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26 Nov, 2020 12:05

Russians may face fines for sharing information from registered ‘foreign agents’, if source not declared

Russians may face fines for sharing information from registered ‘foreign agents’, if source not declared

Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ rules could be about to get a lot more complicated. A new bill would see fines of up to 2,500 rubles ($33) issued for sharing information from organizations, without making their legal status clear.

The legislation, if passed, would punish “dissemination,” meaning social media users could be liable for their posts, on various platforms.

The proposed amendment could lead to changes in the country's administrative code, meaning that publications by organizations such as Alexey Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and the foreign-funded pollster Levada Center could not be quoted without a disclaimer. The law would not only punish individuals but would impose even higher fines on officials and legal entities.

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Submitted to the country's parliament on Monday, the document was primarily authored by MP Vasily Piskarev, from the governing United Russia party along with eight other co-signatories. Piskarev is the chairman of the State Duma Commission for investigating foreign interference in Russia’s internal affairs.

One of the co-authors, Alexey Chepa, of the parliamentary opposition party Fair Russia explained that the proposal was bringing Russia in line with international rules, and said that “in the West, everything is much stricter.”

The initiative is part of a package of six bills aimed at ‘foreign agents,’ made to “eliminate a gap in the legislation” and “provide penalties for those who conceal the fact of receiving funds from abroad.” The proposed laws would ban individuals deemed ‘foreign agents’ from holding office, stop them from accessing state secrets and force them to provide a biannual report to the Ministry of Justice.

According to Piskarev, the laws are not aimed at “cultural figures” but political ones.

“We are talking about those who, with the help of funds received from abroad, are trying to change the internal and foreign policy of our country,” he explained.

In 2012 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that requires non-profit organizations receiving foreign donations to declare themselves as foreign agents, if they engage in political activity. In 2017, this was expanded to foreign-funded news outlets. Two years later, this was expanded to include individuals.

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