Free Expression Information Center – Myanmar – Press Archive
MYANMAR’S ESCALATING DIGITAL REPRESSION—AND ACTIVISTS’ DIGITAL RESISTANCE
In a blog released on Monday, PEN America outlined the most important digital threats facing the people of Myanmar, and how activists are responding and resisting. You can follow updates on what is happening in Myanmar and express your solidarity with the hashtags #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar and #SaveMyanmar.
AS MYANMAR'S COVID RESPONSE COLLAPSES, DOCTORS ARE TARGETED AND ETHNIC GROUPS STEP IN
As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country, and many doctors have gone into hiding, ethnic armed groups along Myanmar’s borders have vaccinated about 20,000 people in its areas, using vaccines supplied by China. According to the United Nations, as of May 5, there have been at least 158 reported attacks on medical professionals and at least 139 doctors have been arrested and charged by the junta.
UNDP WARNS COVID AND COUP COULD PUSH HALF OF MYANMAR POPULATION INTO POVERTY
According to recent analysis from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the double crises of the coup and the COVID-19 pandemic could push 48% of the country’s population into poverty by 2022.
MORE THAN 2,000 HAVE ALREADY FLED TO THAILAND TO AVOID VIOLENCE
According to the Thai foreign ministry, 2,267 Myanmar civilians have already crossed the border into Thailand as fighting between the military and ethnic Karen fighters intensifies. Earlier this week, the Karen National Union seized a military base near the Thailand border.
JUNTA CONTINUES TO KILL, ARREST, AND TORTURE PROTESTERS AND ANTI-COUP ACTIVISTS
According to AAPP, the junta has killed 759 people since the coup began and arrests are now being made in private cares, rather than military trucks or police vehicles. Hundreds have disappeared and there are reports emerging of protesters being tortured in detention. The military has also continued its relentless crackdown on media professionals and journalists. So far, 71 journalists have been arrested with 48 still remaining in detention.
FIXED-LINE/FIBER INTERNET SERVICES AVAILABLE IN MYANMAR
After more than 70 nights of near-total internet shutdowns, fixed-line and fiber internet services have come back online in Myanmar. However, mobile data and social media platforms remain severely restricted and most people in the country do not have access to fixed-line connections.
MILITARY FREES THOUSANDS OF PRISONERS BUT EXCLUDES MANY DISSIDENTS
On April 17, the first day of the traditional New Year in Myanmar, the junta released 23,184 prisoners from jails across the country. However, it appears the junta has released practically no political dissidents arrested as a result of the Feb 1 coup.
SEVEN WAYS MYANMAR’S MILITARY IS CRACKING DOWN ON FREE EXPRESSION IN THE WAKE OF THE COUP
In a blog released on Friday, PEN America outlined the seven ways that the military junta has threatened free expression, free assembly, and free association following the coup. Since February 1, the junta has cracked down on writers, creative artists, and public intellectuals and continued to target journalists and media professionals. You can read the full blog here.
UN RIGHTS CHIEF WARNS MYANMAR IS BECOMING A “FULL BLOWN CONFLICT”
On Wednesday, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, warned that the escalating situation in Myanmar is heading towards “full blown conflict” and holds “clear echoes” of what happened in Syria in 2011. As AAPP has reported, at least 728 people have been killed as a result of the military coup.
INTERNET RESTRICTIONS CONTINUE AFTER 60TH CONSECUTIVE NIGHT OF SHUTDOWNS
According to NetBlocks, as of April 14, the internet was shut down for the 60th consecutive night around 1 am local time. Mobile data has additionally been cut for more than 30 days now and online platforms remain significantly restricted.
AID GROUPS CLAIM COVID-19 CRISIS IS WORSENING AS EFFORTS TO CONTROL VIRUS CRUMBLE
According to Voice of America, a humanitarian and health crisis is brewing amidst the ongoing political turmoil in Myanmar. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has warned that there could be a “perfect storm in Myanmar where another wave of COVID-19 infections collides with a deepening humanitarian crisis” as nearly all COVID-19 testing and treatment has halted. The healthcare system as a whole also appears “paralyzed” as many doctors have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement, most public hospitals have been shut down, and private hospitals now find themselves understaffed and unable to address both COVID-19 infections and ongoing medical issues. Vaccinations are also at a standstill and most health care staff on strike “are refusing to get their second shots until the junta retreats,” fearing that “they will be forced back to work if they show up for the vaccine.”
AUNG SAN SUU KYI FACES ANOTHER CRIMINAL CHARGE UNDER NATURAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT LAW
On April 12, Aung San Suu Kyi was charged again under section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law, used to punish violators of quarantine and COVID-19 distancing orders. Suu Kyi now faces a total of six charges, with the most serious falling under Myanmar’s secrets law.
JUNTA KILLS 80 IN LATEST CRACKDOWN AS DEATH TOLL PASSES 700
In a crackdown on a protest in Bago, the military killed more than 80 people, with witnesses claiming that soldiers fired “at anying that moved” with heavy weapons. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) says that the actual number of deaths was likely higher, and that the military was taking away the bodies of those being killed, making the true number of deaths difficult to establish. On April 9, the military sentenced 19 people to death for allegedly killing an associate of an army captain.
MYANMAR ORDERS INDEFINITE WIRELESS INTERNET SHUTDOWN
On Thursday, Myanmar’s military ordered internet providers to completely shut down wireless services until further notice, according to Reuters. The current mobile internet shutdown is still in effect and will continue.
INTERNET RESTRICTIONS CONTINUE AFTER 46TH CONSECUTIVE NIGHT OF SHUTDOWNS
According to NetBlocks, as of April 1, the internet was shut down for the 46th consecutive night with connection restored the following day at 9am. Mobile data has additionally been cut for 18 days now and online platforms remain significantly restricted.
DEATH TOLL PASSES 500 AFTER MOST VIOLENT WEEKEND THUS FAR
Following a bloody and violent weekend during which more than 100 protesters were killed, including children, the total death toll in Myanmar has now reached at least 510 people, according to The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). They warn, however, that the actual death toll is likely much higher. Myanmar military aircrafts also conducted airstrikes over the weekend, bombing a territory in eastern Myanmar controlled and occupied by the Karen ethnic minority. About 3,000 villagers were forced to flee, crossing the border to Thailand.
While the junta officially declared a “ceasefire” today on state television, appearing to refer to fighting with ethnic armed groups, it also said that those who continue to “disrupt” security will be excluded.
NEW CHARGES AGAINST AUNG SAN SUU KYI UNDER SECRETS LAW
Aung San Suu Kyi was charged on Thursday with breaking the colonial-era official secrets law and, if convicted, could face up to 14 years in prison under this law.
JUNTA CONTINUES TO CRACKDOWN ON JOURNALISTS
As of March 26, the military junta has arrested at least 46 journalists, with 23 that remain in jail on sedition charges or violations of public order. While a number of local Myanmar newspapers have had their licenses revoked, many continue to publish articles via social media despite the growing risks and restrictions on the press. On Wednesday, Associated Press reporter Thein Zaw was released after being held in detention for three weeks and will be returning to court. Thein Zaw was among the 628 others released that day from Yangon’s Insein Prison.
INTERNET SHUTDOWN FOR 38TH NIGHT IN A ROW
According to NetBlocks, the Myanmar military shut down the Internet for the 38th straight night around 1 am local time. Additionally, mobile data has now been disabled for 9 days, public wifi has been limited for 7 days, and online platforms and social media continue to be filtered since February.
TIKTOK BANS ACCOUNTS IN MYANMAR TO CURB MISINFORMATION AND VIOLENT VIDEOS
TikTok has announced that it has banned numerous accounts and devices in Myanmar, many belonging to government soldiers, that have been spreading videos with violent and threatening content as well as pro-government propaganda and misinformation.
FEARS OF SURVEILLANCE INCREASE AS MILITARY DEPLOYS AI
According to Reuters, there is a growing fear among protesters of “digital dictatorship” in Myanmar and that the military is tracking citizens with Chinese facial recognition technology and license plate recognition technology. Human Rights Watch has noted that most of the equipment, including CCTV cameras which come installed with the recognition technology, has been supplied by the Chinese company Huawei.
MEDIA OUTLETS CLOSE LIMITING ACCESS TO NEWS IN MYANMAR
Since the coup, a number of privately owned news outlets have been forced to suspend operations. Most recently this includes the San Taw Chain, or Standard Times, newspaper. Five other independent newspapers – Democratic Voice of Burma, Mizzima, Myanmar Now, 7 Days and Khit Thit – had their licenses revoked by the military earlier this month.
COURT ADJOURNS HEARING OF AUNG SAN SUU KYI DUE TO INTERNET ISSUES
The virtual hearing of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was adjourned on Monday because of internet issues and has been postponed until March 24. Authorities also recently informed the head of Suu Kyi’s legal team that she is only permitted to be represented by two junior lawyers.
MILITARY ORDERS MARTIAL LAW ACROSS YANGON AS DEATH TOLL REACHES 138
On Monday, the junta declared martial law across a wide area of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Over the weekend, security and police forces intensified their violent crackdown on anti-coup demonstrators, killing as many as 50 people in the deadliest day of protests that the country has seen so far. A majority of those killed came from two townships in Yangon now under martial law: Hlaing Thar Yar and Shwepyitha.
MILITARY CRACKDOWNS ON JOURNALISTS AS VIOLENCE AND DEMONSTRATIONS CONTINUE
On Friday, a court in Myanmar extended the detention of an Associated Press journalist who is facing charges that could imprison him for up to three years. He was recently arrested while covering ongoing protest demonstrations against the coup. In another case on Friday, police beat and detained a Polish photojournalist and contributor to The Diplomat. Many of the journalists that have so far been arrested are being charged with violating public order law and are being held without bail.
Meanwhile police continue to meet protests with violence, using fire rubber bullets, tear gas, and in some cases live ammunition to disperse crowds. Two protestors died during anti-coup demonstrations on March 8 following the death of National League for Democracy party member Khin Maung Latt, who was being held in police custody, the previous day.
INTERNET DISRUPTIONS CONTINUE AFTER 26TH CONSECUTIVE NIGHT OF BLOCKAGES
As of March 12, Myanmar faced its 26th consecutive night of internet shutdowns. According to Netblocks, connectivity levels fell to 13% around 1 a.m. local time, following the typical shut down pattern.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CONFIRMS MILITARY’S USE OF STRATEGIC AND PRE-PLANNED LETHAL FORCE
According to recent analysis from Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab, the organization has confirmed that Myanmar’s security forces appear to be implementing planned and systematic strategies to increase their use of lethal force. Weapons that have normally been used on battlefields are being deployed against peaceful protesters and there is evidence of extrajudicial executions being ordered by commanders.
MILITARY RAIDS HEADQUARTERS OF CRITICAL MEDIA OUTLET
On March 8, security forces raided the Yangon Headquarters of Myanmar Now, a local news outlet that is critical of the military. Soldiers and police seized computers, data servers, and other equipment.
DOCTORS AND RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS HURT ON THE FRONTLINES
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, a number of Red Cross volunteers have been injured while assisting people hurt on the frontlines of protests. Three volunteers working for a Myanmar ambulance service were severely beaten by police. Meanwhile, in Yangon, protestors were joined by about 100 doctors in white coats as police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at the crowd.
YOUTUBE REMOVES CHANNELS OF MYANMAR MILITARY
On Friday, YouTube removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military, in violation of the platform’s “community guidelines and applicable laws.” MRTV and Myawaddy Media were among the channels removed.
PEN AMERICA CONDEMNS MILITARY’S USE OF DEADLY FORCE
In a statement released on March 4, PEN America condemned the crackdown on protesters and journalists following Wednesday’s news that 38 anti-coup protesters, including two poets, were killed that day by Myanmar’s security forces. Director of free expression at risk programs Karin Deutsch Karlekar said, “As we mourn the loss of these two poets and dozens of other protestors, we also urgently call on the military authorities to cease using deadly force against nonviolent demonstrations, to allow members of the media to report freely, and to allow Myanmar’s people unfettered access to the internet and other communications channels at a moment when news and information are essential. This cruel and brutal crackdown must end.”
AAPP REPORTS MORE THAN 50 DEATHS AND 1500 ARRESTS SINCE FEB 1 COUP
On March 4, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported that more than 50 people have now been killed as a result of the violent crackdowns. This comes after Myanmar saw its deadliest day of protest on Wednesday as police opened fire on protestors, using rubber and live bullets.
A total of 1507 people have also been arrested, including 154 government and parliament members, 148 members of the Union Election Commission, 302 students and activists and a number of writers, civilians, and journalists. Doctors have also been targeted by the police and taken from hospitals in the middle of medical operations.
AUNG SAN SUU KYI APPEARS IN COURT AND FACES TWO NEW CHARGES
On Monday, Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in court via video. In addition to her two charges of illegally importing walkie talkies and violating the Natural Disaster Management Law, Suu Kui was further charged with use of illegal communication equipment and causing “fear and alarm.” While her initial charges carried a sentence of up to three years in prison, it is not yet clear how these new charges could affect her sentence. Her case has been adjourned until March 15.
MILITARY SHUTS DOWNS INTERNET FOR TWELFTH STRAIGHT NIGHT
As of February 26, the country is still facing a post-coup digital curfew, with a twelfth consecutive night of the internet blockages. According to Netblocks, connectivity levels fell to 14% around 1 a.m. local time, following the typical shut down patterns that have been seen.
ANTI-COUP PROTESTERS ATTACKED BY PRO-MILITARY SUPPORTERS AS MILITARY CONTINUES TO ARREST ACTIVISTS, WRITERS, AND POLITICIANS
Tension continues to escalate in Myanmar as anti-coup protesters were attacked today by supporters of the military using slingshots, iron rods, and knives. As demonstrations unfold, the number of political prisoners is steadily increasing each day. As of February 24, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported that, since the coup, 728 individuals have been arrested, with 666 who remain in detention or have outstanding warrants. This number includes monks, writers, activists, politicians, and protesters, among others.
FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM INDEFINITELY BAN MILITARY
Facebook has announced that it has banned the Myanmar military from posting on its site and Instagram and will remove all remaining military-controlled pages and military-linked advertising. In a recent blog post, Rafeal Frankel, Director of Policy for Asia-Pacific emerging countries, wrote that “the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” explaining that recent events of deadly violence precipitated the ban. Since the coup, Facebook has disabled the Tatmadaw True News Information Team Page as well as 23 pages or profiles controlled by the military. The recent ban will not impact government ministries and agencies that provide public services.
INTERNET SHUTDOWNS AND DISRUPTIONS HURTING BUSINESSES IN MYANMAR
Three weeks of internet outages and social media disruptions have left business in turmoil. From digital startups to food delivery and transportation services, business owners have been forced to halt deliveries, cut wages, and lay off workers to financially survive.
UN SECRETARY GENERAL CRITICIZES COUNTRIES USING PANDEMIC AS PRE-TEXT TO CRUSH DISSENT AND FREE SPEECH
In a piece published in The Guardian, UN Secretary General António Guterres highlighted how COVID-19 restrictions have been co-opted to detain, prosecute, intimidate, and surveill human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, political activists, medical professionals, and citizens criticizing the government. “Using the pandemic as a pretext,” he writes, “authorities in some countries have deployed heavy-handed security responses and emergency measures to crush dissent, criminalise basic freedoms, silence independent reporting and restrict the activities of nongovernmental organisations.”
MYANMAR BLOCKS WIKIPEDIA IN ALL LANGUAGES
On February 21, Myanmar blocked access to all language versions of the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, throughout the country.
MYANMAR POLICE KILLED 2 MYANMAR PROTESTERS
During protests on Saturday, riot police shot into the crowd, killing two anti-coup protesters and injuring several others. The shootings occurred near Mandalay’s Yadanabon dock, where police used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and slingshots throughout the day on gathered protesters.
MYANMAR EXPERIENCES THIRD NIGHT OF NEAR-TOTAL INTERNET SHUTDOWNS
The country experienced its third Internet night curfew this week. Starting at 1 a.m. local time on Monday February 15, NetBlocks reports that national connectivity fell to 14% of ordinary levels as tanks began to roll onto the streets. Connectivity was restored around 9 a.m. The internet was shut down again for eight consecutive hours on the nights of February 16 and 17. It is possible the military is leveraging internet shutdowns to track down targets for arrest.
MILITARY HAS ARRESTED AT LEAST 450 PEOPLE WITH OVER 400 STILL DETAINED
According to a list released by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, as of February 16, a total of 452 people have been arrested or detained in relation to the coup, with 3 sentenced, 35 released, and 417 still under detention. While many have not yet been charged, an increasing number are facing charges under Article 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law and 505 (b) of the Penal Code (which punishes the publication or circulation of statements, rumors, or reports that are “likely to cause fear or alarm in the public”), a measure commonly used to criminalize free expression.
While large scale protests continue in the capital and major cities throughout the country, gatherings of five or more individuals are currently banned. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has warned that the “prevention of the current outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic will be effectively carried out with momentum,” a statement that has been interpreted as justification for the military to violate rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
SOCIAL MEDIA, NEWS, COVID-19 SITE, AND HUMAN RIGHTS SITE BLOCKED IN MYANMAR
As of February 13, Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) has confirmed the blocking of several social media and news media websites in Myanmar, as well as the human rights website (justiceformyanmar.org) and a public health website tracking the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus.app/map).
FACEBOOK RESTRICTS CONTENT FROM MILITARY ACCOUNTS TO LIMIT THE SPREAD OF “MISINFORMATION”
Facebook has announced that the company will begin to “significantly reduce the distribution of all content” on pages run by the military in an effort to curb the spread of misinformation. Facebook has also indefinitely suspended Myanmar government agencies from sending requests to Facebook to remove content, a decision which will help protect the political speech of the people of Myanmar and allow them to post about what is happening in the country.
PEN AMERICA CONDEMNS PROPOSED CYBERSECURITY LAW AS AN ATTEMPT TO SILENCE FREE SPEECH
In a statement released on Friday, PEN America condemned the recent proposal of a new cybersecurity law from the Myanmar military as an attempt to gain control over online space and silence any speech or organizing in defense of democracy. You can read the full statement here.
ANTI-COUP PROTESTS CONTINUE IN LIGHT OF POLICE VIOLENCE AND U.S. SANCTIONS
Myanmar saw its biggest protest so far on Friday, coming one day after President Joe Biden ordered new sanctions against the military regime. While the protests were mostly peaceful, there have been reports of police charging at protestors and firing live and rubber bullets into the crowd.
For more updates on the protests, visit Frontier Myanmar’s live coverage page.
MILITARY COUP TAKES TOLL ON MEDICAL WORKERS AND EFFORTS TO CURB SPREAD OF COVID-19 AS PROTESTS CONTINUE
Since the coup began on February 1, it has already been reported that COVID testing has reduced greatly, with testing mechanisms barely operational, making the reporting of new numbers of official cases unreliable. While India recently supplied the country with vaccines, the number of daily vaccinations are reportedly dropping. Following the huge medical worker strike on February 3, health care workers and patients continue to be tremendously impacted by political developments as medical staff find themselves on the frontlines of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), both as protestors and as medical support for protestors. Recent news gives the impression that many government-run hospitals are running at low capacity and on the brink of shutdown. Overall, Myanmar has been badly hit by the pandemic, with one of the highest death rates in Asia.
FREE EXPRESSION MYANMAR RELEASES MYANMAR PROTESTERS’ TOOLKIT
Free Expression Myanmar (FEM) recently released The Myanmar Protesters’ Toolkit, which includes guidance on relevant international and national laws, trends in Myanmar, and information on your rights when facing detainment, arrest, or charges. The toolkit, written in both Burmese and English, is available here.
TENS OF THOUSANDS RALLY ACROSS MYANMAR IN PROTESTS OPPOSING MILITARY AND INTERNET SERVICES RETURN
On Sunday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Myanmar, denouncing the military coup and calling for the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Internet services that had been blocked the previous day appeared to return, with users able to access data on their mobile phones.
For more updates on the protests, visit Frontier Myanmar’s live coverage page.
MYANMAR ORDERS NEAR-TOTAL INTERNET SHUTDOWN AND BLOCKS TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM
As thousands began to rally in the city of Yagon, on Saturday the military ordered a near-total internet shutdown, with connectivity falling to about 16% of ordinary levels, as reported by NetBlocks Internet Observatory. On Friday, a day after blocking Facebook, the Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications had ordered internet service providers to block Twitter and Instagram as well.
PEN AMERICA RELEASES STATEMENT THAT MYANMAR’S BLOCK ON FACEBOOK INFRINGES FREE SPEECH
After Myanmar’s military ordered telecommunications companies to block access to Facebook and Facebook-owned platforms, PEN America released a statement saying that this is an infringement on free expression and the right to information. Director of free expression at risk programs Karin Deutsch Karlekar said, “This ban should be lifted immediately. Facebook is one of the main ways people communicate and receive news in Myanmar, and restricting access to a vital channel of information-sharing is an infringement of free expression and the right to information.” You can read the full statement here.
MILITARY LEADERS BLOCK ACCESS TO FACEBOOK AND OTHER MESSAGING PLATFORMS
As opposition to Monday’s coup grows, Myanmar’s military leaders have blocked access to Facebook. The platform was being used to voice and coordinate opposition to the military takeover, including setting up a civil disobedience movement page, posting photos of people protesting in the streets, and changing Facebook profile photos to signs of resistance. Other platforms such as Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp are also currently unavailable.
MYANMAR MILITARY AND POLICE DETAIN JOURNALISTS, WRITERS, AND DISSIDENTS
Since the military seized power, the new government has actively targeted members of civil society, including writers and dissident activists according to a list from Radio Free Asia. After a photojournalist was beaten when filming a pro-military celebration, there is growing concern for the safety of journalists and the state of free expression. Some media workers have gone into hiding, fearful of arrest.
PEN AMERICA CONDEMNS COMMUNICATION SHUTDOWNS, WRITER ARRESTS, AND MYANMAR COUP
Following news reports of the military coup in Myanmar, PEN America released a statement on February 1, 2021 condemning the interruption of the democratic process, calling for free expression and other fundamental rights to be respected, and calling for the lawfully-elected new government to be immediately reinstated. You can read the full statement here.
FOLLOWING COUP, WIDESPREAD INTERNET DISRUPTIONS REPORTED IN MYANMAR
According to data from NetBlocks Internet Observatory, telecommunication disruptions began around 3:00 am on Monday morning local time as the military uprising and reports of civilian detentions began. Connectivity fell to 75% and then 50% of ordinary levels by 8:00 am local time. Network operators, including state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) and international Telenor, were affected. As of midday local time, internet connectivity had returned to 75% of normal activity.
MILITARY SEIZES POWER IN MYANMAR AND DETAINS SENIOR POLITICIANS IN A COUP
Early on February 1, Myanmar’s military staged a coup, detaining senior leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, among others. This week the first session of parliament was set to begin after November’s general election, in which NLD took 83% of the vote, outperforming the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). It was announced that Commander-in-Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will be in charge of Myanmar for one year, claiming that November’s election was fraudulent and that the military’s actions are legally justified under the 2008 constitution. The Union Election Commission (UEC) had previously issued a statement on January 28 that the election was conducted fairly and credibly, rejecting the military’s claims of election fraud.
For more information on events leading up to the coup, here is a timeline of recent events in Myanmar from Voice of America.
Journalist Discusses the Difficulties Faced While Reporting in Conflict Zones
Local reporters from Myanmar discuss the difficulty of getting information in the country, especially from conflict regions. Reporters cite concerns with voting processes in these regions but face challenges when trying to get more information. The challenges are worsened due to internet restrictions in many of those areas, making it impossible for journalists to verify the information.
Civil Service Organizations Urge Myanmar to Reform Oppressive Defamation Laws
Oliver Spencer, an advisor for Free Expression Myanmar, recently wrote a letter urging the ruling party to reform defamation laws. Fifty other civil service organizations signed onto the letter, standing in solidarity with Free Expression Myanmar. The letter writes how such tight defamation laws divert funds from more pressing issues such as COVID-19 response. Spencer also explains how these laws limit free expression, making it harder to hold the government accountable for corruption. The full report can be found here.
Myanmar blocks website run by activist investigating the military
On August 31, 2020, the Myanmar government blocked the website of an activist group that was looking into military corruption. The group was called Justice for Myanmar, and they were not told why their website was taken down. According to the Myanmar Times, the current government has blocked more than 200 websites in the past few months. The government cites section 77 of their Telecommunications Law, under the pretense of stopping the spread of fake news. Rights groups are especially worried about government censorship of political dissent leading up to the November 8 general elections.
Facebook says it is improving hate speech detection prior to the general election
Facebook says it will remove “‘verifiable misinformation and unverifiable rumours” that are assessed as having the potential to suppress the vote or damage the ‘integrity’ of the electoral process. It now has three fact-checking partners in Myanmar. Under election law, false claims can lead to up to three years in prison or hefty fines. Spreading information that discourages voting or not voting based on religion or race is also punishable by up to one year in prison or fines.