Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

FC: AOL removes link to Junta Homepage

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
From:          Adam Powell <>
To:            "''" <>
Subject:       FC: AOL removes link to Junta Homepage
Date:          Wed, 18 Aug 1999 18:58:17 -0400

Here is an items that might be interesting for the Politech list-- it
raises issues of de facto censorship of information (and certainly in
this case, much of it lies, disinformation and propaganda) from an
established regime. 

AOL removes link to Junta Homepage

Free Burma Coalition      

Contact: Dr. Zarni, Free Burma Coalition,,

For Immediate Release:

America Online Chooses, Then Deletes Burma Junta Web Page

Dulles, Virginia -- August 18, 1999 -- America Online, the leading
internet Service provider in the United States, has made an abrupt

On Friday August 13th, AOL chose the site to be linked
to AOL's Asia Forum.  The problem?  The site is operated by the ruling
military junta of Burma (also known as Myanmar), identified by
Reporters Sans Frontieres as one of the world's "real enemies" of the

The Burmese junta jails citizens for "unauthorized" use of fax,
photocopiers and computers with modems.  Internet service, including
AOL, is unavailable to all of Burma's 46 million citizens, save a few
"authorized" friends of the regime.

Ironically, an email message from Burma's Office of Strategic Services
(the secret police) alerted exiled Burmese democrats to AOL's gaffe. 
The message copied AOL's announcement, which gushed "We think you'll
notice dramatically increased usage because of this exposure."

Though an international pariah, the junta makes extensive use of the
internet to distribute its propaganda.  The website in question,, is mostly used to lure hard-currency-carrying
tourists. But elsewhere the page compiles vituperative articles from
the junta-controlled press. Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace
Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi comes in for particular scorn, often called
a "sorceress" or a "lackey of colonialists."  The more than 100,000
Burmese refugees huddled in Thailand are labelled "terrorists," though
groups such as Amnesty International say they are vicitms of rape,
torture, forced labor and murder.

"We informed AOL of the fact that the junta operates this page, and
gave them some information about pervasive human rights violations in
Burma," says Dr. Zarni, Burmese founder of the Free Burma Coalition.
"It looked bad for an 'information technology' company to be leading
its users to the propaganda page of a regime that has closed the
universities and restricted all kinds of information, including the
internet.  To their credit, AOL reacted quickly," he adds.

AOL informed the Free Burma Coalition on Tuesday, August 17 that "we
have removed the website in question from the International Country


     Thomas R. Lansner
      Assistant Dean
     Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
    420 West 118th Street, New York, NY 10027 USA
   212-854-8690	      fax 212-854-1657

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