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Ethiopia shuts down Internet again to stop exam leaks

The Ethiopian government shut down the Internet for the whole country during its national examinations in order to allow students to 'concentrate' and 'be free of distractions'. Source: Shutterstock

There’s one country that will go to great lengths to make sure its national exams run smoothly and most importantly, with zero leaks – Ethiopia.

On Tuesday, the Horn of Africa nation shut down Internet service as its Grade 10 and Grade 12 students prepared for the national examinations scheduled for Wednesday, Quartz reports.

“The shutdown is aimed at preventing a repeat of leaks that occurred last year,” Ethiopia’s Office for Government Communications Affairs public relations director Mohammed Seid told Reuters.

“We are being proactive. We want our students to concentrate and be free of the psychological pressure and distractions that this brings.”

Online access was halted for 12 hours from around 7pm on Tuesday until Wednesday morning, according to Quartz’s sources in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, though some said the interruption went on longer than that.

Google’s Transparency Reports during the period also showed a dramatic drop in Internet traffic from Tuesday afternoon onward.

“No connection at all. Everything was blocked,” Biniam Alemayehu said.

Mohammed Seid said the shutdown would last even longer throughout the exam period but did not give a precise date when the ban will be lifted.

Accordingly, the Internet will then be turned off in the country from May 31 – June 2 (when the Grade 10 exams take place) and from June 5 – June 8 (when the Grade 12 exams take place).

This isn’t the first time Ethiopia has gone to such extremes.

According to Africa News, after university exam questions were leaked last July, the government blocked social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Viber, though left other sites accessible.

Government spokesman Getachew Reda told AFP:

“This is a temporary measure until Wednesday as the social networks serve as a distraction to the students.”

Before this, another leak via social media led to a national scandal where the national examinations had to be cancelled.

The country also imposed a blanket ban on all sites for weeks during the wave of protests that started in November 2015 and led up to the state of emergency –  a move Amnesty International has deemed illegal.

The United Nation Human Rights Council last year condemned such ban on Internet access, calling it a violation of human rights. Building on the body’s previous statements on digital rights, the council passed a non-binding resolution to reaffirm its stance that “the same rights people have offline must also be protected online”.

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