Twitter backlash after Ethiopia PM’s internet ‘not water or air’ threat

by Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban

“Internet is not water, internet is not air. Internet is a very important. However, if we use it as a revolution tool to incite others to kill and burn, it will be shut down not only for a week, but longer than that.

“For sake of national security, internet and social media could be blocked any time necessary.

“As long as it is deemed necessary to save lives and prevent property damages, the internet would be closed permanently, let alone for a week,” these are pronouncements of Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during an August 1 press conference.

Abiy was for the first time reacting in person to assassination incidents of June 22 during which internet was cut across the East African country. Internet was also recently cut for national exams in the country.

Abiy stressed that if deadly unrest in the country continues with online incitement, internet in the country could be cut off “forever.” He adds that even though Ethiopia wants the internet to help drive development, it is “neither water nor air,” underlining its dispensability.

But his comments have received strong backlash from a large cross-section of Twitter users. Opponents underline the need for government to protect the rights of online users and not find justifications to infringe on digital rights.

Amnesty International’s East Africa region also waded in joining calls for a rethink of the PM’s position. One of Ethiopia’s famed bloggers accused the PM of outsourcing blame.

“(The Prime Minister) blames the neutral communication platform for violence in his administrative territory. To respect liberty of citizens and protect law and order for majority’s safety is your job, Mr. Prime Minister. Don’t outsource the blame,” Befeqadu Hailu tweeted.

𝔹𝕖𝕗𝕖ℚ𝕒𝕕𝕦 ℤ. ℍ𝕒𝕚𝕝𝕦@befeqe

“The first people who would be happy, if the social media suddenly disappears, are authoritarian states” ~ Stephen Stedman at . Authoritarians want to monopolize information flow and want to define fate of their people in stead of serving the latter’s will. https://twitter.com/Rozen_J/status/1157268982514290688 

Jonathan Rozen

@Rozen_J

“The internet for journalism is now like the air you breathe,” said @befeqe. “Without the internet, modern journalism means nothing.” #KeepItOn https://www.africaportal.org/features/journalists-under-duress-internet-shutdowns-africa-are-stifling-press-freedom/ https://twitter.com/emmanueligunza/status/1157144823259734016 

15 people are talking about this

For a person with an IT background what PM Abiy said about Internet is bewildering. It is sad that we have to point out the importance of internet in this day and age but just an FYI in the year 2014 Internet contributed 1 Trillion dollars to GDP & 3 million jobs just in the USA https://twitter.com/AmnestyEARO/status/1157308970920566786 

AmnestyEasternAfrica

@AmnestyEARO

Replying to @AmnestyEARO

.@PMEthiopia Abiy shutting down the internet is not acceptable. The people have the right to #AccessToInformation to know what’s happening around them including thru the Internet. Restrictions must only be according to clear & precise public laws that pursue legitimate objectives

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Edao Dawano@EdaoDawano

HAPPY Friday… meanwhile-
Internet might not be WATER nor AIR in Ethiopia, but surely is Economic fuel driving communication & commerce in the developed world,-… https://www.africanews.com/2019/08/02/ethiopia-will-cut-internet-as-and-when-it-s-neither-water-nor-air-pm-abiy/ 

Ethiopia will cut internet as and when, ‘it’s neither water nor air’ – PM Abiy

Abiy said Ethiopia wants the internet to help drive development but warned that it is “neither water nor air.”

africanews.com

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AmnestyEasternAfrica

@AmnestyEARO

‘s @PMEthiopia Abiy would have people believe that it is fine to shut down the Internet saying it “is not bread or air” & if necessary his govt could shut it for good, let alone for a week. But he’s wrong, as the Internet clampdown denies people the right to information.

AmnestyEasternAfrica

@AmnestyEARO

.@PMEthiopia Abiy shutting down the internet is not acceptable. The people have the right to to know what’s happening around them including thru the Internet. Restrictions must only be according to clear & precise public laws that pursue legitimate objectives

31 people are talking about this

Abel Wabella 🐯@Abelpoly

The warning of the PM Abiy Ahmed @PMEthiopia to shut down the internet once and for all puts the civil liberties of Ethiopian in the digital world at stake. This is not something tolerable for rational, merit-based and responsible citizens of .

36 people are talking about this

mmatigari@matigary

Quote of the day🔥🔥🔥

“Internet is not water!”: Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed Ali

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A number of people, however, agreed with the PM’s pronouncements stressing that security was paramount in the national discourse and needed not be compromised in any way.

The prime minister has been praised for reforms that include freeing political prisoners and ending a state of emergency, but internet shutdowns amid the unrest have worried many Ethiopians. One came during national exams.

The country is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and has the continent’s second-largest population.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This new elephant in the room, social media, has become a dilemma for every country around the world. It is even a nightmare for those societies where technology has not taken deep roots yet. Twitter, Facebook and others like them have been very valuable tools and effective means to take millions out of poverty and their capabilities ain’t fully spread and utilized yet. There are many, many other positive achievements accomplished using these platforms at tools. They have the world’s outlook brighter. They have induced hope in the hapless millions. That is on their virtues to die for side.

    Now on the other side, they also have been used by destructive forces and individuals with twisted mind to sow poison in societies around the world. No country was spared from such demons. They have become a scourge of our time. Even here in the Good Ole USA, savage individuals and groups have been using these outlets to plan and do terrible acts on their own innocent victims. Just look at this beast who went out today and gunned down more than 20 innocent citizens he does not even know. It was reported that he was making his feelings known on Facebook or Twitter well before his shooting spree. He must have been poisoned by those bigots who have been hell bent on making this great country a field of unheard cruelty and bloodshed. I am sure that as more and more such brute acts continue to happen frequently, elected officials will come up with something that may seem infringement on individual rights but necessary. And these platforms have also become an addiction just like cell phones.

    This is going to be a serious challenge even for a democratically elected regime that comes to power over there. I remember seeing a video clip that was allegedly taken during the Irreechaa festival in 2016. It showed what looked like helicopter gunships flying over and then showing dead people all over the ground. One of the images was very memorable. It showed a dead festival attendant with his arms still crossed in the protest sign with his face rubbed in ash. He was dead with his arms still crossed!!!! Major US newspapers were given a press interview that the then administration used military gunships to mow down hundreds possibly tens of thousands of party goers. First it really boiled my blood. It is still questionable. The irony about that press ‘conference’ was that when the reporter asked about the burning down of factories by protesters, he was told that the targeted factories were those owned by the governing body or by those who have links to the government. It was ‘Woyane, Woyane then and they have now picked up another derogatory nomenclatura. Such fake news mills are still alive and well. The difference from 2016 and now is they have gone back with all their means intact and even better honed. They have trained home grown copycats in their hundreds possibly tens of thousands. They are steeped with this unwavering hatred toward others our old country has never seen. They post news of hundreds of their supporters being suddenly disappearing but residents don’t know what these rumor mongers are talking about.

    Again, these platform will continue to be thorns on the sides of all governments despots or democratic. Mankind has come to a point where it should examine everything it has as rights and come up with a game plan to ensure its survival. This is a huge task that awaits you, the younger generation.

  2. Abiy rode the horse and carriage of the internet; yet he is the one scheming to stop it. His rationale: it is not as beneficial as water or air. Mr. Prime Minister, your party government could not even supply water properly. The internet, even worse. These leaders squack about democracy they cannot seriously believe in nor deliver. Change happens with or without the internet; no human power can stop it. As far as security: it is Abiy’s government that failed, not the internet that exposed it, when he had advance knowledge the looters intended to kill, maim and destroy. You are either with the people or against them.

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