Total Monitoring spreads in Africa
It is not only the U.S. and Britain engaged in large-scale monitoring of private communications. And in Ethiopia misused it to a much greater extent.
In the country there are telecommunications and network monopoly. And according to HRW there is no right constraints that prevent the government from gaining an overview of who have contact with anyone on the phone, sms and internet. In addition, they also save phone calls on a large scale. In theory, the Authority the opportunity to store all phone conversations going on in the country.
Ethiopia gets every year multifarious assistance million from Norway. In 2012, Ethiopia received almost 230 million of Norway, about 35 million went directly to the Ethiopian government, by energy / climate and educational projects. 1.5 million went directly to the Addis Ababa University Centre for Human Rights.
Can hear conversations in interviews
According to the report, it often happens in the interrogation that the police are playing phone calls that the arrested person had with family and friends, especially conversations with someone abroad. This has led many Ethiopians abroad are afraid to call home to Ethiopia.
A supporter of the opposition told Human Rights Watch that one day he was arrested, showed police a list of all the calls he had received and made and recorded a conversation he had with his brother.
– They arrested me because we talked about politics on the phone. It was the first phone I had, and I thought I could speak freely.
Although it is reserved for the relatively rich to have cell phone and internet, at least, increase the coverage increases. It exploits the regime to exercise censorship or indirectly by users censor themselves.
The organization has also talked with owners of Internet cafes. One of them told Human Rights Watch that the authorities had demanded that all computer screens had to be visible so that the staff at the Internet cafe to report “unusual behavior.”
Another cafe owner said she was threatened with five years in prison because some of the guests had been on the pages of critical content to the authorities.
– Spyware against Norwegian
Several of those interviewed in the report living in Norway. One of them is Yohannes Alemu who are active in one of Ethiopia’s opposition parties .
The report refers to an episode in which his wife and his children in 2012 were in Ethiopia.
Yohannes Alemu tells Aftenposten that the family was taken from the Norwegian passport and put under a form of house arrest.
Alemu was then contacted by the Ethiopian intelligence service that required information for others in opposition. He also claims that he received an email that was infected with spyware that made the Ethiopian authorities could follow what he was doing on the computer.
– I had to throw the PC and buy a new one.
HRW writes in the report that they have seen several cases that the government has done the same with other activists.
– Got deported
Eventually, his wife and children according Alemu deported from Ethiopia.
– I had perhaps feared that she’d been stopped at the airport and then sent back to Norway. But not that they would do what they did, said Alemu.
He also says that he has been threatened by the authorities with his family until he and his wife in Ethiopia could be in danger.
Felix Horne is one of those who wrote the report for Human Rights Watch .
After we talked to him for a while at a cafe in Oslo on the findings of the report comes one who has heard part of the interview over to us. The man who is probably Ethiopian said to Horne before he hurries on, “It is the worst government in Africa. You need to explain it. ”
Fear spread to the rest of Africa
The neighboring Eritrea, which is called Africa’s response to North Korea is probably an even worse regime. But Horne fear that monitoring in Ethiopia can spread to other countries when the internet and mobile telephony is becoming more widespread.
– As far as we know Ethiopia is one of the countries with the highest capacity to engage in such monitoring, and we fear it could spread to other countries.
Nevertheless, right now Horne believes that the monitoring that affects most people in Africa’s second most populous country’s informants.
– I spoke to an officer in a smaller town that said they really needed this monitoring because they had control anyway.
However, opinion makers and journalists are strongly influenced by the surveillance. Websites belonging to opposition or independent journalists are regularly blocked. And bloggers and Facebook users are being harassed if they write something the regime does not like.
Also Muslims are particularly vulnerable to surveillance, according to Human Rights Watch.
European companies involved
The organization also writes in the report that they have evidence that several European companies and Chinese companies have sold equipment used by the Ethiopian authorities.
– There should be regulated better the countries exporting such equipment, said Horne.
Equipment that the organization believes to prove is sold to Ethiopia include equipment that makes it possible to infiltrate people’s computers so you can save it as written on the keyboard and turn on your microphone and a webcam. Just as Alemu said happened to him.
– Baseless allegations
Aftenposten Wednesday got a response from the Ethiopian Embassy in Stockholm. They call the report a “smear campaign” by Human Rights Watch.
– These are baseless allegations by HRW and the opposition to destroy the country’s image. Ethiopia has not technology or can to afford the luxury of spending money on such unimportant things. There is no practice of hacking in Ethiopia, but it is very common in the West.
The unsigned response from the embassy also shows that in the Ethiopian constitution is a clear requirement hindringsfri speech.
The report, according to the organization based on over 100 interviews with, among other dissidents and former intelligence officers.