Websites belonging to ethnic media groups—members of Burma News International (BNI)—have been blocked for days by internet data providers operating under a government order issued to prevent the spreading of misinformation.
Two of the blocked sites, Narinjara and Development Media Group (DMG) are based in Rakhine State and have been inaccessible to holders of MPT and Mytel sim cards since March 23 and 24, respectively.
English-language news from the Karen Information Center (KIC) has also been blocked since March 26 for users of MPT’s internet data service. Internet data providers Telenor and Ooredoo reportedly haven’t blocked the sites.
BNI released a statement on March 29, calling for an end to the block, particularly as it is occurring during the coronavirus pandemic—a crisis about which locals in ethnic states should be able to access news and updates.
“I don’t know why this has happened,” Nan Paw Gay, who is chair of BNI’s policy committee, told SHAN. “Our country is facing the danger of the coronavirus pandemic. From a journalistic perspective, it is a crucial time to produce reliable and credible news stories. The government needs to improve the communications sector.”
BNI urged the National League for Democracy administration to review and reopen access to the blocked websites of independent ethnic news organizations, as well as to end a months-long internet blackout in Rakhine and Chin states. BNI also urged the Myanmar Press Council to assist them in working to promote freedom of information and expression.
BNI is an umbrella group of ethnic media organizations with 16 members largely based in ethnic states, including SHAN.