Blocking Sites Limits Freedom of Expression in Ukraine – Freedom House
16 May, 2017

The National Security Council's decision to block Russian sites and social networks could restrict access to Ukrainian media and freedom of expression and belief.

In a comment to Hromadske, Freedom House Ukraine's Project Director, Matthew Schaaf, said:

"Freedom House and other organizations are concerned about the tendency of the Ukrainian government to block information and block access to resources, to websites and so on, because we think that it will make it more difficult for people to access information, news, to express themselves."

Schaaf also expressed concerns about how the decision to block certain resources was made. "This decision wasn’t made in a way that is consistent with the expectations of a democratic society," he said. "Usually that’s through a court. We expect to see serious decision like this made by independent bodies that can properly balance the need to protect the security of the country and also the human rights of the citizens and people living in that country."

Furthermore, Schaaf underscored that blocking internet resources is generally ineffective. For example, blocking the Russian search engine "Yandex" is ineffective when the same resources can be accessed through "Google," he explained. "We have our doubts or concerns about the effectiveness of this decisions," he said. "In general blocking isn’t the solution. People should be able to access to information and make their own decisions."

According to the Internet Association of Ukraine, blocking the sanctioned Russian sites is currently technically impossible. The organization's Chairman, Alexander Fediyenko, told "Interfax Ukraine": "As of today, it can not be done."

He also added that the implementation of the block would take time and large sums of money to upgrade equipment and make network topology changes.

Earlier today, President Poroshenko signed a National Security Council decree sanctioning Russian resources and television channels. It also included a list of 1,228 sanctioned individuals, including citizens of Ukraine, Russia and other countries.

According to the decision of the National Security Council, internet providers will be prohibited from providing internet users access to the resources and services of and must deny them access to "VKontakte" and "Odnoklassniki."