Ethiopia’s population of 102 million is undergoing a government-sanctioned internet blackout after a popular musician was assassinated on Monday night.
Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, a popular singer and activist, was shot dead on Monday night in Addis Ababa.
The death set off numerous protests demanding justice for his death. On Tuesday, June 30 the Ethiopian government shut down the entire country’s internet, as reported by non-profit organisation Access Now.
Hundeessaa was Oromo, an ethnic group that has historically been repressed. His music became the soundtrack to a political shift that led to the nation’s last prime minister being replaced.
“This shutdown comes at a time when the country is mourning the loss of a beloved musician and a courageous activist and millions are calling for justice for Haacaaluu,” said Berhan Taye, a senior policy analyst and Global Internet Shutdowns Lead at Access Now.
“Access to credible information is essential at times of crisis and emergency, and this current internet shutdown is causing further confusion, powerlessness, and anxiety among Ethiopians and the diaspora,” she added. As of July 1, Ethiopia had 5,846 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 103 deaths.
More than 80 people have been killed in protests and on Wednesday the military was deployed to Addis Ababa Reuters reports. A regional police commissioner said on Wednesday that of this figure 78 were civilians, and three belonged to the security forces.
The Ethiopian government frequently deploys internet shutdowns, and in 2019 the country racked up 274 hours of internet blackouts according to research from Top10VPN. Access Now said in a statement that shutdowns have become a “go-to tool for authorities to muzzle unrest and activism.”
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