Burma Backtracks on Press Freedom

After a promising start, repression resurfaces


Soon after Burma's military launched aerial bomb attacks against an ethnic rebel group in a remote area of the country restricted to reporters, the Weekly Eleven newspaper was among the first local publications to expose the assault. Military leaders initially disputed the sensitive battlefield reports, but images and video of the late-December 2012 bombardment and its aftermath over time made those official denials indefensible.

Two weeks after its report, Weekly Eleven's website was hacked by assailants referring to themselves as "Red Army Team," a cyberattack that Than Htut Aung, the newspaper's founder and main columnist, attributes to hardline elements in the military's intelligence apparatus opposed to his publication's often critical reporting. Weekly Eleven's commentary on military affairs has addressed, among other topics, the historically opaque handling of the armed conflict in Kachin state, where government forces have been widely accused of abuses, including the killing and rape of civilians, in the battle against ethnic Kachin rebels fighting for regional autonomy.