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Eastern block: Ukraine bans Russian media and social networking sites

20 Mai 2017

Other companies affected are the Russian media companies RBC, Ren-TV, TNT, NTV Plus, the 1 Channel, Zvezda, Moscow 24, a Russian state news agency Rossiya Segodnya, and internet security companies Kaspersky Lab and DrWeb.

Several of the banned Russian social media sites published instructions to their users explaining how they could circumnavigate the ban by using open-access internet technologies.

The decree is actually part of an expansion of Ukrainian sanctions imposed as a response to Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

"This is yet another example of the ease with which President Poroshenko unjustifiably tries to control public discourse in Ukraine", HRW's Ukraine researcher, Tanya Cooper, said in a statement. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a sharp escalation in hostilities in late January and early February has "had a devastating impact on all aspects of life for civilians living along the contact line", depriving tens of thousands of people of necessities and life-saving services.From the start, the conflict has involved information as much as guns.

President Petro Poroshenko's blanket ban in Ukraine on several Russian Internet services, including leading Russian-language social networks and a popular search engine, has struck a chord - or a nerve, depending on who you ask.

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Seibert added that Merkel and Poroshenko would also discuss the so-called Normandy Format comprising Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine, the group that helped broker the ceasefire between Kiev and self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine and continues to meet to discuss progress on the peace process.

US officials say they are closely following Ukraine's order blocking access to a number of Russian websites in the latest round of sanctions over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

In their statements on the decree, both CPJ and ARTICLE 19 highlight the broader, worsening environment for free expression in Ukraine, pointing specifically to the barring of certain Russian journalists from the country and to an intensification of the crackdown on social media users who express "separatist views". Only restrictions that are necessary and proportionate for a legitimate objective may be imposed, and the ban set out in the decree does not pass that test. In June 2016, a presidential decree banned 17 Russian journalists, editors, and media executives from traveling to Ukraine. In May 2016, Poroshenko removed 29 people from the list of those sanctioned.

Censorship and a blow to freedom of expression, or a long-overdue move in defense of national security? "It's an inexcusable violation of Ukrainians' right to information of their choice, and the European Union and Ukraine's other global partners should immediately call on Ukraine to reverse it".

Eastern block: Ukraine bans Russian media and social networking sites