Ethiopia parliament passes law punishing hate speech

By Cassandra Maas

The Ethiopian House of Peoples Representatives passed a new law on Thursday that punishes “hate speech” and “disinformation” with hefty fines and lengthy jail terms.

Anyone who is involved in producing and disseminating hate speech and disinformation, even on social media, may be subject to imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 100,000 Ethiopian birr.

The law was passed to ensure that individuals will not speak in ways that incite violence or are “likely to cause public disturbance or promote[] hatred and discrimination against a person or an identifiable group or community based on ethnicity, religion, race, gender or disability.” The government also aimed to control and suppress “hate speech, disinformation and other related false and misleading information.”

Many groups have opposed the passage of this law, including Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW warned in December that the bill threatened free expression and expressed a need for Ethiopian lawmakers to significantly revise it.

This law is anticipated to affect the general elections in August.


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