Myanmar Internet freer than Thailand’s: Freedom House

Freedom House, a human rights advocacy group based in Washington D.C., on Thursday revealed its 2014 Freedom on the Net report, which categorizes Thailand’s Internet as ‘not free’, while categorizing Myanmar Internet as ‘partly free.’ 
 
This is a reversal from 2013, when Thailand was categorized as partly free, and Myanmar was categorized as not free. 
 
While a score of 0 indicates complete freedom, and 100 none, Myanmar received 60 and Thailand received 62 on the Freedom on the Net total score.  
 
The scores are based on three factors: violation of Internet users’ rights, limits on content, and obstacles to access.  
 
“The NCPO [Thai junta] made dozens of arrests, stepped up digital surveillance, infringed on online privacy, and created a climate of fear where internet users conducted on- and off-line “witch hunts” against fellow citizens,” states Freedom House. 
 
The advocacy group also mentions the first case for Thailand where a court jailed an internet user for over six years for “attempting to commit lèse-majesté” via a computer and calls the case a “charge without legal basis”.
 
“Though the number of censored URLs appeared to decline, court orders now authorize ICT officials to block similar content on other websites without seeking fresh permission, bypassing a legal requirement,” said Freedom House. 
 
Meanwhile, Freedom House pointed out key developments in Myanmar:
  • In March, Norway’s Telenor activated Myanmar’s first independent link to the international internet 
  • Mobile penetration increased slightly under a programme to distribute affordable SIM cards, but remains among the world’s lowest 
  • The October 2013 Telecommunications Law reduced, but did not abolish, prison terms for online activity 
  • Democratic Voice of Burma video journalist Zaw Pe was sentenced in April 2014 to a one-year prison term in relation to his online reporting.
  • Government officials pressured independent online media to alter advertisements and threatened to deny interviews
Countries which join the ‘not free’ category with Thailand include China, Iran, Vietnam, and Libya