Russia's new anti-terror laws threaten free expression, privacy


On 29th June, the State Duma passed anti-terrorism laws which oblige mobile operators and companies providing internet services to store all electronic correspondence, files and calls made or received by their clients for a period of three years. The laws, which come into force in July 2018, also compel operators to provide the police and the intelligence services with the encryption keys used to secure electronic messages. 

Aside from the clear threat posed by the laws to free expression, access to information and privacy rights, mobile and internet operators say that the new legal provisions will affect their earnings because they are forced to invest in expensive data storage equipment. This, in turn, will increase prices for individuals using mobile and internet services in Russia. Civil society representatives, independent media and some lawmakers consider these anti-terrorist rules the most repressive since the fall of the soviet union.

'In defense of society: an open platform' is a new initiative started by activists and intellectuals arguing for changes in Russia's political system and society. On 19th July, the platform published a manifesto including a call for full enforcement of freedom of expression. The manifesto calls for an end to government pressure on journalists and media outlets, regardless of ownership. The platform's message points out that the state is obliged not to interfere in editorial work and that it must guarantee the protection of journalists. The group also highlighted the problem of extrajudicial blocking of online content.


On 17th March, US-based nongovernmental organisation the National Democratic Institute (NDI) was included on Russia's registry of 'undesirable organisations'. Previously, as a result of an investigation at the end of January 2015, the Ministry of Justice added Transparency International's Russian office to its register of non-profit organisations 'acting as foreign agents'. The number of blacklisted civil society organisations is increasing at an alarming rate. By 27th July, 137 non-profit organisations were included on the register of foreign agents, an increase from 93 in 2015.