If you’re in Ethiopia and use any VOIP services, such as Skype or Google Talk, you can be arrested and sent to prison for 15 years. The Ethiopian government has defended the move as it claims VOIP services are a security concern.

Authorities have also installed a new filtering system that monitors the use of the Internet in the tightly-controlled Horn of Africa country in a move seen as targeting dissidents.

The telecoms law strictly prohibits VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) which includes audio and video related social media communication, and the transfer of information packages through the fast growing global cyber networks.

It also authorises the government to inspect any imports of voice communication equipment and accessories, while also banning inbound shipments without prior permission.

While the government cites security concerns, it has been very aggressive in blocking websites critical of government actions and policies.

Reporters Without Borders also reports that Ethio Telecom installed a system to block access to the Tor network, which allows users to surf the Web anonymously. The organization notes that the ISP must be using relatively sophisticated Deep Packet Inspection to filter out this traffic.

According to Internet filtering and censorship watchdog OpenNet Initiative, Ethiopia currently has the second lowest Internet penetration rate in sub-Saharan Africa and just around 700,000 of the country’s 84 million citizens had Internet access in 2010 (that’s the most recent data we could find). The average Internet speed in Ethiopia, says Akamai, is currently 622 kbps.

Ethiopia only has one ISP, Ethio Telecom, which is owned by the government and has been censoring the internet for some time. This just takes the censorship a step further in quelling any dissent or opposition.

Picture via FileSharing Talk.