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Putin Charged FSB to Stop Freedom of Speech in Russia

Putin Charged FSB to Stop Freedom of Speech in Russia
16.02.2013

The president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin demands to act resolutely at neutralization of extremists and to block attempts of radicals to use possibilities of the Internet for promotion.

"It’s necessary to work most resolutely at neutralization of certain extremist structures, to block attempts of radicals to use possibilities of information technologies, resources of the Internet and social networks for promotion," — Putin told at enlarged meeting of FSB board.

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From editorial board: The constitution which guarantees citizens freedom of speech, at least on paper, formally works for the present in the Russian Federation. Here you are how it looks in the basic law:

Article 29

1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.

2. The propaganda or agitation instigating social, racial, national or religious hatred and strife shall not be allowed. The propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy shall be banned.

3. No one may be forced to express his views and convictions or to reject them.

4. Everyone shall have the right to freely look for, receive, transmit, produce and distribute information by any legal way. The list of data comprising state secrets shall be determined by a federal law.

5. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned.

As we see, the list of restrictions of freedom of speech is very accurately limited. All the rest - is authorized, moreover, it’s stated in point 4 that every restriction on distribution of information has relation only to the state secret.

You will ask what about "social, racial, national or religious hatred and hostility"? Only promotion and propaganda for these bad things is forbidden in the basic law, there’s no info about distribution of the data as such. Iа it’s not forbidden, it means it is authorized. None laws and bylaws can limit the rights of citizens granted to him by the Constitution.

While we perfectly well understand that freedom of speech in mass media for the vast majority of citizens of the Russian Federation - fiction. Including professional journalists about whose rights the deputy minister of communication Volin recently eloquently said: "Young journalists have to know that they will write what they will be told by the owner, that is the lord".

Thus freedom of speech for citizens of the Russian Federation has practical appendix only on the Internet. At that non-national and non-state character of Worldwide network guarantees this freedom rather well. Now the president of Russia, as though elected for the 3rd time, orders FSB “to sort out” with this freedom. This requirement of the president who between sambo trainings and denunciations in KGB has graduated from law department of the Leningrad State University contradicts not only to the basic law, but also to the principle of presumption of innocence, that is it liquidates principles of the Roman right in Russia alongside with freedom of speech.

Look for yourself - extremism is penal, extremists are criminals. Citizen can be recognized the criminal only by court. The court recognizes citizen criminal not for nothing, but on the basis of proved criminal actions. Criminals are sent to prisons - but no access to the Internet is provided today in the Russian prisons. It means that it’s a question of some "extremists" who are free? Unless it’s possible to recognize someone extremist while his fault isn't proved in court? If it means that he is talking about someone else? Putin clearly points on these "someone else" speaking about "radicals".

If the president uses two definitions "extremists" and "radicals", if it means they are not the same? Extremists are mentioned in the Russian legislation, while there’s no mentioning in laws about radicals. That is the president Putin, duly elected the president for the 3rd time according to the article of the Constitution of the Russian Federation number 81 which point 3 says that "One and the same person may not be elected President of the Russian Federation for more than two terms running” and who according to article 80 of the same law "is the guarantor of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, of the rights and freedoms of man and citizen", demands from political police FSB to limit constitutional laws of citizens "radicals" who haven’t made any illegal actions?

We understand perfectly well what it means. At the XX congress of the CPSU it was post factum called "mass violations of socialist legality", at that it was done from the part of repressive bodies which direct assignee is FSB.

We understand perfectly well that in the international law-enforcement practice the word "extremism" means first of all - action. In Russia under the word "extremism" they often understand way of thinking, expression of opinions, estimates or certain "appeals". For example, not so long ago case on "extremism" was opened on the basis of the poster with appeal "Down with Autocracy!" Quite recently criminal punishment was received by the publicist Krylov for the words "It is time to end up with this strange economic model" said on the meeting.

I hope it’s clear what degree of restriction of freedom of speech we will get after assignment given by the president to FSB board?

In essence, if to execute Putin's order literally, the mere fact of attempt to go on-line from the part "radicals" should be stopped, not waiting when they will make "extremist act" - that is till they will express some opinion or will urge to execute, let’s say, article 1 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation ("Russia is the democratic federal law-bound state with a republican form of government") that is directly contained in the slogan "Down with Autocracy!"

Anatoly Baranov, editor-in-chief of FORUM.msk

PS. Certainly, it would be great to hear opinion of the general prosecutor and the Constitutional court on this ocasion, but it seems that this fact will pass their legal consciousness by.

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