RSF’s Operation Collateral Freedom foils blocking of more than 80 sites in 24 countries

On World Day Against Cyber Censorship (12 March), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announces that it has unblocked access to more than 80 media websites in 24 countries. Many Russian media can again be accessed, and a battle is under way with Beijing to bring news sites blocked in China back online.

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Launched in 2015 to combat online media censorship, RSF’s Operation Collateral Freedom is currently enabling access to more than 80 media sites in countries where they were censored. The Operation is now at work in 24 countries around the world, including Russia, Belarus, China, Myanmar and several African countries including Togo and Mali.

Thanks to Operation Collateral Freedom’s creation of mirror sites that are hosted on servers located outside the jurisdiction of press freedom predators, national and international media have been able to circumvent arbitrary blocking measures. Almost half of the more than 80 sites have been put back online in the past year.

“Operation Collateral Freedom has just advanced to a new stage and is unfortunately now having to assist a growing number of media outlets. Access to online information is worsening everywhere in the world, especially in authoritarian countries, led by Russia and China. The creation of mirror sites completes the range of solutions provided by RSF for accessing online information and enabling media outlets to quickly reconnect with their public.”

Christophe Deloire

RSF secretary-general

Since launching its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin has repeatedly used Roskomnadzor, the Russian telecoms regulator, to block Russian and foreign news sites providing independent, reliable and quality news reporting. Thanks to Operation Collateral Freedom, no fewer than 17 Russian media outlets have been unblocked, including Holod, an independent news platform, and Kavkaz Uzel, a site that specialises in covering the Caucasus. 

The Russian-language services of the French broadcaster RFI and German broadcaster  Deutsche Welle have also been unblocked, as has one of the leading independent Russian news outlets, which is based in the Latvian capital, Riga. 

Meduza editor Ivan Kolpakov said: “After [24 February 2022], Russia established military censorship. Russian authorities blocked all independent media outlets. But in the case of Meduza, the Kremlin failed. We can still broadcast in Russia for millions of our readers, and the infrastructure provided by RSF for our mobile app is an important part of this achievement”

More than a billion requests* have been sent to the various Meduza mirror sites since February 2022. This has set a record in terms of use of Operation Collateral Freedom.

RSF’s battle with China

In early 2023, RSF also embarked on a major operation, bypassing China's Great Firewall, to unblock many of the Chinese news and information sites that have been banished from the national Internet. A first wave of websites has already been unblocked. Nine sites specializing in reporting human rights abuses, including Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, Weiquanwang and the Tibetan exile media outlet, Tibet Post International, are back online. Other Chinese media will soon be unblocked and their URLs will be made public as they come back online.

*Each page needs several requests in order to be displayed, depending on the number of elements of which it consists (text, photos, videos, links and so on).


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Updated on 10.03.2023