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June 1, 2006

The magnificent eight

So there are only eight of us left.

By 'us' I mean the few remaining bloggers who can still be accessed in Ethiopia. That means that 75 per cent of the previously-flourishing Ethiopian blogosphere - as tracked in the right hand column and GlobalVoices - has mysteriously disappeared from our screens over here.

That does not count the eight opposition websites including Ethiomedia and Nazret.com which have also gone - see the running coverage from Reporters Sans Frontiers and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The only thing the survivors have in common, as far as I can see, is that they either host their own blogs or use one of the "minority" blogging platforms - i.e anything except blogger.

At the moment, the official line from the Ethiopian Ministry of Information is that there are no blocks in place. Ethiopian Telecom Corp has, as far as I know, said nothing definitive - perhaps unsurprisingly given the current management upheavals. (Although I have since heard the CEO wasn't so much fired as offered another job.)

filtering_map.jpgIt is ironic that all this has come up just as state filtering of the internet comes into the spotlight.

A few days ago, The Open Net Initiative came up with a map tracking ongoing government blockages of web traffic (see image to the right). So far it is not showing any confirmed cases in Africa below the Sahara - with Sudan alone on its 'watchlist'. (The only confirmed case of widespread blocking in North Africa is Tunisia.) Ethiopia is still greyed-out, without any official reports of government filters or 'great firewalls'.

And around the same time, Amnesty International launched its linked Irrepressible.info campaign (see the green image top right) about state censorship of the internet "to show that online or offline the human voice and human rights are impossible to repress".

A good illustration of that fact is that Ethiopia bloggers have kept blogging as normal despite the strange stoppages (they can all still be seen outside Ethiopia). Weichegud! ET Politics has kept writing as has CoffeeChilliSun. Ethiopundit even came back from his summer vacation to keep on blogging as he went off air.

How do I know all this sitting in front of my dodgy dial-up connection in Addis Ababa? All I can say is God bless RSS.

Posted by aheavens at June 1, 2006 5:15 PM