Amnesty International has called on Russia to immediately overturn its "cowardly" decision to block the Fergana news agency's website, calling the move "another arbitrary and cynical attack" on freedom of expression.
"Independent media outlets such as Fergana are rare in Russia but, to the authorities’ annoyance, they have a dedicated audience in Russia and beyond," the London-based human rights watchdog's Russia Director Natalia Zviagina said on October 2.
Russia's communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, added Fergana.agency to its registry of blocked sites on the evening of October 1, and the website became inaccessible within the country by the morning of October 2, Amnesty International said.
The Fergana news agency is one of the leading independent media outlets covering events in Central Asia.
Its website has repeatedly been blocked in all five Central Asian countries in the past, but it is currently accessible throughout the region -- except Turkmenistan.
Fergana says it received no warning from Roskomnadzor and no information about what content was considered to be breaching Russian regulations.
Under the law on information, Roskomnadzor has the power to block access to an Internet site, but the procedure should be preceded by a warning to the provider, according to Amnesty International.
The owner of the website should also be given enough time to address the reported infringement, and the site can be blocked only if the provider or site owner refuses or fails to delete or restrict access to the content identified as unlawful.