This week, on June 21, the states of Rakhine and Chin in Myanmar entered their second year of internet shutdowns in the region. The present shutdown is the third-longest internet shutdown in the world, and affects approximately 1.4 million people. Pakistan currently holds the record for longest and most severe internet shutdown in history, ending in 2019, and lasting almost ten years.
Access Now joined a group of over 100 organizations in calling for the immediate reinstatement of access to the internet by the government of Myanmar. Through an open letter, the organizations also called for a review of the law on internet shutdowns in accordance with human right standards.
The shutdown has had an adverse impact on the economic, social and political rights of citizens, and is continuing to impede the response to COVID-19 in the region. The government’s claim that the internet will only be turned on when “security threats” are resolved and telecommunication laws are not violated — which forms the public basis of the government’s rationale for the internet shutdown — finds no backing of evidence, and is not in line with international principles of proportionality, necessity, and legality.
“The internet shutdown in the Rakhine and Chin states is being used to censor the most vulnerable and hide egregious human rights violations. Myanmar must heed the call of Burmese groups and the international community to end the blackout and provide access to the internet, especially in time of a global pandemic,” said Berhan Taye, Access Now Senior Policy Analyst and Global Internet Shutdowns Lead.
“The shutdown must be immediately rescinded by the government of Myanmar, who must respect the rights of its citizens. Myanmar is already facing intense pressure from the international community, including a prosecution request at the International Criminal Court over their treatment of Rohingya populations. A year-long internet shutdown in states with large Rohingya populations only provides further evidence of mistreatment of minorities in Myanmar,” said Naman Mukul Aggarwal, Asia Pacific Policy Counsel at Access Now.