Deputies suggest blocking the websites of ‘undesirable organisations’
The human rights community is concerned that extrajudicial blocking of the websites of ‘undesirable organisations’ conflicts with the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
Kommersant reports that the State Duma has introduced a bill giving the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) the right to close the internet resources of organisations listed as ‘undesirable’. Current legislation demands that the Office of the Prosecutor General should first gather information about any ‘undesirable’ content and pass it on to a court of law. Roskomnadzor has the right to block a website only if a judicial decision justifies this.
The authors of the bill say that current procedures allow internet site owners to appeal against a court decision within three months, which means that the blocking of a site can be delayed by up to a year. In that time the ‘undesirable organisation’ can create a new site. If this needs to be banned, the same procedure must be followed again.
Elena Lukyanova, professor at the Higher School of Economics, told Kommersant that the deputies’ proposal contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation. This indicates that human rights and freedoms must determine the meaning, content and enforcement of legislation. Such rights also govern the actions of legislative and executive authorities and of local government, while offering security through a just legal system. Kommersant quotes Lukyanova as follows: “Human rights may not be restricted without a judicial decision. In this instance we are talking about the right to disseminate information. All restrictions on rights are subject to supervision by the justice system”.
The law on ‘undesirable organisations’, passed in May 2015, provoked criticism from Russian and international human rights organisations.
Organisations deemed ‘undesirable’ include foreign and international organisations whose activities threaten “the defence capacity and security of the state” or “the foundations of the constitutional order”. The Patriotic Stop-List of the Federation Council includes twelve organisations considered ‘undesirable’.
At various times, ‘undesirability’ has been ascribed to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs; the Soros Foundation; the National Endowment for Democracy; the U.S. Russia Foundation; the International Republican Institute; and the Media Development Investment Fund.
In 2017, a legal case was brought against the Sova Centre for Information and Analysis for infringement of the law on “undesirable organisations”. The Prosecutor’s Office ruled that a reference on the organisation’s website, together with links to the sites of Sova’s former donors, breached the law.