Human rights and press freedom organizations in the U.K. and globally have called on the U.K. government to ensure its sanctions on Russia and Belarus protect digital rights.
A coalition of groups led by Access Now published a letter to Boris Johnson’s government and U.K. sanctions authorities on Friday, urgently requesting a new “general license” that enables U.K. businesses — and those with U.K. operations — to maintain services that help people access the internet in Russia and Belarus.
“In the face of rapidly escalating sanctions, many businesses have pulled out of Russia, leaving civil society and other democratic actors bereft of access to the global internet,” said Natalia Krapiva, Tech Legal Counsel at Access Now. “Despite Russian censorship and surveillance, the internet remains one of the last places for Russians to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas outside of President Putin’s grasp.”
“Without carveouts for human rights, western sanctions can be counterproductive, hobbling efforts by journalists, activists, and civic leaders to report the truth, end the war, and hold their leaders to account,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel at Access Now. “We call on the U.K. government to tailor its sanctions to protect, not restrict, access to the global internet and the free flow of information online in Russia and Belarus.”
The letter, joined by both U.K. and global civil society organizations, urges U.K. sanctions authorities to issue a General License to immediately exempt all sales, transfers, and transactions for hardware, software, technology, and services incident to the exchange of information over the internet in Russia and Belarus.
The U.S. Treasury Department has already taken action following a similar call from Access Now and our partners, easing corporate concerns that often lead to overcompliance, and allowing essential services provided by U.S. companies to remain online in Russia and Belarus.
Read the full letter.