January 17th-23rd 2015
Struggle against caricatures in Russia and Belarus
Russian and Belarusian regulators do not support the publication of religious caricatures in the media. Last week Russian regulator Roskomnadzor warned media sources against publishing Charlie Hebdo caricatures, informing them that it breaks an anti-extremist piece of legislation, the Lugovoi Law. On January 16th, Roskomnadzor issued the first warning to the analytical source Respublika (Republic) regarding the publication of religious caricatures. On January 21st, the regulator issued another three warnings to online newspapers: RB.ru, RUNews24.ru and Lenoblinform.ru. Roskomnadzor’s representative, Vadim Ampelonskiy claimed that religious caricatures violate the Lugovoi Law and may provoke religious, racial, and social intolerance. Deputies Vadim Dengin and Vladimir Milonov, both of whom support laws restricting freedom of expression, appealed to Roskomnadzor to include Charlie Hebdo in the list of illegal extremist materials. In Belarus, the Ministry of Information will inspect caricatures published by Belarusian media to determine if they do in fact call for extremist action.
Internet tax for ISPs in Azerbaijan
The Copyright Agency of Azerbaijan is developing a new taxation mechanism aimed at protecting copyright holders against illegal use of their materials. The initiative introduces a new tax that will target ISPs and Internet users. The Agency proposed creating a database of copyright materials and imposing an Internet access tax on all ISPs. According to the mechanism, all ISPs that enter into a service agreement with users grant them unlimited access to copyrighted materials on the Internet, including movies, audio tracks, and videos. By paying the Internet tax, ISPs and the Copyright Agency will ensure that copyright holders are compensated and protected against illegal use of that material. The initiative is similar to the Internet Tax Bill in Russia, introduced by the Russian Union of Copyright Holders. In Russia, major ISPs and the Ministry of Communications strongly criticised the Bill. On December 1st 2014, the major Russian IT companies Mail.Ru, Yandex, Rambler&Co, and VKontakte released an open letter to the President arguing that the initiative violates the Constitution and the WTO regulations. The Copyright Agency of Azerbaijan claims that the new legislation is still in a development and it will be finalised by the end of 2015.
Compulsory identification of public WiFi users in Moscow underground
The Moscow underground is now implementing compulsory identification of WiFi users. According to Decree No 758, all public WiFi users must identify themselves when logging on. As a result, WiFi users riding the Moscow underground will see a compulsory identification page by spring 2015. The Decree obliges all ISPs and operators to maintain identification mechanisms and store user details for at least 6 months. Russian Parliament adopted the law in July 2014 but it has not been fully implemented in all public WiFi areas due to its vague terminology and unclear mechanisms of identification. Read the full DR analysis here.
Russian Parliament to adopt the bill on “undesirable organisations”
Russian Parliament adopted a draft bill banning “undesirable foreign organizations”, 384 deputies voted for the bill and only 2 abstained. The bill will go through two more readings before being sent to President Vladimir Putin to be signed. The law will introduce the concept of “an international organization which poses a threat to the defence capacity and security of the state or to public order, or to public health.” Identified organisations and their regional offices will be banned in Russia and the Russian Internet. The Office of the Prosecutor General and the Ministry of International Affairs will decide which organisations are undesirable and include them in a register. International human rights organisations already expressed their concerns about the implementation of such draconian and open-to-interpretation regulations.
The Ministry of Information of Belarus warns foreign websites
The Ministry warned foreign websites to not violate the Media Law or they could face blocking in Belarus. According to the new regulation, any information source on the Internet that contains information materials can be considered mass media. Foreign information sources are therefore required to obtain authorisation to disseminate information in Belarus. However, websites would be accessible outside Belarus, allowing circumvention opportunities from within the country. According to DR information, the Ministry is planning to issue warnings to foreign websites.
Apple and PayPal are leaving Crimea
Apple developers and retailers in Crimea reported that the company’s Russian office sent out notices of termination of its operations and sales on the peninsula. Apple ceased its operations following the new US sanctions against Russia, introduced in December 2014. On January 23rd, PayPal announced that it blocked Crimean accounts and stopped its operations. US companies must leave Crimea by February 1st 2015. Apple informed all Crimean developers that they must stop using its software and delete it immediately and all applications developed in Crimea were deleted from the App store. While the full effects are yet to be seen, this is one example of the effect of US and Western sanctions.