The new Ethiopian Telecom Service Infringement Law was ratified last Thursday on May 24th 2012 .The new Telecom Law meant to impede internet telephony which is commonly referred as communications services —voice and fax infringements.
This post is to highlight problems which could be caused because of provisions in broader context. The popularity of computer-to-telephone call services is expanding in Addis Ababa and some regional cities and the legislators argue that this trend has threatened the profits of Ethio-Telecom the solitary service provider in the country. Furthermore it was reported that the trend of using internet telephony in the country has posed a threat to a national security. The legislators argued that the new law will help in fighting threats which would use internet telephony to disrupt national security. To impede the growing trend of using internet telephony the proclamation grants the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the right to license private companies those engaged in producing importing and distributing any sort of information communication technology apparatus which might include cell phones.
Thriving Ethiopian blogging and social media culture in danger?
Now let me draw attention to the problems concerning the proclamations’ anti-terrorism and defamatory laws related provisions. I strongly believe these problems would make the heart provisions of the proclamation. They will be equally as controversial as the anti-terrorism law which was passed in 2009.While the proclamation would be taken as one positive step in having at least directives to use internet in Ethiopia—targeting particular individuals’ internet activities which could include blogging and posts on social networking sites such as facebook and twitter, the proclamation would defiantly further burden the already injured freedom of expression beyond telecom service infringements.
As an affiliate of a thriving Ethiopian blogging culture, whose life is strongly linked up well with internet, I strongly go up against this law which receives a scant media attention. I find this law to have straight and extensive blow to threaten thriving facebook culture of the Ethiopian online populace. To illustrate how its impact here is an example: if one facebooker posted a status update on his page regarding his allegiance say for example peaceful Muslim protesters and his status update attracts a string of comments, this facebook user will be directly liable for disseminating offending information. These infringements risks up to 8 years imprisonment and heavy fines.
As Frank Nyakairu once highlighted on his blog- Is this a very fast and creative way of copying SOPA and PIPA proposed laws of United States?