Ethiopian authorities are facing criticism from Amnesty International for blocking citizens’ access to selected social media platforms such as Facebook, Telegram, Tik Tok, and YouTube for a month now. The Ethiopian government’s move violates people’s right to freedom of expression, according to Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa. Mwangovya says the move not only violates Ethiopian citizens’ rights but also goes against the country’s constitution, national laws, and regional and international treaties that it is a signatory to.
The social media blockage comes amid tensions caused by a disagreement in Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church, which prompted church leaders to threaten nationwide rallies and counter-rallies. The government’s response has been to shut down social media platforms since 9 February 2023, causing the country’s media freedom record to further deteriorate.
This latest move is not the first time Ethiopian authorities have restricted access to the internet, with frequent shutdowns or restrictions documented since 2016 during widespread protests and in conflict areas. The war-torn Tigray Region has been cut off from communication channels, including the internet, for almost two years. Although the connectivity partially resumed after the Cessation of Hostilities agreement was signed in November 2022, the situation remains dire.
Amnesty International has called for the immediate lifting of the social media blockade and for an end to the Ethiopian government’s culture of interfering with citizens’ rights to express themselves and seek and receive information. It remains to be seen whether Ethiopian authorities will heed Amnesty International’s call and put an end to the social media blockade.