Russia's vague laws, which see actions deemed insulting to religious beliefs punishable by up to three years in jail, have led to more censorship and self-censorship in all forms of journalism. By Ekaterina Buchneva
Russians have been 'outraged' by cartoons making light of the Egyptian air crash which appeared in the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
One cartoon shows parts of the aircraft falling on an Islamic State militant. It is captioned: Daesh: Russia ntensifies its air bombardment.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed the cartoons were somehow a blasphemy. He whinged
In our country, this would be called 'blasphemy.' It has nothing to do with democracy or with self-expression. It is just blasphemy.
My colleagues and I tried to find caricatures of the Charlie Hebdo journalists in the magazine, who were shot by terrorists. We were unable to find them. But if they were published, then it would also be blasphemy, well at least in
Igor Morozov, a lawmaker from Russia's Federation Council, claimed the Sinai plane crash should not be ridiculed. :
I believe it is blasphemy and ridicules the memory of those who lost their lives as a result of this catastrophe. This should not be used by any media organizations in any form whatsoever or in any particular genre in which they may
In trying to be original, Charlie Hebdo have plunged everything into shock. Remember the tragedy which happened in January 2015 concerning the publisher. I think that the journalists are provoking acts of violence.
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote on her Facebook page:
When Ukraine's Interior Minister announced the initiative to form a new cyberpolice unit on October 11, the focus of the media coverage--and of Minister Avakov's statement--was very much on fighting online crime and beefing up the information
security practices of the Ukrainian government. The launch was touted as successful, with over three thousand Ukrainians applying to join the cyberpolice force in the first 24 hours after the announcement. But amid the robust response to plans for the
cybercrime unit, an arguably less popular element of the initiative flew under many Ukrainians' radars.
Along with other measures to improve information security, the Ministry plans to establish a registry of websites and webpages blocked for distributing forbidden content.
The presentation slide which was published on the Interior Ministry's website, indicates that websites featuring pirated content violating copyright, child pornography, malware and viruses, and phishing content will be listed on the
banned website registry. It's unclear whether social media websites, where any user can potentially upload these and other kinds of content, will bear the brunt of responsibility for these materials -- they could be blacklisted and blocked in their
entirety, or authorities could take a more nuanced approach, blocking only the pages with prohibited content. It is also unclear whether the cyberpolice forces will be required to seek court approval in order to add a site to the blacklist and
subsequently block it, or if the blockings will occur extrajudicially.
In January 2014, in the midst of the Euromaidan protests, Ukrainian lawmakers passed laws restricting online public space and introducing web blocking, along with a string of other measures limiting free expression and civic activity.
The set of laws, ostensibly aimed at cracking down on the protesters, in many ways resembled similar Russian legal norms. Then-president Victor Yanukovych even signed the laws into effect, but the new norms angered the Euromaidan protesters and caused an
uptick in protest activity, ultimately resulting in Yanukovich's exit and the repeal of the restrictive anti-protest legislation. Given Ukrainians' reaction to the 2014 laws, the newly proposed banned websites registry is unlikely to get an enthusiastic
response from Internet users.
Russia has blocked access to the world's biggest porn website. The government internet censor, Roskomnadzor, announced in a statement that a ban on PornHub and ten other pornographic websites has been enacted.
A court ruling from the city of Krasnodar that determined the adult sites violated federal laws concerning the protection of minors from harmful information has been cited as the reason.
A spokesman for the porn site in question released a statement saying the company:
Can confirm that Roskomnadzor has blacklisted Pornhub in Russia and [they] are currently investigating and considering available means to reinstate [the] website in Russia.
Additionally, Roskomnadzor announced last week via its VKontakte social network page that it was now also illegal to make Internet memes featuring exaggerated or fabricated caricatures of public figures. It cited a violation of Russian legislation on
personal information in addition to besmirching the honor, dignity and business reputation of public figures.
Russia is looking to expand its control over the internet and is targeting the written word.
According to the deputy head of the Duma Committee on information politics, parliament will be considering new legislation to protect online media publications from cut-and-paste piracy. Leonid Levin said:
Indeed, there is a conversation with the journalistic community on the topic of additional changes in legislation, including for copy-paste [infringement]
We will analyze this situation and we are certainly going to look at the possibility of changes, including for the protection of media publications.
At this stage it seems likely that Levin is referring to the wholesale online piracy of complete articles and publications but no further details have yet been made public. But whatever the intent, plenty of space will be required to report
news, generate analysis, express opinion and offer criticism.
Gámer is a 2011 Ukraine drama by Oleg Sentsov. Starring Zhanna Biryuk, Alexander Fedotov and Vladislav Zhuk.
The boy's name is Alex, but in the world of gamers where he spends most of his time, he is known as Koss. The enormous amount of time he spends at the computer screen starts to pay off: in the games' clubs in his small Ukrainian
village, he is the undisputed king of the shooting game Quake, admired by the 'noobs' - the younger and less experienced players he defeats digitally.
A Russian court has sentenced the Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov to 20 years in prison after a trial described by Amnesty International as redolent of Stalinist-era show trials .
Sentsov directed the 2011 feature film Gamer , but stopped work on a new movie when Russia began to intervene in Crimea. He coordinated relief efforts for the Ukrainian soldiers who were blockaded inside their bases by Russian troops.
Sentsov and his co-defendant Alexander Kolchenko, who received a 10-year sentence, were accused of planning terrorist acts in Crimea after the peninsula was annexed by Russia last year. The trial was littered with irregularities: Sentsov said he had
been tortured, while investigators dismissed the bruises on his body as being the result of a supposed penchant for sadomasochistic sex. The main prosecution witness recanted in the courtroom and said his evidence had been extorted under torture. When
the judges asked the pair if they understood the verdict, they smiled and sang the national anthem of Ukraine .
Heather McGill, a researcher at Amnesty International, said:
This whole trial was designed to send a message. It played into Russia's propaganda war against Ukraine and was redolent of Stalinist-era show trials of dissidents. This trial was fatally flawed and credible allegations of torture and
other ill-treatment have been ignored by the court.
International film directors, including Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Wim Wenders, have signed an open letter to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, calling for Sentsov's release and an investigation into claims of torture against him.
Russian directors have also joined the appeals. Andrei Zvyagintsev , whose most recent film, Leviathan , won a Golden Globe, said on Monday that he had read the documents from the court case and found them unconvincing. He asked the Russian
authorities to either release [Sentsov] or try him only for what you can prove irrefutably .
Russia has just banned Wikipedia over an article about marijuana. Roscomnadzor, the official internet censor, has ordered Russian ISPs to block the site. The ban is due to a specific article about charas, a form of hashish that is handmade in India.
According to Roscomnadzor, the page constitutes instructions on how to make the drug, which makes it illegal under Russian laws.
Wikimedia.ru has declined to avoid the ban by removing the post.
Earlier this month, Russia briefly blocked the entirety of Reddit over a post about hallucinogenic mushrooms after Reddit similarly refused to remove the post. Reddit later accommodated the censors wishes so as to unblock the site.
The use of HTTPS, which encrypts traffic between websites and users, is having an impact on ISP level censorship as it prevents the ISPs blocking specific pages.
Russia cancelled the ban on the Russian-language Wikipedia, which just lasted a few hours and created a stir among Russian online users.
The agency then removed Wikipedia from it's list of banned websites, quoting that the information in the article had been edited, in kind adhering to the court decision. Internet users however, noted that Wikipedia didn't seem to have changed or
edited the page, but only re-titled it
Russia's internet censor Roskomnadzor has threatened to block another news website over an informational article about the internet currency bitcoin..
Officials today told Zuckerberg Pozvonit , or Zuckerberg Will Call, which focuses on news related to Internet entrepreneurialism, that it must delete or edit within the next three days an article it published about bitcoins. If the website
refuses, Roskomnadzor will block it.
The suddenly controversial article, titled What Are Bitcoins and Who Needs Them? was published more than two years ago in April 2013.
Roskomnadzor's warning is a response to a February 2015 court decision in Astrakhan, which determined that the article contains:
The propaganda of tax crimes in the area of legalizing [money laundering] income obtained in a criminal way and has a negative impact on the legal consciousness of citizens."
Russia's TV and radio censor Roskomnadzor has issued an official warning to the Govorit Moskva radio station for broadcasting a program on swingers.
In the warning, Roskomnadzor said that an episode of the station's program Underground that was broadcast in May had violated the law on protecting children from harmful information. The program rejected traditional family values, according to the warning, such programs are only allowed after the watershed.
This may sound reasonable, but in fact the watershed hours are simply unviable being set at 11pm until 4am. Govorit Moskva's program was broadcast at 2:30 pm.
Govorit Moskva said in an online article Friday that the program was devoted to the culture of swinging, in which participants swap sexual partners.
The radio station will appeal the decision.
Under Russian law, if a media outlet gets two warnings within a year, Roskomadzor can ask a court to revoke its publishing license.
Lawmakers have passed a bill enabling further internet under Russia's version of the 'right to be forgotten'. The bill was rushed through parliament after only being submitted on May 29.
The new law, passed despite objections from Yandex, Russia's largest search engine, will allow people to censor search links about them that they do not like. i
The legislation is reported to be broader than the European Union's right to be forgotten initiative.
Yandex, after failing to get amendments incorporated, said it had major objections to the final version of the law said:
Our point has always been that a search engine cannot take on the role of a regulatory body and act as a court or law enforcement agency. We believe that information control should not limit access to information that serves the
public interest. The private interest and the public interest should exist in balance.
A notoriously anti-gay Russian politician has suggested popular TV show and book Game of Thrones is harmful and should be banned.
Vitaly Milonov, who is a deputy in the St Petersburg legislature, and who was behind Russia's anti-gay propaganda law in its earliest form, claimed that one in ten characters in Game of Thrones is a sexual deviant . He told TASS:
We can see that the Internet and television have assumed a leading function in education, replacing or ousting altogether traditional methods of education and upbringing of the young generation. Denying the fact or pretending that
nothing of the kind is going on is a short-sighted position.
It is not the point of scenes of violence or elements of advocating violence which is at issue. The point is that practically any product of culture, which is brought to us from the West, advocates values which provoke the formation
of a certain paradigm of views on politics and the reality.
Nowadays, any game or a TV film series is not merely a merry thing to see. For example, in The Game of Thrones book every tenth character is a sexual deviant. Such products and their popularisation in this country might bring ideas to
our minds that a certain conduct is a matter of fact thing.
Russia is to push ahead with a new right to be forgotten censorship law modelled on the EU version. The Kremlin has been eyeing up the European censorship and wants its own version running by January 2016.
The Russian versions goes a little further and includes an imperative for search engines to comply with requests made under the proposed Russian version rather than decide for themselves about whether de-linking is warranted.
Igor Shchyogolev, an aide of Russian president Vladimir Putin, claimed: Citizens must be able to use the right to be forgotten.
In Russia right to be forgotten censorship will be administered by state internet censors, Roskomnadzor.
Depending on the outcome of a pending case there that calls the viability of open wireless networks into question. EFF and its partners have formulated an open letter presenting our views on why a result that threatens open wireless would be a serious
loss to innovators, small businesses, travelers, emergency services and users at large.
One of the legal protections that currently supports open wireless is the principle that Internet intermediaries, such as ISPs and wireless hotspot operators, are not responsible for content that passes over their networks. In Europe,
this principle derives from Article 12 of the E-Commerce Directive , which immunizes a so-called mere conduit from liability for communications over their networks, only on condition that they did not initiate the communication, select its
recipient, or modify it in transit. This provision, however, does not shield such providers from various type of enforcement measures in aid of rights holders, such as website blocking. The permissibility of these measures then depends on a simple rule:
are they good for the society at large?
The application of this legal framework to open wireless networks has come under challenge in the McFadden reference (C-484/14) concerning a German shopkeeper whose free open wireless network was allegedly used to infringe copyright.
In the preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Europe's highest court is asked whether an enforcement practice requiring open wireless networks to be locked is an acceptable one. Germany's Federal Supreme Court in 2010
held that the private operator of a wireless network is obliged to use password protection in order to prevent abuse by third parties. If the CJEU affirms this finding, the effect could be to extend this bad precedent throughout Europe, grounding the
open wireless movement across the continent. If on the other hand it rejects that finding, German law could be forced to return to sanity, allowing thousands of hotspot operators to open up their networks again.
The main question point in the case turns on whether locking of open wireless networks would be a proportionate enforcement mechanism that advances the public interest. The open letter, co-written with Martin Husovec , Affiliate
Scholar at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society (CIS), points out that prohibiting open wireless networks creates a serious obstacle to legitimate trade, that cannot be justified by the limited potential benefits of locked-down
networks to rightsholders. The letter highlights exact instances of social benefits that will be lost if locking of open wireless networks becomes a standard. Holding wireless network operators anyhow accountable for content that passes over their
networks thus should be against European law.
The open letter that we publish today has been supported by a coalition of other organizations from both sides of the Atlantic who support the ideals of the open wireless movement, and concur with our conclusion that an adverse
decision in the McFadden case that requires Europe to lock down its open wireless networks would be a blow to human rights, economic progress and innovation across the continent. We will be updating this post as additional signatories join the call.
Russia's internet censor has written to Google, Twitter and Facebook warning them against violating Russian repressive internet laws and a spokesman said they risked being blocked if they did not comply.
Roskomnadzor said it had sent letters this week to the three US-based internet companies asking them to comply with its censorship laws. A spokesman said:
In our letters we regularly remind [companies] of the consequences of violating the legislation.
He added that because of the encryption technology used by the three firms, Russia had no way of blocking specific websites and so could only bring down particular content it deemed in violation of law by blocking access to their whole services.
To comply with the law the three firms must hand over data on Russian bloggers with more than 3,000 readers per day and take down websites that Roskomnadzor wishes to ban.
A law passed in 2014 gives Russian prosecutors the right to block, without a court decision, websites with information about protests that have not been sanctioned by authorities. Under other legislation bloggers with large followings must go through
an official registration procedure and have their identities confirmed by a government agency.
Child 44 is a 2015 Czech Republic / UK / Romania / USA thriller by Daniel Espinosa. Starring Tom Hardy, Joel Kinnaman and Noomi Rapace.
Based on the first of a trilogy by Tom Rob Smith and set in the Stalin era of the Soviet Union. The plot is about an idealistic pro-Stalin security officer who decides to investigate a series of child murders in a country where
supposedly this sort of crime doesn't exist. The state would not hear of the existence of a child murderer let alone a serial killer. He gets demoted and exiled but decides, with just the help of his wife, to continue pursuing the case.
Russia's Culture Ministry has claimed that Daniel Espinosa's Child 44 distorts historical facts and banned its release. There were concerns about Hardy's character and the plot, set in Stalin-era Russia. A statement suggests the film's release
in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two was unacceptable .
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky claims the movie depicts Russians as physically and morally base sub-humans .
Vladimir Putin once said half the Internet is nothing but porno materials. While a major academic study in 2010 found that, in reality, just 4% of websites were pornographic, it's an undisputed fact that there is indeed a lot of adult-rated
material on the Web.
If the Russian court system gets its way, however, the number of legal pornographic websites on the RuNet could drop to zero. That's right: a district court in Tatarstan has banned 136 porn sites, and the language of its ruling
implies that all Internet porn is hereby against the law.
On April 13, 2015, the newspaper Izvestia reported that a court in Tatarstan's Apastovsky district has ordered Roskomnadzor, the federal government's media censor, to add 136 websites to its Internet blacklist, if the sites fail to
purge themselves of all pornographic content within the next three days. The list of websites includes xHamster, one of the most popular destinations for pornography in the world.
The local district attorney's office, which petitioned the court to crack down on Internet porn, cited in its suit obscure international agreements from the early twentieth century, Izvestia reported.
First, prosecutors pointed out that international treaties constitute an integral part of Russian law according to the Russian Constitution, even arguing, rather unorthodoxly, that international obligations take priority over domestic
legislation, when the two are in conflict. Then, prosecutors cited the Convention for the Suppression of the Circulation of Obscene Publications, signed in Paris in 1910, and the subsequent international agreement signed in Geneva in 1923, both of which
ban the production, possession, and distribution of pornographic materials.
The signatories to these international accords were, of course, the Tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union, and the Apastovsky district attorney says today's Russian Federation is still bound by these agreements.
According to an adult-film maker who spoke to Izvestia, Russian law is very vague about regulating pornography. The only law on the books, he says, is Article 242 of the federal criminal code, which delineates several illegal types of
distribution, but does not clearly define legal ways to advertise, disseminate, and trade in porn.
How did the Tartarstan prosecutors flag 136 websites, Russia's largest-ever single ban request, for Roskomnadzor's blacklist? The district attorney's office says it searched Yandex (Russia's leading Internet search engine) for the
terms Kazan prostitutes and porno video. Film experts at the Ministry of Culture then examined the websites on this list and confirmed that they are indeed brimming with pornographic content.
It remains unclear if Roskomnadzor will block these websites across Russia or only in Tatarstan. It is also unknown if Roskomnadzor and the Apastovsky district attorney will stop with these 136 websites, or wage a larger campaign
against the millions of other porn sites online.
Whatever happens, this is just the latest episode in a broader crackdown on the Internet that has taken place in Russia since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012. For some Russian Internet users, like musician Sergei
Shnurov, Putin's third presidential term has already spoiled porn, whatever happens in Tatarstan.
Russia's government has fired the head of a theater in Siberia over an opera production that wound up the Russian Orthodox Church and religious activists.
Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky dismissed Boris Mezdrich as director of the Novosibirsk State Opera and Ballet Theater over an updated staging of Richard Wagner's 19th-century opera Tannhauser . The production portrayed the title character
as a director making a film about Jesus visiting Venus's erotic grotto.
Mezdrich's dismissal was announced as thousands of people demonstrated outside the theater in the center of Novosibirsk, saying the production was offensive to Christians and reflected the values of a decadent West.
The protests reflected what liberals say is an oppressive atmosphere in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has portrayed his country as a bulwark against an immoral West and allowed the Russian Orthodox Church increasing sway over everyday life
despite the legal separation of church and state.
A local Russian Orthodox cleric filed a lawsuit last month against Mezdrich and the director of the Tannhauser production, Timofei Kulyabin, accusing them of desecrating Christ's image and offending believers. A court in Novosibirsk cleared Mezdrich
and Kulyabin on March 10, saying there was no evidence they violated the law.
Belarus has moved to block access to all Internet anonymizers in the country, including Tor. The country's Communications Ministry published a new decree that mandates how access to certain online resources should be limited by Internet providers at
the request of the state. Some of the limitations deal directly with anonymizing services. The decree reads:
The state inspection, upon discovering Internet resources, anonymizing services (proxy-servers, anonymous networks like Tor and others), that allow Internet users to access online resources whose identifiers are included on the
limited access list, will add the identifiers of these Internet resources and anonymizing services to the list as well.
Internet users typically use anonymizing services to circumvent government censorship and reach online resources banned inside Belarus, including many of the opposition websites.
Tor statistics indicate that anywhere between 6,000 and 8,000 users in Belarus use Tor directly on a daily basis, with more connecting through bridges. According to Anton Nesterov , an anticensorship activist, in order to prevent access to Tor,
officials will likely attempt to block the so-called guard nodes, the first nodes in the circuit through which a user would connect to route encrypted traffic further. They can just block torproject.org and stop there, but if they talk about blocking
Tor, blocking nodes is what it means, says Nesterov.
Russia has also been considering a ban on VPNs and anonymizers. At the start of February, Leonid Levin, an MP heading the parliamentary committee on information policy and communications, suggested that access to anonymization and circumvention tools
such as Tor, VPNs, and proxy-servers needs to be restricted.
Fifty Shades of Grey continues to wind up film censors.
UAE's film censors of the National Media Council have required 35 minutes of cuts due to inappropriate scenes, forcing distributor Four Star Films to pull the film. The council's director of media content Juma Al Leem told the paper.
We reviewed the movie in the presence of the distributor and after he realized how many inappropriate scenes there were, he took the decision not to show the movie himself, before we were able to make a decision.
Russia: Not shown in the Caucases
Meanwhile Russian news agency TASS reported that the erotic drama, which opened elsewhere in Russia on Feb. 12 with an 18+ age restriction, has been pulled out by cinemas in the republics of Ossetia, Ingushetia and Chechnya. Ossetian mufti
Khadzhimurat Gatsalov was quoted as saying:
The initiative to send an address to the region's authorities, requesting that the film be banned, came from young people who are concerned about noticeable interest in the movie from those who are in the early twenties,
TASS also quoted Madina Ayubova, a spokesperson for Kinostar, a theater in Chechnya's capital Grozny, as saying that film won't be exhibited in Chechnya:
Because a lot of what is shown in [the film] contradicts the mentality and religion of the majority of the republic's population.
According to Gatsalov, the film is not going to be exhibited in any of the four remaining North Caucasus republics either.
MTRCB, The Philippines censorship group's Chairman Eugenio Toto Villareal told the Inquirer that the board approved the film with no further cuts, but that the producer/distributor (Columbia Pictures) had made pre-cuts prior to review.
As part of the measures, a 10-second notice is flashed onscreen before each screening, disclosing that the film was classified as is and in its entirety with noticeable blurs and screen blocks introduced by the film producer. The notice also
informs the public about the adult content.
Update: Banned in Papua New Guinea and heavily cut in Zimbabwe
Leviafan is a 2014 Russia drama by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Starring Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Aleksey Serebryakov and Roman Madyanov.
A present day social drama spanning multiple characters about the human insecurity in a "new country" which gradually unwinds to a mythological scale concerning the human condition on earth entirely.
The Oscar-nominated Russian film Leviathan is going on general release in Russian cinemas, but with silence blanking out the strong language. It is a highly controversial film in Russia, portraying a corrupt mayor in the bleak far north
bullying a man trying to keep his property.
Russian law bans swearing in films, TV broadcasts, theatres and the media. Much of the dialogue in Leviathan contains swearing, some of it very strong language. A spokesman for the distributor said Russian viewers will find it easy to lip-read the
swear words .
The film's producer, Alexander Rodnyansky, said interest had surged since a pirated copy appeared on the internet a month ago and the film had become a hot topic of debate.
Some have seen the film as a condemnation of President Vladimir Putin's Russia. A big photo of Mr Putin hangs above the corrupt mayor's desk.However, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was pleased that Leviathan had triggered such sharp reactions
British director Peter Greenaway's new biopic about legendary Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein is now under threat following a warning from the Russian State Film Fund that they will refuse participation in the movie if references to
Eisenstein's homosexuality are not removed from the script.
Nicholas Borodachev, CEO of the film fund, told Izvestia:
I do not want to talk about it [homosexuality], but this topic in the script doesn't suit us. The director, in turn, insists that this aspect of Eisenstein's life is important for the picture. Of course, bear in mind that the script
is written in the style of Peter Greenaway, but we would like to see the film a little differently. If something goes wrong, we will not participate in the project.
The film, scheduled to begin shooting in 2015, has been entitled The Eisenstein Handshakes and will be jointly funded by Switzerland, France and the Russian State Film Fund. Recounting the life, work and travels of the iconic director.
Naum Kleiman, an eminent film critic and former director of Moscow's Museum of Cinema, added that:
This issue [of homosexuality] has no relation to the facts. If you shoot a biopic about the great artist, you need to talk about his work and how Eisenstein's art influenced the history of cinema. What does his personal life have to
do with anything here? I never take the side of censorship ...BUT... in this case we are talking about morality and a sense of tact.