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Statement05 October 2021, 15:25

On September 29, 10 days after the Russian State Duma elections, the Ministry of Justice placed 20 regional coordinators and members of the Golos movement's Council on the Register of Foreign Media Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent: Artem Vazhenkov, Alexander Grezev, Yuri Gurman, Andrey Gusev, Vladimir Egorov, Vladimir Zhilinsky, Vladimir Zhilkin, Sofia Ivanova, Inna Karezina, Veronika Katkov, Ekaterina Kiltau, Vitaly Kovina, Polina Kostyleva, Lyudmila Kuzmina, Alexandra Ljubareva , Ilya Pigalkin, Sergei Piskunov, Mikhail Tikhonov.

The law was originally created against foreign media corporations, but was then used to target ordinary Russian citizens, who are not foreign media outlets, much less "foreign agents”. Of all the possible types of "foreign agent" status assigned by the Ministry of Justice, this one is the most dire.  The participants of Golos who have received this status will now be required to submit quarterly narrative and financial reports to the Ministry of Justice, where they must outline all their income and expenditures, as well as report on their activities. Each must also establish a legal entity, tag any publication they put out with a “foreign agent” label, including personal posts on social networks, and be audited annually as a foreign media outlet.

It is impossible to separate one's private life from what must be accounted for under this law. At the will of government agencies, the very identity of the individual is absorbed into the new status of "foreign media-foreign agent”. Officials force citizens to act as media outlets, without granting them journalistic rights.

There is an administrative and criminal liability for failure to perform the duties imposed by law. At the same time, the government itself does not need to prove that a citizen has foreign financing, nor that he or she meets the criteria for the mass media designation.

All of this contradicts the Russian Constitution as well as common sense. Bureaucrats speaking on behalf of the state violate the constitutional right to privacy, personal and family secrets, freedom of labor, and prohibition of forced labor.

Also on September 27, the Prosecutor General's Office declared the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), of which Golos was a member, undesirable in Russia. ENEMO had never observed or evaluated elections in Russia, but its activities now allegedly threaten the foundations of the constitutional order and security of our country. Golos was forced to send an application to ENEMO to withdraw from membership/participation in the organization. We directly link this ban to attempts to limit Golos' contacts with the international observer community.

On August 18, one month before the elections, the Ministry of Justice declared Golos the first unregistered public association to be given the label “foreign agent”. All this was accompanied by a large-scale campaign of slander against Golos and attempts to discredit civic election observation.

In fact, this is political repression in the sense described by Federal Law No. 1761-I "On Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repressions": political repression includes the deprivation or limitation of rights and freedoms of persons recognized as socially dangerous to the state or political system on class, social, national, religious or other grounds, carried out by court decisions or in an administrative order by executive authorities and officials.

We believe that these reprisals are a response to Golos' work in observing and objectively assessing the just-completed elections. We have reported on the disenfranchisement of nine million Russian citizens, documented the unjustified refusal to register candidates at all levels of elections, demonstrated the existence of censorship in the media and the abuse of administrative resources, and exposed voter coercion and fraud at polling stations. The authorities are also concerned about the continuation of our work to dismantle remote electronic voting.

The sole purpose of the described operation is to prevent Golos from continuing the human rights work we have been doing for more than 20 years.

It will indeed be difficult for us to work in this new environment. However, we will get through this, as we have done many times before, because we have the support of the Russian people.

Helping our comrades on the list of "foreign media-no-agents" to appeal these decisions, prepare reports. and undergo audits will require organizational and financial resources from us. We therefore ask for your financial support: We would be especially grateful if you would sign up for regular, albeit small, donations - this will ensure a stable operation. Don't be afraid - there is no punishment for helping.