Russian service of Radio Prague International blocked in Russia over 20-year-old Palach article

The Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Rospotrebnadzor has blocked the Russian language website of Radio Prague International on the territory of Russia. The decision was made in connection with an article posted in 2001 about student martyr Jan Palach who set himself on fire in 1969 to protest against growing public apathy to the Russian-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The Russian agency says the article violates Russian laws by speaking about suicide in positive terms.

Jan Palach | Photo: public domain

The Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights reportedly issued a ban on the respective article on May 17th of this year and enforced it two months later. It claims that because the Russian website of Radio Prague International uses the HTTPS protocol, the office could not block only one specific material, but was forced to block the entire website.  The two month period between the decision and its enforcement was reportedly to give the agency time to inform Radio Prague International about the decision and warn that unless it removed the offending article its web page would be blocked. The Russian service says it received no warning and moreover disagrees with the criticism, saying that the given article merely stated the facts surrounding the self-immolation of Jan Palach. (

The management of Czech Radio, the country’s public broadcaster, has denounced the censorship of the Russian state agency calling it an attack on media freedom. The head of Czech Radio’s press department Jiří Hošna wrote:

“We consider the blocking of the Czech Radio's Russian service to be an act of unprecedented censorship. This step is undemocratic and attacks all the principles of freedom of expression. Czech Radio, as an independent public broadcaster, strongly objects to the move."

The incident has drawn media attention both in Prague and Moscow and the most frequently asked question is –why is the Rospotrebnadzor agency responding now to an article posted twenty years ago? Journalist Petra Procházková, who is an expert on Russia, says it is not surprising.

Petra Procházková | Photo: Jindřich Nosek,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

“I think there are two main reasons. Firstly, this reflects the attitude of the Russian leadership to the media in general, but also to human rights organizations – to anything that deviates from the official Russian policy line. The second reason is that Moscow recently placed the Czech Republic on a list of unfriendly states. Relations between Prague and Moscow have dramatically worsened – I cannot recall a time when they were worse – maybe when the country joined NATO. So this reflects the present state of relations and I fear you will not be the first or the last to bear the brunt of it. There are likely to be bans on many things Czech.”

Coincidentally, on the day that the Russian service of Radio Prague International was blocked, Russia's Roskomnadzor censors also blocked the website of the Komanda-29 human rights association, and raided the home of its head, lawyer Ivan Pavlov, for cooperating with a Czech NGO.