OVD-Info reported that Russian Internet and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has blocked its site. The organization said in a message on Twitter that it had not been officially informed of the decision and did not know the reason for the move beyond the fact that it had been ordered to shut down its site from the leaves a court on Monday.
The website was not accessible to Russian internet users on Saturday and was listed on the government register of banned pages. In light of the decision, OVD-Info urged its supporters to follow its pages on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Russian social network VK and messaging app Telegram.
In comments to the Interfax news agency, Roskomnadzor said the website was blocked because, according to the court ruling, he was involved in the
propaganda of terrorism and extremism by posting content aimed at
justify the actions of extremist and terrorist groups.
The agency said social media platforms have been asked to remove the group’s accounts.
OVD-Info rejects the charges
OVD-Info co-founder Grigory Okhotin dismissed the charges on Saturday in an interview with theAssociated Press.
” Of course, we are sure that we are not justifying extremism and terrorism. Of course, we write about these topics, it’s our job, but we don’t justify extremism or terrorism. “
Grigory Okhotin said the decision to block the website came as a surprise, even though the group knew that the prosecutor’s office in Loukhovitsy, a town 120 kilometers southeast of Moscow, had opened an investigation.
Our lawyer went there, but they refused to provide any documents or explain anything about the merits of the case, said Grigori Okhotine.
Of course, we didn’t know it would go to court so quickly.
OVD-Info has gained notoriety for its monitoring and meticulous inventory of arrests during street protests in Russia. Activists began the practice during mass protests sparked by a parliamentary election in 2011 marred by numerous denunciations of electoral fraud. They then formed a group which continued the work over the years.
The data has been vital to news outlets over time as Russian authorities have largely kept silent or downplayed the scale of mass arrests during protests.
Legal aid for demonstrators
OVD-Info also functions as a legal aid group, delegating lawyers to help protesters detained in police stations and in courts. In September, an international human rights organization based in Sweden awarded OVD-Info with the Civil Rights Defender of the Year award.
In the same month, the Russian authorities designated this group as a
foreign agent, a label that comes with excessive government scrutiny and strong pejorative overtones that can discredit the group. The founders of OVD-Info are committed to continuing the work of the organization despite this designation.
Russian authorities have stepped up pressure on rights groups, the media and journalists in recent months, appointing dozens of
foreign agents. Some have been declared
unwanted – a label that prohibits de facto the activities of an organization in the country – or accused of having links with groups
The Russian Justice Ministry added two more advocacy groups to the register of foreign agents on Friday: Coming Out and Reverse, who defend the rights of Lgbt and who provide assistance to the community Lgbt Russian, struggling.
Russian law requires a non-governmental organization, media, informal movement or individual to be listed as a foreign agent when that group or person receives foreign funding. Even a small donation from a foreign national counts.
OVD-Info, together with other rights groups, launched a campaign in September to abolish the law on
foreign agents. By the end of December, more than 240 organizations and more than 260,000 people had signed a petition calling the law
discriminatory and illegal.
OVD-Info submitted the signatures to the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, the Duma.
Grigory Okhotin called the website closure
new round of pressures on us and on civil society. He said he believed OVD-Info was being targeted because of its importance and its campaign against the legislation on
” We are very tall, we are very visible, we are supported by a large number of people in Russia. “
He added that more than 100,000 Russians support OVD-Info with their donations.
Grigory Okhotin said the group will continue to inform Russians about the political repression, despite the website being unavailable to citizens.
We will certainly find some way or another to keep the public informed., he told theAssociated Press.