Ethiopia: Government Removes Internet Restrictions on 246 News Sites

FILE - Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the members of parliament inside the House of Peoples' Representatives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 19, 2018.
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Ethiopia’s government says it has removed internet restrictions on 246 websites and TV channels, the latest reform under the country’s new prime minister.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, announced the news Friday on Twitter, saying “freedom of expression is a foundational right.”

“A free flow of information is essential for engaged and responsible citizenry. Only a free market of ideas will lead to the truth,” he added.

The unblocked news sites include two prominent pro-opposition sites — the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), based in Amsterdam, and the Oromia Media Network (OMN), based in Minnesota.

Many of the unblocked news sites are run from overseas.

The media rights group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, welcomed the decision Friday.

“Allowing Ethiopians to access these news outlets is a positive sign that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is committed to delivering his promise to end Ethiopia’s censorship of the independent press,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal.

Since Ahmed took office in April, he has made major changes to the country, including releasing almost all jailed journalists, dropping charges against activists critical of the government and moving to liberalize the economy.

He has also pledged to work toward reconciliation with rival Eritrea by implementing a long-ignored 2002 border demarcation. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki this week described the peace overtures from Ethiopia as “positive signals.”

The White House said Thursday that it was encouraged by recent progress Ethiopia and Eritrea have made toward resolving their longstanding differences. A statement described the leadership of Ahmed and Afwerki as “courageous.”

On Saturday, Ethiopians are expected to hold massive rallies, including in the capital, Addis Ababa, to show support for the Ethiopian government’s ongoing reforms.

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