Mobile Internet cut in Ethiopia’s capital amid clashes and protests: CPJ

EthiopiasThe mobile Internet was cut on 18 September in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa amid protests and clashes, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) learnt from Berhan who verified it after checking traffic data and speaking with more than 20 people across the city

Berhan Taye leads Access Now's #KeepItOn campaign against Internet shutdowns of which CPJ is also part of.

The non-profit group has urged Ethiopian authorities to ensure availability of Internet during times of unrest as access to information provided by journalists is crucial. Mobile Internet was unavailable in the capital Addis Ababa, from 17-19 September 2018.

The shutdown came amid protests in Addis Ababa on 17 September over clashes that had left at least 23 people dead in the capital's outskirts, according to the media reports. The Amnesty report and Behran both said that “hate speech” was circulated on social media during the clashes.

“Restricting access to the Internet stifles press freedom by making it difficult for journalists to communicate with sources, to distribute news and to verify information. It cuts off members of the public from the critical information they need to make decisions during times of crisis,” said CPJ Sub-Saharan Africa representative Muthoki Mumo. “We urge Ethiopian authorities to keep to the path of greater press freedom forged in recent months, and to desist from future shutdowns.”

Berhan told the organisation that many Ethiopians rely on mobile technology to access the Internet and the shutdown made it harder for journalists to verify what was happening and for citizens to access information on safety.

Fitsum Arega, prime minister's chief of staff, told CPJ on 19 September that mobile data was back on in Addis Ababa, but when asked what led to it being cut he referred CPJ to the state-owned phone telecommunications company Ethio Telecom, for an explanation.

Authorities have previously cut access to the Internet despite Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's inauguration promises to respect free expression.

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