The Ethiopian government is allegedly using international grade spyware to impede foreign journalists by hacking into computers and sabotaging accounts, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
HRW urged the Ethiopian government to stop digital attacks on journalists; the rights group said foreign surveillance technology sellers should investigate alleged abuses linked to their products.
The report cited a claim by the Toronto-based research centre Citizen Lab, that Ethiopian authorities hacked into computers and accounts of employees at the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) - an independent television and radio station, which is run from the US.
A similar claim was also made in December 2013.
The Ethiopian government applies widespread censorship on media in the country. As a result many Ethiopians have turned to ESAT and other foreign stations to obtain independent news and analysis.
"Ethiopia's government has over the past year intensified its assault on media freedom by systematically trying to silence journalists," said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. "These digital attacks threaten journalists' ability to protect the safety of their sources and to avoid retaliation."
The report also added that at least 22 journalists, bloggers, and publishers have been criminally charged and at least six publications have closed amid a campaign of harassment in 2014.
The HRW report comes a few weeks after the Ethiopian Federal High Court charged six bloggers and three independent journalists with terrorism.
Last September the UN issued a statement urging Ethiopia to stop abusing its laws, which HRW deemed "deeply flawed". A draconian system is employed by the country's leaders to target journalists who are then imprisoned, sometimes tortured and not guaranteed a fair trial.