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Ethiopia cracks down on Skype and Tor users

The human rights organization said that the government has installed a system that blocks access to the Tor network, which allows users to browse anonymously.

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In Ethiopia Skype and internet Tor users could get up to 15 years in prison in an effort by the government to control online activity. (Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ethiopian government has renewed its effort to crack down on internet activity, said Reporters Without Borders.

The human rights organization said that the government has installed a system that blocks access to the Tor network, which allows users to browse anonymously.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the government has also made it illegal to use Skype and similar services or face lengthy prison time.

The Reporters Without Borders report says that the government of Ethiopia is stepping up efforts to control the country's media and censor critics.

"The Ethiopian government is trying to attack every means of information exchange," Ambroise Pierre from the Reporters Without Borders told BBC News.

"There's already a very strict control over written press, and last year several journalists were arrested, and now the government is tackling communications over the internet."

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Ethiopia has a track record of censoring newspapers and other media.

Reporters Without Borders says that state-owned printing presses may soon be allowed to vet and censor books and newspapers.

“This contract could drag Ethiopia back more than two decades as regards media freedom, to the time of Mengistu’s brutal dictatorship in pre 1991 Ethiopia,” the human rights group said in a statement.

The Atlantic reported that blocking Skype, in particular, was not only about censorship.

Skype's free or very cheap telephone service is in direct competition with the state-owned Ethio Telecom.

Internet service in Ethiopia is said to be slow and unreliable.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120616/ethiopia-cracks-down-skype-and-tor-users