Friday, March 24, 2006

Restricted speech for Russian news source (english version) is a popular Russian webpage that posts society and news items daily. It is a web portal much like Yahoo! or MSN. Yesterday, this message appeared on the Pravda webpage:

The visitors of Pravda.Ru website have been deprived of a possibility to access the website and its materials today. The main Russian version of the Pravda.Ru portal has been closed today.

The message, which appears on the blank white page, says that the site has been closed down pursuant to the requirement from the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.

Chairman of Pravda.Ru Board of Directors, Vadim Gorshenin, said that the office of Pravda.Ru received an email from master host Internet provider on Thursday morning. The company particularly informed Pravda.Ru about a letter which they had received from the Federal Security Service of Russia. The letter said that the provider should take measures to remove several materials from the Pravda.Ru website, particularly those stirring up religious strife.

“We have never received the letter from the Federal Security Service. We have not been informed about the materials that we need to remove. That is why the administration of the website has decided to shut down access to Pravda.Ru through the front page of the resource,” Vadim Gorshenin said.

The email received from the Internet provider ran:

“We herewith would like to inform you of an inquiry from the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation which contained a request to remove several controversial materials from the Pravda.Ru website which stir up inter-confessional hostility (it goes about the so-called Danish caricatures). We kindly ask you to remove the materials from your resources and inform us of the adequate measures.”
The freedom of expression appears to be an endangered in Russia. But that’s an understatement: Americans have long known that the Kremlin press pool is heavily restricted by the desires of Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer. What reporters can say about the government is routinely limited. And why should we be surprised at this new prohibition? When the state chooses to censor, no speech is free.

The Index of Censorship lists free expression violations globally and strives to "take to the page in defense of the basic human right of free expression." A number of articles on the index draw attention to the shocking speech restrictions the "western" nation of Russia is imposing. One, subtitled "latest victim of Putin’s campaign against free speech," points out an unjustified and politically motivated regulation:
Free speech defenders at Russian PEN Centre have been hit with an order freezing their organization’s assets and threatening the group’s future – a step widely seen as both unjust and probably politically motivated.

The order came after allegations that the organization has failed to pay land tax...

In spite of strong opposition from both within and outside Russia, President Vladimir Putin signed a law earlier this month that severely restricts the organizational and fundraising activities of NGOs [Non-Government Organizations]. This law is one of many under consideration that diminishes the ability of civil society organizations to function effectively in Russia...

“Freedom of expression is a delicate plant in Russian culture, and it needs all the institutional support it can get,” said Michael Frayn, Vice President of English PEN. “Even the appearance of undermining it would confirm the world’s worst fears about the direction of the country's political development." is arguably just the latest victim of comprehensive free speech restrictions.