Burma
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Burma Burma’s ruling military junta is attempting to expand Internet access in the country while maintaining a restrictive system of control. Although less than only 1 percent of the population has access to the Internet, the government maintains a tight grip over online content, and—as demonstrated by the shutdown of Internet access during the 2007 “Saffron Revolution”—is willing to take drastic action to control the flow of information. Internet filtering in Burma is pervasive and extensively targets political and social content. Strict laws and regulations, along with surveillance, prohibit Internet users from freely accessing the Internet. Cyber attacks on the Web sites of opposition groups and media are frequent and typically occur on the anniversaries of significant political events, or during critical moments such as the 2010 election. RESULTS AT A GLANCE Filtering No Evidence of Filtering Suspected Filtering Selective Filtering Substantial Filtering Pervasive Filtering Political • Social • Conflict and security • Internet tools • OTHER FACTORS Low Medium High Not Applicable Transparency • Consistency • 252 Burma Background The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the military government that rules the Union of Myanmar, maintains a tight stranglehold on the country’s economic and political developments. The government polices Internet content through one of the most severe regimes of information control in the world. Despite barriers to access and very low connectivity, however, Internet users in Burma have managed to communicate valuable information to the outside world during explosive political events. On August 19, 2007, precipitating what would become known as the Saffron Revolution , leaders of the 88 Generation student group organized a rally to protest a sudden sharp increase in fuel prices in Rangoon (Yangon).1 Because the Burmese spend up to 70 percent of their monthly income on food alone,2 the fuel-price hikes amid chronic inflation—which reached 30 percent in 2006 and 2007—were untenable.3 Over the next month, leadership of the protests passed from former student leaders and a number of female activists to Buddhist monks, with participation swelling to an estimated crowd of 150,000 protesters on September 23.4 Throughout the crisis, citizen journalists and bloggers continued to feed raw, graphic footage and eyewitness accounts to the outside world through the Internet. The violent crackdown that began on September 26 ultimately left up to 200 dead,5 including a Japanese journalist whose death by gunshot was caught on video.6 Burmese security forces raided monasteries, detaining and disrobing thousands of monks. Despite claims by official state media KEY INDICATORS GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2005 international dollars) 854 Life expectancy at birth, total (years) 62 Literacy rate, adult total (percent of people age 15+) 91.9 Human Development Index (out of 169) 132 Rule of Law (out of 5) 1.0 Voice and Accountability (out of 5) 0.3 Democracy Index (out of 167) 163 (Authoritarian regime) Digital Opportunity Index (out of 181) 179 Internet penetration rate (percentage of population) 0.2 Source by indicator: World Bank 2005, World Bank 2008a, World Bank 2008b, UNDP 2010, World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators 2009, Economist Intelligence Unit 2010, ITU 2007, ITU 2009. See Introduction to the Country Profiles, pp. 222–223. ONI Country Profile 253 that only 91 people remained in detention as of December 2007, Human Rights Watch claimed the number to be in the hundreds.7 Between October and December 2008, around 300 individuals were sentenced to harsh prison terms for political crimes.8 Most were tried by police prosecutors and convicted by judges operating from prison courts, including Insein prison—a prison run by the junta for the purpose of repressing political dissidents and notorious for its inhumane conditions.9 In November, it was reported that 150 critics of the government had received imprisonment terms of two to 65 years.10 According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, 16 journalists and bloggers were in prison in March 2009.11 As of 2010, there were an estimated 2,100 “prisoners of conscience” in Burma.12 A general election in Burma was held on November 7, 2010. It was the first election in Burma since 1990 when the National League for Democracy (NLD)—the major opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi—won a majority of 392 out of 492 seats. However, the State Law and Order Restoration (SPDC’s predecessor) refused to hand over power to the NLD and imprisoned many of the NLD’s members, including Suu...


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