- Title: Ethiopia cuts off internet after high school exam leaks.
- Date: 2nd June 2017
- Summary: VARIOUS OF FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF HORN AFFAIRS ONLINE MAGAZINE, DANIEL BIRHANE, WORKING FROM HOME
- Embargoed: 16th June 2017 12:08
- Keywords: Oromo protests exams schools shutdown internet
- Location: ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
- City: ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
- Country: Ethiopia
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0046JL5HEF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Ethiopia has cut off internet access nationwide until at least June 8 to try to stop cheats from posting high school exam papers on social media.
Hundreds of thousands of students are taking the tests throughout the Horn of Africa country. Grade 10 exams started on May 31 and end on June 2, while Grade 12 tests will take place from June 5 until June 8.
Last year, exam papers were widely posted online, prompting the government to reschedule the tests, which are the main public exams for 16- and 18-year-olds to secure places at university and on vocational courses.
"If the exams are leaked we would be in a lot of trouble because the results would be delayed or the exam dates extended. So the fact that the internet is blocked and we got exams on time is a good thing. I know it hurts many people (that the internet has been shut off) even though it is a benefit to us," said Addisalem Zewdu.
The government has not given a precise date regarding when the shutdown will be lifted, but said it would last throughout the exam period.
Only access to social media outlets was cut off and that services such as airline bookings and banking requiring internet access remained intact, Mohammed Seid, public relations director of Ethiopia's Office for Government Communications Affairs, told Reuters.
Businessman, Minale Shewa Shawel says his internet cafe located close to the Addis Ababa University would normally be crowded with students surfing the web on their laptops or mobile phones via WiFi but people are generally staying away.
"I have recurring costs on top of the investments I made when I opened this shop. It is not something that I can stop immediately and switch to another business when they cut off internet abruptly just like that. It was cut off without any warning. Then we will be expected to pay for a service we haven't used. This is not fair," he said.
It is not the first time that Addis Ababa has pulled the plug on the internet. At the height of protests in late 2015 and 2016, Ethiopia imposed a blanket ban for weeks before disrupting only social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
At that time, rights group Amnesty International slammed the disruption as an "intent on stifling expression and free exchange of information".
Journalist Daniel Birhane, who says he will be working home while the internet is off, says the move has the potential to disrupt investment.
"If you consider this as a normal course of precaution shutting of the entire internet as a normal and acceptable way of doing business then you are likely to do it again and again. So the impression, justifiably, the impression that it gives to all stakeholders and everybody who does business in Addis Ababa, is this is a country where you don't know when the internet works and when it doesn't. So that simply turns off businesses to Nairobi or elsewhere. To Nairobi or Cairo where internet is more reliable than Ethiopia," he said.
Critics say Ethiopia, an important Horn of Africa ally of the West sandwiched between volatile Somalia and Sudan, often clamps down on freedoms under the guise of national security. The government denies the accusations.
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