Russia: Halt Orders to Block Online Media

Proposed Law Would Further Restrict Public Debate
StopWork-order(Moscow) โ€“ Russian authorities have blocked several independent websites and are proposing new laws that would further restrict freedom of expression. These moves, together with the detention of hundreds of peaceful protesters since early March 2014, are part of a newcrackdown on free expression and assembly as the crisis unfolds in neighboring Ukraine. โ€œThis new crackdown is aimed at silencing voices in Russia that are critical of the government at a time when open, public debate is essential,โ€ said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. โ€œRussia should foster a media-friendly climate instead of persistently quashing it.โ€
The dismissal in March of the editor-in-chief and executive director of one of the last remaining major online outlets providing objective coverage of current affairs has seriously compromised the websiteโ€™s independence. The only remaining major independent television channel is on the verge of bankruptcy after an official warning against it in January prompted major cable and satellite providers to drop it. In March the authorities blocked three opposition media websites for allegedly publishing banned content. Roskomnadzor, the Russia state body for media oversight, blocked the three websites under a new law, which entered into force in February. The law authorizes the prosecutor general to request the agency to block access to websites if they contain โ€œextremistโ€ content, call for mass riots, or call for participation in unsanctioned public gatherings. The authorities are not required to obtain a court order or even inform the website prior to blocking it, although website owners can appeal the decision. โ€œThe new law puts any media outlet in Russia at the mercy of the authorities,โ€ Williamson said. โ€œBy circumventing the court, the prosecutor and Roskomnadzor can arbitrarily block online media and other websites without their knowledge and deny them an opportunity to challenge the allegations in court until after the fact.โ€ continue reading……MARCH 24, 2014 – Human Rights Watch

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