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Netizen Report: Two years after fleeing military attacks in Myanmar, Rohingya refugees face mobile blackout in Bangladesh

Image licensed to public domain, without attribution.

The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in technology and human rights around the world. This report covers news and events from August 30 – September 6, 2019.

On September 2, the Bangladeshi government ordered telecommunications companies to block mobile phone networks at refugee camps that are home to nearly one million people, most of them Rohingya Muslims.

Roughly three quarters of these refugees have lived in camps in southern Bangladesh since 2017, after fleeing military attacks in their homeland, Myanmar. Officials say the mobile network block is intended to protect national security, citing incidents of violence that have broken out in the camps.

The order came after tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees staged a mass protest at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, where they demanded citizenship from the Myanmar government. Authorities do not grant citizenship to Rohingya people born in Myanmar territory.

Although authorities from Bangladesh have worked with the UN to repatriate some of these people, many have refused to return, pending a guarantee of citizenship by the Myanmar government.

“We have asked the Burmese government for dialogue. But we haven't got any response from them yet,” said Rohingya leader Mohib Ullah at the demonstration.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission was also ordered to verify the mobile users in the camps within a week’s time, by confirming names and addresses used to register each SIM card. Telecommunications operators have also been asked to throttle or weaken their networks in the border areas with Myanmar and curtail the sale of mobile phone products and services to Rohingya refugees.

Myanmar convicts filmmaker over Facebook posts

Meanwhile, back in Myanmar, filmmaker and human rights advocate Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison by a Yangon court for publishing statements — on Facebook — that the court found “likely to cause any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty…”

The Facebook posts were critical of Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution and the role it gives the military in government. As the founder of the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is known for his openly critical views on Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s first civilian leader after 49 years of military rule.

Hong Kong web forum weathers DDoS attack from mainland China

The Hong Kong-based Reddit-like forum LIHKG has come under attack by China’s great cannon, a tool used to run distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks by deploying a computer script that intercepts massive amounts of web traffic and redirects them to targeted websites.

LIHKG has been a major forum for distributing information and discussing strategy about Hong Kong's anti-extradition protests since March. The attack was launched ahead of an August 31 rally, flagged as “illegal” by Hong Kong police.

Nigerian journalist and political advocate arrested

Agba Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, an online newspaper, was arrested at his home by Nigerian federal police on August 22. Jalingo is also the state chairman for the African Action Congress, a political party founded by Omoyele Sowore, the currently detained leader of Nigeria’s #RevolutionNow protest movement.

Jalingo has been charged with treason, terrorism, cultism and public disturbance in a Federal High Court in Abuja for “working with the #RevolutionNow movement” to “undemocratically’ force the government of Ayade to end through violent means.” If convicted, Jalingo risks life imprisonment, fine or both.

Turkish broadcast regulator expands domain to online service providers

In Turkey, a new regulation took effect on August 1 requiring all online content providers to obtain broadcasting licenses from the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). The directive applies to international and local streaming services like Netflix and BluTV, content providers that deliver audiovisual journalistic content via Periscope or YouTube Live, and news websites that run ads.

In addition to granting permissions, RTÜK will monitor providers’ content for violations of local media laws, which are extensive. Online content can be censored for obscenity or contravening “moral values”, disturbing public order, or threatening national security.

Kashmir’s network shutdown is a gross violation of human rights, say advocates

A group of UN experts led by David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, condemned the Indian government’s media and internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been ongoing since the evening of August 4. “The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence,” they wrote.

A separate joint statement, signed 66 human rights and digital rights groups, has also criticized the blackout on human rights and humanitarian grounds.

New research

Pushing Politics, Picking Pockets: The Business of Misinformation – Judit Szakács, Central European University

China’s New Media Dilemma: The Profit in Online Dissent – Louisa Chiang, Center for International Media Assistance

 

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