Google, Journalists, and Myanmar

Several journalists from Myanmar reported that their email accounts had been hacked this past weekend after receiving alert notifications from Google. These notifications told journalists that their accounts had been hacked by “state-sponsored attackers,” but neglected to give the journalists any other information about the attacks. 

According to Google, whose representative Taj Meadows cited a June 2012 statement from the company, Google could not discuss how they had obtained their information, since this would give hackers the upper-hand, and allow them the opportunity to avoid detection. 

However, both journalists and government officials in Myanmar remain discontent with this statement. Journalists view the hacks as yet another infringement on their freedoms, and the government views Google’s accusations of state-sponsored hacks as unwarranted. 

Naturally, this leads us to wonder about the relationship between journalists and the government in Myanmar — a relationship that can be called tenuous at best. The government has admittedly eased restrictions on the press in the past couple of years. However, along with those restrictions have come a great number of email hacks, causing some journalists to even keep two email accounts, one for government reporting, and one for everything else. 

All this subterfuge, both well-intended or otherwise leaves journalists and citizens everywhere with some questions. Does Google’s refusal to reveal its technical knowledge really hurt the public’s image of Myanmar’s government? Does this same refusal also help journalists in Myanmar, or does it hurt them? Also, are the journalists in Myanmar really better off with less public restrictions, but more private infringements on their rights? If not, is there a way to address this problem? Most importantly, what does this scenario, and others like it, say about the state of journalism in Myanmar? 

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