8 May 2020
Galina Arapova, director and senior lawyer of the Mass Media Rights Centre, recipient of the Moscow Helsinki Group award, assesses President Putin’s new decree
What have military personnel been forbidden to do?
On 6 May 2020, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree amending the 2007 Disciplinary Rules of the Russian Armed Forces. Military personnel are from now on forbidden either to share information about their own service and that of their colleagues on the Internet, or to convey such information to the media. This includes information identifying members of the armed forces (including those who have left military service), their family, parents and location, as well as information on activities related to the performance of military duties. Military personnel are also forbidden to carry on their person communication devices that are capable of storing or distributing audio, photo and video material or geolocation data: in other words, smartphones.
How will this affect the work of the media?
According to Galina Arapova, the ban on military personnel sharing information with the mass media will seriously impede the work of journalists: “If for the military themselves the act of sharing such information is now considered a serious disciplinary offense, then, from a legal point of view, such data will be considered classified information. For journalists, that will mean that obtaining such data from military personnel will amount to using classified information. Revealing such information is not of course the same as disclosing state secrets but, even so, such actions are subject to administrative fines under Article 13.14 of the Code of Administrative Offences. For journalists working in a war zone, or carrying out investigations into the actions of the military, this will pose a definite risk.”
Arapova pointed out that the restrictions placed by the decree concern not only military operations, campaigns, exercises, or garrison service, but also instances when the military is assigned to support law-enforcement agencies or to help control emergency situations. In such instances, military personnel will not be permitted to tell the media where they are, what they are doing or with whom they are dealing. This too, Arapova argued, will create problems for journalists.
Translator’s note: For further information, see RFE/RL. “Putin Bans Armed Forces Members From Carrying Electronic Devices, Gadgets,” 7 May 2020
Translated by Elizabeth Teague