World Bulletin / News Desk
The Russian version of online encyclopedia Wikipedia closed its site on Tuesday in a one-day protest against what it said were plans by President Vladimir Putin to create his own version of the "Great Chinese Firewall" to block dissent on the Internet.
Supporters of amendments to Russia's information law, which were proposed by the ruling United Russia party and will be discussed in parliament on Wednesday, say changes are needed to protect children from harmful sites.
But leaders of anti-Putin protests say the new law could shut down websites in Russia such as Facebook and Twitter without a court order and is meant to stop their opposition movement, which is organized via social networking sites.
"These amendments may become a basis for real censorship on the Internet - forming a list of forbidden sites and IP addresses," Russian Wikipedia said in a statement.
"The following provisions and wording undertaken for discussion would lead to the creation of a Russian equivalent of the 'Great Chinese Firewall' ... in which access to Wikipedia could soon be closed across the entire country."
The changes to the information law would give government officials power to request the closure of Internet pages without a court order simply by blacklisting them. China has some of the most effective methods of blocking dissent on the Internet, tightly controlling what can and cannot be viewed.
Under the changes proposed in Russia, if a website owner does not remove the content that is deemed inappropriate, access to the entire website in Russia can be blocked.
Opposition leaders and ordinary Russians have used Facebook, Twitter and Russian networking site Vkontakte to organize protests and distribute anti-Putin information since protests began over alleged violations in parliamentary elections last December.
"This is basically an attempt to infiltrate the opposition's last bastion - the Internet. It's an attempt to kill the protest movement which depends on the Internet. To me it spells out 'China' which looks like the direction in which we're heading," said opposition activist Natalia Pelevine.
OPPONENTS CRY FOUL
Since Putin returned to the presidency in May after four years as premier, parliament has rushed through legislation increasing fines for protesters who step out of line and is considering tighter rules for non-government organizations.
The opposition says the proposed changes in the law, and recent raids on the homes of protest organizers, are intended to stifle protests against Putin. The Kremlin denies this.
Internet sites provided the main platform for videos and photographs from bloggers illustrating alleged fraud in the December 4 election which gave Putin's United Russia party a majority in the State Duma lower house.
Russians see both houses of the legislative body as offering only token debate before bills are rubber stamped into law.
The OSCE representative on media freedom, Dunja Mijatovic, said the law could pave the way for a crackdown on media freedom.
"Any attempt to ban vaguely defined Internet content in a non-transparent manner will almost certainly lead to over-blocking and possibly censorship," Mijatović wrote in a letter to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and State Duma Chairman Sergei Naryshkin, the OSCE said.
Putin is widely seen as less enamoured of the Internet than his tech-savvy predecessor as president, Dmitry Medvedev. The chief of Russia's Security Council has said foreign-based websites are being used to foment anti-Kremlin protests.
Russia's advisory human rights council has criticised the planned changes, saying "many well-intentioned Internet resources with legal content could suffer from massive blocking".
Japan will be providing Australia with classified data, with the National Security Council in Japan releasing the information in May.
Australia's foreign minister announces grant during Pakistan visit
South Korea will pressure UNESCO about Tokyo’s move to have wartime slave labor sites officially listed by United Nations agency.
Muslims in the Uighur region of China have been ordered by authorities to sell alcohol. Those who resist will have their shops closed and have legal action taken against them.
The tanker had set sail from Karachi and three Pakistani men from the southwestern province of Baluchistan had been arrested for drug trafficking, police said.
An Indian court convicted Bollywood star Salman Khan on Wednesday of culpable homicide for the death of a homeless man in a hit-and-run, a verdict that could derail several big-ticket movie projects.
Both Philipines and Japan staged an anti-piracy drill, with the drill the first one since signing a strategic partnership pact in 2012.
The US envoy to India, Richard Verma has said there was concern that “regulatory actions that are being taken could have a chilling effect on speech and expression”.
Four men were sentenced to death and were convicted of murder, with evidence partly based on mobile phone footage of the mob attack on a woman in March.
In a rare rebuke between the two nations, Pakistan has accused India's intelligence agency RAW of whipping up terror in Pakistan
Rohima Khatun, 25, fled the jungle camp in Thailand close to where the mass migrant grave of Rohingya muslims was discovered.
Indonesia has banned its nationals from working in the Middle East after Indonesian domestic workers were executed in April after they were found guilty of murder.
A new solar park in Punjab province produces 100 MW of power, which will be increased to 1,000 MW by next year.
India and Iran agreed in 2003 to develop a port at Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran's border with Pakistan, but the venture has made little progress because of Western sanctions on Iran.
US drone strike in eastern Nangarhar province kills at least 17 suspected Taliban insurgents.
A second migrant grave site has been found in the south of Thailand.