International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), together with 9 human rights, media and Internet freedom organisations, calls on Russian President Vladmir Putin, not to sign the so-called “Sovereign Internet Bill” as it will lead to further limitations of already restricted Internet and media freedoms in the country.
The bill (No. 608767-7) amends the laws “On Communications” and “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” and states its aim as enabling the Russian Internet to operate independently from the World Wide Web in the event of an emergency or foreign threat. On 16 April 2019, the Russian State Duma approved the bill in the third reading amid widespread domestic criticism, protests and online campaigning around the country, and on 22 April, the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, approved it. If signed by President Vladimir Putin, the bill would enter into force on 1 November 2019.
IPHR and other undersigned organisations are extremely concerned that the changes introduced in the bill threaten human rights and freedoms in Russia. Open, secure and reliable connectivity is essential for human rights online, including the rights to freedom of expression, information, assembly, privacy and media freedom. The bill could pose a threat to the Internet’s rights-enabling features if access to the World Wide Web is wholly or partially cut off, or if arbitrary blocking and filtering of content is carried out. It would facilitate state surveillance and curb anonymity online. It also risks severely isolating people in Russia from the rest of the world, limiting access to information and constraining attempts at collective action and public protest. The Bill’s negative impact on the freedom of expression will also affect the rights of journalists and media to work freely.
The adoption of the bill should be seen in the context of other Russian legislation that severely undermines protection of freedom of expression and privacy online and fails to meet international human rights standards. These include:
The President of the Russian Federation should reject the bill. The Russian Government should also review other Internet related legislation, abolish the above listed laws and bring its legal framework to full compliance with international freedom of expression standards.
Read the full statement here.