By Heini Järvinen

Russia has blocked a number of major news sites including the online newspapers Grani and Ejednevni Jurnal, Garry Kasparov’s opposition information site, the blog of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and the website of the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy. A law allowing the blocking of internet sites on the order of prosecutors without a court decision came into force in February 2014.

Russian federal service supervising communications, information technology and mass media announced that Navalny’s blog was taken down to enforce his house arrest regulations which include a personal prohibition on accessing the Internet, and the other news sites to prevent illegal activity and unauthorised protests.

Russian Internet Service Providers were asked to block access to the websites listed as prohibited by Russia’s prosecutor general. However, it was still possible to bypass the censorship through other online services (such as proxys). Tips on how to get around the ban were circulating on social media, and other opposition bloggers re-posted the banned contents on their own websites.

The blockages are increasing concerns that Putin is seeking to tighten control over Russian society as he is confronting the United States and European Union in the dispute concerning the Ukrainian crisis and the Kremlin’s incursion into Crimea. Russian opposition and the international civil society has described the blockages as “political decision taken as part of the cleansing the media landscape of independent voices”, and as “violating citizens right to freedom of expression”. The Kremlin has denied allegations of censorship and pressure on the media.

Russia censors media by blocking websites and popular blog (14.03.2014)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/14/russia-bans-alexei-navalny-blog-opposition-news-websites

Russia Blocks Access to Major Independent News Sites (13.03.2014)
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/03/russia-blocks-access-major-independent-news-sites

Blocked Russian opposition site recommends Opera to outwit blacklist (17.03.2014)
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9247005/Blocked_Russian_opposition_site_recommends_Opera_to_outwit_blacklist_

How to Punish Putin (20.03.2014)
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/20/opinion/how-to-punish-putin.html?_r=0

Navalny Proposes Sanctions List to the West (21.03.2014)
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/navalny-proposes-sanctions-list-to-the-west/496520.html

Are America’s Latest Sanctions on Russia Based on a List by a Blogger? (20.03.2014)
http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/03/20/are-new-russia-sanctions-based-on-list-by-top-blogger/