Myanmar: Internet ban partially lifted in Rakhine

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EYEAFRICA TV: Yangon, Myanmar: Myanmar’s government on Sunday restored Internet access in five of nine townships in western Myanmar, where fighting between the military and an ethnic rebel group has flared up in recent months.

The blackout has been in place in eight townships in the northern Rakhine state and one in the adjacent Chin state since June 22, when the government directed all mobile service providers to temporarily suspend service, accusing the rebel Arakan Army group of promoting propaganda and misinformation online.

Internet blackout dating from late June remains in 4 townships of Myanmar’s impoverished state of Rakhine.

Soe Thein, permanent secretary of the Transport and Communication Ministry, confirmed on Sunday the lifting of the ban in four townships in impoverished Rakhine and one in Chin. “As the situation becomes stable in these areas, Internet services resumed since Saturday midnight,” he told Anadolu Agency by phone.

He added that lifting the ban in the remaining areas in Rakhine state depends on reaching stability there. Myanmar’s government has come under heavy criticism from local and international rights groups over the blackout.

Myanmar’s parliament showed its support to the ban by blocking a debate over the measure put forward by an ethnic Rakhine lawmaker in July.

Telenor Group, an Internet service provider in Myanmar, praised the partial lifting of the ban as a positive development. “From the outset of the Internet shutdown, we have conveyed that freedom of expression through access to telecoms services should be maintained for humanitarian purposes, especially during times of conflict,” it said in a statement on Sunday.

It pledged continued “dialogue with the authorities of Myanmar and urging the restoration of Internet services also in the remaining four townships.”

Four townships in northern Rakhine where the ban is still in place – Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Minpya, and Ponnagyun – have witnessed armed clashes on a daily basis since the Arakan Army launched synchronized attacks on police outposts in January, killing 13 officers.

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