Myanmar Internet Shutdown Chokes News Flow, Raises Citizens Fears

Protest in Myanmar against Military Coup

Protest in Myanmar against Military Coup. Photo: MgHla (aka) Htin Linn Aye. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Myanmar’s embattled citizens struggled with a drastic cut-off of internet and wireless data services Friday following a military junta order aimed at staunching the flow of videos and photos of atrocities to a global audience, activists and web users said.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications on Thursday ordered the suspension of all wireless broadband data services, providers said, intensifying a clampdown on information flows that began with the blocking of social media sites and a 1 p.m.-to-9.a.m. cutoff of wireless service days after the Feb. 1 coup.

“This shutdown is mainly because they don’t want the news from citizen journalists on the ground to reach the media and then go from the media to the public,” said J. Paing of the Myanmar Press Photo Agency.

“Another purpose is to keep journalists working on the ground uninformed,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service, noting that the lack of Internet access made it very difficult to obtain local information.

“Now that new Internet cuts have been made, they might be prepared to commit more brutal human rights violations,” said Nicky Diamond, of the NGO Fortify Rights.

“We condemn such Internet cuts, and with no Internet access for the public they may get bolder and suppress people with more violence,” he said.

“They’re trying to hide the evidence of their crimes,” added Diamond.

In the two months since troops deposed leader Aung San Su Kyi’s elected government, more than 500 people have been killed and some 2,700 people have been arrested, according to tallies by RFA and a regional NGO.

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Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane, Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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