Restriction on Internet Freedombythe Junta

Following the military coup on February 1, the fundamental human rights which are freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and media freedom, including internet freedom of Myanmar people, are adversely oppressed. According to the “Freedom on the Net” report by the Freedom House issued in 2021, Myanmar ranks the lowest at the internet freedom, limiting internet rights at the widest pace and the largest extent. Three factors are considered in assessing the internet freedom: (1) Obstacles to access, (2) Limits on content, (3) Violations of user rights.1 As of the 2021 “Freedom on the Net” report jointly published by the Freedom House and the Free Expression Myanmar, internet freedom of Myanmar declined successively in the last four years and scored only 17 out of 100 in the year 2021

(1) Obstacles to access

The first regular session of the third Pyithu Hluttaw after the 2020 Election was scheduled to convene on February 1. However, Myanmar military soldiers raided the Centers of internet providers and ordered to shut down nationwide internet services, threatening with their guns at around midnight, hours before the coup, on February 1. On February 1 morning, all internet access, mobile phone networks, radio channels, and television channels were disrupted, apart from the military owned Myawaddy television channel. Although the internet access and phone networks were restored on that afternoon, the internet access was blocked nationwide again for about 30 hours from February 6 to 7. The internet access, which was previously suspended for around two years to conceal the military’s human rights abuses in Rakhine State, was restored through 4G mobile access in some townships of Rakhine State on February 3.

From February 14, the internet access throughWireless Wi-Fi, fiber internet sand mobile networks were shut down, lasting from 1 9 a.m.till February 15. The nationwide shutdown of mobile internet was commenced on February 15, 1 a.m., lasting for one and half months until April 28.3The junta intended to lessen the anti-coup protest activities via internet disruption.

On March 30, the Bago City Development Committee ordered telecommunications companies to disclose the information about the subscribers, listing the addresses together with the name of the users, to identify who were having internet and Wi-Fi services within their territory.4Although the internet services were restored in May, users are still bypassing with Virtual Privat Network called VPN as most of the websites including Facebook, are still being blocked.

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