Speaker: Gayatri Khandhadai
Madam Vice President,
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO) thank the Special Rapporteur for the update on the situation in Myanmar. We would like to draw the attention of Myanmar and the council to the rampant and unfettered spread of hate speech offline and online. We echo the observation of the Chairman of the UN Fact-Finding Mission, that social media had played a “determining role” in Myanmar, in relation to the worsening situation of religious minorities. In fact, it continues to do so.
As recognised by the Special Rapporteur, hate speech is institutionalised in Myanmar. Oftentimes the hate content online is not only supported, but also generated by state and religious institutions, and figures – under multiple names. After considerable pressure, Facebook deleted many pages that belonged to these groups or persons, including a commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces. However, hate speech online continues to pervade these platforms, and not enough is done to meaningfully address the problem. Further, it is alarming that hate speech including explicit calls for violence against Rohingyas has now spilled over to India, where it too, remains unaddressed.
Yesterday, the representative for Myanmar noted that mobile phone penetration is high in Myanmar and that it is unrestricted. However, the government of Myanmar has recently imposed suspension of mobile internet service in the conflict-ridden townships of Rakhine and Chin States. Internet shutdowns cannot be justified and are in violation of international norms and standards. It is most critical that stable communications infrastructure is maintained during times of conflict and during elections. We call on the government of Myanmar to lift all restrictions on internet access and to restore telecommunication immediately. We urge them to eradicate the practice of imposing internet shutdowns, which have the effect of isolating people and shrouding them in darkness. We also urge the government of Myanmar to amend Articles 75, 76, 77 and 78 of the 2013 Telecommunication Law to be in line with international human rights standards.