Russia has taken its clampdown on the traditional media to the social media, after a court on Monday, placed a ban on Facebook and Instagram, claiming that the two platforms are “extremist.”
The ban on the new media platforms are part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to crack down on social media during the conflict in Ukraine.
Before the ban, the Russian authorities had accused the U.S. tech giant, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, of tolerating what it termed as “Russophobia” since President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine on February 24.
The Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court acceded to a request from prosecutors for the two social media platforms to be banned for “carrying out extremist activities” just as the two platforms have been inaccessible in Russia since early March and Instagram was blocked in the country.
In the judgement, the court ruled that Meta’s WhatsApp messenger service would not be prohibited because it is not used to post public statements.
During Monday’s court hearing, Russia’s FSB security service accused Meta of working against the interests of Moscow and its army during the conflict.
“The activities of the Meta organization are directed against Russia and its armed forces,” FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky told the court.
“We ask the court to ban Meta’s activities and oblige it to implement this ruling immediately,” he said.
Meta had announced on March 10 that the platforms would allow statements like “death to Russian invaders” but not credible threats against civilians, but in what appeared to be damage control, Meta’s global affairs president, Nick Clegg, later said the laxer rules would only apply to people posting from inside Ukraine.
In a statement before the ruling, a Meta representative has said that “following public debate” the company had now changed its policy and deemed that “Russophobia and calls for violence against Russian citizens are unacceptable.”
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has come down hard on the media with its regulator, Roskomnadzor, earlier blocking access to euronews.com, the website of the French channel Euronews, and its Russian version, ru.euronews.com, at the request of the prosecutor’s office.
Earlier this month Roskomnadzor also blocked access to the BBC’s main news website, with Moscow’s Foreign Ministry warning of more retaliatory measures against the media.
Before the ban, Facebook and Instagram were widely used in Russia and the latter was the most popular social media platform among young Russians.
Instagram was also a key platform for advertising, processing sales and communicating with clients for small businesses in the country.
WHO ‘very worried’ over spread of Mpox varieties in Congo DR
A senior official of the World Health Organization (WHO), Rosamund Lewis, has said that the body is “very worried” about the spread of a variety of Mpox that has killed nearly 600 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year.
This year alone, Congo DR has reported 13,000 cases, which is more than twice as many as during the last peak in 2020, with the disease occurring in almost every province. The WHO is working with the authorities on the response and a risk assessment.
The dangerous clade mpox outbreak was the subject of a warning released by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday.
“The virus variant is known to be more virulent. If it adapts better to human-to-human transmission, that presents a risk,” Lewis, WHO’s mpox lead, told journalists.
WHO in May announced that the disease was no longer a global health emergency after which its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the end of the emergency status for the disease.
Most reported cases of the disease were identified through sexual health or other health services in primary or secondary healthcare facilities, and involved mainly, but not exclusively, men who have sex with men.
A less severe form known as clade II started to spread around the world last year, mostly through male-to-male sexual contact, prompting WHO to declare a public health emergency.
Lewis expressed concern over new evidence suggesting that clade I can also spread through sexual contact. According to her, mumps can also infect humans through contaminated animals or family members living together in a home. Children and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable; in up to 10% of cases of clade I, illness results in death.
“We have very little information of who is dying of mpox [in DRC] other than age,” said Lewis, adding more data was needed.
The viral infection known as mpox spreads by intimate contact and results in lesions filled with pus and flu-like symptoms. Although most cases are mild and can be fatal.
Sudan Conflict: US insists all warring parties guilty of war crimes
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has maintained that neither party in the ongoing conflict in Sudan can be exonerated from war crimes.
The position was made known on Wednesday as the US continues pressure on the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to end fighting that has caused a humanitarian crisis. The US also insisted that the RSF and allied militias committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
“The expansion of the needless conflict between the RSF and the SAF has caused grievous human suffering,” Blinken said, referring to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). In West Darfur, the RSF has also been charged with spearheading an ethnic massacre; in the capital city of Khartoum, locals have accused the paramilitary group of raping, stealing, and detaining civilians.
“Masalit civilians have been hunted down and left for dead in the streets, their homes set on fire, and told that there is no place in Sudan for them,” Blinken said. The Masalit are a non-Arab tribe.
“Detainees have been abused, and some have been killed at SAF and RSF detention sites,” Blinken added.
A war broke out in mid-April between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) over plans for a political transition and the integration of the RSF into the military, four years after longtime ruler, Omar al-Bashir, was overthrown in an uprising.
Blinken, however, maintained that the position did not rule out the possibility of other determinations in the future as more information became available.
“The United States is committed to building on this determination and using available tools to end this conflict and cease committing the atrocities and other abuses that are depriving the Sudanese people of freedom, peace, and justice,” Blinken said.
Over 6 million people have fled their homes as a result of the conflict, and about 1.2 million of them have entered neighbouring countries, severely straining the resources of Sudan and its neighbours.
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