Why Skype may land you in prison in Ethiopia

Here in the US the biggest piece of distraction information has been a bar room brawl between to celebrity man-children (Google because there will be no link here), meanwhile in Ethiopia, a simple Skype call can land you in prison, for 15 years. In all honesty, this is one that we even missed when Ethiopia passed a law that prohibits the use of VoIP services back in late May. Though Aljazeera’s post had a witty title, many of the reactions republished by the news site highlight continuing human rights violations in the African nation.

On May 24th, 2012, the Ethiopian government ratified the Ethiopian Telecom Service Infringement Law; citing “national security concerns” and threats against the state-run Ethio-Telecom, the nation’s only ISP, the law effectively outlaws “internet telephony – communications services.” Under the subtext of national security, the Ethiopian government has attached up to a 15-year prison sentence for anyone making internet-to-telephone calls.

There have been reports from Reporters Without Borders that the Ethiopian government has deployed a Deep Packet Inspection system blocking access to porn sites, blogs critical of the government’s practices, and even to censor sites providing unfavorable depictions of the Ethiopian government.

The Ethiopian Telecom Service Infringement Law also gives the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology the power to license third party hardware manufacturers that import, produce, or sell devices that can be classified as information communication technology apparatus (i.e. cellphones). To get an idea of how deep this goes, BlackBerry devices are banned in Ethiopia.

So the next time we jokingly tweet about how Device X doesn’t allow you to skirt your carrier’s voice services, just be grateful that it won’t land you in jail.

hat tip to @Killahkazx

Source: Reporters Without Borders, Endalk’s Blog

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