Reporters Without Borders is appalled by a Moscow court's decision to grant a request by the Federal Agency for the Supervision of Communications, Roskomnadzor, for the withdrawal of the news agency Rosbalt s licence.
This grave decision sets an extremely dangerous precedent for freedom of information in Russia and we urge the judicial system to overturn it on appeal.
Rosbalt has fallen victim not only to a repressive law with disproportionate penalties but also to absurd and unfair judicial proceedings. It has been punished for content it did not produce on the basis of inadmissible evidence, and before any court
examined its appeals against the warning previously issued in this matter.
Rosbalt s CEO Larisa Afonina told Reporters Without Borders that the news agency would appeal against the closure order.
The apparent reasons for such drastic censorship seems trivial indeed. Two offending videos cited in the lawsuit were posted during the past summer. One, about the punk group Pussy Riot entitled The girls have sung a new song was posted on the
Rosbalt site on 16 July. The other, entitled Krasnodar guy , shows a man with an axe being arrested.
Rosbalt said it took both videos from YouTube. The swearwords are uttered by the protagonists of the videos, not the news agency's staff. Rosbalt complied immediately when Roskomnadzor requested the removal of the videos on 27 July.
The news agency was therefore amazed to learn at the start of October that Roskomnadzor had brought two complaints against it (one for each video) and was seeking nothing less than its closure .