RSF restores access to Radio France Internationale website in Russia
Using its Operation Collateral Freedom mirror site technology, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was able to restore the Russian public’s access to the Radio France Internationale website within hours of its being blocked today at the behest of Rozkomnadzor, the Russian media and telecommunications regulator.
Radio France Internationale (RFI) provides news and information in 15 languages, including Russian, by radio and on its website. This “Collateral Freedom” operation was possible thanks to the network of hackers and cyber-security engineers who help RSF to combat online censorship all over the world. Last month, the same network helped RSF restore access to the websites of Deutsche Welle, the German public broadcaster, and Meduza, the most popular independent Russian news site, after they were also blocked by Moscow.
And on 5 April, RSF also created a mirror site for Fortanga, an opposition news site based in Ingushetia, in the Russian Caucasus.
“We cannot allow the Kremlin to deprive its citizens of the right to information,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The Russian government is using powerful legislative weapons against its citizens’ fundamental freedoms. Both Russian and foreign media outlets provide the Russian public with an essential service and putting them back online helps to maintain access to freely reported news and quality journalism. We are very happy to be able to help RFI in this way.”
The Kremlin seeks to suppress all reliable, freely reported information that can compete with its propaganda. And, as part of its quest for total control over information, it blocks access to online media outlets – a process that Operation Collateral Freedom is able to reverse.
Marie-Christine Saragosse, the CEO of France Médias Monde (the public corporation that owns RFI), said: “We deplore the severing, within Russia, of access to RFI’s site, in Russian as in all of RFI’s other languages, which further deprives Russian civil society of the possibility of freely obtaining information based on verified facts. In this context, we will maintain the provision of news and information by mobilising all technical solutions to keep our content accessible to the Russian population. This partnership around Collateral Freedom is part of the long history that our media shares with RSF to defend freedom of information.”
RSF’s Operation Collateral Freedom is able to quickly restore access to a blocked website by creating an exact copy or “mirror” of the site and placing it on a content delivery network (CDN) that host many other services. Authoritarian governments cannot block access to the CDN without suffering the collateral damage of blocking their own access to all of the other services provided by the CDN. The only option is to target the URL again, but RSF can give the mirror a new URL faster than the government can block it.
The Russian Internet is too complex for the government to be able to control it effectively. Blocking a site takes time and money. RSF is not subject to any of these constraints and will not abandon its defence of press freedom against predators.
Russia is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index