Abiy Ahmed

'Internet's not water': Ethiopia PM defends blackouts

BBC Monitoring

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Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gives a press conference on 1 August 2019
The Ethiopian PM said making money was not as important as saving lives

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has justified the government’s right to shut down the internet, saying it is done to save lives.

“Internet is not water, internet is not air,” he told journalists in the capital, Addis Ababa on Thursday as he defended the closure of internet services in the wake of a coup attempt in June.

He gave a warning that if people used the internet to incite people to kill fellow citizens and destroy property, then a switch-off could be long term.

Internet is very important... it has brought about technological convergence.

It eases communication and facilitates trade when we use it properly.

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."

Mr Abiy, who has brought in sweeping reforms since coming to power in April last year, said it was better to incur economic losses than the loss of a single life.

The internet and text services were also shut down earlier in June when national school exams were being held to prevent cheating.

Read: Abiy Ahmed's reforms in Ethiopia lift the lid on ethnic tensions

A woman looking at her mobile phone in Ethiopia
Getty Images
More than 41 million Ethiopians have access to mobile phones