Myanmar: Government shuts down the Internet in conflict-torn townships

Myanmar's government forced the shutting down of mobile internet services in five townships where clashes between the ethnic-Rakhine Arakan Army and Myanmar’s military are happening. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the authorities to immediately lift the suspension and guarantee the free flow of information.

A Rohingya refugee watches on a mobile phone n a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in southern Bangladesh on December 11, 2019. Credit: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP

The internet cut will affect Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Myebon townships in Rakhine region, and Paletwa in Chin region. These townships already suffered internet cuts from June until September 2019. These latest cuts are affecting approximately one million citizens.

The authorities issued the directive under article 77 of the 2013 Telecommunications Law that allows the government to cut the telecommunication service “when an emergency situation arises”. However, in July 2016 the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning countries that prevent or disrupt online access and information.

The Myanmar government justified the blockade with the need to ‘maintain the stability and law and order in these areas’ when the clashes began. The fighting has intensified since November, causing tens of thousands of civilians to flee their hometowns.

The IFJ said: “Having free access to mobile internet services and the free flow of information is essential for civilians, activists and journalists, especially in times of crisis. With its decision, the Myanmar authorities are putting thousands of lives at risk. We urge the government to follow the UN’s guidelines on Freedom of Expression and Responses to Conflict Situations and lift the internet suspension immediately.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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