The Ethiopian government on Wednesday began restricting telephone and internet services to the troubled Tigray region, hours after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military response to an ambush on the military.
Information access rights group, Access Now, indicated the region had been closed to the world after Addis Ababa imposed a six-month State of Emergency, accusing Tigray of threatening the sovereignty of Ethiopia.
“The government of Ethiopia has again shut down the internet,” Access Now said. “Mobile network, fixed-line internet and landline telephony have been cut in Tigray, as PM declares a state of emergency and orders military intervention against Tigray People’s Liberation Front.”
A statement issued by Abiy’s office on Wednesday says the Front ambushed a military camp in Tigray that is commanded by the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, and attempted to steal weapons.
By Thursday morning, calls to sources in Tigray were not going through while they remained offline on their internet platforms. Addis Ababa did not clarify on the cut-off claims.
Jakenn Publishing PLC, the publisher of the Addis Standard online magazine, issued an editorial demanding open channels to access the region and report on the incident.
“Reporting on conflicts is never an easy task, but it is important that journalists are able to reach sources on the ground to update the world on the condition and safety of civilian citizens who are possibly caught in the crossfire of such conflicts,” the news organisation said.
“As an independent media based in Ethiopia and concerned about the safety of civilian citizens, with a responsibility to provide the local and international community with factual updates, and in this age when we struggle with the proliferation of fake news, we kindly ask the government to let the truth be upheld and allow the restoration of all means of communication in Tigray regional state.”
In July, Ethiopia shut down the internet for about a month after deadly protests that followed the assassination of activist and popular musician Hachalu Hundessa.
Tension rose in Ethiopia on Wednesday evening after the TPLF, which runs the autonomous Tigray region, one of the ten federal regions in the country, responded by banning flights into the area.
A statement issued by the local administration also warned against any military movement near its borders, after Addis Ababa ordered troops to launch attacks on the TPLF.
The Tigray administration threatened to take action against any forces that attempt to cross the regional borders.