Russia sinks to worst rating in a new global ratings report on civic freedoms16 March, 2023
- Russia downgraded from ‘repressed’ to ‘closed’
- Over 19,000 people arrested in anti-war protests
- Journalists attacked and imprisoned, while independent media outlets shutdown and blocked
- Raft of restrictive legislation used to target critics, punishment of up to 15 years for spreading ‘false information’ about the military
- Prominent civil society organisations liquidated, shut down
Russia has been downgraded from ‘repressed’ to ‘closed’ in a new report by the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks fundamental freedoms in 197 countries and territories.
‘Closed’ is the worst rating a country can receive by the CIVICUS Monitor. In reality it means that an atmosphere of fear and violence prevails in Russia, where people are routinely imprisoned and attacked for exercising their civic rights of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Belarus are also rated closed.
Russia has been a country of concern for some time, as authorities continue to crack down on dissent and limit freedom of peaceful assembly. CIVICUS Monitor has documented a decline in conditions, as those who speak out against the government and the war risk harassment, arrest, imprisonment and physical harm. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over a year ago, over 19,000 people have been arrested in anti-war protests across the country according to OVD-Info. Increasingly, law enforcement is using facial recognition technology to bring charges against protesters. Despite the pressure and the dangerous conditions for activists, protests against the war continue.
Freedom of the press in Russia is also strictly limited, with the government controlling many media outlets. The government has adopted new censorship laws, such as amendments to the Criminal Code which criminalise the "dissemination of deliberately false information about the use of Russian Armed Forces,” Penalties range from fines to up to 15 years in prison. The risk of persecution has led to the closure of many independent media outlets in the country. There have been over 300 cases in which journalists and media have faced fines, publication bans or other punitive measures for their reporting on the war. This includes over 150 arrests or charges against journalists. There have been nearly 200 cases in which news sites have been blocked by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet regulator.
The past year also saw the forced liquidation of Memorial International, one of Russia’s oldest NGOs, and the cancellation of registration and shut down of at least 15 international human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which have been vocal about the human rights situation in the country, and especially about the war-related violations.
While the authorities’ brutal response to peaceful anti-war actions and criticism has contributed significantly to Russia’s downgrade, the deterioration must also be viewed in the wider context of a much more elaborate systematic crackdown on fundamental rights and freedoms in Russia. Since December 2020, the legislature has continuously introduced a raft of repressive laws and draft laws aimed at restricting civil society and people’s fundamental rights and freedoms, including restrictions to the rights to peaceful assembly and association. Notably, the authorities’ brutal response to the anti-war protests in 2022 has also been similar in fashion to the massive crackdown on country wide protests which followed the arrest and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in January 2021. Within just one month, authorities detained over 10,000 protesters and journalists, with many incidents of assault and torture of those detained being reported.
Russia’s downgrade also follows its addition to the CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist in February 2021 and March 2022 - a periodical list of countries which have seen a significant decline in civic space.
Over twenty organisations collaborate on the CIVICUS Monitor, providing evidence and research that help us target countries where civic freedoms are at risk. The Monitor has posted more than 490 civic space updates in the last year, which are analysed in People Power Under Attack 2022.
Civic freedoms in 197 countries and territories are categorised as closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open based on a methodology that combines several data sources on the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression.
Russia is now rated ‘closed’ on the CIVICUS Monitor. 26 other countries have this rating (see all). Visit Russia’s homepage on the CIVICUS Monitor for more information, and check back regularly for the latest updates.
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