Addis Abeba — After five months of blocking access, the Ethiopian government has finally lifted internet restrictions on major social media platforms. Services such as Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, TikTok, and YouTube were all affected by the restrictions that were initially imposed on 09 February, 2023.
The restriction was put in place in response to anti-government protests stemming from tensions within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC). Now, with the restrictions quietly removed since Monday evening local time, Ethiopians can once again freely access and engage with these popular online platforms without VPN.
The restriction had drawn criticism from human rights groups. A month after the restrictions were imposed, Amnesty International condemned the decision, saying the blockade on selected social media platforms clearly violates citizens' rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
In a parallel move, Daniel Bekele, the Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), echoed a similar sentiment. The Ethiopian Media Council (EMC) joined the chorus on 03 March, 2023, expressing its apprehension over the obstruction and calling upon the government to cease the recurring act of blocking social media platforms.
Last week, a local CSO, Center for the Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) said the five months long restrictions on internet access caused Ethiopia a staggering economic loss exceeding US$140 million.
During the shutdown in Ethiopia, the use of VPNs became a prevalent means for accessing the internet and social media. Just a month ago, Frehiwot Tamiru, the CEO of Ethio Telecom, addressed lawmakers, expressed disappointment over the impact of social media restrictions on customers. However, Frehiwot emphasized that these restrictions were beyond the control of Ethio telecom.