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1197 Instances of restrictions on Internet freedom in 2012 identified by human rights activists

4 February 2013

Source: Open Information Agency

Agora Human Rights Association has presented its annual report "Russia as a Global Threat to Internet Freedom" 

In 2012, legal experts at the Agora Human Rights Association recorded 103 criminal prosecutions of Internet users, 208 instances of administrative pressure and 609 cases of restricted access to websites. They logged 47 cyber attacks, 26 civil lawsuits against bloggers and 49 proposals by politicians and officials to regulate the Internet. For comparison, in 2011, 38 criminal prosecutions, 173 instances of administrative pressure, 231 cases of restricted access, 31 cyber attacks, 11 lawsuits and 5 proposals to regulate the Internet were recorded. The total number of violations of Internet freedom identified went up by a factor of almost 2.5 compared with the previous year (500 in 2011, 1197 in 2012).

This was the first time the Russian state started regarding the Internet as a fundamental source of threats to its security and stability. Evidence of this is both the rise in the number of cases of restrictions and the tenfold increase in proposals to regulate the Internet, not one of which included a guarantee of freedom, instead focusing exclusively on tightening controls and responsibility and introducing new forms of censorship, reads a report published by the Agora Association Russia as a Global Threat to Internet Freedom.

"A significant increase in the number of cases of restrictions of Internet freedom by the Russian authorities was identified. This can be seen in practically all areas, cases involving prosecution of Internet users went up, as did the number of blocked sites, and administrative pressure was stepped up," the report states. "Moreover, media representatives, prominent people in the online and offline worlds, like Aleksei Navalny and Rustem Adagamov, were pursued, as were ordinary people and activists. This was the first time there was a significant number of instances of Internet activists fleeing abroad. Website owners also began choosing foreign jurisdictions in significant numbers: last year saw a sharp rise in demand for the rental of server hardware abroad.

The report also contains an analysis of violent crimes against bloggers and Internet activists, as well as investigations of these incidents and Internet censorship.

"2012 was a watershed year for the Russian Internet. Runet emerged headlong from the periphery of sociopolitical life, and demonstrated the increasing opportunities available for active citizens to organise themselves, in so doing attracting the attention of the authorities. The next battle in the fight for a free Runet will come in spring, when the State Duma is planning to discuss the law "On the Internet,"" say legal analysts for the Agora Association.

Human rights campaigners says that there was a year-on-year increase in the number of instances of Russian regions where Internet rights had been systematically restricted. In 2011 there were 35 of these regions and in 2012 that figure was 38. Moreover, the number of regions where users felt under serious pressure went up from 4 to 9 (shown in red on the Map of Violations).

Moscow lost its status as the most dangerous city for Internet users, relinquishing its crown to the Stavropol Territory, according to the report. "It is also worth noting that the number of instances of restriction of users' rights in Moscow was virtually unchanged: in 2011 the figure was 93 and in 2012 it was 98. St. Petersburg saw an almost threefold decrease, down from 38 to 14."

The full text of the report (in Russian) is available here.

The Map of Violations of Internet Freedom is available here.

The record book of violations is available here