Ten Crimean providers are completely blocking 14 Ukrainian information websites and 2 social networks. The same providers are blocking the websites of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar People, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is verified by the findings of the Crimean Human Rights Group (CHRG) monitoring held in May – June 2019.
The website accessibility was checked through networks of 10 different providers in 9 Crimean settlements: BelNet (Belogorsk), SevStar (Sevastopol), KST (Simferopol), Mechta (Simferopol), Bosportelecom (Kerch), YaltaNet (Yalta), SkyLine (Krasnoperekopsk District), Sivash Net (Krasnoperekopsk), Orange Net (Bakhchisarai), Dzhankoy Online (Dzhankoy).
As at the end of July 2019, these providers block the access to at least 19 websites that are easily accessible on the Ukraine controlled territory: Cenzor.net, Sled.net, UAinfo, Channel 5, Fokus, Glavnoye, Delo, Ukrayinska Pravda, RBK, Ukrinform, Left Bank, Glavcom, Zerkalo Nedeli, Strichka, 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.
In addition, 9 of 10 providers block also the 112 Channel website. 3 providers of 10 do not provide an access to Crimean Solidarity, non-governmental association website.
The subscribers of the MECHTA Simferopol provider face problems with accessing 18 Ukrainian information resources more which are accessible through all other checked providers.
Comparing to the previous CHRG monitoring held in the March of 2019, the situation with an access to the websites has substantially changed. Two Ukrainian websites blocked earlier by all providers, have become accessible at new addresses, with the domain name changed. LB.UA and Glavnoye websites blocked earlier by some providers, are now non-accessible through all 10 providers. The other websites blocked earlier partly are now accessible through providers, but for MECHTA (Simferopol). The new monitoring has also identified 5 more websites, with an access blocked by all 10 providers. These are Ukrainian information websites ZN.UA and STRICHKA, and the websites of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar People, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The access to these websites was not checked during the previous monitorings.
This being said, only few websites are blocked referring to the RosKomNadzor requirements. In most cases the connection with the websites fails or ERROR 403 sign appears on the screen. The providers are blocking even the websites that are not in the list of forbidden websites in Russia. So the restrictions on accessing them are not grounded even by the RF laws.
Due to such actions of the Russian authorities the Crimean residents are deprived from access to the information to the major Ukrainian independent media, religious organizations and the Crimean Tatar people self-administration website that are freely accessible on the Ukraine controlled territory. At the same time the Crimean media space controlled by the Kremlin is used to incite hatred or develop a negative attitude to the Ukrainians, the Muslims, the Crimean Tatars and other groups. Such actions constitute a severe restriction on free speech and violate a number of international norms forbidding the hatred incitement and committing the states to avoid over-intervention into the free dissemination of information.
The 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. Thus, 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.