Bulgarian Telecoms have quietly Restricted access to Russian Media
The three Bulgarian telecom operators - Vivacom, A1 and Yettel - have restricted internet access to some Russian state media, including TASS and RIA Novosti. This has happened quietly and without clear regulations and procedures, writes Bulgarian media “Capital” and adds that the story is even more complicated because in practice no one knows who is responsible.
This is the first case in which the Bulgarian Internet is censored for political reasons and sets a dangerous precedent. Filtering certain sites has so far been a trademark of dictatorial regimes. In Bulgaria, access to websites has been restricted, but for very different reasons, such as gambling, to ensure Bulgaria's regulatory policy and to help local monopolists during the times of Vasil Bozhkov.
The story is unpleasant from a principled point of view - it is clear that much of the content of Russian state agencies is propaganda, but censorship, firstly, is an authoritarian tool, secondly, can not stop all channels of information warfare and, thirdly, can often lead to the opposite effect.
According to the telecoms, access has been suspended because Russian sites are part of a list of more than 45,000 addresses blocked in late February by the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime (CDCOC) and the Ministry of Electronic Government (MEU). According to the MEU, however, there is no such thing, as Minister Bozhidar Bojanov assured “Capital” that the sites of TASS, RIA Novosti and other suspended Russian media do not appear in the list of blocked addresses from February.
The MEU points out that such a decision is within the competence of the Council for Electronic Media (CEM) and the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC), but they also denied that it happened at their discretion. A few weeks ago, the CEM decided to block Russia's RT television and the Sputnik website, a decision taken at European level.
Here, the versions differ radically, because according to the chairman of CRC Ivan Dimitrov and the telecom operators, the suspension of access is due to the list of over 45,000 addresses. However, it is from this list that Bojanov claims that the addresses ria.ru, tass.ru and others are missing - something with which the telecoms disagree.
Vivacom and A1 claim that they suspended access to Russian sites precisely because of the decision of February 27, as well as due to an additional notification received on March 17 which was sent to all telecoms. Yettel is a little more specific, claiming to have received three letters from the CDCOC, as well as two letters from the CRC.
The blocking of Russian sites is difficult to explain, given their content. In addition to RIA Novosti and TASS, access to Lenta (lenta.ru), Vesti (vesti.ru), Kommersant (kommersant.ru) is blocked, but not to Komsomolskaya Pravda (kp.ru), and "Vechernaya Moskva" (vm.ru), which are also pro-government. There is no problem with connecting to the English version of TASS, tass.com.
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