To whom do the deputies forge the sword of Damocles?

According to experts, the next amendments to the law on foreign media agents can be directed against anyone

The profile committee of the State Duma recommended the adoption in the second reading of amendments to the bill on the so-called foreign media – foreign agents, the media reported on the eve with reference to the chairman of the committee Leonid Levin.
According to the new version of the document, journalists who cooperate with media-foreign agents and receive monetary remuneration from abroad can be recognized as foreign agents..
According to this logic, the first candidates for the “personal” title of a foreign agent will be those who work in the media already included in the “black list” by the RF Ministry of Justice. These are “Voice of America”, “Radio Liberty”, TV channel “Present time” and a number of other publications.
In the context of developments, Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett explained that “Voice of America is legally an independent, impartial and fact-driven news organization.”.
Responsibilities for the inclusion or exclusion from the Russian register of foreign media-foreign agents are assigned to the Ministry of Justice in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The publications included in the register are required to create a Russian legal entity by February 1, 2020. Practically the same requirements are imposed on them as for human rights organizations that have fallen into disgrace..
Earlier, the US State Department said it would closely monitor how the law on foreign media agents will be applied..
According to the official Russian version, the law arose as a “mirror measure” in response to the US Department of Justice’s demand that RT should register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
“FARA defends transparency without any restrictions,” the State Department explained. “This law requires the public disclosure of certain actions and relationships through the registration of“ agents of foreign leaders ”with the Ministry of Justice. It is not directed against agents of foreign leaders from any particular country. FARA does not limit the publication of materials, requiring only registration, designation and reporting “.
Also, the US Foreign Ministry stressed that FARA does not restrict freedom of speech, does not regulate the content of disseminated information, does not impose any restrictions on the promotion and publication of materials advocating certain ideas by the “agent”, and this law is neutral in relation to any country.
Svetlana Kuzevanova, senior lawyer at the Center for the Protection of Media Rights, in an interview with the Voice of America, noted that the draft law provides for a mechanism of restrictions in relation to foreign media agents in case they do not comply with the requirements of the document, the provisions of which are now trying to formulate Russian legislators. According to the lawyer, appropriate court decisions can be made against such media..
“If they refuse to comply with these decisions, then access to their resources may be limited,” she added. – At least this is how it now sounds in the bill. It is not known in what final form the document will be adopted “.

To whom do the deputies forge the sword of Damocles?

As for individuals who can also be recognized as foreign agents, then there is an even darker story, stated Svetlana Kuzevanova: “The MPs claim that the law will act very point-blank and will affect only a few people in our country – about 20-30 people. But then the most important question arises: why, in order to influence such a narrow group of people, it is necessary to adopt a law that absolutely all citizens are obliged to observe? “
According to the media lawyer, through the efforts of the deputies, a sword of Damocles is forged, which in fact will hang on everyone who either distributes materials from foreign media agents, or participates in the creation of these materials, receiving money from abroad: “Therefore, there are a lot of vague prospects and obvious risks. But it is already clear that such a law in terms of its selective enforcement is very problematic. This raises a lot of questions from both lawyers and, I think, from society. It is unclear how this law can be applied in a targeted manner, it is legally illiterate “.
As it is clear from the explanations of the authors of the amendments, the bill is not directed against Russian “bloggers and publicists”.
According to Svetlana Kuzevana, this does not mean anything at all. If a document is formulated in such a way that it can be used somewhere, but somewhere not, it only says that its quality is worthless, she summed up.
In turn, the blogger and publicist, former secretary general of the Union of Journalists of Russia Igor Yakovenko admitted that it is not completely clear to him what goals the bill is pursuing. In his opinion, it is only clear that he is a tool for expanding the list of “wrong persons”.

The Sword of Damocles

“After all, it is one thing when a foreign agent is considered a legal entity or the media (which does not always coincide), and another is a specific person,” he explained in a commentary to the Voice of America. – Because a foreign agent in translation into Russian means “foreign spy”. Therefore, the attitude towards him should be appropriate. That is, in fact, this is already something on the verge of treason. Therefore, we are talking about a rather serious tightening of control over the information field and an attempt to further clean it up “.
At the same time, Igor Yakovenko stressed that the law has always been something of a “spare cudgel” designed to protect the interests of RT and Sputnik in the West. According to him, this “preparation for future use” in case the rights of Russian publications are suddenly somehow infringed upon abroad.
“And now you might get the impression that Moscow is ready to go on the offensive itself, sacrificing its beloved offspring, but this is certainly not the case,” he added. – The Kremlin, of course, appreciates RT and Sputnik for their “merits” in destroying the democratic foundations of Western society. This is a pretty serious information weapon. Therefore, Russia is not ready for an exchange. So from a practical point of view, the amendments, as I see it, do not matter. This may slightly hinder the activities of foreign media outlets included in the “black list”, but nothing more. “.
In fact, the only exhaust of Russian indignation at the “infringement” of RT rights in the United States so far was the ban on foreign media representatives from visiting the State Duma, said Igor Yakovenko: “In this regard, one of the” injured “journalists, not without irony, noticed that they used to go there they just didn’t go there, and now they’ve stopped letting them in there ”.
In the opinion of a media expert, the only motive that suggests itself as an explanation for the new legislative initiative is “the irrepressible desire of individual deputies and members of the Federation Council to curry favor with the authorities and work out their piece of bread”.
Next week the bill will be considered at the plenary session of the Duma.

  • Victor Vladimirov

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