Back in the dark: Ethiopia shuts down internet once again

UPDATE: July 16, 2020, the government of Ethiopia on July 14, 2020, restored partial internet access to the country, after digitally cutting it off for two weeks following protests demanding justice for the killing of Oromo musician, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. 

Although the restoration of broadband and Wi-Fi internet services might, on the surface, appear to be a positive step, it is critical to note that access to mobile internet and data services — which is used by a majority of Ethiopians — remain inaccessible in the country. After 16 days of blackout, most Ethiopians remain offline.

“Moving forward, the Ethiopian government must figure out sustainable and just solutions to the factors that cause recurrent and generational violence and trauma in the country”, said Berhan Taye, Senior Policy Analyst and Global Internet Shutdowns Lead at Access Now. “Shutting down the internet is not a constructive or suitable approach to address the  recurrent problems in Ethiopia.”

Tuesday June 30: Yesterday evening, June 29,  prominent Oromo musician and social activist, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, was shot dead in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Following his tragic death at the hands of unknown assailants, it is reported that numerous protests sprung up in Addis Ababa and surrounding areas, with people taking to the streets demanding justice.

At approximately 09:00 EAT today, Tuesday, June 30, a blanket internet shutdown was implemented by the Ethiopian government, cutting the entire nation off, and denying people their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information.

The current shutdown adds to a growing list of government-mandated blackouts in Ethiopia, and is becoming a go-to tool for authorities to muzzle unrest and activism.  Ethiopia has previously shut down the internet more than 12  times, and most recently the government cut off the internet for approximately three months in the Oromia region.  

“This shutdown comes at a time when the country is mourning the loss of a beloved musician and a courageous activist and millions are calling for justice for Haacaaluu,” said Berhan Taye, Senior Policy Analyst and Global Internet Shutdowns Lead at Access Now. “Access to credible information is essential at times of crisis and emergency, and this current internet shutdown is causing further confusion, powerlessness, and anxiety among Ethiopians and the diaspora.”