The European Parliament is concerned about the Russian law on “foreign agents”
Clare Daly EU debates human rights in Russia and the “Foreign Agents” Law
Western countries call on Kremlin to repeal controversial free speech law
Moscow ignored the call of members of the European Parliament to abolish the law on «foreign agents». Interviewed by the Russian Service «Voices of America» experts are not surprised by this turn of affairs and believe that the Kremlin today is not ready to liberalize legislation, proceeding from the general logic and direction of domestic policy, which is based on the notorious «tightening the nuts» wherever possible.
We will remind, in the statement of the European Parliament faction published on the eve «Updating Europe», in particular, support is expressed to those in Russia who work to educate and provide objective information to their fellow citizens, including through journalistic activities.
The authors of the appeal, members of the third-largest faction in the European Parliament, are concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed amendments to the law on «foreign agents», that directly relate to journalists, bloggers and social media users. «It is a pity that the Russian authorities continue to violate human rights both in Russia itself and abroad.», – indicated in the message.
According to the new law, citizens, if included in «black list», will be required to establish a legal entity in Russia. Therefore, they may be subject to sanctions for both individuals and legal entities..
For non-observance of the norms prescribed in the law, media-foreign agents and persons equated to them can be fined in the amount of 10 thousand to five million rubles. In addition, citizens are threatened with arrest for up to fifteen days after two fines have been imposed..
The law on foreign media was sharply criticized by international organizations and human rights activists. The United States also expressed concern that the law could be used by the Russian authorities to suppress freedom of speech.
Co-chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) Valery Borshchev in the commentary for the Russian service «Voices of America» expressed doubt that the Kremlin is ready to abolish the odious law. In his opinion, this law was adopted not because there was at least some need for it, but simply within the framework of the general policy of the Russian authorities aimed at limiting human rights and freedoms and freedom of the press..
«The law itself has no legal basis, so they intend to interpret and apply it arbitrarily, – he added. – As a result, many people can easily be recognized as foreign agents for purely formal reasons. We see that some organizations have already been liquidated and are regularly fined. These are all milestones of the general repressive course».
Recently, at the request of the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation liquidated one of the oldest human rights organizations in the country. «Human rights movement» Lev Ponomarev.
This law, undoubtedly, must be abolished, the human rights activist is convinced. However, it seems to him that this will not happen as a result of outside interference.. «Nevertheless, demonstrating the position of the European Parliament is useful, – he stated. – It is not out of place to re-emphasize the reactionary nature of the Kremlin’s law and policy.».
At the same time, Valery Borshchev found it difficult to say how the law will be applied in practice. It seems to him that the authorities themselves are somewhat perplexed about this..
«The Duma promised that the law will be applied pointwise, and that it will affect no more than two dozen people, – he reminded. – Of course, one shouldn’t take the deputies at their word, but I think that they will refrain from large-scale and radical use of the law, especially with regard to foreign media. Otherwise, it will immediately cause a backlash in the West and rebound on the same RT and «Satellite» So the victims of the laws will be selected very carefully».
It is unlikely that the Kremlin will want to lose the information platform in Western countries and exchange their propaganda tools for Western media, summed up the MHG co-chairman.
Deputy Head of the Department of Constitutional and Municipal Law of the Higher School of Economics, Professor Ilya Shablinsky in the commentary for the Russian service «Voices of America» noted that, of course, the law restricts freedom of speech. However, in his opinion, it is even more important that this is an attempt to restrict freedom of speech on the Internet..
«In fact, the law allows the use of administrative measures for criticizing the government and senior government officials, – he explained. – The document states that the basis for the application of the law is the distribution of media materials recognized by foreign agents. This is, of course, a false statement. In fact, the law is easy to use against those who, like FBK, for example, distribute videos on social media about abuses in power structures. It is they who will be stigmatized and prosecuted in the first place.».
In Russia, concerns have already been expressed that many Russian bloggers who receive income, for example, from advertising on their YouTube channels, can now be recognized as foreign agents..
The professor also believes that citizens who will be obliged to create legal entities and mark messages with a stigma «foreign agent», has the right to challenge these decisions in all judicial instances up to the Constitutional Court of Russia.
«You can also apply to the ECHR, – he thinks. – Most likely, in Strasbourg they recognize that the forcible hanging of a political label on people «foreign agent» clearly contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights. It degrades civil dignity».
As Ilya Shablinsky sees it, the main meaning of the law is precisely the desire to morally punish people for their position. Similar measures are being introduced into the system to increase the general atmosphere of tension and fear., «so that others are discouraged», he concluded