Human Rights Watch: 'Innocence of Muslims' ban disproportionate curb on information freedom

Human Rights Watch has criticized Russia's ban on the "Innocence of Muslims" film as excessive and said the ban could lead to a denial of Russian Internet users' access to the YouTube video-sharing website.

"I don't doubt that the film may be an insult to believers' feelings. But a total ban on this film runs counter to the principle of speech freedom," Tatyana Lokshina, the deputy head of Human Rights Watch's Moscow office, told Interfax on Monday.

The court-ordered ban on the film "is an excessive curb on speech freedom in principle," she said.

A court in Moscow on Monday declared the "Innocence of Muslims" film as extremist. The film provoked mass disturbances in many countries after it was posted on the Internet. The film was banned in Russia at the request of the Prosecutor General's Office.

"The film is on the Internet, but no one is forced to watch it," Lokshina said.

"A believer's feelings will be insulted only if he decides to watch it and if he clicks the mouse," she said.

The ban on this film may lead to Internet censorship in Russia, she added.

"There is no effective way, as far as we know, of blocking a film without blocking the source. YouTube has been paralyzed in Chechnya already," Lokshina said.

"There is the risk Russian citizens may lose access to YouTube. Disproportionate curbs are being imposed on information freedom," she said.

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