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International news sites, including Voice of America, BBC, and Radio Free Asia, long blocked by Burmese censors, had become accessible overnight.Reports also indicated that a number of previously censored independent Burma-focused news sites which have been highly critical of Burma’s ruling regime, such as the Democratic Voice of Burma and Irrawaddy, were suddenly accessible.Figure 1: Block page seen on Yatanarpon Teleport when attempting to access restricted content in August 2012.(Click image to enlarge) Almost all of the URLs found blocked belonged to ONI’s “Social” category.ONI conducted testing in Burma from August 4 to 19, 2012 on the ISP Yatanarpon Teleport.The results of these tests showed that both the scope and depth of content found to be filtered were drastically reduced compared to all previous rounds of ONI testing dating back to 2005.
Following decades of military rule, Burma has undergone a series of significant political and economic reforms since elections in November 2010.The country has loosened a number of media restrictions, and its leadership openly discusses the end of censorship.While Burma’s reform process may be in its early stages, the country has taken steps toward opening up its information environment. Content categorized as “political” focuses primarily on Web sites that express views in opposition to those of the current government.The changes seen in Burma, while still fragile, represent a rare decrease in the level of Internet filtering.While Burma remains a significant censor of a number of content categories, it has demonstrated a marked decrease in filtering of news and oppositional political content.