On November 25, 2019, Russia’s Federation Council has adopted amendments on the so-called “foreign agents” law, which especially threatens independent journalists and bloggers, cooperating with their colleagues abroad. This law has been adopted by all the stages of the legislative, and is to be brought to the President to sign.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee and nine other international human rights organisations on November 18. 2019 issued a statement, where we expressed our concerns with another legislative initiative which not only contradicts Russian Constitutions, but utterly limits freedom of expression and violates international legal norms and standards.
“Unfortunately, there is no doubts that Vladimir Putin will sign the law and it can happen already by the end of this year”, says Bjørn Engesland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and continues:
“This law is another attempt to spread fear among Russians. It limits their freedom of expression and awakens the worst Soviet practices, when the state labelled it’s own citizens as internal enemies”.
This law opens to prosecuting any Russian citizen cooperating with the partners in the West
The law suggests that bloggers and independent journalists, spreading the information issued by a media, registered in Russia as “a foreign agent”, can be fined with 10 000 rubles and five million rubles for non-compliance. This bill is a part of legislation amendments made in 2017, which concerned regulation of media outlets as “foreign agents”.
“This law opens to prosecuting any Russian citizen cooperating with the partners in the West”, Engesland explains.
There is already a law on “foreign agents” adopted 2012, which concerns Russian NGOs, cooperating with organisations from the West. Now any personal contact with foreigners can be a suspicion one, no matter, whether it is private or business.
“The law is purposely written so broad and unclear, so that it can be used selectively against critical minded persons, activists, journalists and bloggers”, says Engesland and continues:
“The Norwegian Helsinki committee calls International and Norwegian authorities to do their best and not to let Russian authorities isolate Russians from the West. Russia is our neighbour, people across the border gain to have cooperation and dialogue together, without being afraid to be prosecuted”, Engesland concludes.