Russian authorities are considering blocking the BBC’s local website, because it carries an audio interview with an “extremist”. However, the BBC is refusing to remove the interview.
The individual in question is Artem Loskutov, an artist who backs a campaign for Siberia to become an autonomous republic within Russia. The separatist campaign, part of a wider wave of anger over provincial taxes flowing to Moscow, calls for a march in support of its agenda – however, Vladimir Putin’s regime has recently banned protracted protests while also clamping down on online free speech.
According to an Izvestia report on Tuesday, the Russian telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor has threatened to block the BBC Russian Service’s website throughout the country. It has reportedly told the BBC to take the offending piece down, because it contains “appeals to riots, extremist activities or participation in mass public activities conducted in violation of the legal order.”
On Tuesday afternoon, a BBC spokesperson said the news organization had “no plans” to remove the interview from its Russian site:
“Mr Loskutov is an artist and activist known for organising events which are, at first sight, parodies of political activity, but which also bring out serious issues about life in Russia. Mr Loskutov’s views represent his personal position. The BBC aims to present all sides of a story in an impartial, unbiased way, and we have also requested an interview with a Russian government official to explain their position on the planned march. Our editorial decisions are guided by the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines and the story in question is in full compliance with the requirements set out by this document.”
The authorities have already forced website Slon.ru to remove an interview with Loskutov (here it is in English). The Russian social network VKontakte – these days controlled by Kremlin cronies — has also blocked the page of the March to Federate Siberia group.
This article was updated at 7.30am PT to include the BBC statement.