Ethiopia adopts law against “hate speech”

Penalties for the dissemination of such statements include fines of up to nearly 3,138 United States dollars and prison sentences of up to two years.

Where hate speech or “disinformation” results in “an attack on individuals or groups”, the prison sentence may be increased to five years.

The text, which nearly 300 parliamentarians voted in favor of, defines as hate speech that fuels discrimination “against individuals or groups based on their nationality, ethnic and religious affiliation, gender or disability”.

According to Ethiopian elected officials, hate speech is considered partly responsible for the increase in ethnic violence in the country. The parliamentarians also fear that tensions could increase in the run-up to the elections scheduled for next August.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, David Kaye, said in December that the “excessive vagueness” of the law means that officials at the federal and regional levels would have virtually unlimited discretion in deciding who to investigate and prosecute.

The NGO Human Rights Watch is concerned that the law could be used to target people exchanging content or messages over the internet.

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