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August 24, 2015 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Has Russia gone so far as to block Wikipedia?


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The entire Wikipedia website may have been blocked in Russia for the absurd reason that a government agency objected to a single entry about a type of cannabis from India.

The authorities ordered Internet Service Providers block access to the online collaborative encyclopaedia today at the request of the Russian telecommunications surveillance agency Roskomnadzor.

The agency ordered the blocking following a 25 June ruling by a court in Cherny Yar, a town near Astrakhan (a city 1,200 km southeast of Moscow) that the cannabis entry was illegal and should be blocked.

The entry is said to violate several laws, including article 46 of a January 1998 federal law banning “propaganda in favour of narcotic and psychotropic substances.”

The authorities were prepared to block the entire website because the type of HTTPS encryption used by Wikipedia makes it impossible to block a single page. Roskomnadzor “does not rule out blocking the entire site,” said a spokesman for the agency, Vadim Ampelonsky.

“Blocking the Wikipedia website would be one of Russia’s biggest violations of freedom of information in recent years,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“It is incredible that a site as important as Wikipedia should be rendered inaccessible in Russia simply because a single page breaks the law. We urge the authorities to reach a compromise with Wikipedia in order to avoid a totally disproportionate suppression of online content.”

Ever since 2012 and Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency, Russia has been toughening its legislation on freedom of expression and information and has been blocking more and more websites.

Roskomnadzor acts an online policeman and, at the request of prosecutors, can order the blocking of any Internet content deemed undesirable without referring to a judge first.

Russia is ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.