ECtHR: Russian law on “foreign agents” contradicts the Convention on Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights recognized the inconsistency of Russian legislation on "foreign agents" with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. As noted by the team of the former Memorial Human Rights Center (liquidated on April 5, 2022 by a court decision), the ECtHR made this decision based on a complaint in the Ecodefense and Others v. Russia case.

According to the ECtHR, the quality of the law does not comply with the Convention, and its application is not necessary in a democratic society. The concepts of "political activity" and "foreign funding" are not sufficiently predictable and do not have sufficient safeguards against abuse.

The law on media-“foreign agents” was adopted in Russia in 2017. According to it, any media outlet that receives funding or property from abroad can be recognized as a “foreign agent”. In 2019, a new law was adopted, which made it possible to classify as "foreign agents" not only legal entities, but also individuals.

Since December 2020, individuals and unregistered public associations receiving funding from abroad can also be given this status for “political activity” in Russia, which de facto includes any public assessment of the activities of any state authorities. In addition, on March 1, 2021, penalties for violations of the activities of “foreign agents” were toughened: today they provide for both administrative fines and criminal liability for up to five years in prison.

Over the past years, hundreds of media, NGOs and individuals have been included in the registers of “foreign agents”. The first five people - human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, journalists Lyudmila Savitskaya, Sergey Markelov and Denis Kamalyagin, as well as civil activist Daria Apakhonchich - were included in the corresponding list on December 28, 2020. Later, this status was assigned to Meduza and the First Anti-Corruption Media. On May 14, VTimes was recognized as a “foreign agent” media outlet, the editors of which later decided to close the media outlet due to the new status.

Last summer, The Insider, Dozhd and Important Stories, as well as several dozen journalists from various publications, were recognized as “foreign agents”. On September 29, the lists of “foreign agents” were replenished by OVD-Info, Mediazona, its publisher Pyotr Verzilov and editor-in-chief Sergei Smirnov. In April 2022, the editor-in-chief of The Insider Roman Dobrokhotov, writer Viktor Shenderovich, rapper Face, journalists Sergei Parkhomenko and Yuri Dud were also included in the list of foreign agents. In May, rapper Morgeshtern was included in the list of foreign agents.


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