· 2 months ago

Ethiopia switched off the internet last week, Benin repeals social media tax

Ethiopia switched off

Last week, Ethiopia switched off the internet in the Addis Ababa areas. That is according to Chinese News Agency, Xinhua, and Berhan Taye – who leads Access Now’s #KeepItOn campaign against internet shutdowns.

Berhan told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on September 18 that she was able to verify that access to the internet had been cut by analyzing traffic data and speaking with about 20 people across the city.

CPJ then issued a statement on Friday last week against the act. “Mobile internet was unavailable in the capital Addis Abba, from September 17 to the morning of September 19,” wrote CPJ.

Also read: A total of $160M was raised last week, and more

This, however, only affected mobile users. “Berhan told CPJ that residents who use fixed lines to access the internet could still go online.” However, many Ethiopians rely on mobile technology to access the internet.

Ethiopian authorities did not respond to CPJ’s questions about whether they ordered access to be cut. “When CPJ called Ethio Telecom’s internet-listed phone numbers, an individual who answered said that there had been a “problem” with the internet on those dates,” wrote CPJ.

“When CPJ asked to be transferred to an official spokesperson who could elaborate, the individual said that they did not know the appropriate person to respond. CPJ’s September 20th email to Ethio Telecom spokesperson Abdurahim Ahmed was not answered. Abdurahim could also not be reached on his mobile phone and a text message to the same line went unanswered.”

The shutdown came the same day as protests in Addis Ababa over clashes in which ethnic minorities were targeted, according to these same media reports and Atnafu Berhane, an Addis-based journalist who spoke with CPJ.

CPJ condemned the act, urging the authorities to ensure the internet is available at all times to enable journalists to do their job.

“The Committee to Protect Journalists urged Ethiopian authorities to ensure internet is available, including during times of unrest when access to information provided by journalists is crucial.”

In other news, the Benin government announced that they were repealing the social media tax they adopted on July 25, 2018. They tweeted the announcement on September 22, with a promise to issue a formal press release, later.

On July 01, 2018, Uganda became the first African country to tax Over The Top Services (OTT). The country charges $0.052 a day for access to services like Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook and more.

Also read: Facebook is secretly fighting the recently implemented social media tax in Uganda

The East African country was later followed by Zambia and Benin. Mozambique also imposed taxes on independent journalists. Many viewed the move as taxing the use of social media for free speech.

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