Burmese exiled media groups are calling for international support in ending cyber attacks that have crippled two news websites over the past week. The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and The Irrawaddy magazine, which provide independent coverage of current affairs in Burma, have been the target of intense attacks which it is believed originate from the Burmese government. The two websites are currently up and running although the attack continues at the time of going to press.
Details surrounding the attacks – the first of which began shortly after midnight on 27 September - are still being investigated. The method being used is DDoS, or distributed denial-of-service, which fires thousands of malformed web connections against a website, causing it to become inaccessible.
The debate around the timing of the attacks has focused on the looming 7 November elections, with media workers concerned that the Burmese junta is carrying out a test run prior to the controversial polls. It is feared that more attacks are on the way.
According to media watchdog Reporters sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF) : "It is essential that these websites continue to operate in order to provide the Burmese people and the rest of the world with independent news and information about the upcoming elections. The use of cyber attacks against independent news websites is a cowardly tactic used by those who feel threatened by the truth. We strongly condemn such acts."
The calls were echoed by the managing director of Media Frontiers, Thomas Hughes, who said that “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”.
Burma already has some of the world’s most draconian media laws, and ranked 171 out of 175 countries in the RSF Press Freedom Index for 2009. Burma is also labelled by the organization an "Enemy of the Internet". 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”.