Politicians in Russia are facing heavy criticism from protesters who have taken to the streets recently to speak out against a new “anti- terrorism law” that was passed in parliament on June 24th in Moscow. Many of the protestors, including Edward Snowden who has been in Russia since 2013 have titled the bill the “Big Brother law” and have said that it would reduce personal freedom in the country.
“This is a significant threat to the Russian constitution” Anton Nossik said speaking to the protestors. Mr. Nossik is an outspoken blogger of the Putin administration. “There are a lot of terrible things in this legislation, many unconstitutional things that we can object to as a citizen” Mr. Nossik continued referring to the bill known as “Yarovaya Law” for the politician who brought up the legislation.
The bill easily passed the Duma, also known as the lower house of Parliament in Russia 325 to 1, primarily due to President’s Putin United Russia having an overwhelming majority of 238 seats out of the 450 seats. Other minority parties in the Duma include the Communist Party who has 92 seats, and A Just Russia Party with 64 seats.
Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 for leaking classified information about the CIA and NSA, tweeted that the new law was an “unworkable, unjustifiable violation of rights.”
A large portion of the criticism has been aimed at a provision in the law which would require that phone and internet companies to store all communication records for 6 months.
Mr. Snowden could be referring to Article 24, chapter 2 of the Russian Constitution where it says “The collection, keeping, use and dissemination of information about the private life of a person shall not be allowed without his or her consent.
In Article 23, it is also stated that “Everyone shall have the right to privacy of correspondence, of telephone conversations, postal, telegraph and other messages. Limitations of this right shall be allowed by court decision.”
The law comes at a time when there has been an increase in terror attacks around the world, particularly, in Western countries by members of ISIS who have been trying to take advantage of the refugee crisis. Russia has been able to limit the number of terror attacks better than some European countries but it has been hit by bombings of its airplanes and also terrorist coming from its troubled region in Chechnya, a place where many terror suspect have come from in the past.
Another controversial provision in the law includes changing the sentencing guidelines for those who use social media to criticize the Kremlin’s Ukraine policy from 4 to 8 years in jail, another restriction to freedom of speech.
The United Russia Party, which was founded in 2001 prides itself on being the patriotic party of Russia and the loyalist party of the fatherland.
However, many have accused the government under this current president of cracking down on opposition speech and increasing restrictions on protest, and the Duma being a rubber stamp parliament under the control of United Russia.
“It’s very infamous provision of Soviet law they’re basically re-enacting and it’s problematic because there’s no legal clarity”, Tanya Lokshina who is head of the Human Rights watch Russian Program. Ms. Lokshina is referring to how Soviet authorities use to operate during the period of the U.S.S.R.
An estimated 1,000 people took part in the protest on Tuesday in the capital city.
Big Brother is a reference to the role of government expanding into every role in our life, as described in the book “1984” by George Orwell.
“They try to control everything, about everything” Ilya Yashin said of the bill. “ If we don’t resist it then we will find ourselves in the world of Big Brother where everyone is being watched from everywhere. All our conversations are being listened to, all our messages being read, it’s a very unpleasant perspective,” Mr. Yashin continued.
In summary President Putin should take a second look at this law and review his country’s constitution and think about repealing this bad piece of legislation if he is serious about Russia being a Democratic country, where rights and privacy are respected.
Links to Sources:
- The Guardian Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/26/russia-passes-big-brother-anti-terror-laws
- France 24 Link: https://www.france24.com/en/20160809-hundreds-protest-against-russian-anti-terror-law
- Newsweek Link: https://www.newsweek.com/russia-approves-big-brother-law-474848
- Russian Constitution: https://www.constitution.ru/en/10003000-03.htm