Location Russia Russia

Blocking of Telegram and legal restrictions on social networks will limit freedom of expression in Russia, says OSCE Representative Désir

VIENNA, 13 April 2018 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir expressed his concern about a court’s decision to block the Telegram messaging and social networking application in the Russian Federation.

“The decision to block Telegram is deeply worrying as it hampers the important role of internet intermediaries in facilitating the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. In recent years, Telegram has also become an important channel for the dissemination of information by various media outlets,” Désir said. “I call on the Russian authorities to reconsider this restrictive measure and to promote a free, independent and diverse communications environment.”

The Taganskiy District Court in Moscow ruled to restrict access to Telegram, based on a complaint filed by Roskomnadzor, the federal telecommunications regulator, after the owners of the application refused to provide the security services with decryption keys for its messaging service.

The Representative has looked at the developments concerning Telegram in the wider context of draft amendments to the information law in the Russian Federation, which have introduced the more restrictive regulation of social networks.

“I encourage the members of the State Duma to reconsider their support of the proposed changes as they have a clear potential to limit free speech and freedom of the media, and fall short of the internationally recognized requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality,” Désir said.

On 12 April, the State Duma adopted, in a first reading, amendments to the Law on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information which would, among other things, oblige the social networks to:

  • compromise the anonymity of their users;
  • take down content based on individual complaints and vague procedural requirements;
  • delete any “unverified publicly significant information presented as reliable information” upon authorities’ demand;
  • prevent and delete publication of content that aims at committing a criminal act, revealing state and any other secrets protected by law, publicly calling for or justifying terrorism and extremism, promoting pornography or a “cult of violence”, as well as obscene language posted by the users.

In case of non-compliance, the law allows Roskomnadzor to block the concerned websites.

Désir also noted with regret that on 12 April, the State Duma adopted legislative amendments allowing the authorities to enforce blocking access to online defamatory information once it is considered as such by a court of law and ordered to be withdrawn upon request of the plaintiff.


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