Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some banned Web sites now accessible in Burma

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 21:25 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Some previously banned Web sites including Mizzima’s Burmese language Web site and other exile-based news Web sites and blogs are now accessible in Burma. IT experts could not explain the new availability and warned that it could be temporary.

The English language Web site of Mizzima is still banned, however.

Likewise, the Norway-based DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma) Web site’s Burmese section and the BBC, RFA and VOA Web sites are still banned in Burma.

An Internet user in Rangoon looks at the Mizzima Burmese language Web site. The English language version is still banned. Photo: Mizzima

Since the 2007 Saffron Revolution, the government has banned news Web sites of exile-based opposition media, some international news agencies’ Web sites and opposition-oriented blogs. Certain Web sites have been banned since 2000. However, many people in Burma visit the banned Web sites using proxy servers.

According to tests made by Mizzima reporters in Rangoon on Tuesday, the Web sites of CNN, the English- language Bangkok Post and Reuters are still banned.

Currently, two Internet service providers (ISP) are located in Burma: Myanmar Post and Telegraph (MPT) and Yadanabon Teleport. The You Tube Web site can be visited through MPT, which is mostly used by the business community, and Yadanabon Teleport, which is mostly used by Internet cafés. At the same time, the Mizzima TV Web site is accessible and offers TV news programmes and videos now.

The BBC Burmese Service Web site is still not available, but people can access the BBC World Service and also the mail Web sites of Hotmail and Yahoo.

Despite some opening up of banned Web sites, Internet users said that the speed is now slower than before. An Internet café shop owner said that the highest speed available on Tuesday was 50 Kbps.

There was no explanation of the increase in available Web sites. Some IT experts speculated that it was due to the maintenance of servers.

“Lifting the ban means lifting the ban on all Web sites by these ISPs. Some are still banned and some are now accessible. So we cannot say they lifted the ban on these Web sites,” said Maung Maung, a computer security post-graduate student.

Burma now has more than 400,000 Internet users and 802 registered Public Access Centres (PACs); 584 PACs are located in Rangoon City; 21 in Mandalay; and 197 are in other cities, according to statistics issued by Myanmar Info Tech at the end of February 2011.

The government imposes restrictions when granting a PAC license that bans visiting exile-based news and media Web sites. PACs are responsible for controlling leaks of news and information that could undermine state security. Violators could face up to five years in prison under the Official Secrets Act.

Reporters Sans Frontier (RSF) listed Burma as an enemy of the Internet because of the government’s restrictions and the imprisonment of bloggers and others who pass routine information using e-mail and other Internet services. The US-based Freedom House listed Burma as the second worst country in the world for Internet freedom.

Leave a Reply