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Article

19 Mar 2021

Author:
Global Network Initiative

Concerns About Network Disruptions and Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Myanmar

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19 March 2021

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) expresses serious concern about recent developments in Myanmar. The GNI has previously raised concerns about network disruptions and other restrictions on freedom of expression in Myanmar, most recently in the run-up to last year’s elections. The actions taken by the military in Mynamar over the last week to block social media sites and shut down access to information and communication services more broadly represent a significant, unjustified, and disproportionate escalation of such restrictions.¹ We call on government authorities in Myanmar to immediately restore full network connectivity, reverse orders blocking social media sites, and refrain from issuing further orders or putting pressure on internet and telecommunications companies that contravene the country’s international human rights law commitments, including the freedom of opinion and expression and privacy.

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Multiple United Nations resolutions and reports, as well as previous GNI statements, have noted wide-ranging impacts network disruptions have on freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the rights to association, peaceful assembly, livelihood, health, education, and safety even during normal circumstances. Network disruptions can also have significant economic impacts. In the context of a global pandemic, ongoing conflict and violence, and the recent anti-democratic actions of the military, it is all the more important to protect access to the Internet and the free flow of information in Myanmar.

GNI joins the UN Secretary General, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Security Council, and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar in supporting the democratic transition in Myanmar, the pursuance of dialogue, and respect for peaceful protests.

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¹We note that mobile data service in eight townships previously blocked in Rakhine State appear to have since been restored.

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