With just 100 days to go until the National Election, attempts to curtail the free press in Myanmar have increased, says PEN Myanmar.

On July 14, Dr. Than Htut Aung, CEO of Eleven Media Group, was attacked with tire lug nuts catapulted by a slingshot at his car while waiting at an intersection in Yangon.

Dr. Aung publishes a regular column in one of the Media Group’s newspapers, Eleven Daily, which has consistently published news about alleged government corruption and wrong-doing involving government officials including the Ministry of Information and several members of Parliament. He called last week’s attack a “systematically organized attempt to kill” him, according to PEN Myanmar.

Myanmar’s media outlets are widely seen as key players in maintaining free and fair elections. But as the south Asian country (also known as Burma) emerges from decades of military rule, it faces a history of violence against the writers and the press. In 1948, U Tin Htut, the country’s first foreign minister and editor of the New Times of Burma, was murdered in a car-bombing. Since then, there have been several assassination and murder attempts against publishers, journalists, reporters, and online media personnel, PEN Myanmar reports. Few arrests are ever made in these cases.

“The [national] government and regional governments seem to allow impunity for crimes against journalists,” PEN Myanmar said in a statement last week. “We urge the competent authorities to prevent, investigate, and seek justice for such crimes, and to protect and ensure the safety of all media, journalists, and writers before and after the election.”

Myanmar loosened restrictions on free expression in 2011, and in 2012 disbanded the official censorship board that had terrorized journalists and released hundreds of political prisoners, including writer and PEN Myanmar secretary Nay Phone Latt. Nonetheless, the state of free expression there remains fragile as ethnic conflicts rage in at least three states, hate speech and related violence proliferates as access to online media accelerates, and journalists face long prison sentences on spurious charges meant to silence dissent.

For more information about PEN Myanmar, email penmyanmarcenter@gmail.com