Ethiopia has blocked access to social media sites in the country to prevent a leak of university entrance examination questions.
The government said the ban was to prevent students being distracted from studying during the exam period and to prevent the spread of false rumours.
The most popular social networking sites in Ethiopia are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Viber, all of which have been inaccessible throughout the country since Saturday morning.
They will be unavailable for several days while university entrance exams are taken, a government spokesman said.
“It’s a temporary measure until Wednesday. Social media have proven to be a distraction for students,” said government spokesman Getachew Reda.
Ethiopia was among the first African countries to censor the internet and opposition blogs and human rights websites are frequently blocked. The country filters internet content regularly using firewalls which often slows network access.
Problems of accessing social networking sites had been reported in some localities of the Oromo region during anti-government protests, but blocking all sites nationwide is unprecedented in the country.
Social media sites have gone down in Ethiopia before but only for a matter of hours, with the government previously denying any involvement. This is the first time social media sites have been publicly blocked nationwide.
Daniel Berhane, the editor of Horn Affairs magazine, said on Twitter: “This is a dangerous precedent. There is no transparency about who took the decision and for how long.”
The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution last week considering the restrictions of internet access as a violation of human rights. This was a few days after the election of Ethiopia as a non-permanent member of the UN security Council for a two year term.
What do you think? Human Rights contravention? Good for students? We’d love to hear your thoughts.