Ethiopia Cuts off Phone and Internet Services Following Military Ambush

Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Image courtesy Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Residents of the disconcerted Tigray Region in Ethiopia were treated to a rude shock after telephone and internet services were restricted courtesy of the country’s government. This outage followed a military deployment order Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in response to an ambush on troops in the region.

According to information access rights group, Access Now, the region was closed to the world after Addis Ababa enforced a six-month state of emergency. The Tigray region has now been accused of threatening the sovereignty of  Ethiopia.

“The government of Ethiopia has again shut down the internet,” Access Now reported. “Mobile network, fixed-line internet and landline telephony have been cut in Tigray, as PM (Abiy Ahmed) declares a state of emergency and orders military intervention against Tigray People’s Liberation Front.”

Reports say that the Front was responsible for the ambush on a military camp commanded by the Ethiopian National Defence Forces in Tigray. A statement issued by Abiy’s office says that the Front went on to try and rob weapons from the camp.

The government order had calls to sources in Tigray not going through by Thursday morning. Internet platforms cannot be accessed as well although the capital has not clarified on the cut-off claims.

This was followed by an editorial from Ja Kenn Publishing PLC demanding open channels to access the region and report on the incident.

“Reporting on conflicts is never an easy task, but it is important that journalists are able to reach sources on the ground to update the world on the condition and safety of civilian citizens who are possibly caught in the crossfire of such conflicts,” the news organisation wrote.

“As an independent media based in Ethiopia and concerned about the safety of civilian citizens, with a responsibility to provide the local and international community with factual updates, and in this age when we struggle with the proliferation of fake news, we kindly ask the government to let the truth be upheld and allow the restoration of all means of communication in Tigray regional state.”

However, it is important to note that this is not the first time the authorities have restricted internet communication especially when a security problem arises. July saw the internet shut down for close to a month after deadly protests against the assassination of Ethiopian activist and popular musician Hacahlu Hundessa.

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