Burma: Military Restricts Internet, Freedom of Expression

Posted by Jeffery Krilla
October 2, 2007
Monks Pray at Police Road Block

Jeffrey Krilla, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor writes about the current crisis in Burma.

For two weeks, I, along with the rest of the international community, have been mesmerized by the images of brave Burmese monks and their supporters that have been streaming in to TV stations, flashed over the internet, and posted on blogs the world over. The thin saffron robes worn by the peacefully marching monks stood in vivid contrast to the hard riot shields held up by the riot police. Their example has inspired us—from world leaders making statements of support at the United Nations to ordinary citizens taking to the streets in solidarity in the Philippines.

Until recently, savvy bloggers and citizens armed with only camera phones and the Internet were able to capture riveting footage. They helped to mobilize and unite the democracy demonstrators and also became the eyes and ears of the world.

In the past few days, we’ve started seeing reports that the military junta is severely restricting the internet. As one of the leads on the Secretary's Global Internet Freedom Taskforce, I find these reports particularly disturbing. Internet freedom is the 21st Century’s battleground for freedom of expression. This Taskforce, made up of State Department officials, coordinates efforts to pressure governments to allow the media and democracy advocates across the globe free access to the web.

The Internet is a powerful force for freedom around the world, shedding light on human rights abuses and helping to create the free flow of information crucial to democratic development. We must work to preserve and protect this tool as an essential instrument for freedom of expression.



California, USA
October 2, 2007

Lynn in California writes:
How does the Global Internet Freedom Taskforce go about bringing Internet access to the censored and oppressed? Sounds good in theory but what can actually be done to help the people of Burma? The world needs to SEE the atrocities being committed there. Public outrage will force the powers that be into action - eventually. If the flow of information continues to be choked off the world will soon forget and the junta will continue on and another generation of Burmese will have been beaten down into submission.

What steps can the Global Internet Freedom Taskforce take so that at least some information can reach the outside world?

United States
October 3, 2007

Rory in U.S.A. writes:
The restriction of the Internet isn't the bad part. The killing of monks, reporters, women and children is the problem. The restriction of the Internet wouldn't matter so much if there weren't rights violations and genocide going on.

California, USA
October 3, 2007

Matt in California writes:
Oh a taskforce on freedom! Why didn't you say so? Surely, the Burmese government will be powerless to resist.

New York, USA
October 3, 2007

Ross in New York writes:
I'm glad to see our President taking a strong public stance on this issue. Oh wait...never mind.

New Mexico, USA
October 4, 2007

Eric in New Mexico writes:
Dear Jeffery,

Right about now I'd say pop a sat. over Burma and bomb 'em with blackberries or sat. phones...whatever fills the bill to open a direct link.

On the other hand, it might be more cost effective to have a coalition of the willing give the junta 48 hrs. to pack bags, 'cause until someone steps on the junta's neck and tells them, "You don't get to do this." I see this situation as a whole getting way out of hand to the point that with no action by the global community, we'll be witness to further crimes against humanity.

It looks now for all the world like blatent violations of the articles within the UN's Convention against Genocide are being perpetrated. And that's only from the little info so far that has come out.

I do not believe that civilization can suffer longer, the smell of ill intent from ethical infants.

Best Regards.

October 5, 2007

Gang in China writes:
Freedom is worldwide destination. May God bless Burma

October 7, 2007

Lan in China writes:
What a pity!

Oregon, USA
October 8, 2007

Roy in Oregon writes:
"Thou hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull the mote that is in thy brother's eye." Luke 6:42

Let me see -- You are a political appointee in the most secretive administration in U.S. history... How is that helping "create a free flow of information crucial to democratic development?"

-- You are the member of an administration which quite improperly and illegally harvested telephone information without appropriate judicial warrants.... That doesn't discourage "free flow of information?"

-- Your President authorized pressuring Internet Service Providers to release information about legal (but private) citizen use of the internet... Who can trust this administration to protect the principles of "freedom of expression?"

Brother, how about first removing the beam (and the blinders) from your own eye and working to end the murderous cabal which employs you?

Thomas U.
South Carolina, USA
October 9, 2007

Thomas in South Carolina writes:
Hiya, one thing that I really don't think the State Dept should be doing is to be advocating for foreign countries. To all the people who say we should "do something" about Darfur or Myanmar I'd say "ok, why don't *you* pick up a rifle?" They never do.

I was under the impression that you guys were on the American People's payroll not that of foreign countries. Oh, and when are all the countries now getting "foreign aid" from the U.S. going to start "graduating" off of it?
If foreign aid *actually worked* the amount we give every year would be going *down* not up! We're just making Mercedes Benz dealers and real estate agents in the South of France rich with "foreign aid."

California, USA
October 9, 2007

Martin in California writes:
A little flowery and too many adjectives. Keep trying.

District Of Columbia, USA
October 12, 2007

Allison in Washington, DC writes:
@ Thomas in South Carolina -- I first would like to say that I think you have entirely misunderstood the role of the State Department. It in no way advocates for foreign countries, but rather seeks to advance U.S. foreign policy goals through fostering democracy and global stability. In an increasingly interconnected world, it is unreasonable to think that countries can exist in isolation.

Secondly, I would like to appeal to your moral sensibilities by stating that human life is human life regardless of location. We should care about people around the world because we are part of the global community. This is the case whether you want to acknowledge it or not. People call for action in Darfur because villages are being burned, women are being raped and thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes. As the world's leading democracy we have the responsibility to speak out, and in some cases take action, against such crimes against humanity. We witnessed what happened when we failed to take action in Rwanda. Instability, conflict and poverty have far reaching consequences. Just because we are seemingly safe here in America does not mean we should turn a blind eye to the rest of the world. Every human life has value and should be respected. This includes the monks in Burma and the villagers in Darfur.


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