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Wikimedia Foundation to appeal Russian fine for war articles in Ukraine

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The Wikimedia Foundation is challenging a Russian court’s ruling that it violated disinformation laws in articles about the invasion of Ukraine. The organization filed an appeal last week, arguing the articles contained “well-found, verified knowledge” and that Russia had no jurisdiction over the global Wikimedia Foundation.

Moscow court fined Wikimedia 5 million rubles (about $65,000) after an April statement which included seven Russian-language articles, including: Russian invasions of Ukraine (2022)War Crimes During the Russian Invasion of UkraineMariupol hospital shellingand Massacre in Bucha† The decision followed an order from the Russian technology and communications agency Roskomnadzor, as well as the passage of a “fake news” law that imposed criminal penalties on basic reporting on the invasion, including referring to well-documented Russian casualties and war crimes or describing the operation as a war. Google was also fine in Apriland its Russian subsidiary was declared bankrupt after its bank account was frozen for default.

“This decision implies that well-researched, verified knowledge on Wikipedia that is inconsistent with the statements of the Russian government constitutes disinformation,” Stephen LaPorte, associate general counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement. “In times of crisis, the government focuses on information that is vital to people’s lives. We urge the court to reconsider in favor of everyone’s right to access knowledge and free expression.” It filed the appeal on June 6 and the Russian government will have a chance to respond in the coming weeks.

Roskomnadzor has regularly asked Wikipedia to remove content in the past, but the war on Wikipedia — and other websites — intensified after the invasion. Wikipedia volunteers have also faced challenges outside of Russia, including the arrest of an editor in Belarus in March.

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