Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July 2014, 16:05 GMT

Internet Enemies - Countries under surveillance: Eritrea

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 12 March 2009
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Internet Enemies - Countries under surveillance: Eritrea, 12 March 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a38f98028.html [accessed 11 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Eritrea is one of the most recent countries to have connected to the Internet, which it did in 2000. Since then, 42 cybercafés have opened there, almost all in the capital Asmara and the port city of Massawa.

The company EriTel, which owns the network infrastructure in the country, works in direct co-operation with the ministries of information and national development. There are four access providers, licensed by the information ministry, who must all use EriTel, which rents them their band width. From then on, surveillance of the network becomes easy, all the more so since online services such as Skype are inaccessible in Eritrea. The two official sites, Shabait.com and Shaebia.com, belonging respectively to the information ministry and to the sole political party, The Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), put out the regime's ultra-nationalist propaganda. The Eritrean government is known to block or to attempt to block numbers of foreign-hosted websites, which is an indication of the size of the expatriate community. Webmasters, who are the technical managers of the websites, are sometimes harassed by the authorities.

Eritrea is one of the most closed countries in terms of news. Independent media have been removed from the landscape. The Internet penetration rate is extremely low, with less than 2% of the population going online. However, despite the connection problems, Eritreans can receive news through the Internet. Security forces are however present around the cybercafés, as they are everywhere in the city, and have stepped up surveillance of the movements and activities of Internet users. Three of them were arrested in Asmara on 26 December 2008.

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