SOVA Center: Speaking out over the internet is becoming increasingly criminalized in Russia

The SOVA Center for Information and Analysis reported the tightening up of measures for those speaking out on the internet.

A report by the center’s expert, Natalia Yudina, released on Tuesday by Mediazona, states that in Russia, there have been 194 convictions for statements on the internet that were recognized as extremist, (84 per cent of the total number of similar sentences), whereas in 2014 there were only 138.

The Russian human rights organization, Agora, also noted the increasing number of criminal prosecutions of internet users – from 132 persons in 2014 to 203 in 2015.

According to human rights activists, the main reason for this is the “reorientation of law enforcement agencies towards the prosecution of those who are easier to find and against whom it would be easier to initiate proceedings to improve anti-extremist reporting.”

“That is on the internet where, in general, independent public debate and the opposition of political agitation are possible including, of course the agitation of various kinds of radical groups. And this is a matter of concern for authorities. And such concerns will inevitably lead to sanctions in this area,” the expert from SOVA concluded.

The SOVA Center notes that various legal mechanisms may be used, but existing anti-extremist legislation in Russia which is “too broad and undetermined” is ideal for the imposition of further sanctions.

  Russia, Internet