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RSF concerned about secret police attempts to control the Internet

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has expressed alarm at attempts by the Ukrainian secret police (SBU, the former KGB) 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 RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "Its bid to take over management of the national domain name '.ua', which is 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 these developments very closely."

On 22 July 2003, Hostmaster took the government to court in an effort to win control of the ".ua" domain name. The government has asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body in charge of assigning country domain names, to approve the proposed transfer, but has not yet received a response.

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

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

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