What they really want is to have the opportunity to accuse anyone of anything at any moment. The less predictable accusations and the less evidence are the better. Because these are exactly the repressions. The random executions in the streets, the random declarations of enemies of people. Of everyone. They started, for sure, from journalists, human rights defenders, artists.
Today as never before the Russian civil society faces repressions and suppressions of any independent actions.
The Ministry of Justice of Russia has included five persons in the registry of natural persons-media-foreign agents. They are a human rights defender Lev Ponomarev, an activist Daria Apahonchich, journalists Ludmila Savitskaya and Sergey Markelov, working with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and chief editor of the web-site ‘Pskov Gubernia’ Denis Kamalyagin. The inclusion of the famous human rights defender Lev Ponomarev, who does not have massive popularity as a blogger, has never worked as a journalist in foreign media, does not get royalties from abroad, into a list of foreign agents, excellently demonstrate arbitrariness in the realization of new norms, stigmatizing persons and organizations as ‘foreign agents’.
‘Hunting season’ against persons, accused in ‘political activities in the interests of foreigners’, is open. It is especially obvious in the context of new legislation adopted by the State Duma and Federation Council, that establishes control over any civic initiatives and recognizes any person involved as an accomplice in ‘political activities’ and ‘foreign funding’.
The total control over the organizations recognized as foreign agents is introduced – they should get the approval of the Ministry of Justice to any activities. The notion of ‘foreign agents’ will apply to more categories of natural persons. Now anyone who is involved in political or civil activities and gets any support from abroad is recognized as a person-foreign agent. The administrative and criminal liability for defamation has been tightened, and new administrative and criminal liability for violation of newly introduced legislation on ‘foreign agents’ for natural and legal persons is being under consideration. The additional control over any awareness-raising activities is introduced.
Newly adopted legislation destroys the independence of civil society – any undesirable activity could be prohibited, any violation of law punished in accordance with administrative or criminal law. Even, common people are now foreign agents, who could be imprisoned for non-declaring themselves as foreign agents and for any publication without a ‘foreign agent’ label. Dissemination of information and international cooperation are allowed only if they are approved by the government.
Hereby we declare that such a policy of the Russian Federation is inappropriate and violates the fundamental rights, freedoms, and international obligations.
In these difficult times, we call our partners and compassionate colleagues to support Russian civil society.
Illustration by Maria Tolstova from the campaign website http://helpcivilsociety.ru/campaign