The government of Ethiopia has proposed a new legislation on the use of Internet services including email and social media networks. The draft law labeled ‘Computer Crime Proclamation’, was presented to the Ethiopian Parliament on Wednesday and is expected to be approved soon.
While the text of the legislation has not been published, reports indicate that the new legislation punish spammers and mass mail distributors as well as people who share pictures and other contents through internet.
“Whosoever intentionally intimidates or threatens another person or his family with serious danger or injury by disseminating any writing, video, audio or any other image through a computer system shall be punishable, with simple imprisonment not exceeding three years or in a serious cases with rigorous imprisonment not exceeding five years” says Article 13 sub article 1 of the draft proclamation.
Following the introduction of the draft law, journalists, bloggers and human right activists are expressing their opposition against the law and are condemning the government. They claim that the law restricts the right to freedom of expression over the internet and silence independent voices, criminalizing online activities.
Ethiopia is most repressive country in internet freedom in Africa. Over the past years, a number of websites have been censored and blocked, while internet users like journalists and bloggers have been arrested, tortured and imprisoned over the information they posted online.
According to Freedom House, broad application of the country’s 2009 anti-terrorism proclamation has served as the basis for a number of recent convictions with bloggers and journalists convicted on terrorism charges based on their online and offline writings.