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IFEX MEMBER WEBSITES IN TUNISIA AND BURMA UNDER ATTACK

The online news magazine Kalima, often touted as one of the only independent news sources in Tunisia, has suffered an attack that has completely destroyed its web content, reports the Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia (OLPEC). Meanwhile, the websites of IFEX member Mizzima News, a Burmese news agency in exile, has also been hacked.

Kalima's webmasters have been unable to access the site since 8 October. The site will now have to be completely rebuilt and uploaded.

Said Kalima editor-in-chief and OLPEC secretary-general Sihem Bensedrine, "The only people who would benefit from an attack on a website that is already inaccessible to Internet users in Tunisia are the security services."

"I would not rule out the possibility that this act was committed by the secret services, with the aid of hackers or pirates based in Tunisia or abroad," she added.

The attack comes three months after the site was re-launched as a multimedia platform and archive.

Other independent sites have been the subject of similar attacks in the past. Tunisnews ( http://www.tunisnews.net ), which distributes a daily newsletter via email, was targeted in April. Judge Mokhtar Yahiaoui's blog ( http://tunisiawatch.rsfblog.org ) was attacked in November 2005.

Tunisian and foreign websites with a political or human rights focus have been censored in Tunisia for several years. The video-sharing sites Dailymotion and YouTube have also been the target of censors. The IFEX Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) is preparing a joint action on Kalima's case.

Meanwhile, the four websites of Mizzima News, an independent Burmese news agency based in New Delhi, India, were hacked on 1 October, making the sites intermittently inaccessible.

According to Mizzima News, the attackers used the vulnerability of poor-code websites in order to take control of the site. Mizzima's Canada-based hosting company suspended the sites on 9 October because they said the hacks might also harm other sites on the server. The sites only became fully functional on 14 October.

Though it is not known who is behind the attacks, Mizzima's technical staff said they found the main attempt to have originated from Russia, with cooperation from other hackers in Germany, France and India.

Mizzima is unable to confirm whether the attack was the work of the Burmese military junta, which has banned Mizzima's websites inside the country - although web users can still access the sites by bypassing the government's Internet filtering systems using proxy servers.

"This kind of well-organised attack can't be done by individuals, but is instead the disguised actions of an institution, most probably in this case the military regime," said Sein Win, Mizzima's managing editor.

This is not the first time that the websites of Mizzima as well as other Burmese media groups in exile have been attacked. In July, the Burmese websites of Mizzima News and the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma were hacked, rendering them inaccessible for several days.

Similarly, on 24 September, two days before the first anniversary of last year's monk-led protests in Burma, the sites of Democratic Voice of Burma and two Burmese news agencies in exile in Thailand, "The Irrawaddy" and "New Era Journal", were targeted.

Visit these links:
- OLPEC: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97591/
- Mizzima News: http://tinyurl.com/4rgdvq
(15 October 2008)

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