The author of the law “On mass media” assessed the draft mitigation of the law on foreign agents

“The most correct thing is to simply exclude this norm from the law”

Calls to soften the draconian foreign agency legislation finally resulted in a specific bill: the “Fair Russia – For Truth” faction introduced amendments to the lower house to the Law “On Mass Media”, complicating the procedure for assigning the status of a foreign agent to a mass media. We asked one of the authors of the law “On Mass Media”, Mikhail Fedotov, to evaluate the initiative of the “Social Revolutionaries”, and the prospects of its implementation – a political scientist, president of the holding “Minchenko Consulting” Evgeny Minchenko.

Photo: Natalia Gubernatorova

“Now the procedure for assigning the status of a foreign agent to the media is as follows: as soon as the Ministry of Justice finds out that a particular publication receives funding from abroad, this label is immediately hung on the media,” explained the faction's leader Sergei Mironov. “But this is too harsh. We propose another, softer option. ”

According to him, it is not necessary to introduce harsh measures that may negatively affect the future work of a publication or a TV channel.

“If after this funding does not stop, then the Ministry of Justice will have to go to court with a statement on the recognition of such a media outlet as a foreign agent. I draw your attention to the fact that the decision should be made by the court, not officials. This is the essence of our initiative, “Mironov said.

According to Yevgeny Minchenko, the likelihood that foreign agency legislation will be relaxed is quite high.” figure it out, – reminds Minchenko. – The question is who will be the main beneficiary here. Not the fact that this will be given to the “Socialist-Revolutionaries”. For example, “New People” were actively positioned on this topic. Let's see. I think the game will continue here. “

However, revolutionary changes in any case should not be expected, the expert is sure: “Some insignificant concessions may well be accepted. But I think there will be no fundamental changes.”

Mikhail Fedotov is one of the authors of the law “On Media “, which was published almost exactly 30 years ago, in December 1991, the former long-term chairman of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights is more optimistic. However, this optimism has nothing to do with the initiative of the “Social Revolutionaries”.

“I believe that the norms of the Law on Mass Media, which relate to foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent, should be brought in line with the basic concepts of this law,” Mikhail Fedotov said in an interview with MK. – Otherwise, it is impossible to eliminate the contradictions that were hastily put into this legal structure. What Fair Russia – For the Truth offers is a patch on the missing sleeve. The suit needs to be sewn again. The whole institution of foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent is made, to put it mildly, legally illiterate. To be serious, this whole construction needs to be rewritten.

What I mean? The law on mass media defines the concept of mass media: it is a form of periodic dissemination of mass information under a permanent name (title). If you want to introduce the concept of “foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent”, you must first make the concept of “foreign media” from the concept of media, and from it – the concept of “foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent.” That is, the logic of law requires that it be a “matryoshka”. And now this is not a “matryoshka”, but abracadabra.

– This would actually be the most correct one. Because any foreign media receives money from abroad. It's foreign! Where else would he get money from? Is it from the Russian budget?

Let's remember that it all started with the actions of the American administration, which forced Russia Today to register as a foreign agent. How could the Russian side respond to this unfriendly step? I could remember that the law “On Mass Media” has contained Article 55 since 1991, according to which the Russian government has the right to retaliate against foreign correspondents from the respective country in the event of discrimination against Russian journalists abroad.

There was no need to invent anything: just to implement the existing norm of the law on mass media. The Americans did not create a special law for RT, they got by with the existing ones. We could have done the same.

But instead we have piled up such tours on wheels that no serious lawyer would even discuss. The level of legal uncertainty is off scale here, and the Constitutional Court considers legal uncertainty to be an extremely serious threat to the constitutional order. And now this legally indefinite construction, like a cargo untied in a storm on the deck of a ship, destroys everything left and right.

Therefore, the most correct thing, of course, is simply to exclude from the Law on Mass Media the provision on foreign mass media performing the function of a foreign agent. This would be the first step in the right direction. The second step is to remove the foreign agent rule from the law on non-profit organizations. And to transfer it, accordingly editing, into the law on measures of influence on persons involved in the infringement of human rights and freedoms – into the so-called law of Dima Yakovlev. Then everything will fall into place.

– I believe in legal logic. Therefore, my view is optimistic. And I would like to remind you where the legislation on foreign agents began. According to President Putin on the need to prevent foreign interference in our internal affairs by using our own non-profit organizations. The goal is clear. But the instruments that were chosen for this by our legislators turned out to be absolutely inadequate to the set goal. In short, bring the law in line with the task at hand, with the Civil Code, and you will have a pretty decent legal institution.

– I hope not: we simply must avoid such a worldwide shame. After all, the Supreme Court once already considered a lawsuit to liquidate Memorial. At that time, the Ministry of Justice found fault with the statutory documents of the organization. But the Supreme Court heard the arguments of Memorial's defenders, among whom was the presidential HRC, and dismissed the claim. The world did not turn upside down, and Memorial calmly made the necessary amendments to its documentation. I am sure that even now such a plot is possible. There would be a desire.


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