Law & Disorder

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In Ulyanovsk city according to court order of first instance on May 23, 2013 OJSC Rostelecom has blocked access to 15 websites upon request from the Office of Public Prosecution. In the opinion of the Office, these websites included illegal information specifically «bribe-taking propaganda» which «diminishes the State authority». Blocking as the method by which government technically prevents users from access to unlawful information happens quite often lately especially due to Federal law of Russian Federation no. 139-FZ of 2012-07-28 also known as Russian Internet Restriction Bill. However, this is the first time when among other sites which are popular within only small number of users, major media Internet resources were blocked (Gazeta.ru and Komsomolskaya Pravda).

Furthermore, according to the press records representative of Gazeta.ru was not invited to court and even informed about the ruling.

Grounds of this court order are exceptionally interesting to boot. In the opinion of the Office, information, which was posted on these websites, «contributes to the formation of public opinion about the possibility of committing corruption crimes». Regarding blocking access to media sites, this statement violates Federal law of Russian Federation no. 149-FZ of 2006-07-27 because although the bill provides for blocking websites alleged to have broken the law it doesn’t apply to media (article 4).

On top of everything, there are mentioned only URLs of the websites in the ruling. Therefore, OJSC Rostelecom has blocked IP addresses instead of blocking only pages that include illegal information. At the same time, I should mention that even if Rostelecom had URLs of particular pages, it does not have technical capability to «hide» pages from subscribers and the result would be the same.

Overall, this court order is not based on law because legal procedure to block media websites is different and consists of different steps (by the way, on June 26, Komsomolskaya Pravda appealed from a judgment). Firstly, Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) according to Law of Russian Federation «About media» and considering the severity of violations shall send to editorial staff a demand to delete illegal content and issue a warning. In such a way in June Roskomnadzor issued a warning to Moskovskij Komsomolets for publishing the video of Russian feminist group punk-rock protest. Secondly, media can be issued a warning only twice a year. After that, Roskomnadzor may nullify media license but through court only (actually this has never happened, yet).

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