MPs seek punishment for info disclosure to foreign entities

Arbat Street, Moscow © Sergey Pyatakov
Members of the State Duma Committee for Property Issues have drafted a bill that would prohibit Russian civil servants, businesses and ordinary citizens from disclosing any official information to foreign states, groups or international organizations.

The ban will not be applied to information that has been earlier made public, or to cases in which the informants asked for and received permission for disclosure from Russian authorities.

In all other cases, transferring information to “foreign official bodies and organizations that exercise control, overseeing and managing functions” would be punishable by fines up to 100,000 rubles (about $1600) for ordinary citizens and up to 10 million rubles for registered legal entities (about $161,000).

The draft also reads that the detailed procedure of requesting and granting such permission must be developed by the Russian government.

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The explanatory note attached to the bill reads that foreign nations, first of all the United States, often violate international agreements and send requests for information in bypassing official diplomatic channels and judicial bodies. Often these requests might appear as an order that the receiving party is bound to follow but this is only according to the other states’ legislation.

The new bill, if passed, would give greater protection to information against foreign states and international organizations and as a result would increase the level of protection of Russia’s national interests, its sponsors claim.

Over the past few years Russian authorities have taken gradual steps to ensure the protection of the country’s national interests against foreign interventions. In 2012, that led to the so-called ‘Foreign Agents Law’ ordering all NGOs that receive funding from abroad and that are even partially engaged in political activities to register as foreign agents or risk substantial fines. In November last year, the law was expanded with a bill making it illegal for Russian political parties to receive sponsorship, or enter any business deals with NGOs with ‘foreign agent’ status.

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In May 2015, President Putin signed into law the bill banning the activities of foreign groups that pose a threat to national security or defense capability, known as ‘Undesirable Foreign Groups Law.’ According to the law, once the organization is recognized as undesirable, all its assets in Russia must be frozen, its offices closed and distribution of any of its information materials must be banned. Leaders and members of groups that refuse to comply with the ban can face up to six years in prison.