Russia: ARTICLE 19’s ‘undesirable’ status is only about silencing Russians

Russia:  ARTICLE 19’s ‘undesirable’ status is only about silencing Russians - Civic Space

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As civic freedoms in Russia continue to decline, ARTICLE 19 has become the latest in a long line of civil society organisations now deemed – in law – as ‘undesirable’ to the Russian State.  

The designation, which was made public on 12 February 2024 – and in a presidential election year –has serious ramifications for the people of Russia.  It will grossly harm their ability to access, participate in, or hold in their personal possession information published by an organisation that has been deemed ‘undesirable’.  Not only that, anyone found with materials can retrospectively be challenged in court for possession of such material.

Holding the status of ‘undesirable’ under Russian law is supposed to cover any foreign non-governmental organisation that constitutes a threat to the constitutional order of Russia, or national security, or national defence capabilities. It has been used in recent years as a blatant tool to cut off debate and discussion between people in and outside Russia.

ARTICLE 19 has worked on freedom of expression around the world for over 35 years, advocating for the advancement of international standards, press freedom, and the security of journalists. We stand for a world where all people, everywhere, can realise the power of their voices without fear or discrimination, something that is all but lost in the authoritarian state of Russia today.  

Our work calls for a more open, inclusive and participatory civic space aligned with international standards, to which the Russian State professes to align with, through the UN system.  The new designation for ARTICLE 19  means that any Russian who dares to hold a relationship with us, through partnership or programme work, or access materials we produce through media and the internet, is considered a threat to national security.  

Russia ranks towards the bottom of ARTICLE 19’s Global Expression Report index, at position 141 out of 161 countries.  Due to the extraordinary and consistent decline in freedom of expression for the Russian people, ARTICLE 19 has been prepared for the possibility that it would find a place on the list of undesirables at some point: we have had alarm bells ringing for quite some time.   

However this situation is not about us.  Our concern is for all Russians who stand up to the dangerous precedents conceived in the Kremlin in the last 20 years, and which are now embedded in the machinery of state.  These instruments will continue to see the criminalisation and silencing of individuals who simply wish to access their rights under international law.  Rights, it is worth noting, the Russian State claims to support.  

We stand in solidarity with the dissidents, the exiles and the protesters who know a silenced civil society is not an expression of the Russia they want to see.