Reports from Al Jazeera said that the Ethiopian Government has enacted a law against the use of Skype and other Internet based voice communication mediums such as Google Talk. According to the legislation, if any body is found using these services, he/she will be prosecuted and can be kept in prison for up to 15 years.
The main purpose behind this legislation is to boost national telecommunication service and most importantly “national security concerns” because of the ever increasing security threats internationally and particularly in Ethiopia.
Presently, Ethiopia has just one ISP, the state-owned Ethio Telecom, and has been vigilantly monitoring its citizens’ Internet use for quite a long time just to discourage the use of these services.
According to the Ministry of Communicatoin and Information Technology, it has the “power to supervise and issue licenses to all privately owned companies that import equipment used for the communication of information.” The prominent part is that the legislation also forbids “audio and video data traffic via social media.”
However, it is still unclear how the Government of Ethiopia is going to implement this law, but a 15 year imprisonment will certainly keep many people from using these services.
The law also allows the Government to scrutinize any import of voice communication equipment and accessories. On the other hand, inbound shipments need to be informed earlier otherwise they will be banned.
Some reports also claim that Ethio Telecom now has the ability to block access to the Tor network which helps users defend against a form of network scrutiny that intimidates individual freedom and privacy.
According to observers, the law is clearly aimed at restricting freedom of expression and free flow of information in the country of 84 million citizens. Looking at the track record of Ethopian Government of the past five years, they have blocked several websites which they thought were criticizing them.