Ethiopia abstains UN online freedom resolution

July 24, 2016

UNReporter – Ethiopia has refrained from voting on the United Nations online freedom resolution, which reaffirms internet access as a human right and condemns any country which disrupts internet access of citizens in violation of this international human right.

The resolution for the “Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet” was approved on June 27, 2016 with the support 70 countries while Ethiopia and other 16 countries moved to abstain from voting.

The resolutions has called States to consider formulating, through transparent and inclusive processes with all stakeholders, and adopting national internet related public policies that have the objective of universal access and enjoyment of human rights at their core.

Concurrently, the resolution has condemned measures taken by the states to disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights laws and calls on all States to refrain from such measures.

At the same time, the resolution also stresses the importance of combating advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination or violence on the internet, including by promoting tolerance and dialogue.

The Reporter’s attempt to figure out Ethiopia’s position from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which represents the country at the United Nations Human Right Council did not materialize.

However, Ethiopia has practically demonstrated its stance two weeks after the resolution was adopted by the UN. It has violated this resolution by entirely blocking social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Viber and a few others for consecutive four days since July 11, 2016.

Government Communication Minister Getachew Reda, said the move was to help students concentrate on key university entrance exams that was finalized on July 14.

After allowing the social medias platforms to resume service on July 14, Getachew told journalists that Ethiopian’s will enjoy accessing the internet unless another incident come to threaten the country.

Ethiopia has been criticized by activists for rejecting citizens right to freedom of expression whether it is offline or online.

The arrest and prosecution of nine bloggers and journalists in April 2014, accusing them of inciting public disorder and violence via social media is one case that is frequently cited by government’s critics.

The bloggers, identified as Zone 9 Bloggers, who had been known to be ardent critics of the government on social and political issues including human right, were acquitted in October 2015 after 18 months in jail.