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Official: ‘Skype and similar activities are not banned in Ethiopia’

"Skype and similar activities are not banned in Ethiopia. There is no law that prohibits or restricts their utilization here in Ethiopia. Nor does the [draft] law aim to prevent IP-relatedethio telecom internet activities, that is cyber activities like social media, Twitter, etc.”, said a senior Ethiopian official in a phone interview.

The remark was made in reference to the draft Telecom Fraud Offences proclamation, which was tabled in the parliament, on May 24, for first reading and referred to the relevant Standing Committee, for review.

The draft legislation was reported as if enacted by various news outlets. A news on Al Jazeera stream, on June 14, claimed:

A new law in Ethiopia has criminalized the use of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services such as Skype. Users could face up to 15 years of jail time.The law was passed May 24th, but the story wasn’t picked up by international media until recently.”

This two-sentences-long news was the main, if not the sole, basis of the VOIP ban news that flooded the world wide web in a manner comparable to famine and war in the past week. The news created a major mayhem to the extent that even some Ministers thought such a law was enacted, while few international NGOs in Addis Ababa sought advice from legal advice on the matter.

However, this blog (Danielberhane’s Blog) made a first hand check and clarified the matter, despite the resentment that challenging a trending bad news (by major outlets) would bring and the hurdles of getting accurate info in Ethiopia. A post on June 17 in this blog stated, providing the full text of the draft law, that:

“[the] Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offences’ is only a draft and only passed the first reading stage of the legislative process to date…..

“I tell you, with my lawyer hat, that these two articles concern a business entity providing telephone call (to a landline or mobile phone) and fax services using the internet. And, also, individuals using that business service….

“At any rate, I say: A law banning the personal use of Skype would be as frivolous as a jaywalking law. So, Skype me? Indeed!”

State Minister of Government Communication Affairs, Shimeles Kemal, confirmed that, in a phone interview, saying:

"Skype and similar activities are not banned in Ethiopia. There is no law that prohibits or restricts their utilization here in Ethiopia. Nor does the law aim to prevent IP-related internet activities, that is cyber activities like social media, Twitter, etc.”.

Minister Shimeles Kemal’s said, on whether the draft law, or the government for that matter, bans the use of VOIP services:

"The draft legislation is primarily aimed at regulating telecoms. It’s telecoms services.

"It in no way for instance, contrary to what different claims, it is not aimed to clamp down nor restrict the use of Skype, or Google Talk or any other similar activities."

"Skype and similar activities are not banned in Ethiopia. There is no law that prohibits or restricts their utilization here in Ethiopia. Nor does the [draft] law aim to prevent IP-related internet activities, that is cyber activities like social media, Twitter, etc.

"The [draft] law aims to restrict internet telephone activities, not between telecom activities from computer to computer, but it aims to restrict unlicensed service providers who use internet to provide telephone services from internet to telephone lines.

The aim of the regulation is not aimed at restricting IP and cyber activities. Nor did it intend to restrict computer to computer services."

"The draft law intends to prevent telecom fraud activities as provided by IP use regulations and treaties. For instance call back. Fraudulent call back services that are aimed at bypassing national services are prohibited here. People who wish to generate income through bypassing telecom server will be held accountable through the use of software and hardware that are employed to circumvent the Ip protocol and other restrictions without getting permission will be held accountable according to the new law."

"We are restricting independent telephone operators, there are several who have caused a loss of more than 50 million USD this year alone."

"What the law aims at prohibiting is the fraudulently using telecom servers of bypassing it for purposes of generating income or defrauding income which should Ethio Telecom should earn."

"There is no prohibition" of people calling abroad on Skype from internet cafes.

His position was less clear on whether private Skype-to-telephone calls are illegal, however.

Regarding the 2002 Telecommunications proclamation that prohibits ‘the use or provision of voice communication or fax services through the internet’ (though there has been no reports of prosecutions based on that legislation to date), the Minister remarked:

“….if it is literally construed might include Skype or Google Talk, but the aim was not to prevent these new technologies. The regulatory bodies turn their back to such activities. It should be construed that the law in Ethiopia currently is not prohibiting any VoIP activities.”

I shall hastily add however, these points should be indicated as clearly as possible in the draft law, say, with the inclusion of the word ‘commercial use’ – though I believ that is already implied.

******************

Note: A thorough review of the draft legislation will be provided in this blog in the coming days.

Previous posts: Skype me? Indeed! | Text of Ethiopia’s draft Telecom Law

Check the Ethio Telecom archive or the Human Rights archive for related posts.

Source: HornAffairs.com

You are free to re-publish - just give credit to the author and to HornAffairs with a link.

Daniel Berhane
About Daniel Berhane (935 Articles)
Daniel Berhane

16 Comments on Official: ‘Skype and similar activities are not banned in Ethiopia’

  1. You God Damn liar. You whisper the Woyane’s lie. When do you
    Understand that there is no ears to listen you forever?

  2. I THINK THE ARTICLE IS A LITTLE COMPLICATED!!!

  3. you should be weyane and helping them

  4. contrary to what you have been saying, the minister didn’t conform the use of pc-to-phone services. Besides, why would he say, “if literally construed …”, they interpret it literally when they want to persecute their critics and they overlook otherwise. That should not be the law. A law should explicitly state what it means. It is not a bible. It is to be taken literally. Isn’t it why they defined the words they used in the bill.
    As for Skype, it has been illegal. The only changes are that they started using DPI for checking the communication of critics. Every country does it. They could have done that without alerting every out of job journalist by not drafting a stupid bill.
    As for you, have some decency, at least change the topic. Blind supporters like you are to blame for what happened when the people disillusioned EPRDF in 2005. To support and sometimes clarify the consequences of their laws is one thing, to be a sheep is whole another thing. Think about it.
    btw, I have been following your blogs and some of your writings are good. Although, I have to say you suffer from the zenawi syndrome – attacking personalities instead of their ideas.

    Daniel.

  5. Even Skype’s download has been illegal so it’s not very exact of you to say the government never restricted access to it.
    If what you’re pointing out is true, it doesn’t justify any part of such a restrictive law: what’s the monopolistic Telecom company doing with full power of communication? When a country has at least three main operators(which is the case almost everywhere) the concurrence between them leads to progress and the population benefits from it.
    You tried to say we have been talking about war and famine a lot less than about Skype: you’re wrong. We talk about that too, it’s just that freedom of opinion, speech and communication(three principal rights that have been shamelessly violated here) play a big role.
    Why do you think we’re alienated from the rest of the world’s internet data exchange rates? Why is out economy NOT on a global level? Certainly not because some people are using another way to call and PRESUMABLY(show me proof of the numbers) caused a loss of 50 millions(how? we don’t know).
    A law can be interpreted in different ways(this is what lawyers do with it everyday): either the dear and much respected Minister has been lying about the fact a law can be interpreted, either the Parliament is composed of incompetent people who can’t even see the consequences of the laws they’re letting pass and accurately think about the text in itself.

    Anonymous.

  6. Wow, I see, from the comments, that people are unhappy about it…..Of course it makes sense as it deprives one from having an easy issue to target the government

  7. Pls ethio telecom start skype i hate ur mood!

  8. 1. Mr Daniel Berhane, first of all you need to have ethics and courage to claim yourself as a blogger. Blogging nees such a determination. The best quality of your blogging is evident from the fact that you put your blind, and biased opinion prior to someone’s researched news/article source.
    2. It seems neither you or your Comm. Minister seem understand what IP related or VoIP service is. Because:
    “The [draft] law aims to restrict internet telephone activities, not between telecom activities from computer to computer, but it aims to restrict unlicensed service providers who use internet to provide telephone services from internet to telephone lines.”

    One good news is that you called the law ” draft”, whilst it was being implemented for more than a decade despite its amendment on last month; which may indicate your willingness to change the decision.

    When you report that the law restricts only computer-telephone; not computer-computer calls, do you understand today’s asymmetry of computers and smartphone? For your info, in this regard they are all the same.

    Which government body is issuing a license for telecom services over internet including fax despite that the users/ internet retailers are paying thousands of birr per month? Don’t play a game.

    Based on which international telecommunication law you are restricting the type of data (voice, fax data, video…) users are transferring on the IP internet service they are paying for? Do you think “you should use my car brand so that you will not be detained” will work on the 21st century?

    3. Internet/Telecommunication fraud is not a term to be used in a context as you all used here. Using the already leased and rented IP service via World Wide Web/Internet network to transfer any kind of data can not in any way be a fraud.

    4. It is a shame that you still demand to grab two digit birrs per minute as it were a couple of decade ago despite the technological innovations and developments while the country’s internet penetration is less than 0.4%. Why not the government create a competitive and free telecommunication market for all providers and ISPs, and regulate the market and collect tax? Researches show that use of alternative innovative technologies and competitive market calls for more users, cheaper products and services, more state’s income, hence the country’s development.

    Researches support that Ethiopia is the only African telecommunication monopolizing nation with draconian laws with the lowest overall teledensity.

    5. The most shameful part of your report:

    ” Regarding the 2002 Telecommunications proclamation that prohibits ‘the use or provision of voice communication or fax services through the internet’ (though there has been no reports of prosecutions based on that legislation to date),…”

    Look at this report in 2010: http://allafrica.com/stories/201012280593.html

    The case of some of the defendants claimed to be related with corruption; what about the other cases in this report? I myself know that 4 of hard-working and honest Ethiopians left their beloved country for this persecution.

    This really is a shame and shows how you undermine your own people and the international community both as a minister and a blogger.

    • I take a quote from you, then reply briefly as follows::

      * “you put your blind, and biased opinion prior to someone’s researched news/article source”.

      I don’t know what you meant by this. But I deem my opinions are often researched.

      * “the law restricts only computer-telephone; not computer-computer calls, do you understand today’s asymmetry of computers and smartphone?”

      Well, the law is still a draft. At any rate, Minister Shimeles clarified on Friday that computer-telephone calls are legal.

      * Which government body is issuing a license for telecom services over internet including fax despite”

      That would be Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency

      * “Based on which international telecommunication law you are restricting the type of data (voice, fax data, video…) users are transferring on the IP internet service”

      Minister Shimeles mentioned Int’l treaties with regard to call backs

      * “Internet/Telecommunication fraud is not a term to be used in a context as you all used here. Using the already leased and rented IP service via World Wide Web/Internet network to transfer any kind of data can not in any way be a fraud.”

      It becomes fraudulent when employed to bypass the national telecom system.
      Of course, private Skype use is not a fraud. The problem with business enterprises would be a matter of being licensed.

      * ” Regarding the 2002 Telecommunications proclamation that prohibits ‘the use or provision of voice communication or fax services through the internet’ (though there has been no reports of prosecutions based on that legislation to date),…”

      Yeah, that quote is an incomplete one. But in my June 17 post it is more clearer that I was referring to private use of VOIP. By the way, I am not sure if that law was cited when unlicensed int’l call providers were brought to trial a few years ago.

      Thanx for visitng this blog and sharing your views.

  9. Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

  10. Still with this blog, you don’t get a clear answer. I use EVDO for my internet services at 700 Birr per month. I just want a simiple answer. Can I using Skype make a call from my computer to my parents home phone (they are old, don’t have a PC or know how to use one) without getting in trouble. This is my own private personal use to keep in contact with family at home. Hate getting answers that don’t answer the question clearly. It is either yes or no, with no babbling of parts ot the law etc. Clear and concise answer is needed by me and surely others.

  11. there is roamer u will punished 15 years jail.in contrary we are seeing z report of shimels kemal.where we can get z actual info? we r confused

  12. This blog gives actual info. don’t be confuse.

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