Myanmar: Review of Human Rights Record Underscores Need for Reforms

Ahead of Myanmar’s second Universal Periodic Review, 14 organisations, including ARTICLE 19, today submitted a joint Universal Periodic Review report covering issues relating to freedom of expression, information and assembly in Myanmar. The Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism for all UN Member States to review one another’s human rights records. Each country’s record is reviewed approximately once every five years.

“The Universal Periodic Review provides an opportunity to take stock and evaluate whether a state has progressed in protecting human rights,” said Matthew Bugher, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme. “Our review of Myanmar’s past five years shows that it has failed to make significant progress on a number of freedom of expression issues. New forms of repression, especially relating to digital rights, are cause for serious concern moving forward.”

During the period reviewed, the government has continued to prosecute journalists, human rights defenders and others expressing their opinions using a variety of repressive laws. ‘Hate speech’ has flourished without an effective state response, and media freedom remains limited. The government has failed to pass comprehensive right to information legislation and has instead passed laws that entrench secrecy.

The rapid increase in Internet usage in Myanmar in the past five years has been met with control measures that do not comply with international human rights law. An Internet shutdown in Rakhine and Chin States that has lasted for more than one year is one of the most serious ongoing human rights concerns in the country. Other digital rights issues, including data protection and online privacy, warrant greater engagement with civil society.

In the UPR submission, the organisations recommended that Myanmar undertake comprehensive legal reform, halt the prosecution of those exercising their right to freedom of expression, adopt positive policy measures to combat ‘hate speech’, and lift the Internet shutdown in Rakhine and Chin States, among other actions.

Myanmar’s human rights record will be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council at the 37th working group session, currently scheduled for early 2021. The deadline for submissions from civil society organisations comes during the lead-up to the 8 November 2020 general elections.

“The Myanmar government must act immediately to ensure that the upcoming elections are held in an environment that is open and allows people to exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear,” said Bugher. “Ahead of the general elections, we urge all political parties in Myanmar to listen to the concerns of civil society and commit to much needed human rights reforms.”

For more information, contact:

Matthew Bugher, Head of Asia Program, [email protected]

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Read the UPR submission.

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