Governments worldwide continue to deploy network disruptions and internet shutdowns to forestall election losses, quell mass protests, cut off conflict areas from the outside world, or reinforce military coups.
Today, Myanmar is among the most censored countries in the world. Freedom House categorizes it as ‘not free‘ with a score of 9 out of 100 on the Global Freedom Index. Sadly, the country also scores 17 out of 100 on internet freedom. These statistics represent the increasing online censorship in Myanmar.
The region got its first internet connection in the year 2000. However, the military regime limited and controlled internet access by different means, including laws and regulations with heavy punishment for violators. Initially, there was relative media freedom between 2012 and 2020, even reaching a rank of 20 in the Press Freedom Index. However, this collapsed when the military junta overthrew the democratically-elected government in February 2021.
Consequently, the world witnessed the worst restrictions on free internet use in Myanmar today. The military junta shut down the internet, took control of the telecommunication infrastructure, blocked social media platforms, and increased intrusive surveillance to maintain power and crush dissent.
Thankfully, Myanmar citizens can still evade this censorship and access the internet anonymously. Although the military government bans it, the most effective method is a virtual private network (VPN). This essential online tool enables regular civilians, journalists, and civil society groups to protect their identities online.