A new report hits what it describes as the “intense levels of criminalization” of internet freedoms in Myanmar, especially since the February 1 military coup.
The report titled “Myanmar: Dismantling Dissent – Crackdowns on Internet Freedoms” notes that since the coup “any semblance of true freedom of expression online has drastically deteriorated.”
“It is a sharp decline from the increased user growth and adoption of social media platforms for political expression,” says the report, which was released in Bangkok on July 2.
The report examines a range of national laws that have been used to impact internet freedoms, including the country’s Constitution, Penal Code, Electronic Transactions Law, Telecommunications Law, and Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens in the last 10 years.
The report, which is published by Asian Centre, presents specific recommendations that would safeguard internet freedoms, public access to information and freedom of expression.
Asia Centre is a not-for-profit organization that aims to create “social impact” in the Asian region. It was first established in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2015, and in 2018 a second Centre was established in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Asia Centre, which serves as “a think-tank, meeting space, project partner and social enterprise,” says in its report that any liberalization of the internet in Myanmar has been halted since February.
In the last decade, Myanmar experienced huge digital infrastructure growth, increased connectivity, and a less censored and more free online landscape.
The military coup, however, threatened the internet’s ability to facilitate democracy, says the report, adding that national internet shutdowns have been enacted, and systematic harassment and persecution of dissenting social media users intensified.
There have also been sporadic reports, citing incidents of destruction of internet infrastructure, adds the Asia Centre report.
Dr. James Gomez, regional director of Asia Centre, said “freedoms of expression online in Myanmar have never before been subjected to these intense levels of criminalization.”
He said “digital freedom of expression and full public access to information needs to be restored and protected.”
“Myanmar must repeal the offending legislative provisions and withdraw all attempts to control the telecommunication infrastructure,” added Gomez in a statement released to the media in Thailand.
The Asia Centre report outlines in detail what it described as “the tactics of control over Myanmar’s digital landscape” and analyses “the multitude of tools and tactics” use by the military in its campaign to dismantle online dissent and mobilization since February 1.