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Catalan independence websites blocked by Spanish government in bid to stop referendum

'Blocking domain name servers is doing what Turkey does and what China does and North Korea does'

Lydia Smith
Thursday 28 September 2017 14:05 BST
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Protesters wave Catalan separatist flags outside the High Court of Justice of Catalonia in Barcelona
Protesters wave Catalan separatist flags outside the High Court of Justice of Catalonia in Barcelona (Reuters)

Catalan authorities have accused the Spanish government blocking websites aimed to spread information about the region’s independence referendum.

The move is part of a crackdown on the Catalan independence movement to prevent the vote, which includes the confiscation of ballot papers and the deployment of extra police officers to Catalonia.

Separatists hope the referendum will go ahead on 1 October to decide whether Catalonia, an autonomous region of northeastern Spain, should declare itself an independent country.

The Spanish government has insisted the referendum is illegal and is taking action to stop it, including the spreading of information seen to promote the vote.

Earlier this week, police summoned 17 people for questioning over the development of web platforms related to the referendum.

A police spokesperson told AFP the people were suspected of “disseminating a website for people to participate in a referendum declared illegal by the constitutional court”.

An organisation which manages how users find websites with the extension .cat was raided by the Spanish police force, Politico reported.

The .cat Foundation, which manages the register of domains ending in .cat, was forced by authorities to block websites with information about the referendum.

The raid came shortly after a Spanish court ordered the foundation block websites related to the vote.

The homepage of the site Referendum.cat now displays a message stating: “This domain name has been seized pursuant to a seizure warrant under the Judicial Authority and is under its administration.”

A spokesperson for the Catalan government told the Guardian the move was denying people the right to freedom of information online.

“What they’re doing by blocking domain name servers is doing what Turkey does and what China does and what North Korea does,” they said.

“No western democracy does that. The internet is the kingdom of freedom.”

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