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TOR for Conducting Background Research on Internet Shutdown in Ethiopia

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Lawyers for Human Rights

Company NAme: Lawyers for Human Rights

Posted Date: 2023-09-14

Deadline: 2023-09-24

Job Type:N/A

Salary: N/A



Job Description

1. Background

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is an Ethiopian civil society organization re-registered on September 19 2019 before the FDRE Civil Societies Organizations Agency in accordance with Proclamation No. 1113/2019. The objectives of the Organization is to promote and advocate human rights among others through increasing the participation and contribution of lawyers in the area of human rights through training and other capacity-building activities and supporting and helping lawyers across the nation to exchange ideas, information and experience for better protection of human rights and prevalence of human rights; litigating before courts and other relevant organs to ensure protection and promotion of human rights recognized under the FDRE Constitution and other laws; creating awareness for justice organs about international human rights instruments ratified by Ethiopia; providing free or low-cost legal services for victims of human rights violation particularly disadvantaged communities; lobbying the government to enact new laws or amend existing ones to give full protection for human rights; and familiarizing the idea of human rights defenders (HRD) among the lawyers.

To achieve its objectives, LHR has been engaging with national and international stakeholders in the past years including National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA), USAID Justice Activity Project, Freedom House (FH), and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS). LHR is implementing a project in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations – Africa program. One of the activities of the project is conducting background research on the internet shutdown and its impact on people’s lives and human rights in Ethiopia.

The Internet has become a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression and as communication is important to our lives, shutdowns also affect other rights, such as the rights to work, health, and education. In situations of conflict and unrest, shutdowns exacerbate risks of further violence and insecurity. Shutdowns also have massive economic costs and undermine development. However, governments shut down the Internet for a variety of reasons, such as stopping people from sharing information or organizing protests, even when the demonstrations are peaceful … etc. An internet shutdown typically involves the deliberate disruption of internet or electronic communications, to the extent that they become inaccessible or unusable, generally targeting a particular population or within a specific location with the objective of exerting control over the free flow of information. In Ethiopia, reports show that more than 20 instances of internet shutdowns have been authorized since 2016, arguing that their utilization of internet shutdowns has been institutionalized and normalized and often without governmental justifications. The official justifications cited include national security and counterterrorism, exams cheating and prevention of conflict provocative content as reasons for the shutdowns. The validity of those justifications is frequently contested by advocacy groups, human rights groups, and researchers who offer alternative narratives. Commentators provide that the most frequently alleged motive behind the shutdowns in Ethiopia is the use of internet disruptions as a means of controlling the free flow ofinformation. There are also accusations that these shutdowns go beyond mere control of the free flow of information illustrating the cases of the internet shutdowns in Oromia (Western) and Tigray (northern war) that this measure can serve as a military tactic as well as a tool targeted against populations of disobedient regions. Most recently, the government just lifted the restrictions on accessing some social media platforms and citizens were forced to use VPNs. Currently, there is a total internet shutdown in the Amhara region due to the crackdown between the federal government and militant groups in the region that led to the proclamation of a six-month state of emergency in the region.

Guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Internet has become a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression. The same is also provided under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 29 of the FDRE Constitution as one of the fundamental rights and provides the exception where it would be limited under sub-Articles 6 and 7. In addition, in 2012 the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution to protect the free speech of individuals on the internet and further by calling upon states to promote and facilitate access to the Internet. Over and above that, the 2019 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa also reiterates that States shall not interfere with the right of individuals to seek, receive, and impart information through any means of communication and digital technologies, through measures such as the removal, blocking, or filtering of content unless such interference is justifiable and compatible with international human rights law and standards.

The above standards make it clear that internet shutdowns result in rights violations unless such limits meet specific criteria such as restrictions having a legal basis, necessary, proportional, and non-discriminatory. When they fail to meet these requirements, shutdowns violate the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.

Despite the Constitutional provisions, subsidiary laws, and international and regional instruments that Ethiopia ratified, internet shutdowns are unfortunately on the rise, while people question the grounds for such interference.

To this end, LHR is looking for a qualified consultant who will conduct background research on the internet shutdowns in Ethiopia.

2. Objective

The main objective of this consultancy service is to conduct background research on the internet shutdown and its impact on people’s lives and human rights in Ethiopia, as a threat to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, and a wide range of rights, including freedom of association and of movement, including other rights such as the right to work, education and health. The research will be an important document for learning the impacts that the internet shutdown has brought, showing the breadth and depth of the rights violated and its impact on the exercise of freedom of expression and other rights, and advocating for sufficient legal and institutional remedies that protect internet shutdown will not take place unless provided for by the law specifying the grounds for such interference.

3. Scope of the Work

  • The consultant will prepare background research on the legislative and institutional frameworks regulating the internet shutdown in Ethiopia along with the remedies to such incidents.
  • In preparing the study, the consultant will carry out the following tasks:
  • Examine the theoretical aspects of internet shutdown and its diverse impacts and as one form of repressing freedom of expression in Ethiopia;
  • Explore and assess the national, regional and international legal instruments that stand for the legal options for challenging internet shutdowns in Ethiopia;
  • Desk review of the relevant pieces of literature that deal with internet shutdown;
  • Conduct case studies to examine the institutional frameworks and the implementation gaps in ensuring that internet shutdown occurs only as provided by the law;
  • Carryout consultations with the relevant organizations’ leadership working on the subject matter;
  • Prepare a study report, providing the gaps and challenges in the implementation of the existing legal and institutional frameworks and recommendations with specific aspects that need to be improved as well as the remedies for the violations; and
  • Present the findings of the study report in an expert meeting to be organized by LHR.

4. Expected Results and Deliverables

  • The consultant will provide the following deliverables:
  • Inception report which contains the possible contents of the research, methodology, and work plan with a timeframe;
  • Draft research report. LHR will provide comments on the draft and the consultant will finalize the research in view of these comments;
  • Final research output; and
  • Presentation of the research findings in an expert meeting to be organized by LHR.

5. Timeframe

  • The level of effort for this assignment is 25 working days.

Job Requirements

  • The applicants who want to compete in conducting the research should meet the following qualifications and competencies:
  • At least a Master’s Degree in Law preferably with a focus on human rights, digital rights, and freedom of expression, preferably with equivalent research experience;
  • Proven experience in research and experience working with human rights, freedom of expression, and related research topics;
  • Well informed about the social and human rights approach to freedom of expression and internet shutdown and understanding of contemporary human rights and the socio-political context of Ethiopia; and
  • Fluency in both written and spoken English;

How to Apply

We would like to inform interested and qualified applicants to submit a cover letter and CV, along with their technical and financial proposal (in Ethiopian Birr) to the following email: cc to:


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