JANUARY 21, 2014 | RUSSIA
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—On August 7, 2013, the Tsentralniy District Court of the city of Tver, located 100 mi (approx. 160 km) north of Moscow, ruled that the Bible-education website jw.org should be banned throughout the Russian Federation.
Although jw.org is consulted by hundreds of thousands around the world and is highly regarded by researchers, the court sided with officials seeking to ban the popular website. The court rendered its decision without notifying or taking any testimony from the publishers of the site, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. Jehovah’s Witnesses are appealing the decision to the Tver Regional Court. The appeal is scheduled to be heard on January 22, 2014.
If the appeal is denied, the website will no longer be available to the over 160,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, who regularly use the website for religious services and in personal and family Bible study. Promoting the website will then become a criminal act in Russia. Additionally, some 142 million people living in Russia will be restricted from consulting jw.org for free information about the Bible. Commenting on the website, Yekaterina Elbakyan, Doctor of Philosophy and expert in religious studies who serves as a professor at the Academy of Labor and Social Relations in Moscow, says that jw.org is “a gift for anybody who is engaged in religious research. It provides comprehensive and understandable material. Significant spiritual and moral issues are presented in a simple way. When you use the website, you feel like you are being openly welcomed into the home of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Speaking from St. Petersburg, Grigory Martynov, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, states: “The jw.org website is a wonderful tool for those in our country searching for information about the Bible and is not politically or commercially affiliated in any way. We hope that the Tver Regional Court will ensure that this popular educational resource remains available for all Russians.”
J. R. Brown, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses at their world headquarters in New York, comments: “The jw.org website is valued both as a research tool and as a trusted information source for families all over the world. It is so valued that an average of 900,000 people visit the site every day to access positive information available in some 600 languages. Censoring this material is clearly unwarranted.”
International: J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5000
Russia: Grigory Martynov, tel. +7 812 702 2691