Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a legal act setting 20% restriction on the share of foreign stakeholders in Russian media and a ban on foreigners’ role of co-founders of Russian media.
MOSCOW, October 15. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a legal act setting 20% restriction on the share of foreign stakeholders in Russian mass media and a ban on foreigners’ role of co-founders of Russian mass media.
The high-profile law, approved by the upper house of parliament on October 1, was published on the official legal information portal on Wednesday.
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The idea of such amendments to the Russian law on mass media was proposed by State Duma members Vadim Dengin (of the Liberal Democrat Party), Vladimir Parakhin (of United Russia). Previous legislation set no restrictions on foreign persons’ or entities’ participation in print or online periodicals. A 50% cap was applicable only to stakes in television and radio broadcasters.
The new rules will take effect as of January 1, 2016. Media owners will have enough time until February 1, 2017 to bring the entire corporate chain in conformity with the law.
The new documents on the owners and founders shall be submitted to the Russian mass media watchdog Roskomnadzor no later than February 15, 2017. In case of violations the agency is obliged to ask a court of law to suspend the mass medium’s operation.
The law specifically stipulates that the restrictions on foreign presence in the mass media are effective unless an international treaty to which Russia is a party provides otherwise. The inter-state television and radio broadcaster MIR and the television and radio company of the union state of Russia and Belarus are examples of such exemptions.
The Kremlin is ready to ban state officials from owning foreign property or keeping money abroad. A source in the presidential administration told Kommersant that strict controls on foreign assets were seen as necessary.
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“It is a question of the loyalty of government officials and an assessment of their patriotism,” the source said in an article published Friday.
A bill co-drafted by State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Lysakov of United Russia would ban foreign assets from being held by officials, their wives and their children under 18 years old. The law would cover people in government service from the municipal to the federal level, Lysakov told Vesti FM earlier this month, such as officials in the security services, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the customs service and the Investigative Committee.
His plans would mean this elite group “stands with both feet in Russia,” he said.
An exception would be made for getting “a good education” or using medical services. People would be allowed to have foreign bank accounts for these purposes because they are “sacred,” Lysakov told the radio station.
According to Kommersant’s unnamed source, the Kremlin would support Lysakov’s proposals, even though they will not be popular with some United Russia deputies. Many civil servants and Duma deputies own foreign property, including in former Soviet countries.
A rival bill co-authored by Just Russia Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov would require officials to declare foreign property and assets on a special register.
Owning such assets would not be illegal, but an incorrect declaration would be a criminal offense. The preamble of the bill says this would increase the effectiveness of controls on spending by government officials.
The bills were proposed shortly after opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny accused Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin of having secret property in the Czech Republic, a claim that Bastrykin denies.
Navalny called Bastrykin a “foreign agent,” playing on the title that a new law will force upon nongovernmental organizations that conduct “political activity” and receive funding from abroad.
Ivan Ninenko, deputy director of Transparency International, said the proposed restrictions on officials owning foreign property are part of the government’s “Western phobia.”
“This is not about corruption. It is about populism and this political idea that everyone in the West is bad and should have no influence on Russia,” he said by telephone.
If the Duma wanted to fight corruption, instead of banning the ownership of foreign property, it should ensure transparent information that allows people to compare officials’ income with their savings and other assets, he said.
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