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Rights Group of the Week: Agora International

posted 13 Feb 2017, 06:21 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Feb 2017, 06:49 ]
On 7 February 2017 Agora International Human Rights Group published its latest report on the state of the Internet in Russia, 'Internet Freedom in 2016: In a State of Emergency', based on monitoring conducted by the organization throughout 2016. The report, by Damir Gainutdinov and Pavel Chikov, identified 53,004 instances of administrative intimidation, 35,019 instances of restrictions on access to website and 298 criminal prosecutions of Internet users. In addition, the report notes that there were 97 proposals put forward by politicians and officials to regulate the internet, and 170 civil law cases against Internet users. For comparison, the organization's report for 2015 registered 5,073 instances of administrative intimidation (10 times less than in 2016), 1,721 instances of restrictions on access to the Internet (20 times less), and 202 criminal prosecutions (1.5 times less), while the number of of convictions involving prison terms was half that in 2016). In 2015 there were 48 proposals to regulate the Internet (half as many as in 2016) and 49 civil law cases against Internet users (3.5 times less than in 2016). In addition, the number of politically-motivated cyberattacks increased fourfold to 122 from 30  in 2015, court bans on access to information increased by a factor of 3 (24000 in 2016 as opposed to 7300 in 2015) and reported incidences of violence or threats of violence against Internet users almost doubled (to 50 in 2016 from 28 in 2015). 

Daria Litvinova, writing in The Moscow Times, reviewing the report, stated that 'Internet freedom in Russia is in deep trouble.' She cited what she considered to be the three 'most alarming signs of this worrying trend,' namely: Russia is 'rock bottom' in global rattings for media freedom; Interent users are being increasingly prosecuted for statements made online, and the number of websites blocked is increasing. 

Agora International describes itself on its website as 'an association of more than 50 human rights lawyers working on high-profile cases of human rights violations. As of today our lawyers are conducting more than 300 legal cases spread throughout the majority of Russian regions. Permanent legal teams work in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Stavropol, Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Lipetsk, and Chita, as well as in Helsinki, Sofia and London. 

Agora International Human Rights Group, website
Daria Litvinova, '6 Signs There’s No Such Thing as Internet Freedom in Russia,' The Moscow Times, 10 February 2017