want to be identified as her agency needs to renew its government permit, explained how she relies on Skype to communicate with far-flung colleagues.

“Before, it was hard enough, but now Skype is even more unreliable,” she said. “People can’t connect with colleagues in the field; people miss invites to meetings, can’t arrange logistics.”

The squeeze comes at a particularly bad time for Ethiopia, beyond the impact of the protest movement. Ten million people are in need of food aid as a result of drought. The Oromia and Amhara regions, where most of the anti-government unrest is happening, have some of the largest numbers of people requiring assistance.

“Websites like the famine early warning system, FEWSNET, which provides detailed regional analysis and projections on food insecurity, cannot be accessed by most stakeholders,” said an international development official.

“Some modern software systems for things like pharmaceutical supply-chain management are not working to their full capacity – making it harder to accurately track inventory and deliveries.”

Phone
Andrew Heavens/Flickr
Careful what you say

Many humanitarian organisations, including UN agencies, are heavily reliant on cash transfers to government organisations that conduct work on their behalf. They are finding it much harder to account for funds.

Another aid worker, again speaking to IRIN on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of operating in Ethiopia, said everything was getting delayed, including the rolling out of new programmes.

“If we can’t email or phone, we can’t find out how money has been spent, and if we can’t account and there’s no transparency, we can’t authorise new spending,” the aid worker said.

Post-truth

The importance of social media to people’s lives in Ethiopia is magnified because they so distrust mainstream media, largely controlled by the EPRDF.

“Many Ethiopians are fed up with local and state media and so they turn to diaspora news,” said Lidetu Ayele, founder of the opposition Ethiopia Democratic Party. “The problem is, a lot of things they’d view as gossip if heard by mouth, when they read about it on social media, they take as fact.”

The worst disaster during Ethiopia’s protests occurred at the beginning of October. After police and protesters clashed at a traditional Oromo festival beside a holy lake, a stampede ensued that left about 100 people drowned or crushed to death.

Social media didn’t hang around. It pulsed with claims a circling government helicopter had fired down into panicking crowds.

“My brother was telling me on the phone he was about to protest, and asking me how I couldn’t after the government had done something like that,” an Addis Ababa resident, who is half Oromo and half Amhara, recalled about the days following the stampede. “But I said to him, ‘Don’t be an idiot, it isn’t true.’”

Witnesses and journalists at the event had confirmed that the circling helicopter was in fact innocently dropping leaflets saying “Happy Irreecha”, the name of the festival.

Loading aid
James Jeffrey/IRIN
Unintended consequences

Policy backfire?

Even before the state of emergency, Ethiopia was one of the most censored countries in the world and a top jailer of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Independent media does exist in Ethiopia, but it struggles. Last month, the Addis Standard, a well-respected private magazine, announced it was stopping its print edition due to the latest round of restrictions.

“The government has created this problem for themselves,” remarked a freelance Ethiopian journalist.

The Ethiopian diaspora in the United States maintains a strong cyber presence and is rallying to the political reform movement. Jawar Mohammed, a particularly prominent US-based social media activist, has 500,000 followers on Facebook, and broadcasts information and footage from protests demanding an end to EPRDF rule.

“The diaspora do amplify what’s happening, but it didn’t start with us,” Jawar said in an interview earlier in 2016.

Internet shutdowns between mid-2015 and mid-2016 have lost the Ethiopian economy about $9 million, according to a recent report by the US-based Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution.

“Internet disruption slows growth, costs governments tax revenue, weakens innovation, and undermines consumer and business confidence in a country’s economy,” said report author Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

“As internet-powered businesses and transactions continue to grow to represent an increasingly significant portion of global economic activity, the damage from connectivity disruptions will become more severe.”

Olukotun of Access Now said such blackouts were particularly damaging for developing countries “striving to embrace the digital economy and innovation”.

“We’ve seen juice sellers, online banks, courier services, and internet companies all lose drastic amounts of money during disruptions,” he said.

But for the ruling party in Ethiopia, a country that has known centralised authoritarian rule for millennia, the concept of ceding any of that control is anathema.

“Censoring the internet is not a solution to the protests or resistance,” said Karanja, the Kenyan researcher. “It is a blockage to the democratic trajectory of a country.”

Internet shutdown could cost Ethiopia’s booming economy millions of dollars — Quartz October 19, 2016

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to-have-facebook-is-illegal-in-ethiopia

“This is a typical textbook example of repression. You shut down media, you arrest dissidents and try to use propaganda to co-opt,” Chala told Quartz.

“Internet shutdowns do not restore order,” Ephraim Percy Kenyanito, the sub-Saharan Africa policy analyst at Access Now recently wrote. “They hamper journalism, obscure the truth or what is happening on the ground, and stop people from getting the information they need to keep safe.”

To a large extent, the government might be succeeding in muffling both the direct flow or the volume of information coming out of the country, Chala says. “But I am not sure if they will stop the movement [of protest] that is already out of their control,” he said.


The internet shutdown in Ethiopia will drain millions of dollars from the economy, besides undermining citizens’ rights to impart and seek information, observers of the current state of emergency say. Mobile internet remains down across the country since the government announced a six-month, nationwide emergency in early October. The government also this week banned the…

via Internet shutdown could cost Ethiopia’s booming economy millions of dollars — Quartz

Oromia: Viber, twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp Are strictly forbidden in Fascist regime (TPLF/ EPRDF) Ethiopia July 10, 2016

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

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


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Oromiyaa keessatti Facebook akka cufame beekameera. Kun jiruu gadi badii wayyaaneen dalagaa jirtudha. Warri Psiphon buufachuu dandeessan itti  fayyadamuun FB itti ooluu dandeessu.

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Social Progress Index 2016: Ethiopia continue to make one of the worst performers

https://oromianeconomist.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/social-progress-index-2016-ethiopia-continue-to-make-one-of-the-worst-performers/

Africa Land Post: Twitter, WhatsApp offline in Ethiopia’s Oromia State April 12, 2016

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The Economist on #OromoProtests#OromoProtests Global solidarity rally  in Vancouver, BC, Canada, 11 March 2016.#OromoProtests iconic picture#OromoProtests at Awaro Campus, Ambo, Oromia, 11 and April 2016 p2


 

 

INTERNET messaging applications such as WhatsApp haven’t worked for more than a month in parts of Ethiopia that include Oromia region, which recently suffered fatal protests, according to local users.

Smartphone owners haven’t been able to access services including Facebook Messenger and Twitter on the state-owned monopoly Ethio Telecom’s connection, Seyoum Teshome, a university lecturer, said by phone from Woliso, about 115 kilometers (71.5 miles) southwest of the capital, Addis Ababa.

“All are not working here for more than one month,” said Seyoum, who teaches at Ambo University’s Woliso campus. “The blackout is targeted at mobile data connections.”

A spokesman for Twitter Inc. declined to comment on the issue when e-mailed by Bloomberg on Monday. Facebook Inc., which bought WhatsApp Inc. in 2014, didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Protests that began in November in Oromia over perceived economic and political marginalisation of Ethiopia’s most populous ethnic group led to a crackdown in which security forces allegedly shot dead as many as 266 demonstrators, according to a March report by the Kenya-based Ethiopia Human Rights Project.

The government has said that many people died, including security officers, without giving a toll. One social-media activist, U.S.-based Jawar Mohammed, disseminated information and footage from protests to his more than 500,000 followers on Facebook.

No explanation
Restricting access isn’t a policy and may be because of “erratic” connections, according to government spokesman Getachew Reda. “We have not yet found any explanation,” he said by phone from Addis Ababa on Monday.

The government has the technology to “control” the messaging applications, the Addis Ababa-based Capital newspaper reported on April 10, citing Andualem Admassie, Ethio Telecom’s chief executive officer. Andualem didn’t answer two calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.

Hawassa city in Ethiopia’s southern region has suffered similar difficulties in accessing applications for more than a month, said Seyoum Hameso, an economics lecturer at the University of East London. “We couldn’t communicate with relatives,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions on Monday.


Twitter, WhatsApp offline in Ethiopia’s Oromia region

 

The Tragedy of Ethiopia’s Internet February 3, 2016

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Odaa OromooThe Tragedy of Ethiopia’s Internet

The Tragedy of Ethiopia’s Internet

By Justin Lynch, Motherboard, 1 February 2016


 

The only way to access the internet in Ethiopia is through the government-owned provider, Ethio Telecom, which has unilateral control over the telecom industry. A burgeoning tech scene in neighboring Kenya, which has an internet penetration rate of 69.6 percent, has garnered the name “Silicon Savannah.” But in Ethiopia, the monopoly on internet access has created one of the most disconnected countries in the world.
Only 3.7 percent of Ethiopians have access to the internet, according to the latest data, one of the lowest penetration rates in the world. By comparison, South Sudan, which lacks most basic government services, has an internet penetration rate of 15.9 percent. There are only ten countries with lower internet penetration than Ethiopia. Most of them, such as Somalia and North Korea, are hampered by decades-long civil wars or largely sealed off from outside world.



 

Nafkot Nega thinks journalists are terrorists. When I visited him and his mother, Serkalem Fassil, at their tiny apartment in the outskirts of Washington, DC, in early January, 9-year-old Nafkot intermittently murmured and jabbed his hands, pretending to be a superhero fighting criminals.

Perhaps some of those criminals were journalists like his father, Eskinder Nega, who was convicted of violating Ethiopia’s anti-terror law in July 2012. Eskinder is currentlyserving an 18-year prison sentence.

“Journalism is a crime or a terrorist act in his mind because what has been portrayed about [his dad],” Serkalem explained to me through a translator. “Not only his dad, but if you mention any journalist he will scream and say ‘I don’t like journalists!’”

Their story is a weaving tale that mirrors how Ethiopia, home to over 90 million people, became a digital hermit nation. How Nafkot come to believe journalism is a crime equivalent to terrorism is a case study of how governments have used the internet as a tool for repression.

***The only way to access the internet in Ethiopia is through the government-owned provider, Ethio Telecom, which has unilateral control over the telecom industry. A burgeoning tech scene in neighboring Kenya, which has an internet penetration rateof 69.6 percent, has garnered the name “Silicon Savannah.” But in Ethiopia, themonopoly on internet access has created one of the most disconnected countries in the world.

Only 3.7 percent of Ethiopians have access to the internet, according to the latest data, one of the lowest penetration rates in the world. By comparison, South Sudan, which lacks most basic government services, has an internet penetration rate of 15.9 percent. There are only ten countries with lower internet penetration than Ethiopia. Most of them, such as Somalia and North Korea, are hampered by decades-long civil wars or largely sealed off from outside world.

As one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, with one of the most storied cultures in the world, Ethiopia’s lack of internet access is astounding. It’s also troubling.

It’s unclear exactly how many Ethiopians can access the internet. Those who can, however, must contend with the specter of state surveillance. The Ethiopian government is suspected of deploying spyware and other hacking and surveillance tools to surveil individuals, including at least one American citizen, hooked to the web. Because of these alleged cybersleuthing efforts, the Ethiopian government has turned an engine of commerce and information into an afterthought and an instrument of surveillance.

Nafkot. Illustration: Shaye Anderson

Former American diplomats, current members of Ethiopia’s intelligence agency, and foreign policy experts all told me that the Ethiopian government is afraid of dissident views spreading online, and has crafted its intelligence service, telecom sector, and legal codes to stamp out digital dissent.

Perhaps the foremost victim of the country’s internet crusade is young Nafkot, who believes his father is a terrorist because he’s a journalist. Nafkot’s parents were two of the most well-known journalists in Ethiopia; Eskinder and Serkalem were internationally award winning media moguls, who began their respective careers after the communist Derg regime fell in 1987, and a new government formed in 1991. After a disputed parliamentary election where ensuing protests turned violent in 2005, both Eskindir and Serkalem were arrested.

Unbeknownst to either of them, Serkalem was pregnant.

***The prohibitive factors that cause Ethiopia’s digital divide are straightforward. The monopoly on internet access has made it prohibitively expensive for many citizens to get online. Routine service outages make connections unreliable. And for those Ethiopians who do manage to access the internet, there is little content available in the local language of Amharic.

Whether these barriers to internet access are the intended result of a system designed to limit the spread of information, or the unintentional byproduct of a monopolistic cash cow is about as murky as the country’s dealings in cyber-espionage.

“Ethiopia wants to maintain as much control as possible over the internet so that it can prevent internal comments that are critical of government policies and minimize access to critical comments originating outside Ethiopia,” David Shinn, the former American ambassador to Ethiopia, told me.

A member of the Information Network Security Agency, one of Ethiopia’s intelligence agencies, also told me the monopoly purposefully limited internet access to preserve security in the country.

“Everything connected to the internet is slowing down”

“It’s because of security reasons, and I don’t think there is anything related to that other than this,” said the official, who works on technical capabilities and spoke on the condition on anonymity because he did not want to talk about his employer. “Everything connected to the internet is slowing down. Entrepreneurs can’t create their companies.”

Ethiopia is among a constellation of African nations made of patchworks of ethnic identity, and Bronwyn Bruton, the Deputy Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, told me that the government has led the fractured country by limiting freedom of expression.

“The Ethiopian state is very fragile,” Bruton said. “It’s built on a premise of segregation that is in theory separate but equal, however in practice dominated by one ethnic group, the Tigray. The Tigreans are only about six percent of the population but they absolutely dominate political and economic power.”

When I asked Teressa Belete, the Chief Enterprise Officer at Ethio Telecom, if the lack of internet access was a deliberate result of the government to limit free speech and dissent, he seemed genuinely confused and dismissed the idea. The advantage of a government monopoly, Belete said, is that rural Ethiopians, who make up a majority of the country’s population, wouldn’t be serviced by private companies with profit motives.

Yet Ethio Telecom, which was founded in 1952, made an estimated $300 million profit per year, as The Economist reported in 2012. And Ethio Telecom used the excess funds to bankroll railway development in the country.

“The country lags far behind in terms of liberalization of the [telecommunications] sector,” said Lishan Adam, a consultant who has worked with the World Bank on information and communications tech policy. “They missed most of the liberalization era in the 1990s, and there was a delay in terms of getting internet.”

Adam told me Ethiopia only became connected to the internet in 1997, and said that while the desire to limit free speech might be a factor in the lack of internet access, it wasn’t the main reason why most Ethiopians aren’t online.

Ethiopia’s internet penetration rate is reported to be 3.7 percent as of November 2015. Ethiopian officials take issue with that figure, reported by the World Bank. They argue it’s inaccurate because it doesn’t fully account for mobile subscribers. The World Bank’s numbers do include mobile subscribers, but it’s likely the reported number is still too low, and Adam estimated that the true internet penetration rate is between five and 15 percent of the population.

***Nafkot was born in prison in 2006. He was premature and couldn’t breathe at room temperature. Doctors wanted to move him immediately to a hospital with incubators, but the only hospital that could admit him required a signed form one of his parents. Serkalem was still under anesthesia, and the police wouldn’t bring the form to Eskindir. Nafkot could not get the treatment he needed.

“They didn’t really care about his life, but for the grace of God survived,” Serkalem said, her voice rising with anger.

Nafkot stayed at his grandparent’s home until Serkalem and Eskinder were released from prison. At which point, Serkalem and Eskinder could not continue working as print journalists; along with most of the independent newspapers in the country, theirs were shut down. Serkalem stopped writing altogether. Eskinder began blogging online, one of the first in the country to do so.

“He turned to blogging because all of the other avenues were closed,” Serkalem said. “Although he knew that not many had internet access in Ethiopia, it was better than being silent. He knew it wasn’t going to do much, but he needed to write.”

Serkalem. Illustration: Shaye Anderson

The internet penetration rate in Ethiopia was 0.2 percent in 2005, and it is believed by internet security experts that the government’s online censorship began in 2006, the year Eskinder started blogging. Opposition websites inside Ethiopia became inaccessible that year, and the government was assumed to be behind the censorship.

Before parliamentary elections in 2010, the Ethiopian government introduced a vague anti-terrorism law in an effort to avoid another contested election, Jeffrey Smith, an international human rights expert based in Washington, DC, told me. The law has become a cornerstone of the government’s censorship, labeling anyone who “influences government” a “terrorist.”

“Ethiopia is an example of a ruling regime that uses the term ‘terrorism’ as a politically expedient term,” Smith said. “The terrorism concerns inside the country are real but they have gone way beyond that, and have systematically abused human rights.”

With the Arab Spring protests in late 2010, there was hope the anti-government rallies that began in Tunisia would spread to Ethiopia. Eskinder’s blogging was provocative and confrontational during this time. In one 2011 article he prodded the Ethiopian military to choose the side of the people like the Egyptian military did at the time.

“Ordinary citizens took the initiative all over North Africa and the Middle East,” Eskinder wrote in another post, published September 2, 2011. “The results made history. They are powerful precedents for the rest of humanity. While inspiring words, sober analyses and robust debates are indispensable as ever, they will remain exactly no more than mere words unless translated into actions. To Ethiopia this means risking the core of a much cherished collective vision—peaceful transition to democracy.”

“No school for me”

On September 14, 2011, while Eskinder was picking up Nafkot from school, the Ethiopian intelligence service surrounded Eskinder’s car and arrested him. Serkalem raced to the scene. She found Nafkot crying, but no Eskinder. Serkalem took Nafkot to his grandmother’s house, then went straight to the Maekelawi prison, notorious for practices of torture. She waited for three hours for Eskinder to show up. But he never did.

That’s because Eskinder was actually at their house, watching the intelligence service rifle through the family’s belonging. Serkalem recalled that when she returned home the intelligence officers tried to stop her from entering, but she forced herself through to reach Eskinder. Panicked, she yelled out to him.

“Calm down, and be courageous!” Eskinder shouted back. Then he was taken away.

Afterward, Serkalem went to pick up 5-year-old Nafkot. The boy was clearly traumatized from witnessing his father arrested at school. The next day, Nafkot didn’t want to go back.

“No school for me,” he said.

***The Ethiopian intelligence apparatus is one of the most invasive in the world. Exiled Ethiopian journalists in Nairobi, Kenya, told me of being followed or snooped on by government agents who had no interest in hiding their identity. One Ethiopian businessman joked to me about how he wouldn’t be surprised if he heard a third-party cough while talking with someone over the phone.

Felix Horne, the Ethiopia researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of acomprehensive report on the Ethiopian surveillance agency, told me that the government has a nationwide program called “five to one.” It’s an all-seeing system in which five citizens are monitored by one individual. It is like a listening node in a system that spans the entire country with the goal to preserve command over its many ethnic groups.

“The Ethiopian government, like many other governments, appears to be using hacking tools to supplement their regular surveillance regime” said Bill Marczak, a research fellow at Citizen Lab. The Ethiopian government’s traditional surveillance methods are “effective for someone who is looking inside Ethiopia, but one of the features of Ethiopia is it has a very large diaspora community spread out over many different countries in the world.”

Washington, DC, has around a quarter million Ethiopian expatriates, and there is a large presence in Europe, Marczak added. And there is “no way other than hacking, phishing, and targeted attacks to monitor these people.”

Eskinder. Illustration: Shaye Anderson

When Neamin Zeleke received an email in December 2014 claiming to have inside information about a sensitive subject in Ethiopia, his home country, he recognized it as a likely hack. Zeleke was managing director of Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio (ESAT), one of the largest Ethiopian news outlets, and run by members of the country’s diaspora. Its website and TV service are banned in the country. But Ethiopians can still access the channel and website through satellites and proxy servers.

Zeleke told me that ESAT satellite service has been jammed 20 times by the government. The latest jam, he said, happened just a few minutes before he and I met in early January. He forwarded the suspicious email to Marczak of Citizen Lab, who recognized that it carried a low-level bug likely from Hacking Team, a provider of surveillance software to governments across the world.

Using software from Hacking Team, an Italian company, and likely the Gamma Group, a European company, the Ethiopian intelligence service has targeted journalists and political opponents with invasive systems that allow the government to remotely activate a computer camera and microphone, record keystrokes, and monitor online activity. The frequency of these attacks and other surveillance capability is obscured by the inherent secrecy of spycraft, and that the targets of these hacks either don’t know, or don’t want to share that they’ve been infiltrated makes it difficult to assess the tools and motivations of their hacking, Marczak told me.

Zeleke is both a journalist and a political opponent. He is a member of Ginbot 7, an armed opposition group in Ethiopia that is labeled a terrorist organization by the government. Security experts told me that there is no evidence Ginbot 7 has ever undertaken terrorist activity, and the organization is not on the US State Department’s list of terror organizations.

Ginbot 7 is largely a collection of exiled Ethiopians who operate outside the borders of the country they wish to change. According to an ESAT report, Ginbot 7 has attacked government soldiers, which Zeleke confirmed to me.

Zeleke stepped down as managing director of ESAT in early 2016. He didn’t have the time for it anymore, and told me he was worried he could no longer be objective. He is now a consultant for the organization, though he still holds a corner office in the station’s tiny studio, which is lined with awards from prestigious human rights organizations.

One of the awards was for Eskinder Nega.

Zeleke told me ESAT took the award on behalf of Eskinder, who “was considered one of the pioneers of independent media in Ethiopia.”

In the ESAT news bullpen, and also next to Eskinder’s award in Zekele’s office, was a large portrait of Andargachew Tsige, the founder of Ginbot 7, in military fatigues. Tsige is believed to be under arrest in Ethiopia. Zeleke lept toward me when I tried to take a photo of the portrait next to Eskinder’s award.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate for this story,” Naimin said, moving Tsige’s photo out of the shot.

Later, I asked Zeleke if he thought the Ethiopian government was targeting him and other ESAT journalists because of their dissident views, or because the government perceives the organization as affiliated with Ginbot 7. What if authorities didn’t know where Zeleke’s political activity ends, and his journalism begins? It wouldn’t justify the surveillance. But because there have been so few public cases of the Ethiopian government’s targets, the distinction could illuminate the motivations of the intelligence service’s hacking—primarily to stop the flow of information, or targeting perceived political threats.

The head of the government agency that runs Ethiopia’s hacking, the INSA, declined to comment for this story.

The real punishment wasn’t his time wasted behind bars. It was seeing Nafkot suffer without a father

Zeleke told me that the Ethiopian government is monitoring ESAT because it is a political organization affiliated with Ginbot 7, but it is a fully independent organization and the journalists are from across the political spectrum.

“The fact that I am affiliated with Ginbot 7 may be a factor, but without me being here, whoever is the head of ESAT, these journalists [would be attacked],” he told me. “Others, many others who are not Ginbot 7, thousands of others, are subject to cyberattacks and surveillance. So, I mean, logically you have to see the context. This is a routine practice by the police, an authoritarian state to control the populous, to control the flow of information, and to intimidate alternative media and political dissenters.”

***Serkalem and Nafkot would visit Eskinder in prison every Saturday and Sunday after he was sentenced. Eskinder tried to convince Nafkot that he was just in school, not at prison, to make the burden of an absent father easier on his young son. Born in a prison, Nafkot recognized that his father wasn’t in school.

“No, you’re in jail,” he would say to his dad.

Nafkot Nega has believes that the profession of his parents is a crime equivalent to terrorism. Innovative industries in Ethiopia have been hamstrung to preserve this philosophy, and those who do access the internet are targets of relentless hacking.

When they visited, Serkalem told me the jail staff would humiliate inmates in front of their families. Eskinder grew concerned that Nafkot would become desensitized to the brutality and grow resentful of the world.

“It’s OK to be jailed for what you believe in, but to see the impact on your family and your son, he couldn’t bear, and asked me to take him away,” Serkalem told me. The real punishment wasn’t his time wasted behind bars. It was seeing Nafkot suffer without a father.

Eskinder started to ask his wife and son the same question each time they visited: “Have you bought your ticket?” He also pressed other family members and friends who visited to convince Serkalem and Nafkot to leave Ethiopia, so he could finish his time with the peace of mind that his family would be safe.

The last time Nafkot saw his father was July 23, 2014. Serkalem had purchased two tickets for the United States the next day, and Eskinder tried to cheer up his son during their last visit.

“America is right nearby!” he exclaimed.

Serkalem told me she wants to create a positive memory for Nafkot of his father. She wants to convince her son that his father’s sacrifice as not in vain. Eskinder is scheduled to be released from prison in 2030, when Nafkot will be 23 years old—the same age Eskinder opened his first newspaper in Ethiopia.


 

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-tragedy-of-ethiopias-internet

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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???????????Aljazeera logointernet freedom

“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.

Read more at:-

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/7/13/foreign-cyber-spying-on-us-citizens.html?utm_content=main&utm_campaign=ajam&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=SocialFlow

Related:-

https://oromianeconomist.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/hacking-team-boss-we-sold-to-ethiopia-but-were-the-good-guys/

 

 

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.

https://www.oromiamedia.org/2015/07/itoophiyaanlammii-ameerikaa-tokko-waan-basaasteef-himatamte/

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

Posted by OromianEconomist in 10 best Youtube videos, Afar, Africa, African Internet Censorship, Amnesty International's Report: Because I Am Oromo, Because I am Oromo, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Ethnic Cleansing, Facebook and Africa, Free development vs authoritarian model, Genocidal Master plan of Ethiopia, Groups at risk of arbitrary arrest in Oromia: Amnesty International Report, Internet Freedom, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, The Tyranny of TPLF Ethiopia.
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OEnemies of Internetinternet freedom

http://mashable.com/2014/12/17/internet-freedom-countries/

 

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.

http://thewebindex.org/blog/recognise-the-internet-as-a-human-right-says-sir-tim-berners-lee-as-he-launches-annual-web-index/

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

  ChristineMungaihttp://www.mgafrica.com/article/2014-12-11-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”.

Ethiopia
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
Rights).
• 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).

Introduction
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

ETHIOPIA: ‘BECAUSE I AM OROMO’: SWEEPING REPRESSION IN THE OROMIA REGION OF ETHIOPIA

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR25/006/2014/en