Ethiopian Government named as one of the world’s worst online oppressors

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi tightly controls online news media.

A CPJ special report by Danny O’Brien

One of the 10 Tools of Online Oppressors, Infrastructure Control, is used by Ethiopian government

Telecommunications systems in many countries are closely tied to the government, providing a powerful way to control new media. In Ethiopia, a state-owned telecommunications company has monopoly control over Internet access and fixed and mobile phone lines.

Despite a management and rebranding deal with France Telecom in 2010, the government still owns and directs Ethio Telecom, allowing it to censor when and where it sees fit. OpenNet Initiative, a global academic project that monitors filtering and surveillance, says Ethiopia conducts “substantial” filtering of political news. This matches Ethiopia’s continuing crackdown on offline journalists, four of whom are imprisoned for their work, according to CPJ records.

Ethiopian government control does not simply extend to phone lines and Internet access. The country has also invested in extensive satellite-jamming technology to prevent citizens from receiving news from foreign sources such as the Amharic-language services of the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Tactics in practice:
Suppressing news of Middle East unrest
Controls over all media