Ethiopia has blocked social media sites for the next few days, after questions from end-of-year exams were posted online last month, sparking a national scandal and leading to to the cancellation of the entire exam.
A government spokesperson said the ban was aimed at stopping students taking university entrance exams this week from being “distracted”.
The most popular social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Viber are inaccessible throughout Ethiopia since Saturday morning.
“It’s blocked. It’s a temporary measure until Wednesday. Social media have proven to be a distraction for students,” government spokesperson Getachew Reda told AFP.
Ethiopia is one of the first African countries to censor the internet, beginning in 2006 with opposition blogs, according to experts.
The blockade has been criticized by Ethiopian internet users who have found a way around the ban by using the VPN (virtual private networks).
“This is a dangerous precedent. There is no transparency about who took the decision and for how long. This time it is for a few days, but next time it might be for a month,” Daniel Berhane, a blogger and editor of “Horn Affairs” told AFP.
He added that they believe the Ethiopian authorities are seeking to test new internet filtering tools and also the reaction of the public.
Ethiopia filters internet regularly using firewalls which often slows network access.
Problems of accessing social networking sites had been reported in some localities of the Oromo region during the anti-government protests, but blocking all sites nationwide is unprecedented in the country.
Last week, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution considering the restrictions of internet access as a violation of human rights. This was a few days after the election of Ethiopia as a non-permanent member of the UN security Council for a two year term.