Apple has always played a fine line between adhering to local law/demands from governments, while also standing up for basic human rights, including freedom of speech. In late August Apple quietly published its commitment to human rights in a 4 page PDF document.
Apple in the document states that when national law and international human rights law are in conflict, it will follow the “higher standard” while “seeking to respect the principles of internationally recognized human rights.” Those words are now coming to a test in one of the world’s most recognizable geopolitical conflicts, Ukraine and Russia.
The Russian News Agency, TASS for short reported on September 11th that Apple had received a notice from the Ukrainian Security Service Agency demanding the removal of Russia’s NTV channel app from the Ukrainian App Store. The notice was made public via the outlet’s Telegram group which stated:
“The Security Service of Ukraine demanded that NTV apps be deleted from the Ukrainian App Store… All this is taking place within the campaign against Russian media and social networks in Ukraine – it begun back during the rule of [former President of Ukraine] Pyotr Poroshenko and it continues under [current President of Ukraine Vladimir] Zelensky,”
There is no word yet that Russia’s NTV apps have been removed. But, the “Rossiya Segodnya” news agency, owned and operated by the Russian government and created via Executive Order from President Putin informed TASS that Apple had removed 4 of its apps from the App Store; Rossiya. Television and Radio”, “Vesti FM” and “Vesti.ru.
Yesterday Russia stepped into the ring calling on Apple “not to pander to the Ukrainian authorities”. In a statement released on Saturday Russia’s Foreign Ministry says:
“We call on Apple not to pander to the Ukrainian authorities and not to take any action that could actually transform the US IT corporation into an accomplice to Kiev’s crimes against freedom of speech,”
Furthermore, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says that the move by Ukraine goes to shows its “repressive” policies towards the media, as TASS reports:
The Ukrainian Security Service’s (SBU) demand to Apple Inc. to take down the apps of Russian media outlets from Ukrainian AppStore demonstrates the repressive policy of Ukrainian authorities and proves that Kiev disregards its international obligations in the field of the freedom of expression, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.