(Bangkok) – The Burmese junta has added a ban on satellite television to existing restrictions on the internet and media, strengthening its grip on news in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. On May 4, 2021, the The ruling State Administrative Council has announced that anyone using satellite dishes to watch television faces up to one year in prison or a fine of K 500,000 (US $ 320).
The military junta claimed that “illegal organizations and news agencies” broadcast satellite programs that threatened state security. The ban appears to target independent Burma-language broadcasters such as Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and Mizzima, which have continued to broadcast via satellite since the junta revoked their operating licenses in March. The ban will also affect foreign news channels broadcast by satellite in Myanmar.
âThe ban on satellite television is a blatant attempt to deny access to independent news broadcasts and further isolate the Burmese people,â said Linda Lakhdhir, legal adviser for Asia. âThe junta should immediately withdraw its outrageous widespread censorship and end its relentless assault on reporting. “
The ban on satellite television is part of the military’s large-scale attack on the country’s media, Human Rights Watch said. On May 4, the junta also announced that it was banning two other media outlets, Kachin-based 74 Media and Shan-based Tachileik News Agency, bringing the number of banned media to eight. Many of these media, including 74 Media and Tachileik News, reacted with suspicion to the junta’s bans, promising to continue reporting.
In addition to banning the media, security forces have aggressively targeted journalists for arrest. At least 71 journalists have been arrested since the February 1 coup, of which at least 48 remain in detention. Authorities having loaded number of people detained, including Japanese freelance journalist Yuki Kitazumi, by violating a new provision of the penal code adopted by the junta which criminalizes the publication or the diffusion of comments which “scare” or diffuse “false news”. Those convicted face up to three years in prison.
Authorities have imposed severe restrictions on the Internet, making it very difficult to access or share information. Mobile internet data and wireless broadband have been disabled for more than six weeks, and Facebook and other popular social media platforms in Myanmar have been blocked since the coup.
âThe Burmese junta’s increasingly desperate efforts to prevent people inside the country from accessing independent news and information will not hide the truth about its continued rights violations,â Lakhdhir said. “The governments concerned should use their wide range of tools, including arms embargoes and targeted sanctions, to pressure the junta to end its rights violations and hold those responsible to account. . “