Reports indicate that authorities in Ethiopia have restricted access to social media in the wake of renewed clashes that have led to deaths in the Oromia region.
A popular news portal, Addis Standard, said access to regular internet was impossible in the affected areas which included the capital, Addis Ababa.
According to the portal, the restriction “came amidst increasing reports of student protests in various university campuses against the killing of a student in Adigrat Univ & at least 15 civilians in Chelenko.
Access is however possible via the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) connections. More often than not when internet cuts are imposed, people are advised to switch to VPNs for access.
VPNs are basically network setup for use by a limited number of individuals, such as employees of a company and are often encrypted for security.
It is not the first time the country has resorted to internet cuts for political reasons. But the most recent case was in June this year, when access was cut during a national examination.
The move was defended at the time by authorities as a means of securing the integrity of the Grade 10 and 12 university entrance examinations.
“The shutdown is aimed at preventing a repeat of leaks that occurred last year,” one Mohammed Seid, public relations director of Ethiopia’s Office for Government Communications Affairs, told Reuters.
The recent protests have been blamed partly on federal forces and a paramilitary unit of the neighbouring Ethiopian-Somali regional state, the Liyu Police.
The government has in the past accused activists of abusing social media to spread inciting material that has often led to anti-government protests. The government in August this year lifted a state of emergency imposed in October 2016 to quell similar protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions.