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Internet freedom in Ethiopia is the fourth worst in the world

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Ethiopia’s internet is among the least free in the world. According to a new index released by the nonprofit Freedom House, Ethiopia ranked ahead of only Iran, Syria, and China, out of 65 countries in terms of access to the internet, censorship, and freedom of information. It ranked the worst of any country in Africa.

Anti-government protests have gripped the country over the last year, gaining extra global attention when Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa held his hands up, crossed at the wrist– an anti-government gesture used by protesters– at the Olympics. In response, Ethiopian authorities have intermittently shut down mobile phone and internet connections. They have also blocked social media like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.

Last month, a six-month state of emergency was declared, making it illegal to post or access information about the protests on social media as well as communicate with “outside forces.” Social media is also used to implicate dissidents and critics. Charges against protesters and opposition leaders often rely on evidence taken from social media, according to Freedom House.