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Ethiopian authorities must stop blocking social media

Authorities in Ethiopia must immediately reinstate full access to social media platforms across the entire country, and put a complete end to this ongoing, damaging practice of censorship and control

Sparked by tensions between the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church and the government, authorities began to shut down access to social media platforms, including Telegram, Facebook, and TikTok in Ethiopia on February 9, 2023.

“Access to the internet and digital communication platforms is vital — always, but particularly in times of uncertainty and heightened social tensions,” said Felicia Anthonio, KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “The Ethiopian government must stop its continued attacks on freedom of expression and access to information, and restore access to all platforms, enabling people to exercise their fundamental rights online.”

This blocking comes after weeks of disputes within the church, and subsequent government statements , leading to calls for nationwide peaceful protests.  While the rallies were declared illegal by the Ethiopian Joint Security and Intelligence Task Force, the church announced its intentions to go ahead with the protests. The government then began blocking access to social media platforms. Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are demanding authorities in Ethiopia immediately reinstate full internet access across the nation.

Internet shutdowns stoke tensions, yet authorities in Ethiopia have blocked access  on several instances citing security concerns, denying and curtailing  people in the country the ability to exercise their fundamental rights. The government shut down the internet in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, blocking access to life-saving information for more than two years of a bloody civil war. 

“Coming off the heels of the UN Internet Governance Forum hosted in Ethiopia in December 2022, the government must remember its commitment to restore internet services in parts of the country and not do anything to jeopardize this,” said Bridget Andere, Africa Policy Analyst at Access Now. “Frequently shutting down the internet is a dangerous action and not a sustainable mechanism for dealing with tensions and strife.”