10 providers in Crimea are completely blocking 20 Ukrainian information websites and 2 social networks in 9 settlements. The same providers are blocking the websites of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar People, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. In addition, at least 3 Ukrainian information websites are accessible only in part via these providers. This is verified by the findings of the Crimean Human Rights Group (CHRG) monitoring held in February – March 2020.
As at the end of March 2020, these providers block the access to at least 25 websites that are easily accessible on the Ukraine controlled territory: Cenzor.net, QHA, Sled.net, UAinfo, Channel 5, Radio Hayat, Fokus, Glavcom, Center of Journalist Investigations, ToneTo, Depo, Ukrayinska Pravda, RBK, Ukrinform, Left Bank, Zerkalo Nedeli, Strichka, Apostrof, Glavnoye, and social network websites: LinkedIn and Telegram, as well as the websites of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar People, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
5 providers of 10 do not provide an access to Crimean Solidarity, non-governmental association. website. The ATR website is blocked by 3 providers, and the Informatsionnoye Soprotivleniye’ website is blocked by 2 providers of the checked ones.
Comparing to the CHRG monitoring held in December 2019, the number of blocked websites has increased. In December the Apostrof website was blocked by 8 providers, now it is inaccessible via all providers checked. The Glavnoye website, previously partly accessible, is also now blocked completely. In December 2019, the Blackseanews website was in open access through all providers. Now all 10 providers are blocking it completely.
Screenshot of Blackseanews homepage. Provider GIGABITE (Bakhchisarai)
However, the 112 Ukraine Channel website that was inaccessible in December, now is accessible through all providers checked.
The website accessibility was checked by monitors using networks of 10 different providers in 9 Crimean settlements: BelNet (Belogorsk), SevStar (Sevastopol), Mechta (Simferopol), Realnet (Simferopol), Bosportelecom (Kerch), YaltaNet (Yalta), SkyLine (Krasnoperekopsk District), Sivash Net (Krasnoperekopsk),GigaBite (Bakhchisarai), STTS (Dzhankoy).
The monitoring results have affirmed a trend for further information access in the peninsula. Such actions are of specific danger for local residents during the COVID-19 pandemic in the peninsula. The occupation authorities are almost depriving the residents of access to unbiased and independent media that, inter alia, inform promptly the people about the pandemic combatting and response methods. Making independent media inaccessible in such situation, the occupation authorities endanger additionally life and health of the people.
At the same time, the Crimean media space controlled by the Kremlin keeps on inciting hatred of the Ukrainians, the Muslims, the Crimean Tatars and other groups. A large scale blocking of Ukrainian information resources in Crimea deprives the Crimeans of a free access to other opinions, makes them more sensitive to the RF aggressive propaganda, including a military one. Blocking the Ukrainian media in Crimea, together with incitement of hatred of the Ukrainians, make an impact on the conscience of draft aged youth more effective. Herewith, conscience militarization, hatred incitement, and blocking of alternative information sources are used by the RF to commit a military crime – conscription of the Crimean residents to the army of occupying power as well as propaganda of free-will joining the army of occupying power.
An unjustified restriction of information access constitutes a severe violation of the fundamental human rights. The Crimeans are ultimately made unable to obtain the information on Ukraine and human rights issues occurred in Crimea, since the Kremlin controlled mass media hide most of such facts from the peninsula residents. Actions of the Russian authorities in Crimea result into eliminating the pluralism of opinions and substituting in fact the independent mass media with the official Russian propaganda sources.