12 October 2018 – Imagine how much the Internet has changed our lives in the last few decades. Today, thanks to the Internet, we can communicate with anyone around the world, instantaneously, reliably and cheaply. This enables us not only to be close to our friends and family that may be far away but also to bridge the knowledge gap that we have with the developed world. It also opens many work opportunities that we wouldn’t even imagine just a few years back and democratize media, allowing anyone to reach instantaneously millions of people at almost no cost, forcing transparency in governance more than ever before.
At national level, our economies are benefiting from the economic opportunities, directly and indirectly related to the Internet. Experts say that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that there are many more opportunities that are yet to be discovered.
However, we cannot deny that the Internet also comes with increasing challenges. Cybercrime is endangering Internet users, organizations and even countries. Our privacies are threatened every day. And more … It is therefore appropriate that governments act to protect its citizens from the negatives impacts of the Internet by enacting laws and regulations. It was therefore appropriate for the Ethiopian government to enact a cybercrime law. However, it was clear from the beginning that the Computer Crime Law that was adopted in in 2016 infringes on the rights that every citizen is given by the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). In particular, the law infringes on the rights of free expression of citizens by adding provisions that have chilling effect on online expression. The law also has vague provisions that opens the opportunity for the government to accuse almost anyone who use the Internet. Last but not least, the law allows the court to shift the burden of proof to the accused, which is against the long accept judicial practice.
The Internet Society was therefore glad to hear that the government of the FDRE has decided to review the law and that the Internet Society is invited to comment on it. We have happily submitted our comments and we are looking forward to participate to the open discussions that we hope will allow to improve the law and contribute to the democratization of Ethiopia.
The future of the Internet is in the hands of all who use it. Help us at #CountMyVoice.
Regional Bureau Director for Africa