Prague, Czech Republic – The Russian-language website of Radio Prague International has been blocked in Russia over a 20-year-old article on Jan Palach.
The external service of Czech Radio (Český rozhlas), Radio Prague International is a broadcasting service available in six languages.
Czech Radio’s Russian-language website blacklisted
A few days ago, its Russian website was blacklisted by the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights, Rospotrebnadzor, due to an article published in 2001 on Jan Palach.
Although Russian authorities claim they had planned a two-month period between the decision and its enforcement to allow the agency to inform Radio Prague International, its Russian service said it received no warning whatsoever before the ban went into effect on July 17.
The URL in question, which has now been added to Russia’s official list of blacklisted websites, is still available outside of the territory of the Russian Federation.
Czech Radio spokesman Jiri Hosna has described the move, which Russian authorities have justified by saying the article “Jan Palach and his friends” promoted suicide, as “an act of unprecedented censorship” and an attack on freedom of speech.
“Czech Radio, as an independent public broadcaster, strongly objects to the move”, he said.
“Bans on many things Czech”
Jan Palach was a 20-year-old Czech student who set himself on fire on Prague’s Wenceslas Square in January 1969 to protest against the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops of the Warsaw Pact.
Talking to Radio Prague, journalist and Russia expert Petra Prochazkova put the ban in the wider context of deteriorating relations between Prague and Moscow.
“This reflect the present state of relations and I fear you will not be the first or the last to bear the brunt of it. There are likely to be bans on many things Czech,” she ventured, reminding that Russia recently placed the Czech Republic on its list of so-called “unfriendly states“.
Relations between the two countries hit a new low a few months ago following the revelations of Moscow’s involvement in the 2014 explosion of an ammunition depot in the Czech Republic, leaving two people dead.