Ethiopia suspected of blocking opposition blogs

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - At least 10 opposition blogs have been inaccessible to Ethiopian internet users since last week, prompting suspicions the government has blocked them, a global press freedom watchdog said.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the domestic Ethiopian viewing of the sites, all of which contain posts highly critical of Addis Ababa, had been impossible since Friday and asked for an explanation.
In an open letter to information minister Berhan Hailu, it said technical faults were unlikely to be the cause and warned that shutting down avenues of free expression would likely raise already heightened political tensions.
"We would like to know if your government has deliberately blocked access to online publications ... thus taking the course of filtering the Internet," it said, adding that it believed authorities were responsible.
"It is likely that the disappearance of the sites is the result of political censorship and not technical problems," RSF said.
"Preventing debate and controlling news and information circulating online will only aggravate an already very tense political climate," it said.
Officials with the information ministry told AFP they had no information about the sudden disappearance of the blogs from Ethiopian cyber space.
However, an AFP correspondent in Addis Ababa confirmed that blogs listed by RSF as being blocked were no longer accessible through Ethiopian internet service providers.
Several of them, viewed by AFP in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, contain posts attacking Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and criticising the alleged government shutdown as "an act of desperation."
The RSF complaint comes as Ethiopian opposition groups abroad step up protests over alleged fraud in disputed elections last year and deadly post-poll violence they blame on the authorities.
At least 84 people were killed -- many by police -- during two bouts of unrest that erupted in June and November during demonstrations against the results of the May elections.
The government responded to the demonstrations by launching a crackdown on opposition figures, particularly the leadership of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, whom it accused of trying to foment a coup d'etat.
Currently 111 defendants are on trial on conspiracy, treason and related charges for allegedly trying to overthrow the government.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at11:59 AM


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