Law of the Week: Fines for republishing information derived from ‘foreign agent’ media without indicating the fact

Week-ending 7 May 2021

This week President Putin signed into law a bill providing for those republishing information from media designated as ‘foreign agents’ without mentioning the fact to be fined.


The Moscow Times, 3 May 2021: 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.

In other news:

The Moscow Times, 5 May 2021: Russian lawmakers have proposed banning people linked to terrorist or extremist organizations from running for office ahead of a landmark ruling to outlaw jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s political and activist groups. The changes to Russia’s election law, submitted in the lower-house State Duma on Tuesday, come days ahead of a highly anticipated Moscow court decision to brand Navalny’s nationwide network of some 50 regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) — both peaceful political movements — as “extremist” organizations.

Human Rights Watch, 5 May 2021: A group of Russian lawmakers introduced three bills on May 4, 2021 that would add new dangerous tools to the already significant arsenal of legislative weapons for the country’s crackdown on dissenting voices, Human Rights Watch said today. Two of the bills introduced in the State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, would expand the impact of Russia’s law on “undesirable” organizations. The third would enable authorities to impose lengthy bans on potential candidates for Duma seats if they are associated with groups deemed “extremist” by the Russian authorities, even if they were associated with the group before it received that designation. “These bills are a far-from-subtle attempt to deprive the Kremlin’s political opponents of legal means of political participation and to instill ever more fear into Russia’s civil society,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “For years now, and with particular ferocity in the past six months, the Russian authorities have been trying to inflict death by a thousand cuts on civil society and meaningful political opposition.”

RFE/RL, 5 May 2021: A group of Russian lawmakers has proposed legislation that would bar individuals involved in the activities of a public or religious group, or any organization that has been recognized by a court as “extremist or terrorist,” from taking part in parliamentary elections. The draft bill, put forward just ahead of September elections to the parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, states that ordinary employees and leaders of such organizations cannot be elected as lawmakers if they worked in such groups for one and three years, respectively, before a court’s decision to ban such groups. The bill also says that individuals who “provided financial support, property, as well as organizational, methodical, consultative, or any other type of assistance” to such organizations one year before the organization was banned will be barred from taking part in parliamentary elections for three years.

RFE/RL, 6 May 2021: Lawyers of the Team 29 (Komanda 29) judicial group have appealed a decision to restrict the activities of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). The Team 29 said in a statement that its lawyers Maksim Olenichev and Valeria Vetoshkina filed the appeal with the Moscow First Court of Appeals on May 6. The Moscow City Court ruled on April 27 that the activities of the FBK and another group associated with Navalny, the Citizens’ Rights Defense Foundation (FZPG), must be temporarily banned from using media, placing materials on the Internet, taking part in elections and referendums, and carrying out some banking operations.

Caucasian Knot, 1 May 2021: The people detained on April 21 for taking part in an unsanctioned rally in support of Alexei Navalny in Sochi are massively reporting their complaints to the hotline about law enforcers’ unjustified actions, use of force, and threats, human rights defenders inform. The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that on April 21, various cities of Russia, including southern regions of the country, held rallies in support of Alexei Navalny. The actions were not sanctioned by the authorities, and many activists were detained. On April 21, in Sochi, law enforcers detained about 80 activists for taking part in an unsanctioned rally in support of Navalny, said Alexei Mandrigelya, an activist of the “OVD-Info” human rights organization.

The Moscow Times, 2 May 2021: In December 2019, police officers came to Ruslan Shaveddinov’s Moscow apartment, sawed through the door and placed him in handcuffs before whisking him away for forced military service in the Arctic. Denied access to a cell phone — a rule violation, according to the 25-year-old opposition activist — he had to correspond with his loved ones via handwritten letters that took weeks to arrive. “They sent me as far away as possible,” the ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny told AFP.

The Moscow Times, 7 May 2021: YouTube has briefly restricted access to a leading Russian independent media outlet’s account and warned others for linking to the website of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s anti-Kremlin voting project. Navalny and his allies plan to use his “Smart Voting” strategy — which was first deployed in 2018 after authorities barred him and nearly all of his allies from the ballot — to unseat pro-Kremlin ruling party incumbents in this fall’s key parliamentary elections. A Moscow court blocked the “Smart Voting” website that year after ruling that it processes users’ personal data without consent.

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