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Access to opposition websites restricted in Bashkortostan

(GDF/IFEX) - Internet providers have restricted access to the website http://www.ufagub.com from the territory of Bashkortostan. On 8 October 2008, the website was only accessible from mobile phones. On 9 October, the same thing happened to the website http://www.ufagub.org . Web administrators have stated they have nothing to do with this information blockade.

The incident in Bashkortostan recalls the situation in Ingushetia, where access to the websites http://www.ingushetia.ru and http://www.ingushetia.org was restricted in a similar way.

The independent website ufagub.com became operational in late 2006, featuring information about the history of Bashkortostan and the various ethnic groups living in the republic, and pointing to instances of encroachment on their ethnic, cultural and language-related rights. In April 2007, ufagub.com posted excerpts from the booklet "Warriors Against Bastards" describing the unlawful behavior of President Murtaza Rakhimov and his cronies.

That gave rise to the beginning of legal proceedings against the website under articles 280 ("Public calls for the forcible change of the RF constitutional order") and 282 ("Instigation of interethnic, racial or religious hatred") of the RF Criminal Code. Curiously enough, the booklet itself was declared extremist by one of Bashkortostan's rural courts two months after the opening of criminal proceedings against ufagub.com.

Within the framework of that criminal case, police searched the homes of several Ufa residents, confiscating computers and documents. However, ufagub.com continued to update people on the regional developments as the republic's sole independent information source.

In June 2008, another independent website, ufagub.org, was launched in Tatar and Russian, upholding the information policy pursued by the Russian-language ufagub.com . However, on 8-9 October access to both opposition resources was restricted.

In the view of GDF president Alexei Simonov, these access restrictions are absolutely unlawful. "Criminal proceedings were launched against contributors of information to the two websites on 'extremist' charges again, to be sure. In the absence of any judicial decisions regarding those media outlets, no one has the right to shut those websites down," Simonov said, speaking live on Moscow Echo radio.

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