Illegitimate internet shutdown extended beyond elections

The four co-organisers of the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum – FEM, MCRB, MIDO, and Phandeeyar – are concerned by the government’s latest directive ordering telecommunications companies to extend the effective internet shutdown beyond the elections. We urge the Myanmar government to restore 3G and 4G in Rakhine and Chin States and to refrain from imposing further network disruptions.

Myanmar’s mobile telecommunications providers, MPT, Mytel, Ooredoo, and Telenor, have reportedly received a new Directive from the Ministry of Transport and Communications ordering an extension of the effective internet shutdown for an additional two months. The Ministry has not openly published the Directive.

The internet shutdown will now continue until the end of 2020, well beyond the general elections. The 2G restriction was previously due to end on 31 October 2020.

The restriction of data services to only 2G effectively prevents the majority of people in the affected areas from accessing the internet. Therefore it is an effective continuation of the previous internet shutdown which started in June 2019.

As a result, approximately 1.4 million people will have no access to information, public and private services, and communication online during the country’s general elections.

The internet shutdown became one of the longests in the world in June 2020. By extending the shutdown until the end of 2020, it is by far the longest shutdown in the world.

The internet shutdown has been raised as a significant concern by the United Nations, other countries, businesses, and civil society for its economic, social, cultural, security, and political harm.

The co-organisers of the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum (MDRF) urge the government to recognise the significant harm to 1.4 million people caused by the internet shutdown.

We continue to call on the government to:

  • Review Articles 77 and 78 and other Articles of the 2013 Telecommunication Law, and amend them to be in line with human rights standards,
  • Work in collaboration with the various internet service providers operating in Myanmar that everyone has access quality, secure, free, and open internet,
  • Refrain from restricting internet access and bandwidth restrictions in the future, either in these currently affected areas or elsewhere in Myanmar, including in other conflict areas, and during elections and election campaigns.

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