The UK government has listened to civil society’s assertion that blocking the flow of information in and out of Russia will strike a blow to the rights of millions affected by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“On this occasion, the UK government has put people first by targeting its sanctions to better protect human rights, online and offline, while still delivering a powerful public punch to Russia’s war machine,” said Natalia Krapiva, Tech-Legal Counsel at Access Now. “Keeping people online, and news media in operation, will do more to advance democracy and strengthen civic actors than a wholesale ban on commercial services would accomplish.”
Boris Johnson’s government escalated economic sanctions against Russian elites and their companies last month, but Access Now and a coalition of civil society organisations warned allied governments against counterproductive measures that would further isolate the Russian people from the free flow of information and ideas online
On Monday, May, 30, the UK government responded to this warning by taking action to ensure people in Russia retain access to the global internet and news media services can still operate in the country, issuing general licence INT/2022/1875276 for Continuation of Business and Basic Needs for Telecommunications Services and News Media Services.
This move by the UK government follows similar actions by the US government, as the Biden Administration recently issued General License 25A authorising “services, software, hardware, or technology incident to the exchange of communications over the internet, internet, such as instant messaging, videoconferencing, chat and email, social networking,” and more, under a policy aimed “to support the flow of information and access to the internet which provides outside perspectives to the Russian people.”
“For those in Russia who oppose this war on Ukraine, the internet provides a lifeline to the services, resources, and information they need to carry out their activities safely and securely,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel at Access Now. “In the face of war propaganda, access to global news and resources is the weapon of choice. Governments must ensure their sanctions are fit for purpose, and do everything in their power to safeguard accessibility. ”
While the targeting of sanctions will help uphold the rights of people in Russia, the UK government is being pressured by civil society to crack down on Russian “dirty money” flowing onto its shores.