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News agency website targeted by hacker attacks

(IMI/IFEX) - The Malakava news agency website has systematically been the target of hackers, who "edit" texts or "break" their website, according to Olesya Tkachyk, editor-in-chief of Malakava, which operates in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk. Tkachyk held a press conference on 25 June 2009 in Ivano-Frankivsk where she also reported on other attempts to obstruct journalists' work.

Tkachyk said that various journalists were banned from attending events organized by the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk. "There was an incident when our journalists were not authorized to attend the 'Miss Ivano-Frankivsk' competition that was held under the patronage of the mayor. The security guards brought out our journalists by force while other mass media journalists could work without any problems," stated Tkachyk.

She also reported that the city administration and the mayor, Victor Anushkevych, ignored the journalists' inquiry letters following the incident.

Tkachyk also described the hacker attacks: "The first time the Malakava news agency website was hacked, on 15 May, we needed six hours to repair it. Immediately, all necessarily documents were handed over to the SBU (Security service of Ukraine) in Ivano-Frankivsk, proving that our computer network had been hacked. However, similar hacker attacks occurred afterwards. In early June, the agency server was hacked. The website was only fixed three days later. After the website started working again, hackers placed their statement on the personal page of the agency's executive director saying that in two weeks, they were going to break the website once and for all. They inserted a countdown," Tkachyk told IMI in a phone interview.

The journalists cannot say who is responsible for these attacks, but they stress that the news agency is independent and they have never tried to please local authorities. According to Malakava journalists, the city administration has a biased attitude toward them and ignores the inquiry letters they send.

Notwithstanding such pressures, the news agency has no intention of suspending its activities, Tkachyk said. She warned of further attempts to "edit" news on its website. If there is improper information or insulting statements about officials or other persons, one should see it as provocative action by the hackers and not information written by the journalists working for our agency," Tkachyk added.

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