Ethiopia Partially Restores Internet After Two Weeks Shutdown Over Protests

Members of the Oromo Ethiopian community in Lebanon take part in a demonstration to protest the death of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa, in the capital Beirut on July 5, 2020. ANWAR AMRO / AFP
Members of the Oromo Ethiopian community in Lebanon take part in a demonstration to protest the death of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa, in the capital Beirut on July 5, 2020. ANWAR AMRO / AFP

 

Ethiopia on Tuesday partially restored internet connectivity two weeks after taking the entire country offline in response to protests and ethnic violence prompted by the murder of a pop singer.

Wifi connections returned in the early evening, though mobile data connections were not available and certain social media programmes like Facebook and Instagram were not accessible without use of a virtual private network (VPN).

A live tracker produced by NetBlocks, a civil society group that promotes digital rights, showed connectivity approaching half the level recorded before the internet was switched off on June 30.

Ethio Telecom, Ethiopia’s monopoly telecoms provider, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hachalu Hundessa, the slain singer, was a hero to many members of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, especially during years of anti-government protests that swept Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018.

Members of the Oromo Ethiopian community in Lebanon take part in a demonstration to protest the death of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa, in the capital Beirut on July 5, 2020. ANWAR AMRO / AFP
Members of the Oromo Ethiopian community in Lebanon take part in a demonstration to protest the death of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa, in the capital Beirut on July 5, 2020. ANWAR AMRO / AFP

 

His shooting death in Addis Ababa on June 29 — which remains unsolved — sparked days of protests and ethnic violence in the capital and the Oromia region which surrounds it.

Police officials have provided death tolls ranging from 179 to 239 in recent days, with most fatalities occurring in Oromia.

Calm has returned to most of the country despite widespread rumours that protests would pick up again last weekend.

Ethio Telecom, which is state-owned, has a history of shutdowns during periods of unrest and during more innocuous events like national exams, though the latest nationwide shutdown was the first in about a year.

Abiy’s government is preparing to issue two new telecoms licences that would break up Ethio Telecom’s monopoly, and officials want to eventually sell a 40-percent stake in Ethio Telecom, a move they hope will make the firm more efficient.

 

 

AFP

EFCC Secures Conviction Of Two Internet Fraudsters

 

 

The Ibadan Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has secured the conviction of two internet fraudsters – Rasak Olayinka Balogun and Ayodeji Oluwaseun Olatona.

The duo was said to have pleaded guilty to a separate one-count charge of criminal impersonation.

This was confirmed by the spokesman for the agency, Dele Oyewale, in a statement issued on Tuesday.

According to the agency, the offence runs contrary to Section 22 (2) (b) (i) of Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention etc.) Act, 2015 and punishable under Section 22 (2) (b) (iv) of the same Act.

“While Balogun was sentenced to seven months jail term by Justice Mohammed Abubakar of the Federal High Court, Abeokuta, Olatona had his date with Justice Patricia Ajoku of the Federal High Court, Ibadan, who sentenced him to six months imprisonment.

“Apart from his jail term, Balogun was ordered to restitute $4,000 to his victim, one Mantonia Duncan, and also forfeit his laptop, Samsung Galaxy S8 phone and iPhone 11 Pro Max to the federal government, while Olatona will restitute $500 to his victim and forfeit his iPhone 7 to the Federal government,” the statement partly read.

Meanwhile, Justice Peter Lifu of the Federal High Court, Osogbo has convicted one Timilehin Awojoodu of criminal impersonation.

The court however reserved his sentence till July 21, 2020.

Besides the conviction, the judge ordered Awojoodu to restitute the sum of $2,500 to his victim and forfeit his iPhone 7 and Infinix Hot 7 phone to the government.

How Twitter Reacted To Reports Of Kobe Bryant’s Death

 

 

How people on Twitter reacted to reports of the death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant on Sunday:

“Just devastated to hear about #KobeBryant. An extraordinary athlete, and a genuinely kind, wonderful man. Sending love, prayers & compassion to his family. To his entire @NBA family as well.”

— Oscar winning actress Reese Witherspoon

“Heart going out to the Bryant family right now. RIP Kobe Bryant.”

— US women’s footballer and World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe

“Kobe – you were a true inspiration to me as an athlete. I always admired your professionalism, drive and dedication. Our thoughts are with your loved ones. RIP.”

— Tennis star Kim Clijsters

“Like everyone, I’m stunned and saddened to hear the horrific news about Kobe Bryant. Thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this terribly sad time #RIPKobeBryant.”

— Australian cricket legend Shane Warne

“@kobebryant Gone much too soon, how devastating to hear of his passing, he gave joy to so many for so long – deep condolences to his family, his friends, his Laker family. RIP Kobe… #lifeistooshort.”

— Tennis great Martina Navratilova

“Heartbreaking news! Hard to fathom @kobebryant is gone. Just had their 4th child. 41 years old. #insane. RIP Kobe.”

— Former US tennis star Tracy Austin

“We miss you already Kobe.”

— NFL Super Bowl winner Tom Brady

“This is unreal.”

— LPGA golfer Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger Woods

“I truly can’t believe this. My heart is so heavy. Rest In Peace Kobe. What an unimaginable loss. All of my prayers to your loved ones.”

— Former US Open tennis champion Sloane Stephens

“Life is so precious man. I was a huge fan. RIP Mamba.”

— US tennis player Mardy Fish

“Kobe Bryant you’re an angel. RIP to you legend. So kind and had time for everyone. The epitome of class and hard work. An Idol. Prayers to his family.”

— US footballer Jozy Altidore

“Hard to believe. RIP #KobeBryant #MambaMentality.”

— US golfer Bryson DeChambeau

“On behalf of myself, the players and staff at AS Roma, we join the rest of the sporting world in mourning the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant. Kobe was a true icon and our thoughts are now with his family and the families of all of the victims aboard that flight.”

— Jim Pallotta, the owner of Italian football giants AS Roma

“Shock right now. RIP KOBE.”

— World golf number one Brooks Koepka

“The moment you realise life ain’t something to fuck with! If you feel something tell that person! If you miss someone tell that person.. you never know when your time is up!”

— Australian rugby union international Quade Cooper

“I just found out 5 minutes ago and I still can’t believe it… Another example of how fragile life is, let’s enjoy it while we can. (And avoid helicopters until they are safer). DEP Kobe and the other 5 victims.”

— Spain’s former world motorcycling champion Jorge Lorenzo

“LA has lost one of our true superstars. Stunning to hear about the tragic and untimely death of #KobeBryant My heart goes out to his family and all the fans who will feel this loss so deeply.”

— Hollywood actress Tara Buck

“Speechless and shocked!! REST IN HEAVEN MAMBA.”

— German football international Kevin-Prince Boateng

India Ends Five-Month Blackout, Restores Internet In Kashmir

Indian flag

 

Indian authorities on Saturday restored internet in Indian Kashmir after a five-and-a half-month blackout but maintained a block on social media sites.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed a communications blackout in early August when it stripped the portion of Kashmir it controls — the country’s only Muslim-majority region — of its partial autonomy.

India also imposed a curfew, sent in tens of thousands of extra troops and detained dozens of Kashmiri political leaders and others, many of whom remain in detention, drawing criticism abroad.

Internet access was restored Saturday but only to 301 government-approved websites that include international news publications and platforms such as Netflix and Amazon.

Mobile phone data access was also restored, although it was limited to slower second-generation (2G) connections.

“It’s good some internet access has been restored but it’s so slow I’m hardly able to access anything and social media is also off-limits,” Raashid Ahmad, a university student, told AFP.

Azhar Hussain, a local businessman, also complained about the internet speed being “painfully slow”.

India is the world leader in cutting internet services, activists say, and access was also temporarily suspended in other parts of the country during recent protests against a new citizenship law.

Since August freedom of movement in heavily-militarized Kashmir has been gradually restored as has cellphone coverage, but apart from at a handful of locations, there has been no regular internet access.

This made life even harder for the region’s seven million inhabitants and hit the local economy hard.

Modi’s government said that the blackout was for security reasons, aimed at restricting the ability of armed militants — who it says are backed by arch-rival Pakistan — to communicate.

However, the Supreme Court criticised the government earlier this month for the move, calling it an “arbitrary exercise of power”.

The court also stated that having access to the internet “is integral to an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression”.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947, and has been the spark of two wars and numerous flare-ups between the two nuclear-armed foes.

A bloody insurgency against Indian rule that has raged in the scenic Himalayan region for decades has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.

Facebook Exec Says It Helped Put Trump In White House

Facebook’s hardware vice president Andrew Bosworth gestures as he speaks during an AFP interview on September 17, 2019 in San Francisco, California.

 

 

A senior Facebook executive on Tuesday said the world’s biggest social network unintentionally helped put Donald Trump in the White House but warned against dramatic rule changes.

The Trump campaign did effectively use Facebook to rally support for his presidential run, and the social network should be mindful of that without making moves that stifle free political discourse, Andrew Bosworth said in a lengthy post on his personal Facebook page triggered by The New York Times publishing an internal memo he wrote.

“So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected?” Bosworth asked.

“I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks.”

Bosworth contended Trump was not elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica, but rather because he ran “the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser.”

Since Facebook has the same ad policies in place now, the outcome of the 2020 election could be the same as it was four years ago, he added.

Facebook has maintained a hands-off policy on political ads, in contrast with Google which in November placed restrictions on how advertisers can target specific groups of voters.

“As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear,” Bosworth wrote.

That doesn’t mean Facebook should not draw a line when it comes to how it is used, he reasoned. Clearly inciting violence, thwarting voting, and other blatant transgressions should be banned, but voters should be trusted to decide what kind of leaders they want to elect, according to Bosworth.

“If we don’t want hate-mongering politicians then we must not elect them,” Bosworth wrote.

“If we change the outcomes without winning the minds of the people who will be ruled then we have a democracy in name only. If we limit what information people have access to and what they can say then we have no democracy at all.”

– War rooms –
Bosworth’s comments came with Facebook under pressure to better protect user data and prevent its services from being used to spread misinformation, exacerbate social divides and sway political opinions as was the case in 2016 in the US.

Keeping the social network secure while thwarting misinformation and fending off the competition with new features were among priorities laid out by executives at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Tuesday.

“The innovation piece is important to us while we keep people in the company focused on security,” said Facebook vice president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson.

Facebook provided visitors a look at a revamped “Privacy Checkup” tool for users which is rolling out this week.

“What is top of mind for me is regulation and how the privacy landscape is developing,” Everson said.

“We would like help on the regulatory front for privacy and security.”

Facebook priorities this year include preventing the platform from being used by malevolent actors to influence the US election, according to Everson.

The social network is in nearly 200 countries around the world, where scores of elections take place annually and will apply lessons learned through experience to the US, Everson said.

Facebook will once again have a “war room” to coordinate responses to the election or voter manipulation efforts by state actors or others in real-time.

“The war room model has been working around the world,” Everson said.

“We have 70 to 90 elections each year, so we have been getting better. War rooms are part of our strategy.”

Facebook will ban hyper-realistic deepfake videos ahead of the US election but will still allow heavily edited clips so long as they are parody or satire.

Everson re-affirmed Facebook will stick with its controversial policy of allowing politicians to post information proven to be false.

“We do not believe we are in the position to be the arbiter of truth, but we have been clear that we are continuing to evaluate how we can do it better,” Everson said.

“We don’t want people to mislead on our platform.”

Facebook last month took down a network of accounts it said was using fake identities while spreading pro-Trump messages at the social network and its Instagram service.

Iraq Cuts Internet Again Amid Renewed Protests

Iraqi protesters rally on al-Jumhuriya bridge in the capital Baghdad on November 5, 2019, amid ongoing anti government demonstrations. Iraqi security forces fired live rounds yesterday at protesters in Baghdad, after four demonstrators were shot dead overnight outside the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Karbala. PHOTO: SABAH ARAR / AFP

 

Iraqi authorities again cut internet access in Baghdad and the south overnight following renewed clashes around official buildings in the capital.

Cyber security NGO NetBlocks said Tuesday that the blackout is “the most severe telecommunication restriction to have been imposed by Iraq’s government since protests began” on October 1.

While civil disobedience has been the main tactic since protests calling for the “fall of the regime” resumed on October 24, Monday was marked by violence.

Overnight on Sunday, four protesters were killed near the consulate of Iran in the holy city of Karbala, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

Protesters had tried to set fire to the consulate, accusing Iran of propping up the government they are trying to overthrow.

In central Baghdad on Monday, security forces fired live ammunition at protesters for the first time since demonstrations resumed on October 24, with clashes continuing into Tuesday.

Clashes flared on bridges leading to the cabinet offices, the foreign and justice ministries, and the Iranian embassy, with protesters throwing stones and security forces firing tear gas and live rounds.

Since protests began on October 1, about 270 people have been killed, mostly protesters, according to figures collated by AFP after authorities stopped releasing death tolls.

From October 1 to 6, officials said 157 people were killed, nearly all protesters shot by snipers, who the government said it was unable to identify.

From October 3, Baghdad cut the internet, only reconnecting it two weeks later. Blocks on social media websites remain in force, but can be bypassed by using a virtual private network (VPN) application.

AFP

As ‘Streaming Wars’ Rage, Social Networks Create Their Own TV Series

 

Even as Disney, HBO and Apple lavish billions on content to gatecrash TV streaming wars, social networks like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat are creating their own original shows to get their piece of the advertising pie.

Historically, these three social networks are better known for hosting user-generated content.

But in recent years, each has invested in scripted programming which is free to view — unlike the streaming giants, who charge subscriptions.

At one stage, YouTube planned to charge for shows such as “Karate Kid” spinoff “Cobra Kai” and Generation Z comedy “Liza on Demand” using its premium service. But it backtracked this year.

Free access “gives advertisers more opportunities to engage with a broader audience … and align with top Hollywood talent and YouTube creators,” the company said in May.

For YouTube, which has at times been condemned for the questionable content posted by users, offering high-quality series with production values matching conventional television also burnishes its reputation.

Quality not quantity

Mark Beal, a Rutgers professor who wrote a book (“Decoding Gen Z”) on the generation born since the mid-1990s, said young people “do not respond to traditional advertising.”

But they may be more receptive to branding tied to original content on platforms such as YouTube, he said.

Still, after its ambitious burst of content, YouTube has slowed down its original production, scrapping multiple new and existing programs to focus on a few successful shows.

Quality not quantity also appears to be Facebook’s strategy on scripted shows.

In mid-October, it released “Limetown,” a web drama starring Jessica Biel based on a popular podcast of the same name.

In addition to boosting the social network’s image with prestige content, the show helps drive its Facebook Watch video platform.

Both “Limetown” and Elizabeth Olsen-starring flagship show “Sorry for Your Loss” benefit from and drive interaction among Facebook’s nearly 2.5 billion monthly users.

“That, to me, is the most exciting part,” Michelle Purple, co-producer of “Limetown,” said at the Toronto film festival in September.

“From week to week, audiences can have their water cooler moment together and talk about what happened, and what they think is going to happen.”

“Sorry for Your Loss” tackles themes of grief, and moderators are on hand to offer online psychological support for users seeking help.

Both dramas are dark in tone and intended for older audiences, reflecting Facebook’s demographic compared to younger platforms, such as Snapchat and TikTok.

Smartphone dominance

While Snapchat also produces fictional programming to increase user interactions and time spent on its platform, it does so in its own distinctive way.

Episodes are typically only a few minutes long, shot at a frantic pace with flashy visual effects, and are filmed vertically to suit smartphone viewing.

And unlike YouTube and Facebook, Snapchat is not skimping on quantity.

In April, it announced six brand new scripted shows, followed by a further three in September, on top of those already available including sorority hacking comedy “Kappa Crypto” and supernatural mystery “The Dead Girls Detective Agency.”

Though a long way from the $15 million per episode Apple TV+ is throwing at flagship series “The Morning Show,” parent company Snap is still happy to spend up to $50,000 per episode, according to media website Digiday.

“Mobile is now the dominant medium for telling stories and consuming content,” said Snapchat original content head Sean Mills at a summit in April.

“This transformation is creating massive new opportunities.”

AFP

German Shooter Video Stays Online Despite Crackdown

A special unit of the police examines on October 9, 2019 on a road in Werschen, eastern Germany, a taxi that was involved in the case of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany./ AFP

 

Video of a deadly shooting in Germany was easily accessible on 4chan, BitChute and other sites Thursday, attracting tens of thousands of views, despite efforts by tech companies to curb the spread of violent content.

Roughly 24 hours after the attack, video and links to an anti-Semitic “manifesto” published a week earlier by the gunman were also still available online using a simple keyword search on popular anonymous online forum 4chan.

The assault in city of Halle, which left two people dead Wednesday, took place as Jews marked the holy day of Yom Kippur, with the gunman streaming the attack live online.

The assailant’s 35-minute video was originally livestreamed on Twitch, an Amazon-owned, gaming-focused streaming platform.

Twitch said it was viewed live by just five users and a recording was seen by 2,200 people before it was flagged and removed.

But the full video was still available Thursday on multiple sites promoting violent and sexual content.

Two video links found by AFP had been viewed more than 90,000 times, according to the sites’ visitor counters.

One of them, BitChute, is a video-hosting service which enables peer-to-peer sharing.

It has become popular with the global “alt-right” as it avoids content restrictions on social media platforms like YouTube by relying on user donations rather than advertising.

BitChute has hosted content from prominent conspiracy theorists who have been banned from YouTube, including US vlogger David Seaman, who promoted conspiracies about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Users of 4chan have also repeatedly shared links to the full video from Halle since it was first uploaded on Wednesday.

A keyword search for “Halle” on the forum led to multiple posts with links to the footage.

One 4chan user posted a link to a downloadable copy of the gunman’s manifesto and the full video — with English subtitles added.

“After seeing a lot of non-german speaking anons always asking for what is being said in the Halle Synagogue Shooting Video,” they wrote, “I decide to translate it with subtitles.”

On another online forum, kiwifarms.net, AFP found at least one user offering a link to download the full video using torrent software, along with full instructions.

Christchurch Call

But the video was not readily available Thursday on mainstream social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

This is in contrast to the livestreamed footage of the Christchurch mosque shootings in March, which was continually re-uploaded to these platforms despite a concerted effort to remove it.

After the Christchurch attacks, governments and tech companies including Amazon signed up to a partnership known as The Call, which aims to eradicate extremism and terrorism online.

“Amazon joined the Christchurch Call in New York, so the incident protocol that we’ve developed has kicked in,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said after the Halle attack.

“Companies are communicating as I understand with one other to ensure that that video does not spread online.”

Police captured the Halle suspect after a gun battle that left him injured.

Hong Kong May Shut Down Internet Over Violent Protests

Protesters burn items at the Causeway Bay metro station entrance in Hong Kong on October 4, 2019, as people hit the streets after the government announced a ban on face masks.  Nicolas ASFOURI / AFP

 

Hong Kong’s government may curb access to the internet in a bid to contain months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests, a cabinet member told AFP on Monday, after an emergency-law ban on demonstrators wearing face masks failed to quell the unrest.

The warning came as the international financial hub remained partly paralysed from three days of protests in which the city’s rail network and business outlets seen as pro-China were badly vandalised.

The surge in protests was in response to the Hong Kong government’s announcement on Friday it would invoke colonial-era emergency laws not used for more than 50 years to ban demonstrators from wearing face masks.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the ban was needed to contain the unrest, which began nearly four months ago and has seen millions of people take to the streets demanding China stop strangling their freedoms.

Ip Kwok-him, a veteran pro-Beijing politician and member of Hong Kong’s executive council, fuelled those concerns when he said controls on the internet could be introduced.

“As long as there are possible ways to stamp down on the riots, the government will not rule out the possibility of placing a ban on the internet,” he told AFP.

Ip said the internet has been crucial to protesters, who have no public leaders and use online forums and encrypted messaging apps to mobilise.

But he said the government recognised any online shutdown could have a knock-on effect.

“I think a condition for implementing the Internet ban would be not to affect any businesses in Hong Kong,” he said.

The executive council is Hong Kong’s cabinet, an advisory body to Lam.

She announced the ban on face masks immediately after meeting with the council on Friday.

First mask arrests in court 

On Monday morning, a male university student and a 38-year-old woman were the first people to be charged with illegally wearing masks as supporters packed the courtroom, many wearing face coverings.

They were both charged with unlawful assembly, which carries up to three years jail time, and with defying the mask ban, which has a maximum one-year sentence. Both were released on bail.

Outside the court, demonstrators queued to get in, some chanting slogans like “Wearing a face mask isn’t a crime” and “The law is unjust”.

Many said they feared the mask ban was just the first of more emergency orders to come.

“It’s an excuse to just introduce other totalitarian laws, next is martial law,” one protester outside the court, who gave his surname Lo, told AFP.

 Few concessions 

The protests were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to the mainland.

This fuelled  fears of an erosion of liberties promised under the 50-year “one country, two systems” model China agreed to ahead of the 1997 handover by Britain.

After Beijing and local leaders took a hard stance to the initial protests, the demonstrations snowballed into a wider movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Lam has refused major concessions, but struggled to come up with any political solution.

The past week has seen a particularly intense stretch of protests.

The worst clashes to date erupted on Tuesday as China celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule, with a teenager shot and wounded by police as he attacked an officer.

Over the weekend largely peaceful flash mob rallies and marches featured people wearing masks.

But more hardcore protesters also went on the rampage, trashing subway stations, ransacking government offices and vandalising businesses with mainland ties.

Large parts of the railway network closed over the weekend because of the vandalism, while many shops and malls were shuttered. Some subways stations and shops remained closed on Monday, a public holiday in Hong Kong.

Unsanctioned gatherings of masked protesters took place at multiple malls across the city on Monday afternoon.

 PLA warning 

Sunday witnessed the largest protests, with police firing tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of people marching on the main island. Clashes broke out at multiple other locations throughout the day, with dozens injured.

A warning flag was even raised on the roof of a People’s Liberation Army barracks after protesters shone laser pens at the building, the first time Chinese troops in the city have made such a move.

On the mainland, Beijing flexed its muscles by pulling a top US basketball team’s games from state broadcaster CCTV after its manager posted a tweet featuring the message “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong”.

The Houston Rockets tried to calm the waters, issuing apologies from players and the manager.

AFP

Bangladesh Cuts Mobile Internet Access In Rohingya Camps

Rohingya refugees arrive to attend a ceremony organised to remember the second anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2019.

 

Bangladesh cut access to 3G and 4G internet in Rohingya camps Tuesday, in a further clampdown on communications among the refugees as Dhaka grows increasingly frustrated with failed attempts to repatriate them back to Myanmar.

Despite an agreement between the two countries in November 2017 to send back the Rohingya, virtually none of the 740,000 who fled Myanmar following an August 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine state have returned.

The government has instructed operators to shut down 3G, 4G and LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks in the Rohingya camp areas in Teknaf and Ukhia, S.M. Farhad, secretary-general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said in a statement.

The border towns of Teknaf and Ukhia are home to three dozen refugee camps where the Rohingya live in squalid conditions.

2G services “will remain active,” Farhad added.

But Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow at the LIRNEasia think tank, told AFP that the shutdown “effectively means the shutdown of internet. With 2G network, it will be almost impossible to access.”

Operators had already halted the sale of SIM cards in the camps and shut down 3G and 4G network connections between 5:00 pm and 6:00 am local time.

Bangladesh’s telecommunications regulator on September 3 ordered phone companies to temporarily cut off mobile access in the camps, citing security grounds.

The clampdown has stunned the refugees and disrupted communications between different camps and with Rohingya still in Myanmar.

Rights group Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged the government to end the restrictions, saying they “made matters worse”.

“The authorities should take a level-headed approach instead of overreacting to tensions and protests by isolating Rohingya refugees in camps,” HRW said.

Internet: A Distant Dream For Many In Oil-Rich Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is awash in oil, although little of the wealth has trickled down to the poor.

Also, one of the most glaring inequalities is access to the internet.

Other parts of the world are pushing ahead with plans for fast, free — or at least low-cost — universal online access. Equatorial Guinea, a small reclusive state on the coast of central-western Africa, seems stuck in a timewarp.

With rare exceptions, sluggish speeds and stratospheric bills are the daily lot of people who want to search for information on the web, use social media, email, messaging and the myriad of other internet activities that are routine elsewhere.

“The internet in Equatorial Guinea is still a big-money business, reserved for those who can afford it,” said Mboro Mba, 35, seated on the ground behind a hotel as he tried to hook into a free wi-fi service with his smartphone.

Equatorial Guinea has the most expensive internet in the world after Zimbabwe, according to a list published this year by Ecobank, a pan-African bank.

One gigabyte of mobile data — roughly equivalent to watching an hour of television on Netflix — costs an eye-watering $35 dollars (31 euros).

By comparison, the average monthly pay of a manual worker or restaurant waiter in Equatorial Guinea is between 100,000-150,000 CFA francs ($170-260, 150-230 euros).

“For 2,000 CFA francs (3.40 euros), I can’t even download an 80-second video,” a local journalist told colleagues from central Africa who had come to Malabo to cover a regional meeting and found themselves caught out by internet problems.

“You really have to be patient to work with the internet in this country,” said a visitor from the Republic of Congo, unsuccessfully trying to send files to his editor.

The barriers to internet access here are so high that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency, estimates that just a quarter — 26 percent — of Equatorial Guineans go online.

The authorities have set up a “free, public internet network” along the Paseo Maritimo, a seafront six kilometres (3.5 miles) long in Malabo that is also used for sporting activities and leisurely strolls.

“I come here almost every evening to talk on WhatsApp to my mother who is in Spain,” says Filomena, 32, a clothes vendor.

“I don’t have the money to have an internet connection, so I come here often with my friends to use the wi-fi,” schoolboy Jorge Obiang says, leaning against a tree with several young companions, all glued to their screens.

A former Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea is nominally one of the richest states in Africa thanks to oil income.

By next month, its president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, will have ruled with an iron fist for 40 years — the longest tenure of any African leader alive today.

He has long been criticised for corruption within the regime and lack of openness to the rest of the world.

The slow service is especially paradoxical since “the country is situated in the Gulf of Guinea and so has access to a number of seabed cables”, said Julie Owono of Internet Sans Frontieres (Internet Without Borders), an NGO.

Equatorial Guinea — consisting of an island where Malabo lies and a forested territory on the African mainland that hosts trading capital Bata — is connected to three undersea fibre optic cables supplying internet service.

In neighbouring Gabon, internet access is five times less expensive on the scale drawn up by Ecobank.

No competition

The sky-high price of the internet “is explained by the very strong presence of the state (telecom) company on the market and lack of competition,” Owono said.

“Everything here is centralised, political decisions depend on one person or a family, and it is difficult to establish a competitive market.”

The state telecoms agency GITGE, which sets tariffs, declined to respond to AFP’s questions.

Another disincentive for the competition is internet blackouts ordered by those in power, she said.

In November 2017, on the eve of parliamentary elections, access to WhatsApp was blocked and social media became unavailable for five months.

“We’re living in the information era — the government is applying an enormous brake,” said Owono.

AFP

Court Orders End To Internet Blackout In Sudan

Alleged Bribery: Witness Testifies As Rickey Tarfa’s Trial Continues
File photo

 

A Sudanese court Sunday ordered authorities to end a nationwide internet blockade imposed by the ruling generals after a deadly crackdown on protesters earlier this month, a lawyer said.

Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed on June 3 by men in military fatigues, who stormed a weeks-long protest camp outside the army headquarters in Khartoum where they had camped to demand that the generals step down.

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Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections were cut across Sudan by the ruling military council, with users saying it was done to prevent further mobilisation of protesters.

Lawyer Abdelazim al-Hassan said he had filed a petition against the blockade, and on Sunday a court in Khartoum ordered that the services be resumed.

“I had filed the case 10 days ago and Judge Awatef Abdellatiff ordered the telecommunications department to resume the internet services immediately,” Hassan told AFP. Authorities can appeal the decision.

For the generals, the internet and social media are a threat.

“Regarding social media, we see during this period that it represents a threat for the security of the country and we will not allow that,” military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi said earlier this month.

The internet blockade was an attempt to quell new protests against the generals, who have so far resisted handing power to a civilian administration as demanded by demonstrators, protest leaders say.

Tens of thousands of protesters were mobilised through online social media apps during the months-long campaign against the now-ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

Protest leaders have resorted to neighbourhood campaigns to keep their movement alive, with activists mobilising supporters in night-time gatherings, witnesses said.

AFP