Ethiopia’s general elections are scheduled for June 21, 2021. To uphold democracy, authorities must ensure the internet is open and accessible for all throughout the election period — first by immediately reconnecting Tigray and all areas targeted by internet shutdowns, and then upholding connectivity, regardless of political or social tensions.
“Government-imposed internet shutdowns have marred Ethiopia’s elections and political movements over the last five years,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “As millions head to the polls this week, we underscore the value internet access adds to democracy, and call on the government to safeguard connectivity across the country.”
Through an open letter, the #KeepItOn coalition and civil society organizations are urging Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and the government to:
- Immediately reinstate full internet access in Tigray and all areas currently targeted by internet shutdowns;
- Refrain from arbitrarily blocking access to social media platforms, and publicly assure the people of Ethiopia that the internet will remain open, accessible, inclusive, and secure throughout the election and thereafter;
- Order internet service provider, Ethio telecom, to provide everyone with high-quality, secure, and unrestricted internet access throughout the election period and thereafter; and
- Order internet service provider, Ethio telecom, to inform internet users of any potential disruptions, and to take all reasonable steps to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact the quality of service they receive.
This push for internet access comes after government-mandated shutdowns in 2020 to suppress protesters demanding justice for the killing of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, an Oromo activist and musician, and the ongoing interference millions are facing everyday in Tigray.