|Categories||News magazine and online news|
Vol 15, No.3
|Company||Irrawaddy Publishing Group (IPG)|
|Country||Rangoon, Burma & Chiang Mai, Thailand|
The Irrawaddy (Burmese: ; MLCTS: ei: ra wa. ti) is a website by the Irrawaddy Publishing Group (IPG), founded in 1990 by Burmese exiles living in Thailand. From its inception, The Irrawaddy has taken an independent stance on Burmese politics. As a publication produced by former Burmese activists who fled violent crackdowns on anti-military protests in 1988, it has always been closely associated with the pro-democracy movement, although it remains unaffiliated with any of the political groups that have emerged since the 8888 Uprising.
The Irrawaddy is published in both English and Burmese, with a primary focus on Burma and Southeast Asia. It is regarded as one of the foremost journalistic publications dealing with political, social, economic and cultural developments in Burma. In addition to news, it features in-depth political analysis and interviews with a wide range of Burma experts, business leaders, democracy activists and other influential figures.
It was started in 1990 with the name Burma Issues. The founder is Aung Zaw, a student activist from Rangoon University who left the country after the 1988 imposition of martial law and started the Burma Information Group (BIG) in Bangkok. The BIG initially circulated The Irrawaddy amongst foreign embassies, human rights groups and the Burmese exile community to update on developments inside Burma in the wake of the suppression of the pro-democracy movement and the consolidation of military control under the State Law and Order Restoration Council.
The BIG's main offices were relocated to Chiang Mai, Thailand in 1995-96, and the organization was renamed the Irrawaddy Publishing Group in 1999 to coincide with an expansion of the magazine's focus to include other political issues in Southeast Asia. The organization's online service was launched in 2000 to provide more regular coverage of breaking news, notably the fallout from the 2003 banking crisis and the downfall of senior junta leader Khin Nyunt.
In 2012, following legislative reforms to end Burma's decades-old system of prepublication censorship and the granting of new media licenses, The Irrawaddy opened a bureau in Rangoon and gradually moved its editorial operations into the country, while maintaining a legacy presence in Chiang Mai.
The Irrawaddy formerly published a monthly English language magazine and a weekly Burmese language journal, both of which were circulated in Burma and Thailand. Its English and Burmese language websites are updated daily. The editor of the English edition is Kyaw Zwa Moe, younger brother of Aung Zaw, who was jailed for eight years while a high school student in Rangoon and joined The Irrawaddy after his release.
The publication has been widely cited in international media and wire services over the years. An exclusive interview with US President Barack Obama, coinciding with his second visit to Burma in 2014, received extensive coverage in the western press.
The English language print edition of The Irrawaddy ceased publication in September 2015, while the Burmese language edition was halted in January.
The Irrawaddy was an outspoken and strident critic of the State Law and Order Restoration Council and its successor, the State Peace and Development Council. Towards the end of the junta era, it criticized the protracted drafting of the 2008 Constitution by the military, and highlighted irregularities in the conduct of the 2010 general elections. Since the election of a civilian government, the magazine has questioned the sincerity of the country's political and economic reforms, and called for an end to the military's ongoing presence in political affairs.
Since her release from house arrest, The Irrawaddy has also at times been critical of National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party. While not formally affiliated with any of Burma's myriad pro-democracy groups, The Irrawaddy has given a platform to members of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the 88 Generation Students Group, and other civil society groups. It has reported extensively on ongoing conflicts between the military and ethnic armed groups, and recent protests over land seizures and education reforms.
The Irrawaddy's websites were subjected to Distributed Denial of Service attacks during the Saffron Revolution, and again on the uprising's anniversary in 2008 and 2010, which temporarily shut down both its English and Burmese online editions.
On 12 March 2011, The Irrawaddy was hacked by unknown attackers who posted fake articles on the magazine's website. One of the articles alleged a feud between Aung Zaw and Aung San Suu Kyi, claiming that the National League for Democracy leader had encouraged funding cuts for exiled media that have forced a number of organisations, including The Irrawaddy and Democratic Voice of Burma, to cut programmes and fire staff. Another article alleged the death of popular singer May Sweet in a London traffic accident. Both stories were quickly flagged as fictitious, and Aung Zaw later speculated that the attack was launched by a pro-military junta group or Naypyidaw's cyber warfare department.
On October 2, 2014, The Irrawaddy's website was hacked by a group apparently sympathetic to the radical Buddhist 969 Movement, which rose to prominence after the outbreak of intercommunal riots across Burma in 2012. Prompted by the website's syndication of a wire story reporting a cooperation agreement between the 969 Movement and Sri Lanka's Bodu Bala Sena Buddhist nationalist organization, the front page was defaced to read: "Irrawaddy supports Jihad and Radical Muslims. For the defend of Muslims and Allah, Irrawaddy have shown attacking Buddhists and others Non-Muslims with Media News (sic)."
Before media reforms in 2012 allowed exile media organizations to establish an official presence in Burma, The Irrawaddy relied on a network of stringers and sources operating inside the country and communicating developments back to Chiang Mai by telephone. In some instances, inaccurate reports were published on political developments during the transfer of power from the State Peace and Development Council to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw after the 2010 general elections: