Providers in Russia and Crimea blocked access to the Crimean Human Rights Group’s website. At least six providers in different localities of the peninsula deny access to it.
According to Russian activists, the website has been blocked throughout Russia since 9 July this year.
Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) threatened to block the website for the past three years. Over this period, the Crimean Human Rights Group received more than 50 e-mails from the Russian regulator. Censors informed that they could block the website if authors did not remove the texts undesirable to the occupiers.
What are those texts about? Mostly, they tell about war crimes that Russia systematically commits in the area of Crimea it occupied. Russian military prosecutors hate such publications. They are especially annoyed by the advice on how to dodge the Russian draft, given by human rights activists.
Another trigger that urges Russians to ban human rights activists’ articles through court action is texts revealing the truth about dangerous military propaganda and the militarisation of Crimean children’s minds.
This is the inconvenient truth that forced the occupiers to launch a new attack on freedom of speech in Crimea. Court decisions banning these articles are almost identical. Since 2018, various Crimean and Russian courts have delivered at least 28 judgments to block various Crimean Human Rights Group’s articles.
All articles forbidden by the occupiers share the same subject: Russian war crimes in Crimea and propaganda of service in the occupiers’ army among the Crimean people.
The main wording of why Russian courts block these texts is:
“The information on the website of the Crimean Human Rights Group is illegal, undermines the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, creates preconditions for the violation of the federal order of the country, the integrity and inviolability of its territory.”
Most of the judgments to ban Crimean Human Rights Group’s articles were delivered by the so-called “Leninsky District Court of Sevastopol.” Treacherous judge Nadiya Istiahina passed at least eight judgments banning the articles. She had worked in this court before the occupation. After Crimea had been occupied, she joined the Russians. And now she is fulfilling their arbitrary whims.
In the same court, the judgment to ban human rights activists’ texts was made by another treacherous judge, Olha Prokhorchuk. Before the occupation, she worked in the Sevastopol District Administrative Court.
The courts of Yevpatoria and Simferopol, not recognised by Ukraine, also banned the Crimean Human Rights Group’s articles. In addition, judgments to ban articles were also delivered by Russian courts, in particular, the Pervomaisky District Court of Penza and the Leninsky District Court of Stavropol.
In Penza, for example, a judge believes that “the Crimean Human Rights Group encourages an indefinite number of citizens to commit illegal acts, including the commission of crimes under Article 29 of the Criminal Code, encroaching on the constitutional order and security of the state.”
What could be done in this situation? First, litigation. Legal resistance to the occupiers’ invasion is no less important than other types of resistance.
Of course, we do not recognise the occupation courts and have been writing their names in quotation marks for seven years already. However, this is the only way so far to gather solid evidence of the occupiers’ violation of the Crimean people’s right to access information.
Of course, it is most likely impossible to win a case in Russian courts under the circumstances of pseudo-justice. However, a loss is a part of the path to victory in the European Court of Human Rights.
Second, information about the blocking of independent information resources in Crimea must become an important component in all meetings of the Ukrainian public and diplomats with foreign partners. In particular, this information must be put on the agenda of meetings within the Crimean Platform.
We must do everything possible to bring to justice all those responsible for this arbitrariness. After all, illegal blocking affects not only the Crimean Human Rights Group’s website. Monitoring of access to Internet resources, conducted by the Crimean Human Rights Group in June this year, showed that 12 providers in 12 localities completely block access to 18 more Ukrainian websites. In addition, nine websites are available only in some localities.
The monitoring of radio broadcasting, conducted by the Crimean Human Rights Group in northern Crimea in June, showed a significant reduction in the number of Ukrainian FM radio stations in the region. In June, the monitors recorded Ukrainian radio broadcasting only in 8 out of 19 localities (against 13 out of 19 in March this year). In particular, the Russian Defence Ministry’s radio station “Zvezda” completely muffled the Ukrainian radio station “NV.”
A rap on the knuckles must be given for this. In particular, through sanctions. Access to websites must be unblocked. TV and radio frequencies must be returned to Ukrainian broadcasters. After all, information warfare, which primarily affects the inhabitants of the occupied Crimea and Donbas, is a very dangerous part of the armed conflict and its impact must not be underestimated.
Iryna Sedova, researcher at the Crimean Human Rights Group