Memorial Human Rights Centre on Ukrainian authorities’ ban on access to Russian mass media and social media networks

posted 4 Jun 2017, 23:16 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Jun 2017, 01:16 ]
21 May 2017


Statement by the Memorial Human Rights Centre 

The order of the Ukrainian President No. 133/2017 not only extended the ban on the transmission of Russian government television channels, but broadened the restrictions to include the activity of many Russian mass media and internet sources, and also prohibited access to Russian social media networks.

This decision is not a step toward Europe, but rather one in the opposite direction.

It was namely with restrictions on freedom of information that the Bolsheviks began their rule – and we know what that led to.

The main problems in present-day Russia are also connected with the nationalization of principal sources of information and with the appearance of ever newer means of actual censorship. Are these examples worthy of imitation?

The arbitrary restriction of the rights of one’s own citizens “to receive and disseminate information and ideas without any interference whatsoever on the part of public authorities and independently of state borders” is an indicator of the weakness of authority as well as that of the democratic institutions in a society.

Among the banned media outlets are not only those engaged in propagandistic disinformation, but also media that are completely professional and conscientious in their work, reflecting various viewpoints.

Of course, the right to information is not absolute and may be restricted — but only in the interests of national security, the preservation of territorial integrity, the maintenance of public order, for the prevention of unrest and crime, and for the protection of health and morality.

Many of the prohibited sources do not represent such a threat in the slightest degree, and it is no accident that the commentaries of public officials on this issue have been so self-contradictory, unpersuasive, and sometimes simply absurd.

And there is no explanation at all for the ban on social media sites, which have become such important means of communication, including between residents of territories not under control of the lawful government of Ukraine, and the rest of the country.

The population of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic now finds itself in even greater isolation from the rest of Ukraine. And for Ukrainian citizens working in Russia those networks were an important part of their link to the homeland.

Bans on information are the most ineffective means of moving towards freedom.

And if the Ukrainian authorities are really striving to build a free society, then they will reconsider their decision and limit those bans to that which is genuinely necessary and well-substantiated.

Translated by Mark Nuckols