Myanmar junta shuts Twitter and Instagram to curb protests

Myanmar Junta Shuts Twitter And Instagram To Curb Protests Myanmar Junta Shuts Twitter And Instagram To Curb Protests
Supporters show a three-finger salute of protest while four arrested activists make a court appearance in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Friday, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Associated Press Reporters

Military authorities in charge of Myanmar broadened a ban on social media following this week’s coup and shut Twitter and Instagram, as residents in the nation’s biggest city again banged pots and plastic bottles to show their opposition to the army takeover.

It came as street protests continued to expand on Saturday as people gathered again to show their opposition to the army takeover.

Around 1,000 protesters — factory workers and students prominent among them — marched on Saturday morning through the streets of Yangon, the country’s biggest city.

By noon, more than 100 police in riot gear had been deployed to block them from moving ahead. Members of the crowd shouted “Military dictatorship should fall” and “Down with dictatorship”.

In addition to Facebook and related apps, the military government on Friday ordered communications operators and internet service providers to cut access to Twitter and Instagram. The statement said people were trying to use both platforms to spread fake news.


Myanmar nationals living in Thailand sing a song while holding images of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a protest in Bangkok on Friday (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

Netblocks, which tracks social media disruptions and shutdowns, confirmed the loss of Twitter service starting 10pm local time (3.30pm GMT). Instagram was already subject to restrictions.

In a statement, Twitter said it was “deeply concerned” about the order to block internet services in Myanmar and vowed to “advocate to end destructive government-led shutdowns”.

“It undermines the public conversation and the rights of people to make their voices heard,” the spokesperson said.

Telenor, a Norway-based telecommunications company operating in Myanmar though a subsidiary, said it had complied with the order but also challenged “the necessity and proportionality of the directive”.

State media are heavily censored and Facebook in particular has become the main source of news and information in the country. It is also used to organise protests.

For the fourth night on Friday, the cacophony of noise from windows and balconies reverberated through the commercial capital of Yangon, as resistance to the coup and arrests of activists and politicians gathered steam.

Earlier on Friday, nearly 300 members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party declared themselves the sole legitimate representatives of the people and asked for international recognition as the country’s government.


Supporters give roses to police while four arrested activists make a court appearance in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Friday (AP)

They had been scheduled to take their seats in a new session of Parliament last following November’s elections, when the military announced it was taking power for a year.

The military accused Ms Suu Kyi and her party of failing to act on its complaints that the election was fraudulent, though the election commission said it had found no evidence to support the claims.

In New York, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged the UN would do everything it could to unite the international community and create conditions for the military coup to be reversed.

He told a news conference it was “absolutely essential” to carry out the Security Council’s calls for a return to democracy, respect for the results of the November elections, and release of all people detained by the military, “which means the reversal of the coup that took place”.

Mr Guterres said Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN special envoy for Myanmar, had a first contact with the military since the coup and expressed the UN’s strong opposition to the takeover.

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