Netizen Report: Ukrainian Journalists Confront Kremlinesque Censorship Scheme

Images of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin, remixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Images of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin, remixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Ellery Roberts Biddle, Lisa Ferguson, Hae-in Lim, Tetyana Lokot, Bojan Perkov, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.

Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. 

Russia's relentless campaign to restrict media freedom and introduce extensive controls on the Internet is well publicized, but it looks like Ukraine may soon catch up. The Ukrainian government, which has endured Russia's domination of the media landscape in the east, proposed a new draft law to crack down on rogue news outlets and websites with content deemed threatening to national security.

The law, which passed its first reading in parliament last week, has exasperated local journalists, civil society figures, and the international community. The outrage grew so loud that deputies agreed to remove and soften most of the censorship measures, but proposed moving some of them to existing media laws to achieve some measure of control over dissenting media outlets.

Meanwhile, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has asked the Ukrainian Internet Association to block around 60 websites, including the gaming sites Maidan.ru and GoodGame.ru. SBU’s request is less comprehensive than previous media bans, including the blocking of four Russian television channels by a Kiev court, because it is addressed to a business association that represents only a portion of Ukrainian ISPs. 

The security agency requested the block arguing the sites “promote war, ethnic hatred, and violent change in the constitutional order or territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Free Expression: Malaysia contemplates Facebook ban

The Malaysian government is considering a proposal to ban Facebook in response to reports of abusive behavior on the site. Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery said it would be “radical and quite impossible” to implement a complete block on the site, which has 15 million users in Malaysia. The proposal came on the heels of critical remarks by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who condemned Facebook for policing content and then, in a seemingly contradictory move, suggested greater government regulation of the Internet.

Malaysia's national police force has also formed a task force to “monitor and take action” against those who spread racist remarks and hate speech on social media, according to The Diplomat. 

Jordanian authorities blocked the domain for 7iber, an independent media and advocacy platform, for a third time since 2013. Visit their Facebook page for updates.

In Iran, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance announced that all news websites that do not obtain government-issued licenses will be blocked nationwide.

Thuggery: Political journalists face death threats, abduction in Maldives

Fifteen Maldivian journalists reported receiving anonymous SMS messages threatening them for their coverage of recent deadly street violence in the island nation, which lies southeast of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. A few days later, on August 8, journalist and democracy advocate Ahmed Rizwan Abdulla, who works for Minivan news, disappeared without explanation. “Minivan” means “independent” in local language Dhivehi. On Twitter and Facebook, supporters are pleading for his return using the hashtag #FreeMoyaMeehaa.

Surveillance: Keeping an eye on WiFi hotspots, Kremlin-style

Russian news website Izvestia reports that Internet users in Russia soon will be asked to show their IDs or passports when logging on to public WiFi hotspots, under a government decree signed by PM Dmitri Medvedev.

Industry: Facebook brings Internet access to Zambian mobile networks (sort of)

Facebook and its Internet.org partnership with telcos are working with mobile service provider Airtel to give subscribers Internet access, in the form of Facebook, Wikipedia and a handful of apps focused on things like weather and employment. A few months since its deployment it is facing challenges due to unbearably slow speeds and questions about Facebook’s motivations. The arrangement requires subscribers to have a Facebook account in order to download and use the apps. So rather than paying for the service with money, notes Evgeny Morozov, they pay for it with their data.

Netizen Activism: Egyptian activist begins hunger strike

Activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah began an open-ended hunger strike that he plans to maintain until he is released from prison, his family said in a statement posted on Facebook. Abd El Fattah has been jailed or investigated under every Egyptian head of state who has served over the last four years. In June, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for allegedly organizing a protest without a permit. 

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