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Ukraine27 October 2003

Concern about secret police bid to control the Internet

Reporters Without Borders expressed alarm today at attempts by the Ukrainian secret police (SBU) to take control of Internet operations in the country and intercept e-mail messages.

"In a country where the media is already monitored closely, the Internet has now become a key target for the SBU," said secretary-general Robert Ménard. "Its bid to take over management of the national domain name ".ua", currently in the hands of the private firm Hostmaster, and its proposal that parliament legalise e-mail monitoring, will allow it to effectively gag online activity. We shall watch developments very closely."

Hostmaster sued the government on 22 July over the decision to take control of the ".ua" domain name. The authorities have asked ICANN, the US-based worldwide body in charge of assigning all country domain names, to approve the proposed switch but have had no response.

The state telecommunications commission asked telecom operators and Internet service providers (ISPs) on 17 July to install equipment to monitor all traffic they handled. The Ukrainian Internet Association objected strongly to this as an unacceptable breach of privacy for Internet users and noted that for the moment it was still illegal

The SBU asked parliament on 19 August to legalise recording and interception of phone and Internet messages, ostensibly to help fight crime and supposedly bring the law into line with European standards.

NB: A copy of the press release was sent to ICANN

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