Russia: MPs pass amendments to foreign agent media law
The State Duma wants to legalize fines and arrests for citizens recognized as foreign agents
The State Duma of the Russian Federation approved in the second reading a bill regulating punishments for citizens recognized as foreign agents. They face fines ranging from 10 thousand rubles to five million rubles, as well as arrest for up to fifteen days.
The day before, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing individuals to be classified as foreign agents and to include their respective register as agreed by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to the new law, citizens, if included in the “black list”, will be obliged to establish a legal entity in Russia. Hence, they can be subject to sanctions for both individuals and legal entities..
The law on foreign media was sharply criticized by international organizations and human rights defenders at the stage of its preparation..
The Committee to Protect Journalists stated that Russia is pursuing a systematic policy of restricting press freedom. Human Rights Watch described the document as completely outrageous and sadly symbolizing a time when “it is more important for governments to label and denigrate journalists who may not adhere to government lines than to create an atmosphere in which the accuracy of the information provided prevails.”.
The US also expressed concern that the law could be used by the Russian authorities to suppress freedom of speech.
“We are alarmed by the hasty adoption by the Russian parliament of yet another ‘foreign agents’ law that could be used to suppress independent votes. We call on Russia to respect its commitments to protect freedom of speech, ”said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
In addition, Ortagus recalled that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once again announced compliance with such commitments at the OSCE conference.
Aleksandr Ryklin, editor-in-chief of Yezhednevny Zhurnal, believes that the Russian authorities will not want to immediately receive a large wave of criticism as a result of law enforcement. Therefore, in his opinion, at the first stage after the entry into force of the document, everything will go more or less calmly..
“Although I may be wrong,” he admitted in an interview with the Voice of America. “They (the authorities) can take and cover a large number of people with a huge curtain, and we all have to wallow inside this garbage dump.”.
At the same time, Alexander Ryklin noticed that if you look at the reaction on social networks, you can see that people perceive the situation with humor. It seems to him that the entire more or less savvy part of the Internet audience understands well that the next initiative of the authorities in fact does not bring anything new to life..
“Besides, unless the authorities get another instrument of control over society,” he added. “But they already have a surplus of such tools at their disposal. Therefore, I do not see any big problems here. It is another matter if they really oblige specific people who are on the “black list” to register as a legal entity, as required by law. So far, however, it is not clear how the Ministry of Justice will act here “.
The editor-in-chief of “Daily Journal” believes that first it is worth waiting for the law enforcement to begin. According to him, this process in Russia is always “mechanical and unpredictable”. So, wait and see, he summed up.
Sociologist and publicist, former secretary general of the Union of Journalists of Russia Igor Yakovenko, in a conversation with the correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America, admitted that he did not understand very well why the new law was needed. As he sees it, the information field in Russia has already been cleaned up quite enough.
“There is no feeling that the authorities do not have enough leverage to get any media out of the way,” he stressed. – Roskomnadzor quite calmly copes with the destruction of unwanted media, as soon as they open their mouths more than allowed. And the annoying journalist, in the end, can plant drugs, as was done with Golunov “.
At the same time, Igor Yakovenko expressed doubts that the West would react symmetrically in relation to Russian state media working abroad. Although, from his point of view, RT and Sputnik are “a rather serious information weapon destroying Western society,” and it is time to drive them from everywhere with “wet rags”.
In turn, Nikolai Svanidze, a TV journalist, head of the journalism department of the Institute of Mass Media of the Russian State Humanitarian University and a member of the HRC, noted in a commentary to the Voice of America that it does not matter where and for what purpose the idea to formulate such a law came from.
“Perhaps, initially, the task was to keep ready a baton to guard RT and Sputnik in Western countries. But now it is important who this club hits. And it will undoubtedly hit not those who will attack Russian publications abroad, but those who will open their mouths in the perimeter of the borders of the Russian Federation, ”he concluded..