8 September 2021
Pictured: Vyacheslav Bakhmin, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group
On 8 September, the International Day of Solidarity of Journalists, Russian media outlets held a solidarity protest under the slogan ‘There are no foreign agents, there are journalists.’ This was the third such event held recently. Over 40 Russian media outlets, including Dozhd TV, Meduza, Vazhnye Istorii, The Bell, Mediazona, Republic, Novaya gazeta, and others are participating in the latest protest against the ‘foreign agent’ law.
At the same time, presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov admitted that changes to the ‘foreign agent’ law may be discussed once the next Duma is convened, according to media reports. However, according to Peskov, it’s premature to talk about this at the moment. Peskov also noted that the Kremlin sees ‘constructive suggestions’ by the media community regarding amendments to the odious law, but urged patience.
Vyacheslav Bakhmin, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, is certain that if the public doesn’t react in any way to wrong actions taken by the authorities, then the public seems to be encouraging the authorities in what they do. When that happens, in his view, those at the top will believe that they can do whatever they like and people will tolerate it.
“Therefore, in any case, protests by journalists, and those once conducted by NGOs, are extremely important and necessary,” the human rights activist said. “How effective they will be is another matter. Unfortunately, in our country those who organize public protests are very rarely successful in achieving their goals. Although there are some pleasant exceptions. The most notable is the story with Ivan Golunov’s arrest. And in some cases individuals had their sentences reduced precisely because of the public’s strong reaction to injustice.”
In addition, Vyacheslav Bakhmin thinks participants in the journalists’ protest have a chance to achieve some changes in the law. “It may even be possible to repeal some of the more odious and completely illogical provisions in the existing law with regard to media ‘foreign agents’,” he concludes. “There is so much that is absurd there that I think the authorities themselves are beginning to realize that the application of the law can be counterproductive and cause only irritation and a negative reaction on the part of a majority if not all media, and not only those who are affected.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove