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Telegram has refused to give the Federal Security Service (FSB) access to users' messaging data.

A Russian court says it will begin considering this week a request by state media regulator Roskomnadzor to block the messaging app Telegram.

Moscow's Taganka district court said it scheduled the hearing for April 13, rejecting a request by Telegram to postpone it.

Roskomnadzor has asked the court to block Telegram following the company's refusal to give the Federal Security Service (FSB) access to users' messaging data.

On March 20, the regulator ordered Telegram to provide the FSB with encryption keys needed to read users' messaging data within 15 days, after the Supreme Court rejected Telegram's challenge to the demand.

Telegram has been defiant throughout the showdown. Shortly after Roskomnadzor announced it had filed suit with the Moscow district court on April 6, Telegram lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliyev said that the company did not plan to follow the order, dismissing the FSB's demand as "unconstitutional" and "not based on law."

Ahead of the hearing, Amnesty International called the attempt to block Telegram the "latest in a series of attacks on online freedom of expression" by Russian authorities.

"In recent years the Russian authorities have steadily targeted the country's few remaining spaces for freedom of expression," the London-based rights watchdog's deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Denis Krivosheyev, said in a statement.

"They have blocked news sites that criticize them, imposed draconian data-storage rules, and declared media outlets registered outside Russia as 'foreign agents'," he added.

Krivosheyev said Telegram, one of the most popular messaging apps in Russia, was being targeted "simply for having the courage and integrity to respect the privacy of its users."

Kremlin critics have used social media to spread the word about antigovernment demonstrations and to publicize corruption allegations against Putin, a former FSB chief and Soviet KGB officer, and his allies.

BRUSSELS – The European Union says it has decided to prolong sanctions against Iran over its human rights record for another year.

The European Council of member states said in an April 12 statement that the measures were extended until April 2019 in response to what it called "serious human rights violations in Iran."

The sanctions, which consist of travel bans and asset freezes against 82 people and one entity, were first put in place in 2011. They are mainly targeting Iranian judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers.

They also include a ban to export equipment to Iran that might be used for internal repression as well as equipment for monitoring telecommunications.

In early 2016, the EU lifted all its economic and financial sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program.

The move came after Tehran and world powers struck a deal in July 2015 to limit Iran’s nuclear activities.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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