Law of the Week: New laws impose higher fines on proteters, ‘foreign agents’ and social media companies.

Week-ending 26 February 2021

On 24 February 2021 President Putin signed into force laws that increase fines imposed on protesters found guilty of disobeying police officers, on persons and organisations designated ‘foreign agents’ that fail to comply with labelling requirements, and on social media companies that ‘discriminate’ against Russian media.


RFE/RL, 24 February 2021: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law bills that beef up fines for violating a controversial law on “foreign agents” as well as other legislation relating to protests, such as the financing of rallies and disobedience of law enforcement, in the wake of unsanctioned protests in support of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. According to the laws, signed by Putin on February 24, releasing information about so-called “foreign agents” and their materials without also indicating their status could lead to fines of up to 2,500 rubles ($34) for individuals and up to 500,000 rubles ($6,720) for entities. The law applies regardless of whether the “foreign agent” in question is a mass media outlet or an individual.

The Moscow Times, 24 February 2021: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a handful of new laws Wednesday that impose heavy fines on protesters and “foreign agents,” as well as on social media giants accused of “discriminating” against Russian media. Observers have described legislators’ recent activity as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to tighten restrictions on dissent ahead of this fall’s parliamentary elections, which will take place amid simmering public anger over falling incomes.  Here’s a look at some of the laws that Putin approved in a post-holiday signing spree: — Unruly protesters Putin increased fines for protesters who are found guilty of disobeying law enforcement orders to between 2,000 and 4,000 rubles ($27 and $55, respectively). Repeat violations are subject to fines of 10,000-20,000 rubles ($135-270) or up to 30 days in jail. Putin also imposed fines of up to 20,000 rubles for violating fundraising rules while organizing protests, including for money transfers by nonprofits labeled as “foreign agents.” — ‘Foreign agent’ mentions Russians can now be fined up to 2,500 rubles for sharing information about “foreign agents” or republishing their work without referring to them with the designation. The “foreign agents” themselves, including politically active individuals or organizations, can be fined up to half a million rubles ($6,800) for publishing their own materials without the “foreign agent” label. The law takes effect March 1. — ‘Prejudiced’ IT giants Social media giants YouTube, Facebook and Twitter can now be fined up to 1 million rubles ($13,600) for ignoring government warnings about prejudice toward Russian users. Repeat violations are subject to fines of up to 3 million rubles ($41,000).  Previously passed legislation already allows Russia to block platforms that are found to “discriminate” against Russian media.

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