A lighthouse for information about violations of indigenous peoples’ rights in northern Russia has been blocked by censorship agency Roskomnadzor.
“This is how the Russian Government protects its own citizens from receiving so-called ‘dangerous’ information about the indigenous peoples’ rights,” says web-portal editor Dmitry Berezhkov ironically to the Barents Observer.
It was in late June Russia’s Prosecutor General requested Kremlin’s media agency Roskomnadzor to take measures to restrict access to the Indigenous Russia portal.
Now, the site is no longer possible to read from within the country.
The agency didn’t point to any specific articles but simply asked to shut down access to the entire portal arguing it contained information that violated the law (pdf).
“The authorities want the Russian indigenous peoples to know nothing about international law and how they can use it to protect their rights,” says Berezhkov.
His portal has for years published information from international indigenous peoples’ forums, like UN meetings in New York and Geneva.
Issues deemed controversial by the Kremlin, like environmental violations by big businesses and cultural identity aspects of the many ethnic minorities in Siberia and the Far East, are frequently debated at the site that publishes both in Russian and English.
Dmitry Berezhkov explains how the reporting from international forums aims at helping.
“There is a lot of propaganda presented to the UN from Russian state officials or other organizations under control of authorities who present a picture of happy life of Russian indigenous minorities,” he says.
Berezhkov underlines that the portal, despite being in trouble, will continue to publish.
“Keeping data is a critical job during times when the Russian Government is trying to stop information dissemination, cover the truth and clock independent points of view,” he says.
“Our small team of editors and correspondents strongly believes that such work is essential both for Russia and its indigenous peoples, as well as for the international community.”
Dmitry Berezhkov writes from exile in Norway, while other reporters in the team live in other countries.
He assures that the portal will find ways around Kremlin’s censorship wall.
“We will continue publishing using new tools. We have already established the Telegram and YouTube channels and are studying other opportunities and experiences of other media, including the Barents Observer and the Russian editions of Radio Free Europe, like Sibir Realii and Sever Realii.”
He says they can already see that many of the readers inside Russia use VPNs more actively.