News of the Day: 3 May 2021

The Moscow Times: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law fines for publishing information and reports from “foreign agent” media without identifying the outlet’s status amid what observers call tightening restrictions on dissent ahead of key elections. Under to the new law that Putin signed Friday, media organizations can be fined up to 50,000 rubles ($650) for distributing a report without indicating that the distributed material was produced by a “foreign agent.” Individual journalists face fines of up to 2,500 rubles ($33) and officials up to 5,000 rubles ($66) for the same violations.

RFE/RL: When human rights lawyer Karinna Moskalenko learned that fellow attorney Ivan Pavlov had been detained in Moscow, alarm bells rang. “This is a real state of emergency,” Moskalenko, who 20 years ago was the first Russian lawyer to speak before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and to win a case from Russia, wrote on Facebook on April 30. “A lot depends — for him and for us all — on how we act now,” Moskalenko wrote. “For my part, I am sending the alarm to the headquarters of the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. And I am asking this global organization to act immediately.” In a post the same day, journalist and human rights activist Zoya Svetova called the prominent defense attorney “a knight among lawyers.” “Pavlov is an absolutely fearless and professional lawyer who is also sensitive and loyal,” Svetova wrote. She urged “a majority of bold, honest, and professional colleagues” to come to his aid and to the aid of the legal profession in Russia generally.

ICJ: The ICJ today condemned the detention, interrogation and searches of premises of lawyer Ivan Pavlov, a prominent lawyer and head of the human rights legal group Team 29. Pavlov was detained by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents on 30 April after a raid on his Moscow hotel suite and released later that day. According to the order to initiate criminal proceedings, Pavlov was charged with “disclosing the information of preliminary investigation” under Article 310 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the charging order, Pavlov is accused of transmitting to the Vedomosti Newspaper a copy of a charging order against his client, journalist Ivan Safronov. Furthermore, Pavlov is charged with disclosing the nickname of one of the witnesses in the case. According to the decision of the Basmanny Court on a preventive measure for Pavlov, he is prohibited from communicating with witnesses in his criminal case, except for close relatives, using the Internet and other means of communication.

The Moscow Times: Hundreds of journalists from scores of countries have called on Russia to end its persecution of independent media, according to an open letter published on the Russian student-run news outlet DOXA’s website Monday. The World Press Freedom Day statement came a month after authorities filed a criminal case against DOXA’s editorial team for allegedly “inciting minors to participate in illegal activities.” Also in April, security agents raided the home of Roman Anin, editor-in-chief of the iStories (Important Stories) investigative outlet, and labeled one of Russia’s most-read news sites, Meduza, a “foreign agent.”

The Moscow Times: Three Russian tycoons and the Rosneft oil giant have filed libel and data protection lawsuits in Britain against the publisher of journalist Catherine Belton’s acclaimed 2020 book “Putin’s People,” the Financial Times has reported. The billionaires — Mikhail Fridman, his longtime business partner Peter Aven and real estate tycoon Shalva Chigirinsky — and Rosneft filed the flurry of suits in March and April, around the one-year deadline for libel actions in British law, FT reported Saturday. HarperCollins defended “Putin’s People,” which centers on the rise of President Vladimir Putin and his relationship with wealthy oligarchs, as “authoritative, important and conscientiously sourced work.”

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