Myanmar: Wave of website blockings for alleged ‘fake news’

The Myanmar Telecommunications Ministry blocked the website for activist group Justice for Myanmar on September 1 for publishing information the government has deemed as ‘fake news’. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the Myanmar authorities to be more transparent on their definition of ‘fake news’ and to ensure that they are not silencing critical voices.

Justice for Myanmar’s website was blocked on Tuesday by the country’s Telecommunications Ministry. The website was launched earlier this year by a team of human rights activists dedicated to uncovering the military’s business interests and monitoring human rights violations. The blocking of the platform is the latest in more than 200 other websites have been secretly blocked by Myanmar authorities in recent months.

Spokesman for the Ministry, Myo Swe, said “The social media monitoring team found that some websites are spreading fake news,” but did not comment on what exactly constituted false news or information.  

Justice for Myanmar has conducted investigations into the government’s crackdown on Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims in 2017, including a report about businesses that donated to the security forces for the campaign that the United Nations said was carried out with “genocidal intent”.

In a statement, representative for Justice for Myanmar Yadanar Muang said that the government’s censorship of their website “is an attempt to silence dissent and cover up the truth about the Myanmar military cartel’s corruption and international crimes.”

“We will continue speaking truth to power,” Muang added.

The recent wave of website censorships is seen as a method of silencing critics of the government and military and avoiding accountability for unlawful military campaigns.

The IFJ said: “Authorities cannot pick and choose what classifies as ‘fake news’ without a detailed report on what has been found as false and why. Government efforts to censor and block publications without explanation are detrimental to democracy and free speech.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

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