Ethiopia has banned citizens from making Facebook posts about the current political tension in the country following months of deadly protests against the ruling regime, according to Quartz. The government has also made it a crime for any Ethiopian to watch Oromia Media Network and Ethiopian Satellite Television, or to listen to radio outlets run by the diasporic community, which it has accused of supporting the anti-government protests.
This directive comes weeks after the government declared a state of emergency in the country following numerous violent protests by the Oromo and Amhara communities, who make up the majority of Ethiopia’s population. Both groups have banded together to demand more representation in the government, which is controlled by members of the Tigrayan ethnic group. They have also resisted the government’s plan to expand the capital city Addis Ababa to neighboring regions, fearing that such expansion would result in the loss of their land.
“The military command will take action on those watching and posting on these social media outlets,” the Minister for Defense, Siraj Fegessa, said in a statement sent to state media over the weekend.
Fegessa explained that opposition leaders are using social media to incite the public to violence. The protest gesture of raised hands, crossed at the wrist, which was displayed by long-distance runner Felisa Lilesa as he finished his race at the Rio Olympic Games, has also been banned. Ethiopians have also been prohibited from discussing issues related to the ongoing protests with foreigners.
Referring to foreigners as terrorists, Fegessa said it is now illegal to listen to Voice of America and German Radio.
Under the new directive, foreign diplomats in Ethiopia must seek approval from Ethiopian authorities before traveling any distance exceeding 40 kilometers outside Addis Ababa.
Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn admitted that half of the country’s population is not represented in parliament and promised to reform the country’s electoral system in order to allow more inclusion.
But opposition leaders are casting doubt on the Desalegn’s promises, saying he was simply playing with the mind of visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“The regime has always promised things to satisfy the international community, but never implements them,” noted Merera Gudina, leader of the Oromo People’s Congress.
At least 500 people have reportedly died in the protests, with human rights organizations accusing security agents of using lethal force against unarmed protesters.