Russian News Site Silenced over Angry Forum Comment

On the evening of April 22nd, the website of a popular newspaper in Kirov, Russia suddenly stopped working. As it turned out, the Vyatsky Nablyudatel had been targeted by local law enforcement office for alleged extremism. The site’s internet host, the “Hosting Company,” decided to pull the plug after a formal request from the Kirov Oblast militsiya, the Sobkor®ru news agency reports.

The request asked that the website be closed under the “law on extremist activities.” The division that initiated the request, called department “K,” is responsible for prosecuting crimes in high technology. The extremist speech they claim to have found lies in user commentary left on the weekly newspaper’s online forum. An anonymous reader allegedly used harsh language and called for violence against regional leadership, including Valery Krepostnov, а senior leader of the Kirov oblast government.

The newspaper’s editor, Sergei Bachinin, told the Regnum Information Agency that the move was an obvious provocation. Prior to this instance, the editors had always obliged requests from officers of the law to remove unlawful materials from the site. This time, instead of contacting the website’s staff to remove the comment in question, the militsiya apparently decided to close down the entire site. As of yet, a formal explanation has not been given to the Vyatsky Nabludatel’s editorial offices.

The head of the Interior Ministry’s press service, Sergei Barantsev, said that the decision was not without precedent. According to Barantsev, seven websites were shut down at the request of law enforcement in 2007.

One of those sites, an online fan-club for supporter’s of Kirov’s Rodina hockey team, was not able to come back online, despite a loud public protest against the closure. Eventually, the site moved to a server that was out of the militsiya’s jurisdiction. According to Bachinin, the Vyatsky Nablyudatel will do the same, and will switch to an international web provider in the near future. He added that the site should be back online in a matter of days.