Russia has blocked the nation’s oldest LGBTQ website after authorities claimed it violated the country’s anti-gay propaganda law.
Last week, the Russian media regulation agency Roskomnadzor pledged to prohibit internet users from visiting Gay.ru following a court ruling in Siberia. In a December decision, Judge Olga Kvasova of the Altai District Court said the website “disseminated information that promotes nontraditional sexual relations.”
Gay.ru received a notice from Roskomnadzor on Friday telling administrators to remove “information prohibited for distribution in the Russian Federation,” as The Moscow Times reports. It gave them 24 hours to comply.
Now when LGBTQ readers visit Gay.ru, they will be greeted with a notice informing them the site has been banned.
“The basis for blocking [the website] was the posting of information promoting nontraditional sexual relations, which has been prohibited in the Russian Federation,” the message reads.
Although the webpage will still be accessible to non-Russians, Gay.ru has been a critical source of news for the country’s LGBTQ community since its founding in September 1997. Articles currently published on the site include information about violent gangs robbing queer and trans people and reports of hate crimes in the North Caucasus.
The decision reflects an increasing crackdown on LGBTQ media in Russia following the propaganda law’s passage five years ago.
When the legislation was first passed five years ago by a unanimous vote in the Russian Duma, Roskomnadzor claimed it did not violate the new law. But last September, an HIV/AIDS activist, Evdokia Romanova, was fined for posting news articles about LGBTQ issues on Facebook.
The Russian LGBT Network said, however, it’s “impossible” to know the exact reasons for the about-face on Gay.ru.
“As is customary in cases concocted by the authorities, it is impossible to comprehend what exactly the court deemed promotion of homosexuality,” the advocacy organization said in a statement.
Gay.ru has pledged to fight the decision by appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), claiming the ruling was unjust. In a response post published following the removal request, it wrote, “Our website is intended for persons over 18 years of age, whereof it contains an appropriate label.”