The Ethiopian government has passed legislation effectively criminalizing the use of VoIP services like Google Talk and Skype. Violators can face heavy fines and up to fifteen years of jail time for using the low-cost video/phone services. VoIP services are especially popular in internet cafes across the country. Africa Review reports “The government in the law’s introductory annex defends such legislation as a timely and appropriate response to the ever increasing security threats globally and in Ethiopia. But observers say the law is aimed at further limiting freedom of expression and the flow of information in the nation of 85 million people.” Al Jazeera has more:

Government protecting of the telecommunications industry is not a new tactic. One Ethiopian sought asylum in the United Kingdom after the government accused him of using Skype to run an illegal competing phone service. A petition to stop his deportation from December 2011 was widely circulated online.

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For many Ethiopians, the law is just the latest development in a trend of restrictive behaviour on the part of the government.

Further reading:

Reporters Without Borders: Government Steps Up Control Of News And Information

Africa Review: New internet law criminalizes Skype, installs Internet filters

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