Ukraine's sanctions against Russia: Violation of freedom of expression?

Author : Serhiy Sydorenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Reaction of the West on Ukraine's ban of Russian social networks and sites was equivocal: from total condemnation to justification of Poroshenko's actions
18:22, 19 May 2017

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The decision of Ukraine’s National Security Council sanctions against Russian social networking and IT-companies has caused conflicting reviews not only in Ukraine but also in the West.

Europe knows about the decision that certainly became Ukraine’s hottest topic of the last days, but is quite reluctant to comment. For example, the EU said they expected of Ukraine more detailed explanations.

And even those few comments that have appeared in the last days, are enough to say that there is no explicit position among Ukraine’s European partners.

Related: Number of providers already blocked Vkontakte, Yandex and

The official line

Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland said that he is concerned about Kyiv’s decision, and stressed that the ban access to websites, in his opinion, does not meet the threat they carry.

"Blocking social networks, search engines, email services and news websites is contrary to our common understanding of freedom of expression and freedom of the media," said Jagland in a statement. "Moreover, such a broad prohibition does not correspond to the principle of proportionality (correspondence between offense and punishment)," he added.

Human rights organizations react in the similar way.

“In a single move Poroshenko dealt a terrible blow to freedom of expression in Ukraine,” Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch, said. “It’s an inexcusable violation of Ukrainians’ right to information of their choice, and the European Union and Ukraine’s other international partners should immediately call on Ukraine to reverse it.”

Related: From militant battalions to "VKontakte": Who is targeted by the Ukrainian sanctions?

Director of Reporters without Borders Germany Christian Mihr says: “In terms of "Reporters without borders," attack on the freedom of expression and freedom of information is just unacceptable.

Diametrically opposite position came from Brussels, from NATO headquarters.

They do not believe that now there is a reason to accuse Ukraine of violating democratic principles.

"The Ukrainian government has made it clear that this decree is a matter of security, not freedom of speech," said Alliance representatives in a comment for

Thus, the Alliance did not say that the decision has no defects, shifting the responsibility for it on the Ukrainian authorities, but also separately said that has no reason to doubt that official Kyiv is right.

Media line

Ukrainian decision was noticed by the most of the key international media. However, most of them just only "took note" of this fact and just reported about him, without publishing longreads. So did, for example, Le Figaro, The Washington Post, and Chinese "Xinhua".

A number of media like the BBC or "Deutsche Welle" said that this decision of the Ukrainian President is contradictory and difficult to perform (DW) or angered and accusations against the government (BBC), but avoided quoting the toughest moments.

Related: EU responded to prohibition of Russian websites in Ukraine

Finally, the third group are media articles for which Poroshenko’s decision had obviously negative tone. And these are rather influential media.

Le Monde called Ukraine’s sanctions "stupid and irrational" and "costly". "When it comes to spreading fake news, they appear in Facebook, as well as in" Vkontakte ," says the publication. The publication also quotes Ukrainian article: "We are becoming very similar to Russia... but without oil."

The Swiss Le Temps gives even tighter specifications. "I fell asleep in Ukraine, which has just been granted visa-free regime with the EU, and woke up in North Korea," the journalist cites the words of his Ukrainian friend.

What's next?

Now it is hard to say whether Poroshenko’s decision would have further publicity in the Western media.

Related: US Department of State did not take official position on Ukraine’s ban on Russian websites

Perhaps, Ukrainian authorities would never hear positive feedback in relation to information war against Russia. NATO remains the only organization that dared to positively react; in communication with Western journalists, first of all, we hear just criticism.

The West seems to have realized that the Ukrainian reality during the conflict with Russia not always follow the familiar patterns, so the first conclusions might be wrong.

So now we can say, given the ambiguity of Poroshenko’s decision and despite fierce criticism of human rights defenders, Ukraine hos not lost in the first “news round” of the war. And maybe even became a winner.

Related: Sanctions against Russian sites introduced for political censorship, - InAU

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