30 Oct 2018 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 29 Apr 2018 n° 34/2018 Russian Federation

Russia: Blocking of Telegram and Collateral Temporary Blocking of Media Sites

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner Article 19 EFJ/IFJ Index PEN RSF
No state reply yet
Partner Article 19 EFJ/IFJ Index PEN RSF
On 13 April 2018, Moscow’s Tagansky District Court granted Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, its request to block access to the Internet messaging service Telegram on the grounds that the company had not complied with a 2017 order to provide decryption keys to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

For Russian users, apps such as Telegram and similar services that seek to provide secure communications are crucial for users’ safety. They provide an important source of information on critical issues of politics, economics and social life, free of undue government interference. For media outlets and journalists based in and outside Russia, Telegram serves not only as a messaging platform for secure communication with sources, but also as a publishing venue. Through its channels, Telegram acts as a carrier and distributor of content for entire media outlets as well as for individual journalists and bloggers.

Since the 13 April decision, the actions taken by the Russian authorities to restrict access to Telegram have caused mass Internet disruption, including mass collateral website blocking. Between 16-18 April 2018, almost 20 million Internet Protocol (IP) addresses were ordered to be blocked by Roskomnadzor as it attempted to restrict access to Telegram. The majority of the blocked addresses are owned by international Internet companies, including Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Among those temporarily blocked were at least six online media outlets (Petersburg Diary, Coda Story, FlashNord, FlashSiberia, Tayga.info, and 7×7). As of 30 April 2018, 14.6 million websites remain blocked.

On 17 April 2018, Roskomnadzor requested that Google and Apple remove access to the Telegram app from their App stores, despite having no basis in Russian law to make this request. The app remains available, but Telegram has not been able to provide upgrades that would allow better proxy access for users. Virtual Private Network (VPN) providers – such as TgVPN, Le VPN and VeeSecurity proxy – have also been targeted for providing alternative means to access Telegram. Federal Law 276-FZ bans VPNs and Internet anonymisers from providing access to websites banned in Russia and authorises Roskomnadzor to order the blocking of any site explaining how to use these services.
Updates
30 Oct 2018
On 9 October 2018, a Moscow City Court’s appeals panel rejected a request to forward a cassation appeal lodged by Telegram Messenger LLP representative contesting the Tagansky Court of Moscow's 13 April 2018 ruling and the Moscow City Court's appellate ruling of 14 June to a cassation court for consideration.
03 Aug 2018
In June 2018, following the exhaustion of the domestic remedies, Telegram's lawyers have lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the blocking of Telegram messenger in Russia".
Follow-ups
02 May 2018
Blocking of Telegram and legal restrictions on social networks will limit freedom of expression in Russia, says OSCE Representative Désir.
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