Law of the Week: Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ legislation restricts freedoms of association and expression

Week-ending 5 March 2021

This week Lev Ponomarev announced that For Human Rights, the civil society organisation he has led since 1997, was closing down because of the new requirements of the ‘foreign agent’ law imposed on physical persons. Feminist performance artist Darya Apakhonchich and Denis Kamalyagin, editor in chief of the online newspaper Pskovskaya guberniya, both filed appeals against inclusion in the ‘foreign agent’ list. Russia fined the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty more than $500,000 for violating the ‘foreign agent’ as it applies to media outlets.


CSO of the Week: For Human Rights

The Moscow Times, 3 March 2021: Russia has fined the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty media outlet more than half a million dollars so far for violating the country’s controversial “foreign agent” law, Interfax reported Wednesday. RFE/RL has accused the Russian authorities of trying to squeeze it out of the country with “disastrous” foreign agent labeling requirements and fines of up to $5 million. 

RFE/RL, 3 March 2021: A district court judge in Moscow has rejected five separate appeals by RFE/RL against lower-court rulings that imposed fines against the company for violating Russia’s controversial “foreign agent” law. Judge Aleksei Krivoruchko of the Tverskaya District Court issued the rulings on March 3, confirming fines imposed on RFE/RL for failing to mark written and broadcast materials in accordance with regulations set by the state media-monitoring agency Roskomnadzor. The lower court imposed the fines on February 10. “RFE/RL rejects the imposition of these fines and does not accept the Russian court’s decision to strike down our appeal of them,” RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in response to the rulings. “We consider Russian Internet regulator Roskomnadzor’s self-labeling regulations — in fact, orders to deface our content platforms and intimidate our audiences — to be a state-sponsored assault on media freedom that violates the Russian Constitution and Russia’s media law,” he said, adding that “RFE/RL will continue to object, protest, and appeal these requirements.”

RFE/RL, 3 March 2021: Russian feminist performance artist Darya Apakhonchich has filed a legal appeal against the government’s inclusion of her on its list of “media organizations fulfilling the functions of foreign agents.” Lawyer Pavel Chikov of the Agora legal-defense organization made the announcement on Telegram on March 1. Denis Kamalyagin, editor in chief of the online newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya, has also appealed his inclusion on the “foreign agent” list, the website reported on March 3. According to Chikov, Apakhonchich’s appeal states that she “never received money or any property from foreign sources for the creation or dissemination of statements or materials that were distributed by foreign media listed under the foreign agents law.” Apakhonchich added that she regards the restrictions on her rights to be politically motivated, and her complaint includes 12 pages of examples of alleged violations of her rights to expression and privacy.

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