Access Now petitions AU to help restore internet in Tigray
Digital rights organisation Access Now has launched an online petition calling on the African Union (AU) to intervene and help reconnect internet in Tigray and other regions across Ethiopia.
It said the people of Tigray and the rest of the country have the right to free, open and secure internet access and that the AU has a responsibility to intervene.
According to Access Now, the Tigray region and other parts of Ethiopiait has now been two years (since November 2020) of sustained internet shutdowns in the Tigray region and in other parts of Ethiopia.
The organisation also called on individual AU members countries to speak out and condemn the government’s restrictions of internet and telecommunication services in the country.
Excerpts from the petition said, “We are alarmed by human rights violations carried out during the ongoing conflict in Tigray and the blatant attempt to conceal them. We are petitioning the AU and individual member states, as continental leaders, to condemn the Ethiopian government’s prolonged shutdown and to help re-establish internet access across the region and beyond.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addressed the opening of the United Nations internet forum hosted recently in the East African country and said: “For Ethiopia, improving connectivity and expanding accessibility has been a priority with investments being made in infrastructure expansion, opening up the telecom sector to private investors and building digital infrastructure. While there are many advantages for bridging the digital divide, undoubtedly, plenty of challenges awaits us as a continent with the dark side of the internet requiring policies are practice safeguards to be in place. For Ethiopia, the internet has support armed rebellion. As a developing country, we recognise that our aspirations and intentional journey to realise a prosperous Ethiopia, conducive and inclusive for all, is intimately tied in advancements in technology.”
According to Access Now’s Shutdown Tracker Optmisation Project (STOP), since 2016, Ethiopian authorities have imposed at least 22 internet shutdowns.
The AU has yet to officially respond to the request.