Responding to today’s court decision to close the case against Free Media, an independent news outlet, for its purported ‘cooperation with an undesirable organization’, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“This is the first time that a media organization has been targeted by the Russian authorities under the ‘undesirable organization’ law for nothing more than a fleeting display of the logo of an arbitrarily banned organization. The court dismissed the case on formal grounds, due to the expiration of statutory limitations, but the very fact that there was a case against Free Media speaks volumes about censorship of independent media. The case should never have been brought in the first place. Reprisals have reached new levels of absurdity in Russia – where it is now clearly forbidden to speak the name of certain organizations, including Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia).
This is the first time that a media organization has been targeted by the Russian authorities under the ‘undesirable organization’ law for nothing more than a fleeting display of the logo of an arbitrarily banned organizationMarie Struthers, Amnesty International's Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“We call on the Russian authorities to end attacks on the rights to freedom of expression, association and media freedom and stop persecuting human rights defenders, peaceful activists and perceived government critics.”
On Monday, a court in Krasnodar dismissed the Prosecutor’s Office’s request to penalize Free Media news outlet and its editor-in-chief Vladislav Yanyushkin under Article 20.33 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offence (“implementation of the activities of an undesirable organization”). The case against them was instigated for publishing online a video featuring the logo of the Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia), a pro-democracy and human rights movement, arbitrarily banned by the Russian authorities in April 2017 under the “undesirable organizations” law.
Since the law on “undesirable organizations” came into force in May 2017, 15 foreign entities have been blacklisted. The banning of two of them – the UK-based Open Russia and the Open Russia Civic Movement – was used to persecute the members of the Russian movement of the same name.