Russian authorities block OWD-Info’s website

Status: December 25, 2021 7:54 p.m.

The Russian civil rights organization OWD-Info supports people who are arrested during demonstrations. Your website has now been blocked. The activists deny the authorities’ allegations.

The Russian authorities have blocked the website of the civil rights organization OWD-Info. As the organization announced on Twitter, the website has been blocked for a few days. “So far we have not received any notification and do not know the reason for the block,” said the organization.

According to the Interfax news agency, the blocking was made by court order. The Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor confirmed the move, referring to the decision of the judges, who found that the NGO’s activities were aimed at promoting “terrorism and extremism” in Russia. Online networks have been asked to delete the organization’s accounts.

“Offensive against civil society”

The activists now want to take action against the lockdown. “We see this as a continuation of the state offensive against civil society,” OWD-Info co-founder Grigori Okhotin wrote on Telegram. He denied the allegations and announced that the organization would continue its work despite the blocking of its website. The activists want to continue to provide information about arrests in social networks.

The civil rights portal provides independent information on the number of people arrested during protests in Russia and offers legal support to those politically persecuted. OWD-Info was founded in 2011 during the first mass protests against President Vladimir Putin. In September the Russian Justice Ministry classified the organization as a “foreign agent”. Such organizations are required to label all of their publications and disclose their finances. OWD-Info accused the Russian government of exerting “political pressure”.

OWD-Info also works with the well-known human rights organization Memorial, which fears its dissolution before the end of the year. The judiciary has accused Memorial of violating the “Foreign Agents” law and of justifying “terrorism” by publishing lists of political prisoners in Russia. The organizations of the imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny had already been banned in February. Navalny is on a list of 420 political prisoners in Russia published by Memorial in October.

Thousands of websites blocked

The Russian authorities repeatedly take action against Internet platforms because they allegedly do not delete content classified as illegal, such as pornographic material or posts about drugs and suicide. Moscow also considers posts that encourage minors to participate in opposition protests to be illegal. On Friday, a Moscow court sentenced the US online giants Google and Meta to record fines. According to the court, the companies were found guilty of “relapse” because they had not removed illegal content from their platforms in Russia.

Thousands of Internet sites have been blocked in Russia, many of them from opposition members, but also from independent and critical media. Critics complain that freedom of expression in the largest country in the world is being restricted more and more. In addition, many non-governmental organizations and the media are classified as “foreign agents” in Russia, which they criticize as stigmatization.

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