Ethiopia criminalises Skype

The Ethiopian government has clamped down on Internet-based voice-calling services, making their use a criminal offence. By Craig Wilson.

Ethiopia’s state-owned Internet service provider, the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (Ethio-Telcom), has begun performing deep-packet inspection of all Internet traffic in the country. The country’s government recently ushered in new legislation that criminalises the use of services such as Skype, Google Talk and other forms of Internet phone calling.

The new law, which came into effect on 24 May, makes use of Internet voice services punishable by hefty fines and up to 15 years in prison.

The official line from the government is that the move is intended to protect national security and protect the national, state-owned telecoms carrier from losing revenue to Skype and similar services; this, despite the fact that Ethiopia’s fixed-line penetration rate is the second worst in Africa (after Sierra Leone) at an estimated 1% of its 85m strong population.

Ethiopia has instituted numerous restrictions on its digital community in recent years. The government has previously closed down Internet cafes offering voice-over-Internet protocol services and, in December 2006, made it obligatory for Internet cafes to keep records of the names and addresses of their customers in an effort to clamp down on bloggers and other users critical of the regime.

The new law prohibits all VoIP traffic along with audio and video data traffic via social media. The Africa Review reports that the law also gives the government the right to inspect any imports of voice communication equipment and accessories.

The OpenNet Initiative, which tracks Internet filtering and surveillance, says in a report on Ethiopia that the country already blocks all blogs hosted at and at, a site that aggregates Ethiopian news and has space for blogs and forums.

The new legislation is no doubt also motivated by the events of the Arab Spring that saw mass protests organised via social media. With many bloggers critical of Ethiopia’s current government, censorship by the state looks likely to increase.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

Share this article

  • Z. Kesh

    A reason to stop any financial development immediatelly….

  • Piquerish

    Can’t have competition with the government now can we? Not even in a paradise like… ah, never mind.

  • Matty13

    This isn’t about money. The free exchange of information, ideas, and thoughts is the greatest enemy of some governments. More dangerous then any other weapon. 

  • IGnatius T Foobar

    Ethiopia can piss into the wind all it wants to but the truth is that conventional voice services are going away.  We are rapidly heading towards a world in which “phone calls” are just one of many services which run over the Internet. 

    One good step here in the US would be to completely deregulate voice.  Open it wide up and just let it run.  The days of Ma Bell are over, and we should focus regulatory efforts on making sure ISP’s with last-mile monopolies function only as dumb pipes.

  • leatherneckga

     Leftist government, leftist policies.


    no, they don’t pay big money…….they don’t treat their “prisoners” as well as we treat ours.  i’m sure they get no medical care,  no social or educational programs, and no trade training.  i’m sure they only  get minimal, if any, food and substandard housing

  • David Bockman

    You don’t get to break the Internet because it doesn’t fit your business model.


    And it can STAY lost …. good riddance


    Yesterday…… so they can register and vote for bro Obama….  dontcha know


    salemaye, salemaye, baloney


    But, but what about all those class room posters
    showing the great Kings & Queens of Africa…. Bwahahahaha


    Sounds like they don’t want anybody to tell the world how stupid they are….

  • That

    Wow!  Don’t tell Barack or the US providers of online phoning; a hefty donation to his super pac  and the US could end up a lot like Ethiopia! 

  • John

    no, I’m sorry, this is NOT a “banana republic” – this is the exact kind of scenario lib-tards want to see right here in America. Total control of everything by government. Government making ALL decisions. THIS is your panacea you fvkking imbecile lib-stains! 

  • GozieBoy

    Sadly, we’ve also had one (not successful, though) for the past 3.5 years…

  • GozieBoy

    Kinda like forcing taxpayers to subsidize your national automobile companies, shipyards, steel mills and banks…

  • Marcella Moretti

    Stupid Niggers!

  • Yirmin

    the greater government regulations and restrictions the poorer a country is destined to be… Funny but the current mindset in the US is to pump up the government regs at an exponential rate… expect the average American to become poorer and poorer as we move toward the glorious living standards of Obama’s homeland – Kenya.

  • Steven Palmer

    you would think after 2 million years evolution would have made those people smarter…

  • Guest

    I own a business in Ethiopia and travel there often.  The 1% fixed line is obsolete.  Most of those living in the capital have cell phones and coverage extends throughout most of the country.  The government owns the telecommunications company (ETC).  ETC provides land-lines, cell phone service, and internet service.  

    I have an international calling card.  I can call Europe for 2 cents (USD) per minute.  On the same card, to call Ethiopia is 22 cents per minute.  There are people throughout the world calling Ethiopia and providing a solid stream of income to ETC.  This, in addition to every cell phone call, land line call, and internet service…there are untold millions at stake.

  • Jim Wolfson

    I wonder how much money we’re stealing from American taxpayers to give to this defective shiitehole?

  • Roman

    Now, in the above article replace “Ethiopia” “United States” and you get the broader picture.
    “to protect national security”.
    Isn’t that the reason TSA gropes innocent civilians at the airport, isn’t that why the NSA is recording every phone call and text message??? Isn’t that why Dan Rather got fired by the Bushes and Obama’s thugs tell us we can’t criticize the el presidente??
    If this article doesn’t give you a clue as to the motives of governments around the world I don’t know what will.
    Government is cancer. Or, as Ludwig von Mises put it, Government is essentially the negation of freedom!

  • Paul__Revere

    Ethiopian Telecom providers remind me a lot of the RIAA in the US.

  • jerry

    Obummer would do this to the US if he could get away with it but in 4 months and a few days Obummer will be gone hopefully back to Africa where he belongs

  • donzap

    What should be criminal are the actions of warload-politicians who have been starving the citizens of that country. Maybe one day, these thugs will be brought to justice.

  • Bert Rexrode

    What else would you expect from one of the poorest countries on earth, another example of why they are poor. Over regulation and out of control government, and we’re headed right in the same direction along with them

  • Chris Pope

    Of course  it is…that’s  what it’s all about. This is Ethiopia.

  • Chris Pope

    No…this is about MAINTAINING the state-run telecom monopoly by threat of incarceration. Competition and innovation have no place in totalitarian governments.  The population must be kept dumb and fearful. 

  • Balzak

    Dish on African dictators all you want, this is an atrocity.  Some form of sanctions should be imposed on Ethiopia until the ban is lifted. Failure to do so gives tacit approval by the west and makes one wonder whether other western leaders are content to sit back and learn how this plays out – for future use themselves.

  • Peter Orilia

    So…are you justifying the Digital Oppression?  Sounds like it.

  • Baciagaluppo

    You must buy tea, and only tea.  And only from us.

  • Mac White

    Ethiopia…this is Africa….so this is news?

  • Nitro Ethiopians

    The government is being lead by a single ethnic group. They have created the perfect recipe for a Genocide. This is the least of the problems we have in Ethiopia. 

    Using Skype would mean less tapping esp if it is PC to PC. Hence, the law!
    The telecom is owned by the TPLF, the ethnic party that leads the country. TPLF stands for Tigray people’s liberation front. The profits go to the pockets of the officials and to the party.

  • Bill Ritzmann

    Ethiopian national security is only threatened by its oppressed populace; held in ignorance and check by a mentality that disbelieves the genius of the citizenry could lift the nation from darkness. 

  • Bethlehemmullugeta

    the government should close any doors that can bring a danger to his power. Thanks to Abebe Gelaw the Ethiopians are more committed for change. That change may cost us blood. EPRDF will do anything to preserve his power.

  • werner2010

     First of all, skype is not banned in Ethiopia. Everybody is repeating a false report that was started by Al Jazeera. Second, the Ethiopian telecom has been investing huge amount of money in infrastrucre development, therefore it cannot simply let everyone use  it’s services for free. Furthermore, Ethiopia has more urgent need, because it has never been colonised; as a result -until very recently- it has the least developed infrastructur and educational system in the continet. Such fundamental tasks are mostly done by the state. More than 80% of Ethiopians live in remote rural areas, and there is no much profit for private companies to go there.
    The current government in Ethiopia is trying to privatise almost all state owned firms with exceptions: the national airlines, railways, shipping line, water & energy, telecom and banking. For instance, many African countries that have privatised their airlines are regretting it. The private banks of Europe and the US are all getting billions of dollars of public money to save them. Russia was looted in broad daylight when it privatised it’s natural resources. Ethiopians need to develope knowhow before letting cutthroat capitalism get in.

  • bybike1949

    Sorry, Werner, es ist leider KEINE Al-Jazeera-Ente. Eine Nachfrage bei meiner Tochter (lebt in Addis Abeba), ob 1. die Nachricht vom Skype-Verbot richtig ist und 2. was sie gefahrlos nutzen kann, hat sie wie folgt beantwortet: …”ja, ist tatsächlich doof. Ich kann noch normal telefonieren, über’s
    Händy, und E-Mails schreiben. für alles andere ist die Rechtslage
    derzeit so unsicher, dass wir Order vom Chef bekommen haben, Skype auf
    den Rechnern zu deinstallieren. Habe schon keinen Kontakt mit H. gehabt…”
    Damit steht für mich klar und deutlich fest: Skype is banned in Ethiopia, and as I don’t want to bring my daughter in jail I will avoid to use Skype to keep in contact.
    Imho no false report!
    Regards from bybike

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