22 September 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
Anton Nosik writes: ‘On the State Duma’s official website they have deemed it worthy to post a scan of bill №604509-6, introducing a ban in Russia on journalism and publishing for foreign persons and legal entities, and also for Russians who have dual citizenship.’
‘It’s amusing that the co-authors of the bill gave the State Duma administration electronic copies of the text and all accompanying documentation, but the automatic system for the website on legislative activity for some reason did not publish the files, but merely a scan of a print-out of the document, awry and with smudges,’ Anton Nosik points out. ‘This crisis in the automated documentation procedures of the State Duma corresponds to the level of elegance of the thoughts of the legislator.’
Anton Nosik goes on to quote the language of the bill, developed by the Duma’s legislators in their efforts to restrict media freedom:
‘The ban is formulated in such a manner as to leave no cracks or loopholes for the newly invented "enemy of Russian statehood". In particular, the bill does not forget to mention ‘"network publications", by which it presumably means any pages on the Internet that have more than 3,000 unique visits a day, and also "video programmes", for which read “YouTube accounts”….Life for the owners, in the intention of the bill’s authors, will change forever once it becomes law,’ Anton Nosik emphasises with concern.
“A foreign legal person, a Russian legal person in which there is a foreign shareholding, a foreign citizen, a stateless person, a citizen of the Russian Federation who also is a citizen of a foreign country, taken together and each separately, has no right to act as the founder or participant in a periodical print publication, a network publication, a TV channel, a radio station, TV, radio or video programmes, or to act as the editor of such mass media, or the organizer or legal person carrying out such broadcasting.
It is not permitted for persons identified in the first part of the current Article to establish any other forms of control over the founders of a periodical print publication, a network publication, a TV channel, a radio station, TV, radio or video programmes, or to act as the editor of such mass media, or the organizer or legal person carrying out such broadcasting, nor over such persons who are participants, members or shareholders of the founder, as a result of which the indicated persons are able either directly or indirectly to own, manage or control the owner or editor, and also the organization or legal person carrying out the broadcasting, or in practice taking the decisions made by the given persons.
The votes that the given persons have are not counted in determining the quorum of the general assembly of the participants or members or shareholders, or in the counting of the votes.
Any agreements that lead to violation of the requirements of the current Article are void.”
‘If one thinks about this wordy mass, then one can note two bans that without reading the bill it would be hard to guess at.
‘These are bans on provision of credit and on marriage. Let’s look at these more closely.
‘When a commercial organization attracts credit, then often the shares of the borrower act as surety for the return of the debt. In Russia there are about 200 organizations with foreign participation that have a license to conduct banking operations. Theoretically any Russian financial structure can attract foreign capital and be added to this list any day in the future.
‘Naturally, before the adoption of this bill banning the participation of foreigners in the capital of Russian media, various publications and their founders with a clear conscience borrowed money where they could get the best terms.
‘But from now on and henceforth everywhere, media publishers (and also the founders of companies that have a share in a legal entity that takes part in the publication of a media outlet) will be obliged to ensure that the shares do not end up as surety with an organization that is partly foreign owned.
‘Moreover, by "foreign", for the purposes of the law, is understood not only a person resident for tax purposes from a country that has placed sanctions on Russia, but also Belarus and Kazakhstan, which are also "foreign countries hostile to us”.
‘Even if we forget about the fact that shares have been pledged, and imagine that credit has been received on the basis of some other surety not connected to media outlets or their founders, then, independently of the character of the surety given, the creditor receives a certain influence on the structure of expenditures of their debtor on the basis of the conditions of the credit agreement.
‘For example, if a certain number of payments that the debtor should have made are not paid, the creditor could demand that the debt be repaid in full immediately. The new bill clearly sets out that any demands by a creditor that is partly foreign-owned to a Russian debtor that is either a media outlet or the founder of a media outlet is null and void.
‘Simply because the share of foreign capital in the creditor is more than 20%. For those lending organizations that have already lent money to Russian media or their founders, this is a simply epic fail, and for the rest, sufficient reason never to lend money to would-be borrowers of this kind.
‘This completely corresponds to the main purpose of the bill: to leave any commercial media in Russia without means to survive. And at the same time to put their current founders (whether foreign or Russian) in a very tricky situation.
‘So far as marriage is concerned, Russian law gives both spouses equal possibility to directly or indirectly own jointly acquired property. In other words, the new bans apply not only to the holders of a foreign passport, but also to their spouse.
‘In this way, both the owners and the managers of media, and also companies owning media, will need to choose: either they will have to ban marriage to persons with another (or a second) citizenship, except Russian, or they will have to ban the media as a profession and annul the right to property.
‘Moreover, just one loophole remains here, which the co-authors of the bill have as yet done nothing about. When they do close it, the new ban will affect nearly 100% of private and 99% (in extent) of state media in Russia.
‘As we understand, persons with citizenship of a state other than Russia entered into the register of enemies of the people and national traitors just 50 days ago when the law on criminal liability for failing to report citizenship of another country to the Federal Migration Service entered into force.
'The legal norm that regulates this criminal liability contains a very vague definition that has yet to be clarified by secondary legislation.
‘Enemies of the people subject to criminal or administrative prosecution are stated in the law to be not only those who hold foreign passports, but also, and very imprecisely, those who have any non-tourist visa.
‘This could be, in particular, a Green Card, a residence permit, a work permit, or any other form of permission to stay for a prolonged period that various countries give those who purchase property, set up a business, or become a student at an educational institution on its territory.
‘For the requirements of the law on criminal liability, any visa of such a kind could be considered to qualify the holder as an “enemy of the people”.
‘But, in the bill that introduces a ban on professional media work, the definition is restricted to that of citizen of the Russian Federation who has citizenship of another country. There is no word about Green Cards, residence permits or work permits.
‘There are some loose ends here. The job has yet to be completed. A loophole has appeared, drat it. It has to be reworked. And then for sure 100% of Russian media will be successfully regulated.
‘Both independent media, and those that are fully owned by the state.’
Source: LiveJournal blog of Anton Nosik
HRO.org in English >