Burmese media decries ongoing cyber attacks

Exiled Burmese media groups are today releasing a statement calling for global support in the fight against ongoing cyber attacks, which are suspected to originate from the Burmese junta.

International media watchdogs have lent their voices to the statement, with the Paris-based Reporters sans frontiers (Reporters Without Borders – RSF) saying that, “The use of cyber attacks against independent news websites is a cowardly tactic used by those who feel threatened by the truth”.

The attacks began on 27 September and, although two of the three websites targeted – The Irrawaddy Magazine and Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) – are up and running, the attacks continue.

The managing director of social purpose enterprise Media Frontiers, Thomas Hughes, said “it is important that the international community comes together, not only in condemning these attacks, but in actively seeking to provide any means necessary to keep these sites online and accessible”.

Observers are concerned that the Burmese junta, which is headed by Senior General Than Shwe and which resides over some of the world’s most repressive media laws, is carrying out a test run for the elections on 7 November. It has already banned election monitors from entering the country, and recently stopped the visa on arrival scheme, believed to be an attempt to block journalists and observers from entering during the election period.

Than Shwe is also facing calls to be tried in an international court for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity during his 18-year rule.

DVB has filed a case with the High Tech Crime Department of Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) – DVB is headquartered in Oslo, and feeds off a network of around 100 undercover reporters in Burma.

The executive director of DVB, Aye Chan Naing, said: “We will defend our right to tell the truth no matter what methods they use to silence us.  They will never succeed.”

The attack on the DVB website, known as DDoS, or distributed denial-of-service, peaked at around 6.5Gbps (Gigabits-per-second). The attackers also targeted the infrastructure of DVB’s carrier in Norway.

Burma already has some of the world’s most draconian media laws, and ranked 171 out of 175 countries in RSF’s Press Freedom Index for 2009. Out of the 2,150-plus political prisoners in Burma, around 15 are journalists, and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) last year branded Burma “the worst country to be a blogger”.

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