February 14-20 2015
Russian regulator explains how to mention extremist organisations
On its official website Russian watchdog Roskomnadzor posted an explanation for media sources saying they can only mention extremist organizations and individuals in a negative sense. The list of 41 extremist organizations includes 5 Ukrainian groups such as Praviy Sektor and Trizub. Roskomnadzor explained that when media sources mention extremist groups banned in Russia, they must always note that such groups have been liquidated or banned. Media outlets will receive official warnings and pay administrative fines for not following the directions. This is another example of a vast campaign to control media content and tackle extremism and radicalisation in the country.
Belarus wants a cut of Skype’s pie
The Ministry of Communications and Informatization of Belarus claims that all operators of instant messaging services including Skype must share some part of their profits with Belarus. Sergey Popkov, the Minister of Communications and Informatization, noted that foreign messaging services do not contribute to the development of technology and infrastructure within the country but operate using its networks. He also noted that Voice over IP (VOIP) and video chats decrease fixed line operators’ and mobile operators’ profits by 10 — 15%. It is unclear whether the initiative will be put in law or not. However, this may increase prices and could cause inconvenience to instant-messenger users.
Ukraine seeks to control Internet
Ukrainian deputy Vasiliy Petevka is the author of the new bill No 2111 introducing strict control over mass media and bloggers. Deputy Petevka claims that the information on the Internet is unreliable and confusing, thus, it is necessary to control its distribution. Mr. Petevka introduced the bill similar to Russian law on bloggers which requires bloggers to provide their real identity and defines a blogger as “an owner of a website which posts mass information”. The bill caused heated discussions on the Internet as it equated bloggers and mass media similarly to the Russian analogue. Public outcry forced Mr. Petevka to recall the bill on February 18th 2015.
CNN is coming back to Russia
On February 17th 2015, CNN applied for a universal broadcasting licence for CNN International in Russian. Roskomnadzor will consider the application within 30 days. In November 2014 CNN announced that it will end broadcasting in Russia and it officially postponed its broadcasting operations on December 31st 2015. CNN explained that it could no longer broadcast in Russia due to the changes to media legislation which introduced a 20% cap on foreign involvement in media companies. Another reason was a law banning commercials on subscription TV which still applies to foreign channels. However, CNN would like to return to Russia and is actively co-operating with Russian watchdog Roskomnadzor. Aleksandr Zharov, head of Roskomnadzor, says the regulator is open for dialogue.
Yandex accuses Google of anti-competitive behaviour
On February 18th 2015, the largest Russian search engine Yandex submitted an antitrust complaint against Google. In its complaint to the Federal Antimonopoly Service, Yandex claims that in 2014 search giant Google prohibited re-installation of Yandex services on its partners mobile devices Fly, Explay and Prestigio. Yandex’s PR Director, Ochir Mandzhikov, said that manufacturers should have a choice as to which default search engine will used on their devices. At the same time, the European Commission is investigating Google’s dominance on the market and Yandex is one of the witnesses in this case. The Federal Monopoly Service will consider the complaint within two months and decide whether it should bring proceedings against Google.
Roskomnadzor will no longer manage the blacklist of websites
The Ministry of Telecommunications and Mass Communications of Russia intends to release Roskomnadzor from its role in managing the blacklist of websites. The Ministry plans to transfer the black list management to the General Radio Frequency Service (GRFS). This will make the GRFS an operator of the blacklist. However, the GRFS is a subsidiary of Roskomnadzor what means that the blacklist will only have a different operator the basic principles of its work will remain the same.