Yesterday, we received a notice from Roskomnadzor, (Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications) which says that they want to deny access to our website in Russia on the basis of a court decision (In accordance with No. 7 of Article 15.1. of the Federal Law dated 27.07.2006 No. 149-FZ “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” we notify you on the basis of a decision of court (Shebalinsky district court – Altai Republic) dated 15.12.2016 No 2-640/2016). Of course, every country has the right to decide whom to admit and whom not to admit to its information market. Our website is the first and only complete website about the Middle East in Russian.
The reason why Roskomnadzor made the decision was allegedly an image of the ISIS flag, which was used by our editors as an illustration for the news taken from another news site.
That’s what it says in the so-called “Decision of a court” – “(an image (a photo) of the flag with Arabic symbols in white on a black background and Arabic symbols in black in the white circle of the same black background, identical to the flag of the organization” Islamic State “, also known as “ISIS” or “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”, which was recognized as terrorist by the decision of the Supreme Court of 29.12.2014, its activity is prohibited on the entire territory of the Russian Federation.)
Below you can see a screenshot of the news from our website, about the decision of the Swedish Court regarding ISIS flag.
As you can see, they also used ISIS flag as an illustration for the news, moreover, unlike us they have the real flag, and not an illustration stylized as ISIS flag. But Roskomnadzor is not in a hurry to block Russia Today, as well as one of the leading Russian portals Lenta.ru.
I do not know whether there is an expert in Roskomnadzor in Arabic and the Middle East, or people familiar with the principles of online media, or employees able to think logically. Such a selective, I would even say, absurd approach by Roskomnadzor, makes us think, to put it mildly, about the organization’s bias and that the organization performs completely different functions that are far from the fight against extremism and more similar to attempts of internet censorship and removing from the information space the internet resources beyond the control of the Russian government.
We are not propagandists, not politicians or activists, we are journalists and our job is to report the news.
We have always and consistently opposed any manifestation of terrorism and extremism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, the decision of Roskomnadzor turned an unpleasant surprise for our team. We appreciate and value our readers from Russia, but at the same time, we do not want to change the principles of journalism in favor of state officials uninitiated in matters of principles and methods of functioning of the media. Neither the team members, nor the owner, nor the hosting or domain service providers of our project are Russian residents, respectively, the decision will affect only the Russians who received information about the region where Russia has recently begun to play a very active role.
We have decided to remove this image and replace it with another, the editor of the Russian version of the website notified Roskomnadzor. I do not know if it is going to affect their decision. But at the same time, we don’t have a guarantee that the “experts” of this office will not deem the flag of Saudi Arabia, which also has inscriptions in Arabic, as the ISIS flag. Since they deemed the flag with the English letters “CIA” as the ISIS flag.
Taking all of the above into consideration, I have a couple of reasonable questions to this government department. For example, if the word “ISIS” is searched on Google, you will also find ISIS flag. Will you also block Google in Russia? Or does it mean that Google promotes ISIS?
Further, such media as the New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, CNN, and Russian news portal Lenta.ru use image of the ISIS flag as an illustration for the news on relevant topics. In addition, the image of the ISIS flag is also used by Wikipedia. Does Roskomnadzor think that Google, Wikipedia and all above mentioned media are promoting terrorism? Is it going to block all of them on the territory of Russia?
I think such actions of this structure, cause irreparable damage to the image of Russia in the world and among journalists in particular.