Joint civil society statement on Myanmar government's orders to block over 200 websites

Image: Wesley Fryer, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence (http://flic.kr/p/5noUGb) Image: Wesley Fryer, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence (http://flic.kr/p/5noUGb)

 

Publication date: 
April 2020
Author: 
Various

1. In the last two weeks of March 2020, the government issued several directives to Myanmar telecom operators ordering them to block at least 221 websites. The government did not make these directives public nor did it publish the list of affected websites.

  • On March 26 and 27, Myanmar 香蕉视频app安卓 and reported that all four telecom operators received the same directive on March 21 to block the websites.

  • 香蕉视频app安卓On March 30, Telenor Myanmar issued a statement announcing that it blocked access to 221 websites, following the Ministry of Transport and Communications’ .

  • On April 1, reported that Rakhine based news agencies Narinjara and Development Media Group (DMG) were no longer accessible on MPT and MyTel from March 23 and 24 respectively. BNI also reported that Karen News, a Karen based local news agency, was no longer accessible on MPT from March 26.

2. We, as civil society, believe that the Myanmar government’s order to block these websites lacks an adequate legal basis and is in violation of international human rights law.

  • We are concerned that the government is taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to censor legitimate information and curtail freedom of expression.

  • We are further concerned that, as per UN General Comment No.34, the blocking of the website does not comply with the three-part test prescribed in article 19(3) of the ICCPR: 1) blocking must be clearly defined in the law; 2) blocking must be for a legitimate aim; 3) blocking must be necessary and proportionate to achieve that aim.

  • 香蕉视频app安卓In the General Comment 34 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), it clearly states that mandatory blocking the access of people to an entire website is an extreme and harsh measure. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Opinion, further clarified in its May 2011 report (A/HRC/17/27) that website blocking may only be justified in limited circumstances and in order to deal with content which is prohibited under international law, namely: i. child pornography, ii. incitement to commit genocide and iii. advocacy of racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. He also stated that decisions for such blocking must be made by a competent judicial authority or body which is independent from any political, commercial or other unwarranted influences and the decision, and made available to the public in a transparent and accessible manner. We are concerned that the government’s directives did not follow these conditions.

3. According to the statement by Telenor Myanmar, they initially refused to block websites where the government provided no adequate legal basis, but has since Telenor complied. This raises concerns that the government can order blocking without any lawful reason, and a company cannot refuse because of the consequences from the government.

4. We further note with concern that the blocking of the websites, which include independent media websites from Rakhine state, comes in parallel to a 9-month long internet shutdown affecting 9 townships in Rakhine and Chin States, compounding restrictions on the right to information and freedom of expression of the population in these areas. Civil Society Organizations have been consistently demanding to end the shutdown. However, in addition to ignoring civil society voices, blocking websites of the news agencies working in these areas is an authoritarian-like violation of the right to the access to information, a basic right crucial to media freedom, democratic transformation, and regions’ development.

香蕉视频app安卓5. In light of the above, we call on the Myanmar government to:

  • 香蕉视频app安卓Immediately reinstate all blocked websites with the exception of those for which the authorities can publicly give clear lawful justifications that comply with international standards and public those justifications at the same time.

  • 香蕉视频app安卓Public justifications for the directive issued to the operators, that complies with international human rights law.

  • 香蕉视频app安卓Immediately reinstate access to the internet in the nine townships of Rakhine and Chin States currently affected by the internet shutdown.

  • Review and amend the Telecommunications Law, and in particular Article 77 and 78 to ensure compliance with international human rights standards.

  • Refrain from resorting to internet shutdown, bandwidth restrictions, as well as blocking of websites under any circumstance, and in any part of Myanmar.

香蕉视频app安卓6. While we acknowledge that the government has a responsibility to address misinformation relating to the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, we believe that this can be done in a lawful and right respecting way, in accordance with international best practices.

To this end, we recommend that the Myanmar Government:

  • Proactively disseminate up to date information and make services available for media, fact checkers and the public to seek out official information on their own time (websites, hotlines, bots, etc.).

  • Promote the right to information, and be transparent in responding to external requests for information, so as to mitigate the potential for rumours.

  • 香蕉视频app安卓Promote media freedom, recognizing that quality journalism is an essential part of the dissemination of accurate information and countering of “fake news”.

Contacts:

  • 香蕉视频app安卓Htaike Htaike Aung - Myan ICT for Development Organization (MIDO) - 09 430 255 29

  • 香蕉视频app安卓Wai Phyo Myint - Phandeeyar - 09 795 333 831

  • 香蕉视频app安卓Yin Yadanar Thein - Free Expression Myanmar (FEM) - +44 7902 922859

Signatories:

8888 New Generation (Mohnyin)
Access Now
Action Committee for Democracy Development (ACDD)

Ahlin Tagar Rural Development Organization
AhLin Thitsa Development Committee
Ahnaga Alinn Development Committee
Ahr Thit Yaung Chi ( Hline Bwe ) အ
Airavati
All Kachin Youth Union
Arakan Humanitarian Coordination Team (ACHT)
Arr Marn Thit Social Development Organization
Asho Chin National Independence force.
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Athan - Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organization (AWDO)
AYY Famar Union
Ayyar Pyo May Women Development Organization
Bee House
Burma News International
Candle Light Youth Group
Cang Bong youth
Child Care Foundation
Child Prevention Network
Chin MATA Working Group
Chin youth
Chinland Natural Resource Watch Group
Civil Call
CLEAN
Clean Taunggyi
Community Empowerment and Resilience Association (CERA)
CommunityAssociation Develovment
COMREG Community Response Group
Constitution Network (Hpa An)
Dama Ahlin Social Development Organization
Dawei Development Association
Dawei Research Association
Dawei Watch Fiundation
Dawei Watch Foundation
Development Organization
Digital Rights Foundation
Doe Myae Civil Social Development Organization
Ei Myat Noe Khin (Digital Rights Activist)
EngageMedia
Equality Myanmar
Famar Agricultural Network
Farmer and Labour Union (Myeik)
Farmers and Land Rights Action Group
FHS
Foundation for Education and Development (FED)
Foundation for Media Alternatives
Free & Fair (Chaung Oo)
Free and Justice Women Network ( Hpa An ) F&J
Free Education Service Organization
Free Expression Myanmar (FEM)
FREELAND Organization (Lashio)
Future Light Social Development Organization
Future Star Youth Organization
Future Young Pioneer Organization (FYPO)
Gayunarshin Social
Generation Wave
Golden Future Social Development Organization
Golden Heart Organization
Green Network Mergui Archipelago
Green Rights Organization
Green Rights Organization
Heartland Foundation (Lashio)
Hkumzup Development Committee
Hline Bwe Youth Network
Hope For Children Development Organization
Hsar Du Wor CBO (Than Taunggyi)
Hsar Ka Baw CBO (Than Taunggyi)
Hsar Mu Htaw (Than Taunggyi)
Htaw Mae Pa CSO (Hline Bwe)
Htoi Gender and Development Foundation
Htum Thit Sa Rural Development Organization
Human Right Defenders and Promoters (Palaw)
Human Rights Foundation
Job Coach Coalition (Myanmar)
Justice Movement for Community (Innlay)
Justice Society Organization (Lashio)
Kachin National Youth Network (KNYN)
Kachin State Women Network
Kachin Women Union
Kan Chay Arr Man Fishery Development Organization
Kanbawza Youth Library
Kantbalu Farmers Union
Karen Affairs Group KAG
Karen State Women Network KSWN (Hpa An)
Karen Youth Organization (Hpa Pun)
Karen Youth Organization KYO (Kyar Inn Sate Kyee)
Karenni Human Right Groups (KnHRG)
Karuna Foundation (Kawkareik)
Katan Land Development Committee
Kaung Myat Hnalonethar Health Care Organization
KengTung Land Group
KESAN Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
Khine Mye Thitsa Development Committee
KOG
LAIN Technical Support Group
Land and Farmer Network (NSS)
Lashio Tomboy and Lesbian Group
LatButta Famar Union
Light Social Development Organization
Lin lake Kyal Social Development Organization
Living Water Organization
Lu Mu Htar CBO (Than Taunggyi)
M,RJ-Myu Sha Rawt Jat
Magway Region
Mandalay YMCA
MATA
Matu Baptist Churches
Matu forum Committee
Matu social welfare
Matu Women Association
May Doe Arrman Women Development Organization
Men fellowship Matupi
Mi Kayin Youth (Hpa An)
Min Hla Development Organization
Minhla Youth Centre
Mon Literature and Culture Association (Kawkareik)
Muditar Organization
Mwetaung Area Development Group
Myae Latt Journalist Network
Myan ICT for Development Organization (MIDO)
Myanmar Center for Responsible Business (MCRB)
Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS)
Myanmar Deaf Society
Myanmar Journalist Network (Ayeyarwaddy Region)
Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN)
Myanmar Muslim Youth Asaociation
Myanmar Women Journalists Society
Myay Latt Journalist Network
Myit Ma Ayeyarwaddy Development Organization
NeT Organization
Northern Shan State Youth Network (NSSYN)
Nyan Lynn Thit analytica
Organization, Matupi
Our Natural Land
Oway Education and Youths Institute
Pan Pyo Let (Banmaw)
Pan Tain Shin Women Rural Development Orgalization
Pan Thi Kyo LGBT Organization
Paungsee Myittar Organization
Peace and Development Initiative-Kintha (PDI-Kintha)
Peace and Justice
Peace Development Initiative-Kintha (PDI-Kintha)
Peace Working Committee (Arakan)
Peasant Legal Aid Network (PLAN)
PEN America
PEN Myanmar
People For People
People for People (PFP)
Phandeeyar
Phyu Sin Myittar Social Development Organization
Pone Yate Sit Regional Development Orgalization
Progressive Voice
Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists (PCMJ)
Pwint Phu Development Organization (PDO)
Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC)
Rakhine Ethnics Congress (REC)
Rakhine Women Network (RWN)
Rakhine Youth New Generation Network (RYNG-N)
Rule of Law Watch Group
Rural Social Development Organization
S& K mining Watch
Salween Network
Sane Lann Myo Set (Hpa An )
Sarnar Kyi Phyu Social Development Organization
SarPhyu Famar Network
Save the Farm
Saytana Shaesaung Youth Organization
Saytanar Shin Social Development Organization
Shwe Minn Tha Foundation (Myanmar)
Shwe Nathar Famar Development Organization
Shwe Thinkha Social Development Organization
Social Program Aid for Civic Education (SPACE)
Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network/SAFEnet
Southern Journalist Network
Southern Myanmar Journalists Network
Southern Youth Development Organization
Swam Su Ti Rural Development Organization
Synergy - Social Harmony Organization
Tai Youth Organization (TYO)
Tanintharyi MATA
Tarkapaw Youth Group
Taunggyi Journalist Association
TEN, Taunggyi Education Network
Thazin Legal Aid
The Seagull: Human Rights, Peace & Development
Thit Sar Gone Network
THWEE CSO ( Kawkareik )
Uakthon Local Social Development Organization
Upper Myanmar Journalist Network
Upper Myanmar Journalists Organization
Waing Maw CSO Network
Wan Lark Development Foundation
Wan Lark Development Foundation (WLDF)
Windayel Village Social Organization ( Hpa An)
WITNESS
Women Fellowship, Matupi
Women Capacity Building ( Kawkareik )
Worker Development Organization
Yai Ywal Yar Youth Development Organization
Yangon Watch
Yatanar Youngyi Social Development Organization
Young Ni Oo Social Development Organization
Young Ni Oo Women Group
Zinlum Committee (Tanphaye)

The full list of signatories including individuals is available .

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