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Russian internet regulator blocks independent Fergana news website

Vilnius, October 2, 2019–Russian authorities should immediately reinstate access to the independent news website Fergana, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Russia’s state internet regulator Roskomnadzor ordered internet service providers to block the site without warning yesterday, according to Daniil Kislov, the Moscow-based outlet’s general director, and media reports. Neither the outlet nor their hosting provider were notified of the decision, and Roskomnadzor have not responded to the site’s request for information, Kislov told CPJ via messaging app. Reached by phone, a Roskomnadzor official confirmed the block but declined to elaborate, telling CPJ that an explanation for the measure would come later.

“Russian authorities’ decision to block Fergana without warning or explanation is yet another step in censorship of independent reporting and free flow of information,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Access to Fergana must be reinstated, and Roskomnadzor should cease arbitrarily blocking websites.”

Under 2012 amendments to Russia’s law on information, information technologies, and protection of information, Roskomnadzor has the authority to block access to websites, but only after the warning to a provider and sufficient time to the site owner to correct the wrong, according to Fergana. “We should have been warned and then given three days, according to the law. But the blocking came absolutely unexpectedly,” Kislov said.

Fergana, which reports primarily on Central Asia and has a wide network of correspondents in the region, is blocked in Turkmenistan, according to Fergana. Authorities in Uzbekistan unblocked access to the website earlier this year, according to Kislov and Fergana.

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