This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 11 October 2019.
Four townships in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been closed off from internet access for nearly three months, blocking access to information to journalists and the public. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the ongoing blockage of internet in the troubled state and urges Myanmar’s authorities to respect the public’s right to information by restoring the connection immediately.
On June 21, the government cited security concerns and the general public interest under Section 77 of the Telecommunications Act as justification to suspend the telecommunications services in nine towns, following the clashes between Myanmar’s military and the Rakhine insurgent group known as the Arakan Army.
Two months into the ban, the Ministry of Transport and Communications reported it had resumed internet services in the Northern Rakhine townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Myebbon, as well as neighbouring Chin State’s Paletwa Township. However, internet remains cut off in the Ponnagyun, KYautktaw, Mrauk-U and Minbya.
Minbya Township representative, U Hla Aung submitted an urgent proposal to the Rakhine state parliament on June 24, urging for the immediate restoration of internet service. While the state parliament approved the proposal on June 26, Myanmar’s communication ministry continues to enforce a ban in the town.
Internet shutdowns continue to put the region’s marginalized population at risk, with citizens cut off from any means of effective communication or alert system.
The IFJ said: “It has been more than 100 days since the government ordered the internet shutdown in areas of Rakhine state. Access to internet and telecommunication services in regions of conflict plays a critical role in terms of humanitarian support and the vital need to inform to the wider population. Blocking of internet access is a growing concern in Myanmar and a clear violation of human rights and the rights of the media. We urge the government to end the blackout and restore the access and telecommunication services immediately.”