- Leaders of Myanmar’s military coup on Saturday appeared to shut down the country’s internet.
- Last week, they’d sent letters asking internet providers to block Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- The shutdown would “severely limit coverage of anti-coup protests,” said NetBlocks.
As protestors on Saturday flooded Myanmar’s streets, calling for an end to the military coup, the country’s internet access was almost entirely shut down.
“The regime has cut off all internet lines amid ongoing protests against the #militarycoup,” wrote Myanmar Now, an independent local news agency, on Twitter.
Connectivity fell to about 16% early Saturday, according to NetBlocks, an internet tracking firm based in London. Earlier in the day, connectivity had fallen to about 54% of ordinary levels, the firm said.
—NetBlocks (@netblocks) February 6, 2021
NetBlocks said there was a “near-total” shutdown in effect in the country. “The information blackout is likely to severely limit coverage of anti-coup protests,” it added on Twitter.
Photos posted online by Myanmar Now showed protestors marching on Saturday in Yangon, the country’s largest city. Other photos showed riot police lined up on the streets.
—Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) February 6, 2021
On February 1, Myanmar’s military said it was taking over, rounding up the country’s democratic leaders in the early morning hours. They detained President Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s political leader. Within a few hours, military vehicles filled Yangon’s streets. Internet access was curbed during the coup, dropping by about 50% throughout the country.
In the days since, Suu Kyi was charged with breaking importing and exporting laws, and possessing unlawful electronic devices, including walkie-talkies.
A group of civil rights organizations, the Myanmar Civil Society Organizations, posted an open letter to internet service providers on Saturday, asking them to restore service and keep user data private, according to Myanmar Now, which posted the letter on Twitter.
The military government reportedly sent letters to internet providers last week, directing them to block Facebook. On Friday, the military also asked them to also block Twitter, and Instagram, according to the open letter.
“By complying with their directives, your companies are essentially legitimizing the military’s authority, despite international condemnation of this very body,” the group wrote to internet service providers.