Estonia's Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) has ordered communications companies to block access to seven Russian websites that, according to the regulator, disseminate propaganda and incite hate.
According to the resolution, the TTJA is requiring communications companies to block and restrict end user access to seven websites: ntv.ru, ren.tv, 5-tv.ru, 78.ru, 1tv.com, lenta.ru ja tass.ru.
These websites are currently accessible via internet access services offered by communications companies operating on Estonian territory.
The TTJA said that it has identified the dissemination of war propaganda, the justification and support of the committing of crimes of aggression and the incitement of hatred on the websites in question.
The order is in force for a period of 12 months. The TTJA will continue to monitor the content of these sites.
On February 25, the TTJA ordered Estonian telecommunications providers to stop broadcasting one Belarusian and four Russian channels: RTR Planeta, NTV Mir (including NTV Mir Baltic), Belarus 24, Rossia 24 and TV Center International.
Content incites hatred, journalistic ethics not followed
The agency said the blocks have been introduced as the websites in question publish content that supports and justifies Russian aggression against Ukraine and are not following the principles of the Charter of Ethics of Journalists.
Examples of content include statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, and Chechnyan leader Ramzan Kadyrov, and the labeling of Ukrainians as Nazis.
The agency has published a 14-page precept listing examples, several of which were published by ERR:
- A speech by Putin published on tass.ru from claimed that the aim of the "special military operation" against Ukraine is to protect citizens bullied by the Ukrainian government. It also accused Kyiv of carrying out "genocide." Putin said that this justifies the attack on Ukraine.
- Lenta.ru published a comment from Kadyrov saying he cannot wait to fight and kill Ukrainians, which he calls nationalists and Banderites.
- Website 5.tv.ru published a statement from Lavrov in which he said that Russia will not attack other countries, just as it did not attack Ukraine, denying the ongoing war.
"In none of the above cases did the owner of the website or the journalist who created the story consider it necessary to add an explanatory comment or give the other party an opportunity to express their views," the TTJA wrote.
The agency says the websites distort the facts because they are not presented with additional explanatory context.
The TTJA has also accused the outlets of inciting inter-ethnic hatred, calling the Ukrainian people Nazis and inciting hatred against Ukrainians.
The agency partially based its assessment on interviews that have appeared in the media with pro-Russian people who support the war. These people do not believe the country is waging an unprovoked war on a peaceful country and killing civilians.
The TTJA believes the information provided by the websites may incite hatred against Ukraine and other Western countries.
"The possibility cannot be ruled out that they may begin to issue indirect or direct calls to attack Ukrainians outside of the territory of the countries engaged in military conflict as well," it wrote. "The content of these websites may already influence their followers to express a negative attitude and behave violently toward Ukrainians."
Additionally, while demonstrations in Estonia thus far have been peaceful and anti-war, the situation could change "quickly" in the future and could be sparked by content published on these websites.
"Content that denigrates the Ukrainian state and Ukrainians therefore poses a threat to the security and public order of society and to national security, which is why immediate action must be taken," the agency wrote.
The website domains must be blocked and made inaccessible. The precept can be challenged for the next 30 days.
Editor: Aili Vahtla, Helen Wright