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This is how democracy is stifled in Russia before the elections

This is how democracy is stifled in Russia before the elections

On Wednesday, a Russian court designated Navalny’s anti-corruption organization FBK as “extremist” under a law that took effect on June 4. The law in the Russian media is called “Anti-FBK Law”.

Tens of thousands of people who supported Navalny’s network are now at risk of being affected in various ways. The law prohibits those who have held leadership positions within the FBK from running for elections at all levels for the next five years.

Other members of the FBK may not run for election for the next three years. An FBK member is a person who has expressed support for the organization, for example via the Internet, through donations or by participating in protests.

On May 31, Andrei Pivovarov, the former head of the opposition organization Open Russia, was arrested. He is accused of collaborating with an “undesirable” organization, which is punishable by law. Pivovarov himself links the arrest to his ambitions to run for parliamentary elections this fall.

The Undesirable Organizations Act was passed in 2015, banning foreign groups deemed to threaten Russia’s national interests. Currently, there are more than 20 such organizations.

Open Russia is a Russian organization and therefore cannot be marked as spam. However, Open Russia has links to two British organizations on the list.

In addition, the Russian government has proposed changes to the law that would allow more organizations to access the list and members could face longer prison sentences.

This caused concern about open Russia, and on May 27 it was announced that operations would be closed in Russia due to the risk of retaliation from the authorities.

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In recent months, two Russian media companies have been labeled “foreign workers”, hampering their operations.

In April, the Meduza news website was flagged as a foreign agent. Meduza is officially based in Latvia, but many of its journalists live in Russia. The site is one of the few news services operating in Russia, is independent of the Kremlin, and has foreign funding.

The seal led to the newspaper losing many advertisers, and consequently Meduza closed its offices in both Riga and Moscow and reduced the salaries of its employees by up to 50 percent.

VTimes is another online magazine that has recently been designated a “Foreign Agent”. The management of the editorial board recently decided to close the magazine on June 12, after considering the risks involved in the classification for employees. The magazine has been active for six months.

The “Foreign Clients” law was introduced in 2012, and extended in 2017 to also include media organizations. Media companies that are included in the consortium must mention this in all of their publications, including online. It is also subject to more stringent accounting requirements.

If the regulations are not complied with, companies risk fines of up to the equivalent of SEK 500,000. Sites can also be blocked in Russia.

New amendments to the Education Law give the authorities the right to monitor so-called media activities. In addition, all international cooperation agreements with educational organizations must be approved by the authorities, with the exception of student exchange.

“Public information” is a vague term that can include lectures, websites, festivals, quizzes in pubs, film screenings, and study visits, often organized by volunteer organizations. Critics of the drafting of the prospective decree, which sets out the content of the law, believe that business will be negatively affected because such stringent demands are being placed on regulators.

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Schools already have a lot of bureaucracy, and they don’t want more. It will be difficult to convince them to do so. Few of them will want to cooperate and receive us, says Evgeny Nasirov, CEO of the non-profit organization Lapa, which conducts media activities in Russia.

The law went into effect on June 1, but will be rewritten after heavy criticism. How and when the new proposal will be submitted is unclear.

System critic Andrei Pivovarov. Photo from 2020. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP / TT

Screenshot from the Russian-language newspaper Medusa.

Screenshot from the Russian-language newspaper Medusa. Photo: meduza.io

The non-profit organization LAPA organizes public education events across Russia, like this one in February 2018 in Moscow.

The non-profit organization LAPA organizes public education events across Russia, like this one in February 2018 in Moscow. Photo: Laba/TT