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16 May 2018, 10:15

53 human rights organizations demand to unblock Telegram

Telegram was used in Russia as a new media tool for publishing free and independent information, and the decision to block it can only be seen as a violation of people's freedom to express their opinion, human rights activists said today.

The Roskomnadzor (the Russian Federal Service for Supervising the Sphere of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Communications) has been unsuccessfully trying to block Telegram since April. The attempts of the agency to block the messenger were criticized by a number of politicians, including former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. On April 22, a rally took place in a number of Russian cities with the demand to unblock Telegram, whose participants flew paper airplanes from the windows, the symbol of this messenger, as reported by Novaya Gazeta on April 27.

53 international and Russian human rights organizations working in the field of media and Internet freedoms condemned attempts of the Russian authorities to block the Internet messenger Telegram, as stated in the press release received today by the "Caucasian Knot".

The media and civil society are facing ever-increasing restrictions, while the Internet remained "the key source for free exchange of information and open discussions," said Galina Arapova, an expert in information law, director of the Media Rights Protection Center. "Telegram has been used in Russia not only as a means of exchanging personal messages, but also as a new media tool, a means for publishing free and independent information," Arapova said in the release of human rights activists.

Executive Director of the international organization ARTICLE 19 Thomas Hughes believes that the blocking of the Telegram is "not only a Russian problem". "The blocking of thousands of third-party websites, including a number of online media, can only be seen as a gross violation of freedom of expression and the right to access to information." A resolute response from all interested parties, including countries, organizations and companies, to protect the right to free and open Internet for all," his words are quoted in a press release.

"We call on the Russian authorities to stop the blocking of Telegram and stop incessant attacks on the freedom of the Internet as a whole," the human rights organizations said in a statement.

The text of the statement "Russia: Telegram block leads to widespread assault on freedom of expression online" is also published in the "NGO Documents" section at the "Caucasian Knot".

Telegram published ways to bypass the block. "A fairly effective and safe way to bypass the block is VPN, there are paid and free services," the Telegram website says. There are also recommendations for choosing the appropriate services. Among them, the project of RosKomSvoboda is, which requires a monthly fee, and a free VPN. Also, the message describes how to install these programs.

Full text of the article is available on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’.

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