Three online ethnic media outlets in Burma are blocked on major mobile internet providers at a time when access to information has never been more important.
Content on the Narainjara and Development Media Group (DMG) news websites, both focussed on Rakhine State, and Karen News has been blocked on MPT and Mytel since March 24, and Norwegian-owned Telenor since March 26.
Padoh Tun Aung, the editor of DMG, said blocking their websites is a major infringement of freedom of the press at a time when there’s heavy fighting between the Arakan Army and Burma Army in northern Rakhine and southern Chin states. “There are only two media groups based in Rakhine State. There’s been many clashes and civilians are getting killed.”
Burma News International (BNI) released a statement demanding the NLD government to stop banning the websites and allow internet access in northern Rakhine and southern Chin states. All of the outlets whose content is being blocked are members of BNI that counts 16 different ethnic media newsgroups.
“It’s crucial for media outlets to provide truthful information to its audience at this time,” Nan Paw Gay, the chairperson of the BNI policy committee, told KNG. “Our ethnic media outlets are reporting important news stories about the conflicts and the Covid-19 pandemic…by banning websites from state-based ethnic media outlets the government is trying to keep people in the dark.”
The government shut down internet access in several townships in northern Rakhine State and Paletwa township in Chin State. “In eight townships, it’s very difficult to access information because of the internet shut down,” Khine Mrat Kyaw, the chief editor of Narinjara, told KNG. He said by blocking their websites it seems like the government is scared about information getting out about what’s happening.
Khine Mrat Kyaw told KNG he would lodge a complaint with the Myanmar Press Council.