Russia: Move to block Telegram the latest blow in government assault on freedom of expression online

Ahead of tomorrow’s court hearing on a request by Russia’s media watchdog to block the messaging app Telegram for its refusal to share users’ information with the government, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Denis Krivosheev, said:

“By attempting to block the Telegram messaging app, the Russian authorities are launching the latest in a series of attacks on online freedom of expression in the country.

By attempting to block the Telegram messaging app, the Russian authorities are launching the latest in a series of attacks on online freedom of expression in the country
Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International

“In recent years the Russian authorities have steadily targeted the country’s few remaining spaces for freedom of expression. They have blocked news sites that criticize them, imposed draconian data storage rules and declared media outlets registered outside Russia as ‘foreign agents’.

“Now they are targeting one of the most popular messaging apps in Russia simply for having the courage and integrity to respect the privacy of its users. The court deciding on this case tomorrow must similarly show respect for freedom of expression and not pander to the repressive demands of the government.”

Background

On Friday, the Tagansky District Court in Moscow is expected to rule on a request by Roskomnadzor, the Russian media watchdog, to block Telegram for its refusal to provide the Federal Security Service (FSB) with backdoor access to encrypted messages.

In June 2017, Roskomnadzor asked Telegram to comply with legislation obliging all data providers to register in Russia and to turn over its encryption keys to the FSB.

While the request to register the company was met, Telegram founder Pavel Durov has refused to abide by what he has described as “laws incompatible with the Telegram privacy policy.”