Using Skype in Ethiopia could land you in jail for 15 years

According to a new legislation passed on by the Ethiopian government this May, usage of Skype could lead to the user serving 15 years in jail.

Ethiopian authorities have been infamous throughout the past in regards to user privacy and freedom. This new rule makes illegal the usage of any Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. Any such service which provides audio and/or video communication shall not be used by the citizen of Ethiopia and those found to be using it shall be deemed “guilty” and could get three to eight years in jail; based on this new law.

Reporters Without Borders had previously reported that

“The authorities say the ban was needed on national security grounds, and because VoIP posed a threat to the state’s monopoly of telephone communications.”

Hence, usage of services like Skype, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Voice has been ‘effectively’ banned in Ethiopia. Reports by some agencies suggest that the move is to keep the country’s only and fully government controlled telecommunications carrier, Ethio Telecom, in full control of the telecommunication system of the country. And, Skype seems to be their biggest enemy in this respect.

“Skype can’t be listened to so easily and can’t be controlled,” according to Elizabeth Blunt, the BBC’s former Ethiopia correspondent.

There have also been suggestions that there would be actions against social networks soon. As reports suggest, a vast majority of the Internet using population of Ethiopia currently use Facebook. Thus, if the government goes further with these sort of laws, the reaction of the people can’t be predicted, especially in a country where media and press rights are already suppressed.

[via PCMag]

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  • Mike

    @Ed: No, Ed, you are wrong–using Skype in the U.S., or any activity close to that, doesn’t get me thrown in jail. Yes, the U.S. government is trying to see how it can monitor criminal behavior with the emergence of the Internet–the Internet can make that difficult. But criminal behavior is the key: that is the purpose, not stamping out opposing views. And that, in part, is what keeps the U.S. unique from some other countries.

    One can rag on the U.S. all you want, but its massive freedoms and opportunities should be kept in mind and never taken for granted. And it actually often is a government “by the people, for the people.”

  • jayesstee


    You are right! With the UK Government (and soon the US?) introducing legislation to allow monitoring of telephone and internet traffic, they won’t tolerate anything they can’t “look inside”.

    Semaphore flags and Aldis lamps may yet come back into fashion. :=(

  • Ed

    It’s the same here in the U.S., maybe not as far as Skype would go, but if you really pay attention and look closely a little bit of our freedoms disappear every day. Only difference is their government is blatent about it and does not hide the fact they are in control and intend on it staying that way, ours tries to pull the wool over your eyes.

  • Zapped Sparky

    @ewsmith: I’d say if the people no longer care and obey “TEH RULES” then the government wins.

  • Ashraf

    @paul: Making a VoIP call can get you 3-8 but using a “official” service like Skype can get you 15.

  • Headline says 15 years, but text says 3 to 8?

  • Godwin

    “Skype can’t be listened to so easily and can’t be controlled,” according to Elizabeth Blunt, the BBC’s former Ethiopia correspondent.

    Skype is difficult to eavesdrop. So you shouldn’t use it.

  • mukhi

    freedom of speech is NOT liked by any government anyway; are so called developed countries like US exceptions? when it comes to power, every government becomes autocratic at one point or the other…

  • ewsmith

    I’m constantly surprised on how governments turn on the ones who give them power (the people). If the people no longer care, the government dies.