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25 Feb, 2021 15:44

After shuttering TV stations, Kiev now bans Telegram channels despite internet providers saying they can’t actually censor them

After shuttering TV stations, Kiev now bans Telegram channels despite internet providers saying they can’t actually censor them

A Ukrainian judge has ordered four major news channels on the Telegram messaging service to be blocked across the country, just weeks after the government banned a series of opposition-owned broadcasters and online news sites.

On Wednesday, the local Strana outlet reported it had received confirmation from a source in the SBU security agency, Kiev’s successor to the Soviet-era KGB, that a district court in Kharkov had ordered the ban on the popular news feeds. Among them are Legitimnyy, Gossip Girl, Resident and Kartel, all operating in the Russian-language, which is reportedly spoken at home by at least one in three Ukrainians and understood by almost everyone in the country.

According to the source, a letter has been sent to internet providers to inform them of the decision and order them to implement the ban. However, the ruling has apparently been met with confusion by the digital firms and, when it comes to how to censor the channels, “there are no ideas yet,” a spokesperson for one provider told Strana.

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The SBU has previously claimed that a network of Telegram channels operating in the country are actually run by Russian spooks, although they admit that they are operated by Ukrainians living in cities like Kharkov and Odessa. However, they claim, the local news networks secretly report to the General Staff of the Russian military.

At the start of February, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an order that effectively banned three television channels from the airwaves and pulled the plug on several news sites. Owned by opposition MP Taras Kazak as part of his Novosti Group media empire, the broadcasters are based in Ukraine and produce Russian-language content locally for a domestic audience.

Defending the decision, Mikhail Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said that the ban was “not about the media and not about freedom of speech… It’s just about effectively countering fakes and foreign propaganda.” Without action, he argued, the opposition media would “kill our values.”

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