ADDIS ABABA – Facebook, Instagram, and other social media networks are back online in Ethiopia after being blocked for five months, according to internet advocacy organization Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) and an AFP journalist.
The OONI, which monitors online censorship, reported that access to social networks in Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa, was freely available again after being shut down in early February.
The Ethiopian government had not officially commented on the shutdown, and queries from AFP to the government in Addis Ababa and the state provider Ethio Telecom went unanswered.
The social media blackout, which began on February 9, occurred after calls for street protests by leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church following the formation of a dissident synod by a group of rebel archbishops.
The planned demonstrations were later canceled after a meeting brokered by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed between church leaders.
Internet censorship and restrictions on social media have been common in Ethiopia in recent years.
The previous government interrupted internet connectivity between 2015 and 2017 amid the largest street protest movement the country had seen in a quarter-century.
Under Prime Minister Abiy’s leadership, this trend of internet shutdowns has continued.
During the two-year armed conflict between the federal government and the northern region of Tigray, telecommunication networks in Tigray were largely cut off.
However, partial restoration of networks has occurred since a peace agreement was signed in November 2022.
The recent restoration of social media access is likely to be seen as a positive development for Ethiopians who rely on these platforms for communication and information-sharing.
Nonetheless, concerns remain about the potential for future disruptions given the country’s history of internet censorship and restrictions.