Russia Broadens Definition Of Treason (Financial Times)

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From the article:

“Even the transmission of information on election fraud could be construed as state treason,”

Russia broadens definition of treason (Financial Times, Oct 23, 2012):

Russia has broadened its definition of treason, in a move prompting fears that state authorities will have a new weapon to clamp down on the press and non-governmental organisations.The law was passed on Tuesday by the lower house of parliament, one of several pieces of legislation overseen by President Vladimir Putin and seemingly designed to clamp down on political opposition.

The changes and additions to an existing law on state secrets will make it illegal not only to pass on state secrets but also to receive, transmit or publicise them.

“It is a very worrying situation, you could become a traitor or a spy without even knowing it,” said Igor Kolyapin, head of the Nizhny Novgorod-based Committee Against Torture.

“Anyone who does not have access to state secrets does not, by definition, know what is secret and what isn’t. How thus can they thus be understood to carry responsibility for this?”

The legislation strengthens an existing treason law and makes it a crime to divulge sensitive information not just to foreign governments, but to international organisations.

It also makes it easier to prosecute treason cases – formerly prosecutors had to show “hostile intent”, but that has been substituted for easier to prove criteria where they merely have to show a threat to state security.

Under the new legal definition, someone providing the European Court of Human Rights information on abuses in Russia, for example, could be prosecuted for revealing state secrets, said Pavel Chikov, head of Agora, the human rights group.

“Even the transmission of information on election fraud could be construed as state treason,” he said.

Parliamentarians from the ruling United Russia party defended the law, saying it had been reworked to reflect earlier criticism that it was too broad.

Pavel Krasheninnikov, a parliamentary deputy from the party, was quoted by Ria Novosti, the state news agency, as saying the latest version of the law had been rewritten to avoid being “too expansive in its interpretation”.

The law was originally submitted in December 2008 in the aftermath of the short war between Russia and Georgia, but was quietly shelved by the relatively liberal President Dmitry Medvedev.

However, it has been revived after Mr Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term in May.

Andrei Soldatov, a journalist who covers Russia’s security services, said the laws had apparently had the desired effect of producing a chill in the political climate and self-censorship among journalists and experts.

“The government doesn’t need to implement this law, they just need to pass the law and everyone will become more cautious,” he said.

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