Ethiopia shuts down internet ahead of national exams

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Ethiopia has shut down internet access for its citizens as students in the country sit national exams.

Last year, activists leaked papers for the grade 12 national exams, prompting the government to block access to social media apps like Facebook and WhatsApp. However, this year it seems the government is taking the more drastic step of shutting down internet access entirely.

 

Internet blackout

Users in Ethiopia noticed service interruptions around 7 pm on Tuesday and the internet is yet to be restored. Roughly 1.2 million students in the country are taking the grade 10 national exams while the grade 12 university entrance exams are scheduled to take place next week.

Last year, the grade 12 papers were leaked, allegedly in protest of the closure of a school in Oromia. The government reacted by blocking access to social media – a move that was largely criticised by rights groups as a means of censorship.

 

Ethiopia’s Internet problems

Ethiopia has one of the world’s lowest internet and connectivity rates, while Freedomhouse.org places the country as among the worst for internet freedom. Connectivity interruptions are a common occurance and the government seems increasingly willing to block access to the web and the list of blacklisted sites in the country continues to grow.

Ethiopia’s anti-terror laws see dozens of bloggers, journalists and social media users arrested every year – many of whom face lengthy prison sentences once convicted. Last month, opposition member Yonatan Tesfaye was sentenced to six and a half years in prison over comments he made on Facebook last year.

Rights groups accuse Ethiopian authorities of detaining suspects for extended periods of time and subjecting them to torture.

 

Featured image: By Google Inc., CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36336252

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.