One of the best citizen initiatives to map the wildfires and provide up-to-date information is the Russian Fires website, accessible at http://www.russian-fires.ru/.
The positive outcomes included the punishment of a police officer who abused his authority, the rescue of a Russian tourist bitten by a snake in Indonesia, and the granting of a passport to opposition blogger Oleg Kozlovsky. See Alexey Sidorenko, “Russia: Blogger’s Video Leads to Punishment of Policeman,” Global Voices, March 9, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/03/09/russia-bloggers-video-leads-to-punishment-of-policeman/; Alexey Sidorenko, “Russia: Bloggers Saved Tourist’s Life,” Global Voices, February 4, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/02/04/russiabloggers-saved-tourists-life/; Alexey Sidorenko, “Russia: Opposition Blogger Finally Gets Permission to Leave Country,” Global Voices, January 29, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/01/29/russia-opposition-blogger-finally-gets-permission-toleave-country/.
For example, an online video in which police whistleblower Aleksey Dymovsky complained of widespread corruption led only to his own conviction for slander in March 2010, and bloggers’ protests failed to persuade authorities to hold oil executive Anatoly Barkov accountable for a February 2010 automobile accident that killed two women.
Yandex, Блогосфера Рунета, Весна 2009.
The Kremlin-affiliated media organizations include the Foundation on Effective Politics, led by Gleb Pavlovsky; New Media Stars, led by Konstantin Rykov; and the Political Climate Center, led by Aleksey Chesnakov.
Ksenia Veretennikova, “‘Медведиахолдинг’: Единая Россия решила формировать собственное медиапространство” [‘Medvediaholding’: United Russia Decided to Form Its Own Media Space], Vremya, August 21, 2008, http://www.vremya.ru/2008/152/4/210951.html (in Russian).
RUSSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net former Soviet Union. Mikhail Prokhorov, another billionaire oligarch, owns RosBusinessConsulting (RBC), whose hosting service is home to 19 percent of all Russian websites.39 Vladimir Potanin owns Prof-Media, which in turn owns the search engine Rambler.ru, its news portal Lenta.ru, and other popular resources. Yuri Kovalchuk, a close friend of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s who controls the media arm of state-owned energy giant Gazprom, recently bought RuTube, the Russian analogue of YouTube.40 This oligarchic control over an important bloc of online media, social-networking applications, and blogging platforms has raised concerns about the Russian internet’s vulnerability to political manipulation.
VIOLATIONS OF USER RIGHTS Although the constitution grants the right of free speech, this guarantee is routinely violated, and there are no special laws protecting online modes of expression. Online journalists do not possess the same rights as traditional journalists unless they register their websites as mass media. Recent police practice has been to target online expression using Article 282 of the criminal code, which restricts “extremism.” The term is vaguely defined and includes xenophobia and incitement of hatred toward a “social group.” Since January 2009, police and the prosecutor’s office have launched at least criminal cases against bloggers and forum commentators. While some cases were against individuals who posted clearly extremist content, others appear to be more politically motivated. The most severe and widely known sentence was that of Irek Murtazin, a Tatarstan blogger and journalist who received almost two years in prison in November for defamation. Other important cases include the August 2009 arrest of five people affiliated with the website Ufa Gubernskaya for extremism, and the May 2010 arrest of blogger Alauddin Dudko, who had worked with Ingush opposition journalist Magomed Yevloyev before his murder in 2008. Dudko was accused of possessing drugs and explosives, but his colleagues argued that the real reason behind the arrest was his online activity.Similarly, in Ulyanovsk region, environmentalist blogger and activist Aleksandr Bragin was RBC Information Systems, Годовой отчет РБК за 2008 год [RBC Annual Report 2008] (Moscow: RBC, 2009), http://www.rbcinfosystems.ru/ir/2008.pdf (in Russian).
Open Source Center, “Kremlin Allies’ Expanding Control of Runet Provokes Only Limited Opposition,” Office of the U.S.
Director of National Intelligence, February 28, 2010, available at http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/osc/runet.pdf.
“В Москве по обвинению в хранении наркотиков и взрывчатки задержан известный блогер” [Popular Blogger Detained in Moscow on Charges of Possession of Narcotics and Explosives], EuIngush, May 20, 2010, http://euingush.com/index.phpnewsid=1424 (in Russian).
RUSSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net recently accused of a hit-and-run accident; Bragin claims that he was framed by the authorities in response to his investigative reporting.Only one blogger, Dmitri Solovyev of Kemerevo, was able to defend his name in court, ultimately securing the government’s recognition that the blog post in question was not extremist.43 The issue of responsibility for anonymous comments has been raised as well. The administrator of the site Gorodirbit.ru lost a court case in March 2010 over an anonymous comment about local authorities and had to pay a fine.While traditional journalists and activists have faced a series of murders and severe beatings in recent years, physical attacks on Russian bloggers and online activists have so far been comparatively limited. However, one recent event drew significant attention. In November 2010, Oleg Kashin, a reporter for the newspaper Kommersant who was also well known as a blogger, was severely beaten near his home in Moscow. His coverage of protests and political youth movements had prompted vocal responses from pro-Kremlin groups in the past, but it was not known exactly who was responsible for the attack.
It is unclear to what extent internet users in Russia are subject to extralegal surveillance of their online activities. Since 2000, all ISPs have been obliged to install the “system for operational investigative measures,”45 or SORM-2, which gives the Federal Security Service (FSB) and police access to internet traffic. The system is analogous to the Carnivore/DCS1000 software used by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and operates as a packet-sniffer that can analyze and log data passing through a digital network.However, no known cases of SORM-2 use have been reported, and the efficiency of the system has been seriously questioned. Legislation approved in April 2007 allows government services to intercept data traffic without a warrant. Online surveillance represents much less of a threat in the major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg than in the regions, where almost every significant blog or forum is monitored by the local police and prosecutor’s office. Most of the harassment suffered by critical bloggers and other online activists in Russia occurs in the regions.
Mikhail Byeliy, “‘Это наезд’: Эколог, получавший многочисленные угрозы, стал участником странного ДТП” [‘This Is a Shakedown’: Environmentalist, Having Received Numerous Threats, Became Involved in a Strange Accident], Noviye Izvestiya, November 30, 2010, http://www.newizv.ru/news/2010-11-30/137219/ (in Russian).
Alexey Sidorenko, “Russia: Prosecution Against Opposition Blogger Stopped,” Global Voices, January 28, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/01/28/russia-prosecution-against-opposition-blogger-stopped/.
Igor Lesovskikh, “Владелец сайта доплатит за комментарий” [Owner of Website Will Pay for Comment], Kommersant, March 3, 2010, http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspxDocsID=1330650 (in Russian).
Konstantin Nikashov, “СОРМ для IP-коммуникаций: требуется новая концепция” [SORM for IP-Communications:
New Concept Needed], Iksmedia.ru, December 10, 2007, http://www.iksmedia.ru/topics/analytical/effort/261924.htmlpv=1 (in Russian). For more information on SORM, see V.
S. Yelagin, “СОРМ-2 история, становление, перспективы” [SORM-2 History, Formation, Prospects], Protei, http://www.sorm-li.ru/sorm2.html (in Russian), accessed March 20, 2009.
B. S. Goldstein, Y. A. Kryukov, and V. I. Polyantsev, “Проблемы и Решения СОРМ-2” [Problems and Solutions of SORM-2], Vestnik Svyazi no. 12 (2006), http://www.protei.ru/company/pdf/publications/2007/2007-003.pdf (in Russian).
RUSSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net In addition to official monitoring and prosecution, critical websites face censorship in the form of unexpected “technical difficulties.” For example, the sites Sineevedro.ru, Navalny.ru, and Novayagazeta.ru have been unavailable due to “technical reasons” during important civic actions. Several newspaper websites have experienced denial-of-service (DoS) attacks,47 typically in connection with articles that could seriously influence offline events. Hacker attacks on blogs that began in 2007 continued in 2009–10, with at least blogs suffering attacks in the last two years.48 As in previous years, the blogs were ravaged and defaced.
Cybercrime is a serious problem, and roughly 9 percent of all internet attacks worldwide between July and September 2010 were carried out from Russia.49 A number of factors contribute to this growing threat. First, many personal computers in Russia are not protected by antivirus software, leaving them vulnerable to infection and integration into “botnets”—networks of computers that are controlled remotely for malicious purposes.
Second, information and instruction on how to build and develop botnets is widely accessible. Finally, punishment of cybercriminals is rare, contributing to a culture of impunity. According to some sources, many hackers for hire are willing to carry out DoS attacks for as little as €200 (US$260) per day.50 Russian law enforcement has not actively pursued cybercriminals due to corruption and a lack of technical skills, but also because most of the attacks originating in Russia are aimed at users abroad, including in Europe and the United States.
These included Kommersant in March 2009, Novaya Gazeta in January 2010, and Vedomosti in February 2010. See “‘КоммерсантЪ’ подвергся DDoS атаке” [‘Kommersant’ Has Undergone DDoS Attack], Xakep.ru, March 16, 2009, http://www.xakep.ru/post/47483/default.asp (in Russian); Alexey Sidorenko, “Russia: Newspaper Web Site Hacked,” Global Voices, January 26, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/01/26/russia-newspaper-web-site-hacked/; Alexey Sidorenko, “Russia: Another Newspaper Web Site Attacked,” Global Voices, February 13, 2010, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/02/13/russia-another-newspaper-web-site-attacked/.
Pribylovski, “Список взломанных бригадой хелла ЖЖ-блогов.” Akamai, State of the Internet: 3st Quarter 2010 Report (Cambridge, MA: Akamai, 2011), http://www.akamai.com/dl/whitepapers/Akamai_soti_apac_q310.pdfcurl=/dl/whitepapers/Akamai_soti_apac_q310.pdf&s olcheck=1&.
“В России DDoS-атака стоит от 200 евро в сутки” [In Russia DDoS Attack Costs 200 Euros Per Day],” iToday.ru, April 5, 2010, http://itoday.ru/news/35916.html (in Russian).
RUSSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net RWANDA 2009 POPULATION: 10.4 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Partly INTERNET PENETRATION: 4 percent STATUS Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: No Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: No Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: No Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Not Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION Rwanda’s 1994 genocide ravaged the skilled workforce and almost completely destroyed the already poor telecommunications infrastructure, leaving only a handful of telephone lines operational.1 By 1996, when the state-owned provider Rwandatel first introduced the internet to Rwanda, approximately 1,000 lines were functioning.2 Mobile phones arrived in 1998, but the usage rate in the first years of access was very low.3 Since 2000, however, there has been an increase in fixed lines, mobile phones, computers, and technicians in the country. The number of internet users rose from 5,000 in 2000 to 450,000 in 2010, though this is still only 4 percent of the population.4 More significantly, the number of mobilephone subscribers grew from only 39,000 in 2000 to over 3 million by 2010, accounting for over a third of the population. Albert Nsengiyumva and Emmanuel Habumuremyi, A Review of Telecommunications Policy Development and Challenges in Rwanda (Johannesburg: Association for Progressive Communications, September 2009), http://www.apc.org/en/pubs/research/review-telecommunications-policy-and-challenges-rw.
Aida Opoku Mensah, “Building an Information Society—The Case of Rwanda,” briefing paper, World Summit on the Information Society, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, November 2005, http://www.uneca.org/aisi/docs/PolicyBriefs/Building%20an%20Information%20Society_the%20case%20of%20Rwanda.pdf Silas Lwakabamba, “The Development of ICTs in Rwanda: Pioneering Experiences,” in At the Crossroads: ICT Policymaking in East Africa (Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers/International Development Research Center, 2005), http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-93064-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html.
Internet World Stats, “Internet Usage Statistics for Africa,”, http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm, accessed February 12, 2011.
“ICT Statistics: September 2010,” Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), http://www.rura.gov.rw/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=278, accessed February 12, 2011.
RWANDA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net The increased use of the internet and particularly mobile phones has transformed Rwanda, contributing to progress in areas such as education, good governance, human capacity development, and rural community activities. Such progress is expected to continue as part of a government plan to establish Rwanda as a globally competitive knowledge-based society and economy.6 There have been few attempts to restrict access to content or otherwise limit the use of these technologies. Nevertheless, there are concerns that other restrictions on free expression in the country will seep into the internet sphere, as occurred when the authorities blocked the online version of an independent newspaper in mid-2010. In addition, despite government efforts to enhance access, poverty and lack of appropriate infrastructure, especially in rural areas, continue to impede the expansion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in Rwanda.
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