Analyzing Tendencies. What’s New in Internet Freedom in Ukraine? Overview of April 16 — May 16, 2018

We regularly monitor incidents and violations of Internet freedom in Ukraine. The results of the monitoring with description are available on our website: netfreedom.org.ua

Reference point. Summing up trends in Internet freedom after the sanction decree against the Russian companies

A year ago, on May 15, 2017, Petro Poroshenko signed Decree #133/2017 on introducing sanctions against Russian companies that lead to blocking a number of Russian online services. Since that time, we have been monitoring the attempts to regulate the Internet, including under the premise of protecting national security interests.

We have prepared the monitoring of key incidents and trends in the sphere of Internet freedom from September 2017 until April 2018. We have analyzed the statistics of arrests of users for crimes in the online space, identified key trends, and traditionally cite the key incidents.

PROCEED TO MONITORING RESULTS

Facebook is an effective way of informing about violations in the sphere of Internet freedom

We have obtained part of the information for our monitoring from Facebook, that during 2017 and early 2018 often served as the first and main channel for spreading information about various kinds of violations regarding Internet freedom. The examples of users alerting their communities about incidents are available HERE.

How to protect the rights of Internet users? Discussion in Odesa

The state should be looking not only for technological, but also for social and media decisions. On April 20, 2018, the team of Internet Freedom project visited Odesa to hold the discussion about challenges for Internet users and their digital rights. The discussion topics included protection of personal data and the defining the most pressing current state Internet regulation challenges in Ukraine. READ KEY POINTS

“Social media environment is a convenient platform that can be used for influence, including influence on the election results. That’s why, there is the need here to look not only for technical, but also for social, organizational, and media decisions. And these are the challenges to the existence of the state, that’s why the state interferes into this sphere,” Serhiy Dibrov analyzed during the discussion of challenges for Internet users and their digital rights.

Informational security discourse. New initiatives in Ukraine

Not allow stricter rules. On April 18, 2018, the head of Verkhovna Rada committee on national security and defense Serhiy Pashynskyi initiated preparing changes to legislation that provide for responsibility, including criminal responsibility, for sharing untrue information that undermines defense capacity of Ukraine. This happened after Novoye Vremya edition published a journalistic investigation on violations in the defense sphere. Ukroboronprom company plans to sue over the edition over this publication. Media experts are calling journalists not to allow stricter rules. READ MORE

“Anything can become ‘undermining defense capacity’, even personal criticism against Mr. Pashynskyi who is the head of Verkhovna Rada committee on national security and defense. In fact, this is the threat of censorship. Also, self-censorship will increase. In such cases, a civilized European way is through courts. I would also like to remind you that the journalist has no liability for sharing information, as he or she is not the holder of information. Only those person who have been obliged by the state to hold information, to manage state funds can be responsible,” media expert, executive director of Institute of Mass Information Oksana Romaniuk commented.

Oleksandr Turchynov’s initiative. On May 9, 2018, the Secretary of the Council of National Security and Defense of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov send an open letter to the Security Service of Ukraine because of the broadcasting of the ‘military parade’ from the occupied Ukrainian territories by some Ukrainian media. According to the information from journalists, the online media may include Korespondent, bigmir)net, sde.in.ua, reporter-ua.com. In response, the SSU informed that it would review the request. DETAILS

Searches in RIA Novosti and arrest of the head of the news agency. On May 15, 2018, the SSU carried out searches in RIA Novosti news agency and arrested its head Kiril Vyshynskyi. He was charged according to Pt.1 Art.111 (state treason) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The US said that they understand Ukraine’s actions, but are urging the authorities to ‘follow legislation.’ DETAILS

The Internet needs protection from Russian influence. During Kyiv security forum in April, the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko offered to develop legislative initiatives to counter Russia’s intervention in the elections, by using the experience of European countries. Is it really the best way for Ukraine? KEY POINTS

Website blocking. More precedents

A new case of blocking websites after a court decision. On April 19, a court in Lviv oblast obliged 22 largest (in the opinion of the applicant) Internet providers and operators to block access to three websites on the territory of Ukraine. The decision to block mmgp.ru, ScamQuestra.com, and Prochukhan.org was made by the court based on the claim that these websites share information that violates personal non-property rights of the applicant. MORE

“The absurdity starts when the court identifies the largest operators not based on the statistical data from the regulating agency, but on data from the applicant. This could be a way of threatening or manipulating companies that are listed in the court decision. The list includes both really large players and smaller companies. Unfortunately, such court decisions also evidence the qualification of our judges and the biased work of lawyers,” Oleksandr Fediyenko, the head of board of the Internet Association of Ukraine said.

Local blocking of Irpen Pravda website. On May 10, the editors of the edition spoke about blocking of their website by local Internet provider, Best, after they published a series of articles with criticism against the owner of the provider company. Indeed, irpin.news website was down at the time. According to the journalists, “after several appeals to different organizations from the editors of the website and NGOs, in particular, “Union of Journalists of Kyiv Region” NGO, the website was unblocked on May 16.

At the same time, it is known that irpin.news website is controlled by the infamous mayor of Irpin, Volodymyr Karpiuk. The texts on the website are anonymous, not signed by surnames of journalists. The website is also known for its attacks on local activists who oppose Karpiuk. DETAILS OF THE INCIDENT

The actions of law enforcement in the sphere of Internet freedom in the period between March 16 — April 16:

According to the information from the law enforcement:

Kyiv — the SSU banned Russian video blogger and stand-up comedian Danylo Poperechnyi from entering Ukraine for three years. LINK

Lviv — Cyber police informed about identifying a student who created and sold viruses. LINK

Ukraine — The SSU announced that it prevented the provocations of Russian special services on social network before May holidays. LINK

Kyiv — cyber police offered help to the new website of the Ministry of Energy that was hacked. The operation of the new website has not been restored, and users are forwarded to the previous website of the Ministry. LINK

Kyiv — The SSU is checking whether an article on Novoye Vremya has revealed a state secret. LINK

Crimea

In April and May 2018 a number of incidents took place in Crimea. A court controlled by Russia found activist Ihor Movenko guilty of ‘public calls for extremist activity’ and sentenced him to two years in prison for several comments on the group ‘Crimea Is Ukraine’ on Vkontakte. DETAILS

Activist Yevhen Karakashev who together with a group of left activists organized a meeting to support of Crimean political prisoners Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Koltchenko in 2016. On May 7, 2018, the court declined the appeal to the decision to prolong the arrest during a closed session. MORE

Also, on April 18, 2018, the court decided to prolong arrest for Crimean Tatar Ismayil Ramzanov who is accused of expremism propaganda through an Internet radio. PROCEED TO NEWS

“We protest the ‘decision’ of the occupation authorities to sentence Ihor Movenko to two years in settlement colony. A political sentence. We are fighting for his release,” the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maryana Betsa wrote on Twitter on May 4.

In the previous overview, we discussed new precedents in the sphere of Internet freedom: blocking of websites, communication from the SSU, and legislative initiatives. The overview is available here.

The overview has been written by NGO “Internews Ukraine” as part of implementing the project Internet Freedom in Ukraine: Supporting the Principles of Freedom of Speech and Security in the Time of Conflict.”

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