The cyber attacks on Internet resources which the authorities find “inconvenient” are continuing. Hackers today destroyed the site of the information agency Caucasus Times. The agency’s material covered human rights abuse in the Northern Caucuses.
Caucasus Times have been told by their provider FORPSI.COM that the break-in was carried out on 22 December at around 22.00 Prague time. The assailants wiped all material collected over the five years that the site has existed.
Caucasian Knot (http://eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/) reports the agency’s Chief Editor Islam Tekushev as saying that not long before the hackers’ attack, officers of the Northern Caucuses Department for Fighting Organized Crime had shown interest in them.
Mr Tekushev also reported that after they published the results of a pre-election survey, as well as an article about human rights infringements during the election period, their correspondent in Dagestan was subjected to considerable pressure.
The Caucasus Times survey was republished by a republican opposition newspaper and are now safely stored on the website of “Prague Watchdog”.
The correspondent says that he received phone calls from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was invited to meet the Minister, but refused. He reports that four members of the Department for Fighting Extremism came to his relatives’ home in order to accompany him to a meeting with the head of the Dagestan MIA.
Phone calls continued throughout the day, and he was told by a Ministry official that he would have to apologise on telephone to the Minister or there would be a criminal investigation which would uncover proof of his having carried out an unlawful survey. He finally told the Ministry official that if the pressure did not stop, he would be forced to hold a press conference and tell the public about what was going on. After this the phone calls ceased.
The information agency Caucasus Times whose main office is in Prague has existed since 2002. It covers events in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkariya, Karachaevo-Cherkesia, Adyga, Northern Osetia in the Krasnodar and Stavropol regions.
This is by no means the first case where the work of a publication covering events in the Northern Caucuses has been obstructed.
Three days after the elections to the State Duma on 2 December, the editorial office of the independent civic and political newspaper “Chechen Society” was driven out of their offices in Press House in Grozny under pressure from officials over statements about the voting in Chechnya.
On 12 December the NGO Union of nongovernmental organizations was thrown out of the same Press House.
On 5 December, on the second day after the rally in Nazran (Ingushetia), a woman journalist from the weekly “Arguments and facts” was brutally beaten up.
On 1 December the prosecutor for Northern Osetia removed the print run of the newspaper “Osetia: Free view”. The grounds given was that the newspaper had published a manifesto from Vissarion Aseev , candidate for the local parliament which supposedly contacted unlawful pre-election campaigning. The newspaper stated that it was experiencing the establishment of censorship in the republic.
At the end of November, the Ingush opposition Internet site “Ingusheita.ru” announced that it was closing. It complained of strong pressure from officials. On 8 December the site did however resume its coverage in full.
From 21 October 2007 the main RF human rights site “Human Rights in Russia” was subjected to a major computer attack.
(Should anyone not have noticed, our sites were also subjected to a similar attack. Borders are clearly not a consideration in cyber warfare).
According to the Director of the Centre for Extreme Journalism Oleg Panfilov, over the last eight years around 40 journalists and human rights defenders have been refused entry to Russia.
Russia was in 164th place this year in Freedom House’s press freedom rating (out of 192 countries).
http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1198625504 (Slightly abridged from www.hro.org )