HRC44: Continued rights violations in Myanmar

HRC44: Continued rights violations in Myanmar -

Summary

ARTICLE 19’s full statement for the interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar at the 44th Session of the Human Rights Council.

We share the Special Rapporteur’s concern regarding the continuing threats to human rights in Myanmar. We are particularly concerned about an aggressive and counterproductive crackdown on freedom of expression since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Myanmar.

During the pandemic, access to information has become increasingly restricted. In March 2020, the Myanmar government blocked Internet access to several ethnic news websites, purportedly on the basis that they were spreading so-called fake news about COVID-19. Our review of the websites shows that at the time of the blocking, they had done little to no reporting on COVID-19, but had raised concerns about Myanmar military abuses. This blatant act of censorship threatens the human rights of those who rely on the sites for basic information.

In May 2020, editor Zaw Min Oo was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for a story on COVID-19 that the court concluded contained false information. The government’s response is grievously disproportionate and sets a dangerous precedent likely to discourage journalists from reporting on COVID-19. We call on the Myanmar government to immediately and unconditionally release Zaw Min Oo.

We remain deeply concerned by the more than year-long Internet shutdown in Rakhine and Chin States, despite the urgent need for access to information during this public health crisis, and call on the government to immediately end the shutdown.