After a period of five months, the Ethiopian government has finally lifted the internet restrictions that blocked access to major social media platforms. Services such as Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, TikTok, and YouTube were all affected by the restrictions, which were initially imposed on February 9, 2023.
The decision to implement the restrictions came in response to anti-government protests that emerged from tensions within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC). As of Monday evening local time, the government quietly removed the restrictions, granting Ethiopians the freedom to access and engage with these popular online platforms without the need for VPNs.
Throughout the duration of the restrictions, human rights groups raised concerns and criticized the government’s actions. Amnesty International was among the first to condemn the decision, asserting that the blockade on selected social media platforms violated citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Chief Commissioner, Daniel Bekele, echoed a similar sentiment, while the Ethiopian Media Council (EMC) also expressed apprehension over the obstruction and called on the government to cease blocking social media platforms.
During the internet shutdown in Ethiopia, many individuals turned to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) as a means to circumvent the access blocks and maintain their online presence. Just recently, Frehiwot Tamiru, the CEO of Ethio Telecom, expressed disappointment over the impact of social media restrictions on customers during a session with lawmakers, emphasizing that these restrictions were beyond the control of Ethio Telecom.
With the removal of the internet restrictions, Ethiopians can once again fully participate in the digital world, restoring their access to crucial communication channels and platforms that play a significant role in information dissemination, social interaction, and the exchange of ideas in the modern age.