Assessing the limitations to freedom of expression on the internet in Ethiopia against the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under international law and in the constitutions of most countries. The content of this right has developed and recently has come to be thought of as including the internet as a medium of communication, and the question is raised whether access to the internet is protected under the current set of normative principles. The right to freedom of expression is fully protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Ethiopia is a party. The Ethiopian government restricts freedom of expression on the internet and has adopted extraneous limiting measures. Most of these measures are incompatable with the African Charter. Restrictions to freedom of expression on the internet include internet shutdowns, hate speech and disinformation regulation, repressive laws, and internet censorship. These limitations may (in)directly muzzle freedom of expression in Ethiopia.
The writer argues that illegitimate limitations of the right fall short of the quadruple tests of limitation measures, both under the African Charter and the Ethiopian Constitution. As a result, these limitations violate individuals’ freedom of expression on the internet. Finally, the article suggests that the Ethiopian government should draw guidance from the African Commission’s 2019 Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information containing rules on limitation measures imposed on freedom of expression on the internet.