New report! Freedom of the Net: Myanmar in 2019

2018 2019
Internet Freedom Status Not Free Not Free
A. Obstacles to Access (0-25) 10 10
B. Limits on Content (0-35) 16 16
C. Violations of User Rights (0-40) 10 10
TOTAL* (0-100) 36 36

*0 = least free, 100 = most free. A total score of 70-100 = Free, 40-69 = Partly Free, 0-39 = Not Free. Period: June 1, 2018 – May 31, 2019. This is a new report on digital rights in Myanmar, published by Freedom House and FEM. The full report is available here >>

Key findings: Obstacles to Access

Internet access continues to improve in Myanmar, as more users connect via smartphones with fast 4G service. The success of two foreign-owned mobile service providers has placed pressure on the state’s monopoly, and the government has responded by giving a mobile phone license to a military-owned conglomerate and restoring the state’s majority control over the mobile market.

Key findings: Limits on Content

While the government continues to refrain from applying direct limitations on content, self-censorship on a range of subjects including the military, corruption, and the Rohingya, remains high. Social media companies have responded to pressure by opaquely increasing content removals, which has removed legitimate content. Users are free to access the internet, but there is a lack of diversity in the ownership and content of online media outlets. Meanwhile, the government and military actively promote their own narratives online and reject much independent reporting as “fake news.”

Key findings: Violations of User Rights

Criminalisation of internet users persisted, including under several criminal defamation laws, while the government has hinted that a draft cybersecurity law could contain provisions punishing online criticism of the government. Intimidation of users remains common, through online surveillance carried out by the government and military, as well as harassment against those reporting on or discussing conflicts in Rakhine, Shan, and Kachin states online, in addition to users discussing gender and other so-called “sensitive” issues.

Full report

The full report can be downloaded here >>

It includes updates on the following questions:

  • Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections?
  • Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons?
  • Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity?
  • Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers?
  • Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner?
  • Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content?
  • Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content?
  • Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process?
  • Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship?
  • Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest?
  • Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online?
  • Does the online information landscape lack diversity?
  • Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues?
  • Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence?
  • Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities?
  • Are individuals penalized for online activities?
  • Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption?
  • Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy?
  • Are service providers and other technology companies required to aid the government in monitoring the communications of their users?
  • Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in retribution for their online activities?
  • Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack?