Letter from the Editor

Throughout Southeast Asia and indeed all over the world attempts are continuously made by the powerful and corrupt be they oppressive regimes or powerful businesses to muzzle the press and compel them to ‘toe the line”.

This may be achieved in a number of ways: through ownership of media outlets, which allows said owners to dictate the editorial coverage, to more sinister methods including but not limited to oppressive laws, extrajudicial killings and even the use of cyber attacks to shut down, intimidate or otherwise stifle what these individuals and organisations view as a threat to themselves.

The role of the media is to inform the public, whether it is a weather forecast or corruption at the highest echelons of power and this naturally invites attacks, threats and intimidation. The people have a right to know but there are those who would rather keep them in the dark.

Some extreme examples include the killing of journalists in several Southeast Asian countries such as in Myanmar, Indonesia  and the Philippines, while others such as Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore wield laws and threats. The methods may differ but the motive is the same.

INS one year on

The mission of Independent News Service (INS) is to provide region-wide alternative, truthful and accurate news in Southeast Asia in the face of other news portals and outlets which have come under the control of certain interests, limiting their ability to cover issues concerning the people in a meaningful way.

From a modest start INS has grown rapidly, drawing in traffic from the region and beyond, as well as drawing in experts, opinionists and writers from all corners of Southeast Asia, who contribute articles, some that would help educate readers but others that simply cannot or will not be accepted by more established media houses.

As INS continues to grow it will stand by this principle: to give space and a platform for those who are willing to write the truth regardless of the consequences.

Trial by fire

Pursuing such an endeavour has already drawn the attention of certain parties with a vested interest to protect their opaque dealings. Our best example to date is when INS was brought down for several days in October via a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS).

While our ability to conduct detailed cyber forensics is limited and indeed is outside the scope of our work, the attack was directed over the publication of two articles by one Malaysian correspondent, Lalitha Kunaratnam, who mapped the commercial interests of several individuals from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server, service or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of internet traffic.

To date nearly 70 million of these bots have been filtered out and the attack continues albeit at a lower pace.

While the attack achieved its initial goal, INS is back and is working to be better prepared for such eventualities and wishes to thank all those that have made our return possible through their constant and meaningful support.

While INS has little means to act against those launching the attack, the details of this attack have been submitted to the relevant international authorities to ensure the originators of the attack come under scrutiny and sanction as the case may be.

The originators of the attack should also realise that such actions do certainly gain the attention of various international agencies and watchdogs who track such activities and in attempting to suppress a media outlet, they are inadvertently bringing even more attention to themselves.

Looking to the future

INS will continue to leverage on its strengths and its contributors, and strengthen its network to achieve its intended mission in the hope that a well informed and better educated public will hold their governments and business leaders accountable, to ensure the protection of minority and native rights and to ensure that the press is allowed to carry out these tasks with the freedom that should be theirs by right.

It is hoped that through these efforts and the efforts of our network of independent media organisations, in the region and beyond will demonstrate that the days of keeping people in the dark are long gone and that new technology and new media will throw a spotlight on their transgressions.

Thank you.