Internet freedom violations in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. February-2017 review

Ukrainian President signed two bills that increase states control of the Internet. Another Crimean Tatar activist detained for old post in social networks. “Roskomnandzor” is going to increase control of the Internet till the end of 2017. Read more about major violations, threats and incidents for the freedom of the Internet in brief February review.

Thirty seven cases were put on the map of Internet freedom violations.

Ukraine

Ukrainian President signed two bills that show willingness to increase states control of the Internet. On February 25 Petro Poroshenko signed the the National Security and Defence Council bill “About the Doctrine of Information Security of Ukraine”. Russia is called as the main threat to Ukraine’s information security. Ministry of Information and Security Service of Ukraine will be monitoring Internet and media in order to identify and neutralize threats. Also Poroshenko on February 18 signed another NSDC’s bill that initiated creating mechanisms for blocking websites.

Interior Minister’s advisor calls to ban Russian social networks. Zorian Shkiriak on February 17 proposed to limit the access for Ukrainians to social networks like  “Vkontakte” and “Odnoklassniki”. They are seen as main distributors of anti-Ukrainian content. However, today there are no mechanisms in Ukraine for full blocking of websites.

Security Service of Ukraine named fake anti-Ukrainian accounts in social networks. Russian citizens created network of fake profiles in Facebook and “Vkontakte” in order to destabilize situation in Ukraine, said on February 15 SSU’s representative Oleksandr Tkachuk. Among these pages are: Nikolai Hayduk, Stephen Mazur, “Patriots of Ukraine”, “Ukrainian Revolution”, “Everybody to the Maidan”,”Maidan-3″, “We are the patriots of Ukraine”.

Two Ukrainians are jailed for administrating pages in social networks. The Court of Donetsk region in early February sentenced two Ukrainians, around 25 years old, to five years in prison for “violation of territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine.” It is said in official statement they created in “Vkontakte” several groups to support terrorist organizations of so called “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic”, with no more details.

Crimea (annexed by the Russian Federation)

Crimean Tatar activist detained for old post in social networks. In Crimea on February 21 Marlen Mustafayev was detained for 11 days for the post in the social network “Vkontakte”, published in July 2014 featuring the symbols of “Hizb ut-Tahrir” (organization officially banned in Russia, but not in Ukraine). Ten people were also arrested when they came to Mustafayev house to film the police action.

Crimean Tatar lawyer, prisoned for 10 days for old post in social networks, was released on February 5. Emile Kurbedinov is famous Crimean lawyer that protects journalist of Radio Free Europe Nicholas Semeni and other “political prisoners”. He was accused of publishing in the social network in 2013 videos from the event of “Hizb ut-Tahrir”.

Editor of Crimean online edition remains in prison. Alushta Court on February 2 extended the detention for Alexey Nazimov, the editor of online media “Tvoya gazeta”, until March 5. With Nazimov in October 2016 also was arrested the deputy of Alushta City Council Pavlo Stepanchenko. Nazimov and Stepanchenko are accused for demanding bribes from member of the party “Edinaya Rossiya”. Since then Court always keeps them a preventive measure in the form of detention.

Belarus

Belarus authorities extraditioned to Azerbaijan blogger with Russian-Israel citizenship. Alexandr Lapshin might be prisoned to eight years in Baku. Russia, Armenia and Israel have been actively opposed the extradition Lapshin. This worsened relationship between countries and created dangerous precedent for Post-soviet countries. Azerbaijan accuses blogger for illegal visit to Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in 2011 and 2012 that Baku considers its territory.

Russia

Russian top official left Facebook few weeks after he proposed to block it in Russia. Putin’s Advisor for Internet development Herman Klimenko on February 22 was blocked for three days in Facebook. He was accused of “copyrights” violating. In response Klimenko promised to stop posting in Facebook. In January 2017 he proposed to ban every foreign social network and messenger that refuse to cooperate with Russian authorities.

“Roskomnandzor” (Russian federal executive body responsible for overseeing the Internter) is going to increase control of the Internet. The Russian government wants to control every entry points of Internet traffic in the country by the end of 2017. Alexander Zharov, chief of “Roskomnadzor”, also said on February 14 that it plans to launch automate control of all content for TV channels and radio stations.

Against Russian activist from Chuvash on February 13 was initiated criminal proceeding for the repost in social network. Dmitry Syemonova, “Open Russia” activist, reposted photo with T-shirt with inscription “Orthodoxy or death”. According to Russian law enforcement, it is an extremist slogan.

Number of restrictions on freedom of the Internet in Russia has increased eight times. International human rights group Agora published a new report “Freedom of the Internet 2016”. Identified Internet freedom restrictions in comparison to 2015 has increased almost eight times and more than 230 times in the last six years.

“Roskomnadzor” continues blocking Ukrainian online-media. Website “Zakarpattya online” received a yellow card from Russian federal executive body for an “extremist” material published in 2013 about sports-patriotic movement “Carpathian Sich”.

January-2017 report is available here.

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