Myanmar’s military junta has banned satellite dishes, threatening prison sentences for anyone who violates the measure, as it intensifies its crackdown on access to independent news outlets.The junta, which faces unanimous opposition from the public and has struggled to maintain order, has imposed increasingly tough restrictions on communication since seizing power on 1 February.Mobile data has been cut for most people for more than 50 days, while broadband access has also been subject to severe restrictions. Several media outlets have been banned but continue to operate in hiding, either publishing online or broadcasting for television.On Wednesday, the military-controlled newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported that news agencies were using illegal satellite dishes to broadcast programmes that “harm the state security, the rule of law and community peace and tranquillity”. Anyone who installs satellite dishes could face a one-year prison sentence or K500,000 ($320) as a fine, it said.More than 80 journalists have been arrested in recent months, according to the independent Irrawaddy news outlet, which is itself facing legal action under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code. This law states that publishing information that causes fear or spreads false news is punishable by up to three years in prison.On Monday, Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese journalist, was charged under the same law, according to a report by Kyodo news agency. Kitazumi became the first foreign reporter to face charges since the coup.Thousands of people have been arrested under the junta, including 3,677 people who have been sentenced or are in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group. It reported that 769 people have been killed by the military.Despite the risks of military violence, protesters have continued to gather to oppose the coup. Teachers, students and parents marched outside schools in Mandalay on Wednesday morning, according to local media, calling for a boycott of the education system under the junta. On Tuesday night, a candlelit vigil was held in northern Kachin state.Earlier this week, five protesters were killed and another injured in a blast in the southern region of Bago. State media said the group were trying to plant a bomb, and that Thet Win Hlaing, a 35-year old former MP for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was among those who died.A number of blasts have been reported in Yangon and other cities over recent weeks, including some targeting government and military property.On Tuesday, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations told the US Congress to intensify pressure on the military by imposing more targeted sanctions. Kyaw Moe Tun called for measures against the state-run Maynamar oil and gas company Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, and the state-owned bank Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank.“I wish to stress that Myanmar is not just witnessing another major setback to democracy, but also the crisis is threatening the regional peace and security,” he said.The US, along with several western countries, has condemned the coup and imposed sanctions on the generals as well as some of their family members and businesses.
Generals who seized power in coup three months ago seek to further isolate country amid continuing opposition to their rule.Myanmar’s military-controlled media has announced a ban on satellite television dishes, saying outside broadcasts threaten national security, as the generals who seized power in a coup on February 1 charged a Japanese journalist with spreading false news.
“Satellite television is no longer legal. Whoever violates the television and video law, especially people using satellite dishes, shall be punished with one year imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 kyat ($320),” MRTV state television said on Tuesday.
“Illegal media outlets are broadcasting news that undermines national security, the rule of law and public order, and encouraging those who commit treason.”
The generals, led by army chief Min Aung Hlaing, arrested elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her government on February 1 as they seized power, ending Myanmar’s sluggish progress towards democracy.
Confirmed: Mobile data has been cut in #Myanmar for 50 days and online platforms remain heavily restricted limiting press freedom at a critical moment for the country’s future 📵#WorldPressFreedomDay#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) May 3, 2021
The country has been in turmoil ever since, with more than 760 people killed as security forces struggle to quash near-daily demonstrations against their rule.
They have cut off mobile internet access, forced independent media to close and arrested reporters. At least 50 are currently in detention.
Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi, who was arrested for a second time last month, was charged on Monday.
Kitazumi is the first foreign journalist to be charged since the coup. A Polish photographer arrested while covering a protest in March was freed and deported after nearly two weeks in custody.
Japan, for years a top aid donor to Myanmar, has been pressing for Kitazumi’s release.
“Naturally, we will continue to do our utmost for the early release of the Japanese national being held,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told Japanese journalists during a trip to Britain, according to national broadcaster NHK.
Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi escorted into a Yangon police station when he was first arrested in February. He has been charged with spreading fake news [File: AP Photo]Pro-democracy rallies have continued despite the military’s efforts to stamp out opposition.
On Tuesday, protesters gathered in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city, with education staff calling for a boycott of schools and universities when they reopen in June, the Myanmar Now news agency reported.
Local media reported that five people were killed by at least one parcel bomb on Tuesday, including an overthrown legislator and three police officers who had joined the civil disobedience movement against military rule.
Meanwhile, the Chinland Defence Force, a newly formed militia in Chin state bordering India, said on its Facebook page on Tuesday that its forces had killed at least four Myanmar army soldiers and wounded 10 in a clash overnight.
The Myanmar army did not comment on the claim.
Villagers had found the beheaded body of a military appointed local administrator in the northwestern Sagaing region, independent broadcaster DVB reported, a day after another local official was stabbed to death in the biggest city, Yangon.
The Reuters news agency was unable to reach local police for comment.
The military has defended its power grab, alleging fraud in the November election, which was won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party in a landslide, and condemned protesters as rioters and terrorists.