Press release

Russia: Removal of Ban on Messaging App Does Not End Censorship

The government must grant citizens access to other blocked resources.

In response to the Russian authorities’ removal of an official ban on Telegram, a popular messaging application, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The decision by Russian regulators to authorize public access to Telegram is a step in the right direction, though the restrictions that remain are concerning,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The lifting of the ban is conditional upon Telegram’s cooperation with the authorities, including its willingness to provide personal information on citizens. More broadly, a number of websites remain blacklisted for political reasons in Russia, infringing on fundamental freedoms of speech, expression, and association. Freedom House calls on the Russian government to roll back internet censorship, without caveats, and grant citizens access to illegitimately banned websites.”

Background:

On June 18, the Russian communications regulatory body, Roskomnadzor, officially lifted a ban imposed on Telegram two years earlier after its founders failed to turn over encryption keys to the agency. The decision is contingent on Telegram’s cooperation with Russian authorities in cases of alleged extremism and terrorism. The ban had been largely ineffective in practical terms, and Telegram remained widely popular, utilized even by the government and state-run media.

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, and is categorized as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2020.