The European Parliament adopted Thursday a resolution calling on the Russian authorities to immediately abolish the law on “foreign agents” and to bring existing legislation into conformity with the Russian Constitution and the country’s obligations under international law.
“The resolution also condemns the recently approved amendments to the law on “foreign agents”, which will significantly expand its scope and will discredit people by defining them as “foreign agents.” This measure is often used against representatives of civil society, members of the political opposition and, in addition, the independent journalists,” – said in a communique of the European Parliament on the results of voting on the resolution at the plenary session in Strasbourg.
The President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed on December 2 of the law on additional regulation of the media-foreign agents, which is registered as a foreign agent can be recognized as legal entities and individuals that spread messages in the media — registered as a foreign agent or participating in their creation.
This is particularly the case if that person receives money and other property from foreign States, their state bodies, international and foreign organizations, foreigners, persons without citizenship or their authorized persons from foreign media-registered as foreign agents, as well as Russian legal entities established by such mass media.
The state Duma on 5 December adopted a law providing for administrative fines up to 5 million rubles for violation of the procedure of activities of the media inherent, including individuals working as media-registered as a foreign agent.
Putin at a press conference on December 19 said that the law about people registered as foreign agents Russia is trying to limit foreign intervention in their political life. The President stressed that “we do not forbid”, you only need to know where the funding goes, including if foreign money gets a physical person who then passes it on to legal.
He who pays the Piper calls the tune, says the Russian leader. “We are not shutting them down, but the urge to label foreign funding,” – said Putin.
According to the President of the Russian Federation, the term “foreign agent” was not invented in Russia, and in USA in the 1930-ies, and since “it works fine”. But in Russia “the law enforcement practice must be improved” to the act, registered as foreign agents was not subject to environmental and medical organizations. “In respect of the act registered as a foreign agent is necessary to avoid expansion”, – said Putin.
“The hunt” with registered as a foreign agent as a response to the “enemies” internal and external
The concept of “foreign agent” was first introduced in the resonant law on noncommercial organizations (NCOs), adopted in shame in 2012. The tightening of the legislation the government responded to the wave of protests (the so-called “belolentochnoe movement” or “snow revolution”). The law on NGOs-the registered as a foreign agent requires all nonprofit organizations that receive funding from abroad and involved in political activity to register as “registered as foreign agents”. For several years the Ministry of justice has recognized as such more than 50 organizations, including human rights profile.
Many domestic NGOs have repeatedly expressed disagreement with this position and spoke in this regard of complaints to various authorities, including the European court of human rights. Whereas for a long time it was impossible to get out of the list of “registered as foreign agents”. The law that allowed it to do appeared only in February 2015.
In addition, the Russian authorities announced Patriotic “stop list”, which included “undesirable” organizations. In June 2015 entered into force the law that allows you to assign a foreign and international non-governmental organizations with the status of “energy of Russia” and forbid them to work in the country if they pose a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order, national defense or security of the state.
From the introduction of the law on registered as foreign agents affected not only those who are “branded” in a similar status. For example, the oldest and reputable in the community human rights organization “Moscow Helsinki group” for reasons of principle, refused foreign funding, not to become noagenda. In the end, the Moscow Helsinki group actually lost funding sources. In 2012, the organization has announced the collection of donations, and the last time it survives on the proceeds from the sale of stone of the late head of the Moscow Helsinki group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva.
Another act registered as foreign agents was developed at the end of 2017. It was a reaction not on internal, and on foreign policy environment. The authorities said that has prepared a “mirror response” to the request of the US Department of justice, to RT America (a branch of Russian state channel Russia Today) to register as invagent. Media, declared noagenda in Russia in accordance with the new rules, is obliged to comply with all restrictions placed on NGOs – foreign agents, and they face similar liability for violation of the law. Foreign mass media acting as foreign agent, may be deemed private persons in case they spread messages or materials intended for an unlimited circle of persons, and receive funding from abroad.
At the same time introduces the ability to recognize registered as a foreign agent individuals and Russian legal entities that distribute or participate in the creation of media-registered as a foreign agent and in one form or another, financed from abroad. To be registered as a foreign agent can be applied the provisions of the law on NGOs-the registered as a foreign agent “in the manner prescribed by the Ministry of justice”.
In particular, the primary violation of the order of activities of the media inherent entails fines for citizens in the amount of 10 thousand rubles, for officials – 50 thousand rubles, for legal entities – 500 thousand rubles. In case of repeated violation the sanction will be increased for citizens to 50 thousand rubles, for officials – up to 100 thousand rubles, for legal entities – 1 million rubles.
Provided and a maximum liability for gross violations of the procedure of activities of the media inherent to a fine for citizens in the amount of 100 thousand rubles, or arrest for up to 15 days, for officials – a fine in the amount of 200 thousand rubles, for legal entities – 5 million rubles. Under the rough means multiple (more than two times during the year) violation of the media law-the registered as a foreign agent, perfect as a mass media and he established a Russian legal entity, its employee or representative. The law should enter into force on 1 February 2020.
Maintain a register of foreign mass media acting as foreign agent, as well as individuals and legal entities – foreign agents will be the Ministry of justice. The decision on listing or delisting will be taken by the Department in coordination with the foreign Ministry. To work in Russia for foreign media-noagent will be obliged to establish a Russian legal entity within one month from the date of receipt of the status as well as notify the relevant departments.
According to the document, the output was the media, the participant (founder) of which is a Russian legal entity, performing the functions of ieagent must contain an indication that such media created by foreign media noagenda. Also introduces the requirement to label products media-registered as foreign agents and a ban on its distribution without markings. The same limit is set for the distribution of these materials without marking the web.
The new rules allow you to block Internet resource foreign media of inherent (or legal entity created by it) in case of violation of rules of dissemination of information on the basis of the decision in the case of an administrative offense.
While the Ministry of justice attributed to foreign agents ten media. This “Voice Of America”,”Idel.Realities”, “The Caucasus.Realities”, “The Crimea.Realities”, the channel “Real Time”, the Tatar-Bashkir service of Radio Liberty (Azatliq Orthodox radio of St. Petersburg), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (PCE/PC), “Siberia.Realities”, “Pictograph”, “North.Realities”.
Criticism of the law
Fears have been expressed that under the new law the status of ieagent unable to even bloggers and users of social networks. However the head of profile state Duma Committee on information policy, information technologies and communications Leonid Levin said that “the text [of the bill] says “unable to”, but that doesn’t mean that they will be even in the two conditions” (distribution of media materials-registered as foreign agents and the receipt of funds from abroad).
In other words, the law intend to apply selectively, and how it will affect the life of a citizen – no one knows, even its creators. This is indirectly confirmed by the Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko. It requested the Committee on constitutional legislation and state construction to monitor the law enforcement practice under the new law. “In the case of any violations or excessive practices use to respond, if necessary, to make additions and corrections”, and punish it. However, the upper house voted for raw, the new law almost unanimously.
Experts point out that the proposed amended wording is very broad. Medallist Galina Arapova said the law in theory can relate to people who work in companies with foreign financing, or scientists who received foreign grants.
Criticized the law in Washington. There came to the conclusion that the law “can be used to suppress independent voices”. “We call on Russia to respect its commitment to freedom of expression, which [the Russian foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov confirmed [6 November] at a conference of the OSCE”, – wrote in a Twitter spokesperson of the US state Department Morgan Ortagus.
The Russian Embassy in Washington reacted to the record Ortagus, urging the US to stop violating Russian sovereignty. “Stop interference in the internal Affairs of Russia. Incidentally, since the case of Mary Butinai no citizen of Russia can feel safe in the US and use the “freedom of expression”, – emphasized in the reply message of the diplomatic mission of the Russian Federation.
With the belief that the adoption of the law can still be stopped, the President addressed cultural figures. Open letter with a request to reject the bill was signed, in particular, musicians Andrei Makarevich and Alexei Paperny, writers Dmitry Bykov, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Victor Shenderovich, animator Harry Bardin, actress Leah Akhedzhakova, directed by Vladimir Mirzoev, actor Andrei Smirnov, literary critic and publisher Irina Prokhorova, policy Lev Shlosberg, Leonid Gozman, human rights defenders Lev Ponomarev, Valery Borshchev, Svetlana Gannushkina, Boris Altshuler, sociologist Lev Gudkov, candidate of historical Sciences Sergey Dmitriev, physicist Adam Glickman. All the appeal was signed by 60 people, the participants of the Congress intelligentsia.
“The obligation to register a legal entity – is absurd,” the letter reads.
“The first article of the Civil code speaks of non-interference in private Affairs, of the voluntary acquisition and exercise of civil rights,” reads the statement. Specific is unable to predict the consequences and reasons for applying the new law to him. It infringes on basic constitutional rights, and to challenge its application in court is almost impossible, assured human rights activists and cultural figures.
“The label of a foreign agent discreditied person in the eyes of his fellow citizens, detract from his dignity, despite the fact that he did nothing wrong and illegal, and not doing the will of foreign customers,” – said in an open letter. Vladimir Putin, however, were deaf to these arguments, signed the law of natural persons the registered as a foreign agent.