This bulletin examines the role of information technology, citizen
journalists, and bloggers in Burma and presents a technical analysis of
the abrupt shutdown of Internet connectivity by the Burmese government
on September 29, 2007, following its violent crackdown on protesters
there. Completely cutting international Internet links is rare.
Nepal, which severed all international Internet connections when the
King declared martial law in February 2005, is the only other state to
take such drastic action. Although extreme, the measures taken by the
Burmese government to limit citizens’ use of the Internet during this
crisis are consistent with previous OpenNet Initiative (ONI) findings
in Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Tajikistan, where authorities controlled
access to communication technologies as a way to limit social
mobilization around key political events. What makes the Burmese junta
stand out, however, is its apparent goal of also preventing information
from reaching a wider international audience.
The shutdown of Internet connectivity was precipitated by its use by
citizens to send photographs, updates and videos that documented the
violent suppression of protests in Burma, information that contributed
to widespread international condemnation of the Burmese military
rulers’ gross violations of human rights.
We examine the impact of communication technology in shaping these
key political events in Burma, the limitations of these tools, and the
prospects for the next round of information wars.