Russia: Arbitrary blocking of Fergana news agency is a cynical attack on media freedom
Reacting to the news that the website of the Fergana Russian news agency was blocked by Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, on Tuesday night, Amnesty International’s Russia Director Natalia Zviagina said:
“The blocking of the Fergana news agency site is another arbitrary and cynical attack on freedom of expression in Russia. The Russian authorities amended the law in 2012 to enable arbitrary blocking of online media. In this case, they have gone far beyond their own spurious rules by blocking Fergana without providing any justification.
“The authorities may have believed that they could silence Fergana without anybody noticing, but they are wrong. Independent media outlets such as Fergana are rare in Russia but, to the authorities’ annoyance, they have a dedicated audience in Russia and beyond. The cowardly decision to block Fergana must be overturned immediately.”
According to the Federal Law “On Information”, Roskomnadzor has the power to block access to internet sites, but the same law states that the blocking procedure should be preceded by a warning to a provider, and that the site owner should been given enough time to address the reported infringement. A site can be blocked only when a provider or site owner refuses or fails to delete or restrict access to the content identified as unlawful.
Fergana’s editorial board has received no warning, and says it has received no indication of what information published on its site has been considered by the authorities as breaching the law.
Roskomnadzor added the Fergana news agency site, Fergana.agency, to the registry of blocked sites late on the evening of 1 October. Internet providers began limiting access to the site immediately, making it inaccessible within Russia by the morning of 2 October.
Fergana news agency was created in 1998 and is one of the leading independent media outlets covering events in Central Asia. Despite being repeatedly blocked in all five Central Asian states in the past, it is currently accessible freely throughout the region except Turkmenistan.