Internet access still ‘not free’: report
Myanmar’s web users have seen a moderate increase in internet freedoms, but the country retains the same “not free” status it held last year, and ranks along the likes of Turkey, Thailand and Vietnam, according to Freedom House.
MYANMAR has claimed a modest improvement in internet freedom this year, according to global cyber watchdog Freedom House, but retains its status as a “not free” state for web users.
In 2014, the independent US-based monitoring group declared Myanmar’s internet to be “partly free” for the first time, citing legal reforms. Last year, the country was downgraded to “not free”, with more obstacles to access, violations of user rights and restrictions on content noted by observers.
On the index, released annually, countries are ranked from 0 to 100, with 0 being most free and 100 being least. This year, Myanmar sits alongside Turkey, with a score of 61.
Ratings are determined through an examination of three broad categories: obstacles to access, limits on content and violation of user rights.
The report identified three “key internet controls” still exercised by the Myanmar government in the postcensorship era.
These indicators include pro-government commentators manipulating online discussions; bloggers or ICT users being imprisoned, arrested or in prolonged detention for political or social content; and technical attacks against government critics or human rights organisations.
Instances of malicious hacking remain a concern in Myanmar, with the pre-election takedown of The Irrawaddy website highlighted, as well as targeted attacks on DVB, Eleven Media, and highprofile political targets including NLD spokesperson U Win Htein and Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein.
The report singled out one particular instance of Myanmar’s smartphone revolution having a meaningful, positive impact on highlighting human rights.
“After a video showing abuse at a military academy went viral in Myanmar, public outrage forced the military to launch a high-level investigation, an unprecedented gesture toward accountability from the country’s most untouchable institution,” the report said, referring to a purported hazing video.
The report also highlighted the prosecution of poet Ko Maung Saung Kha over a Facebook post he made that described a newlywed’s dismay at discovering a tattoo of the president on her husband’s genitals.
Myanmar is far from the only country in the region considered “not free”, with Thailand, China and Vietnam sharing the dubious honour. Cambodia’s ranking declined but it remains “partly free”.
Two-thirds of all internet users – 67 percent – live in nations where criticism of the government, military or ruling family are subject to censorship. Across the board, global internet freedom declined in 2016 for the sixth-straight year.