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29 Feb, 2024 17:33

Ukrainian MP says blocking Telegram would be ‘logical’

The country’s military intelligence directorate said that the messenger may pose a security threat
Ukrainian MP says blocking Telegram would be ‘logical’

The Ukrainian parliament’s Freedom of Speech Committee has called for a ban on the messaging application Telegram, describing it as a threat to national security. 

Committee chair Yaroslav Yurchishin brought up the issue at Wednesday’s roundtable, ‘Journalistic standards and professional ethics in conditions of war,’ which was organized with the help of USAID.

“The round table participants are convinced that it is necessary to look for ways to ban [Telegram’s] activities in Ukraine,” read a statement released by the committee after the meeting.

Earlier this month, the military’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) argued that Telegram represented a security threat. Aleksey Danilov, head of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine, argued in November that the platform ought to be banned because of Russian “systems of influence” at work there.

On Thursday, however, the Ukrainian outlet Censor cited a senior official at the NSDC, who argued that banning Telegram would be impossible.

“This is not the case now. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about,” said Andrei Kovalenko, head of the NSDC’s Countering Disinformation Center. 

“Pro-Ukrainian media on Telegram have knocked pro-Russian channels out of our information space, and this is an important component of information security,” Kovalenko insisted. “We just need to work wisely with these media to protect the country from hostile fakes and [psyops] and continue to strangle the pro-Russian segments of the media field together.”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has consolidated all media outlets under the state umbrella, citing the martial law imposed due to the conflict with Russia. 

During Wednesday’s roundtable, the head of Ukraine’s Commission on Journalistic Ethics, Andrey Kulikov, argued that journalists had a duty to “impose certain restrictions on ourselves, which, in fact, only contribute to the professional performance of official duties,” presenting self-censorship as the ultimate expression of free speech.

Telegram is an encrypted instant-messaging platform created in 2013 by Russian entrepreneurs Pavel and Nikolay Durov. After becoming widely adopted in the Russian-speaking world, it grew in popularity immensely after the Ukraine conflict escalated, and even more so after the Meta-owned WhatsApp changed its privacy policies.