Media sources reported on Thursday, June 8, that internet access had been restored across the country after an extended cut to internet service. Access to social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, has also reportedly been restored. On Tuesday, June 13, the British government confirmed that internet services had been restored in the country, but warned that the government could again shut down internet and other mobile services without notice.
The internet shutdown was a measure taken by the government purportedly to prevent students from cheating during national school and university entrance exams. The exams were held on May 31 and June 5.
However, this was not the first time a nationwide internet and/or social media blackout was reported in the country. In July 2016, the government blocked access to various sites when university exams were canceled in May and rescheduled for July after copies of the test were circulated on social media. The government justified the measure at the time as a means to prevent students from being distracted from studying.
More broadly, internet censorship is prevalent in Ethiopia and opposition blogs and human rights websites are often blocked. Traditional media outlets in the country are tightly controlled by the government, which makes social media a particularly valuable tool for citizens to access and share information critical of the authorities. Observers fear that this most recent shutdown may portend a tighter clampdown on social media to stifle dissent.
Individuals present in Ethiopia are advised to monitor developments to the situation and to be prepared for potential internet/communication blackouts.
On a separate note, due to the terrorist threat linked to the Somali group Al-Shabaab, the majority of Western governments advise their citizens against all travel to the Ogaden region and other areas along the border with Somalia, as well as nonessential travel to the rest of the Ethiopian Somali region. The Eritrean, Sudanese, South Sudanese, and Kenyan borders are also considered high-risk destinations.
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