24/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 02:56

Ethiopia clamps down on Skype and other internet use on Tor

Category: Technology

Published: 15th Jun 2012 15:42:15

Campaigners have warned of fresh efforts by the Ethiopian government to clamp down on certain types of internet use in the country.

Reporters Without Borders says that the authorities have installed a system to block access to the Tor network - a "hidden" layer of the internet, used to allow anonymous online communications.

Users already face up to 15 years in jail if they use Skype or similar internet call services.

Addis Ababa has not provided a comment.

"The Ethiopian government is trying to attack every means of information exchange," Ambroise Pierre from the Reporters Without Borders Africa service told BBC News.

"There's already a very strict control over written press, and last year several journalists were arrested, and now the government is tackling communications over the internet.

"More and more people in Ethiopia are turning to new technologies, and some are even able to bypass censorship, which explains why the government is trying to use effective methods to control internet communications."

This is a country where surveillance is very important - due to years of all the conflicts and political rivalry”

Al Jazeera recently reported that Ethiopia passed a law on 24 May criminalising the use of Voip (voice over internet protocol) calls. It said the maximum sentence was 15 years in jail.

Other local reports have said that individuals providing such services face sentences of up to eight years, and users could also be imprisoned for using banned social media sites.

The BBC could not independently confirm the details.

While criminalising such acts may be new, Ethiopia has long restricted internet use.

"I used a British internet telephony provider, but [the government eventually] blocked the ports," said Elizabeth Blunt, the BBC's former Ethiopia correspondent who worked in Addis Ababa between 2007 and 2009.

She added that there were two reasons for the authorities to prohibit internet communications.

"Internet cafes may be allowing people to make calls for far less than the cost of Ethiopia telecom, the state's telecommunications provider that has the monopoly and charges very high prices - and doesn't want to have its service undermined," says Ms Blunt.

"But there is also the issue that Skype can't be listened to so easily and can't be controlled."

Reporters Without Borders said it was concerned the latest effort to block access to Tor might be the first step towards creating a system that would allow the authorities to intercept any email, social network post or Voip call made in the country.

"This is a country where surveillance is very important - due to years of all the conflicts and political rivalry," said Mr Pierre.

"The opposition and the media are being listened to, and people usually take care when they talk on the phone.

"We've had in the past certain cases of blocking websites of independent and opposition parties, so censorship isn't new - but now it's a new stage, and what Reporters Without Borders is worried about, is that [by criminalising] communications by Skype, the government is implementing a system to have a general policy of internet control."

Source:
BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Ethiopia clamps down on Skype and other internet use on Tor [Online] (Updated 15th Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1434961/Ethiopia-clamps-down-on-Skype-and-other-internet-use-on-Tor [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Nellie Herriot: Disappearance two years on still a mystery

    The disappearance of a 96-year-old woman with Alzheimer's two years ago remains "really frustrating and very upsetting", her great-nephew has said.
  • Actress Jodie Foster marries girlfriend

    US actress Jodie Foster has married her girlfriend, Alexandra Hedison, the actress' representative confirms.
  • Scottish independence: Governments clash over pension costs

    An independent Scotland would have to fund pension costs of an additional £450 per working-age adult each year, the UK government has claimed.
  • Dumfries hosts two international curling competitions

    Two major curling competitions are under way in Dumfries just a couple of months after Scottish competitors scooped medals at the Winter Olympics.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Irish education minister proposes radical changes

    The Irish education minister has proposed a radical shake-up of the further education sector.