To continue blocking websites and Russian social networks in Ukraine, it is necessary to amend the existing sanction mechanism so that it complies with international standards in the field of human rights and the Constitution of Ukraine. The human rights and media NGOs have addressed the President and the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine with the respective statement.
On 15 May 2020, the first NSDC decision to block a number of websites and Russian social networks expires. On 10 April, the SBU announced that it proposed to the NSDC to continue these sanctions.
Human rights activists highlight that they share the intent to protect Ukraine’s the national information space from the destructive influence of the aggressor state. However, the lawyers of the FreeNet Coalition emphasize that, in accordance with international standards, the complete blocking of information resources should be an exceptional measure and should only be used if the legal framework is in place to prevent abuse of power, including strict control over such bans and effective judicial review. Both elements are absent from the applicable sanction procedure.
FreeNet Coalition and the NGOs emphasize that the mechanism currently in place to restrict access to information resources enforced by the NSDC Decision poses serious threats to the abuse and violation of human rights to receive and disseminate information, which is guaranteed by Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine.
“Lack of proper judicial review, broad discretionary powers of government bodies, non-transparent mechanism for establishing a list of banned websites, and lack of unbiased analysis of the proportionality and effectiveness of the sanctions contradict Ukraine’s international commitments in the field of human rights and the democratic development of our state,” the Statement underlines.
The organizations call to:
- Initiate legal changes to ensure the legality, validity and proportionality of sanctions against information resources and ensure independent judicial review against abuse;
- Conduct effective dialogue with experts and human rights activists to ensure respect for human rights in the initiatives to counter Russian aggression;
- Mandate the NSDC to conduct regular (quarterly) evaluation of the effectiveness of sanctions and make the findings of such evaluation available to public.
The Statement was supported by the FreeNet Coalition members: NGO Human Rights Platform, NGO Digital Security Lab, NGO Human Rights Center ZMINA, NGO Crimean Human Rights Group, NGO Center for Civil Liberties, Freedom House in Ukraine, as well as NGO European Media Platform, The Influencer Platform, NGO Regional Press Development Institute, UMDPL Association, Zaborona Media, NGO Fulcrum UA and others.
On 15 May 2017, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko adopted the Decree # 133/2017 on implementation of the NSDC Decision “On the Application of Personal Special Economic and Other Restrictive Measures (Sanctions).” Pursuant to this Decision, the Internet service providers (ISP) were obliged to restrict access to a number of websites, in particular, to Russian social networks Odnoklassniki and VKontakte for three years – that is, until 15 May 2020. According to Presidential Decrees # 126/2018 and # 82/2019, the list of blocked sites was expanded to about 300 web resources.
On 10 April 2020, the Security Service of Ukraine announced a proposal to the NSDC the extend sanctions against Russian social networks Odnoklassniki and VKontakte for another 3 years, justifying this by the need to protect Ukrainian citizens from the fakes and manipulations.