Is Propaganda Protected Speech?


Is state-sponsored disinformation a protected form of free speech? How do we define its limits and what is the available recourse when it harms people and institutions? On June 28, 2019, at The Hague, Free Russia Foundation hosts an important discussion on the dichotomy between speech rights and state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.

As part of this event, we will unveil the new report by the U.S. Library of Congress “Limits on Freedom of Expression”, examining the scope of protection extended to freedom of speech in thirteen selected countries: Argentina • Brazil • Canada • China • France• Germany • Israel • Japan • Netherlands• New Zealand • Sweden • Ukraine • United Kingdom. The report focuses on the limits of protection that may apply to the right to interrupt or affect in any other way public speech. The report also addresses the availability of mechanisms to control foreign broadcasters working on behalf of foreign governments.

The conference will feature an exhibit of two prominent Russian photographers – Denis Bochkarev and Konstantin Rubakhin – taking a close look at the Russian society and youth.

Free Russia Foundation

Alexander Morozov: New Russian emigration wants to get rid of the regime’s pressure

Recent developments in Russia show two trends in relation to the Russian-speaking communities in Europe. On the one hand, a formation of a new way of the Russian emigration is taking place. On the other hand, Russian communities abroad become subjects of targeted Kremlin policies aimed at foreign compatriots. In our short interview ICELDS discusses these issues with Alexander Morozov, a well-known Russian political scientist and a co-director of the Prague-based Boris Nemtsov Academic Center for the Study of Russia established at the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University.

ICELDS: Following the aggression against Ukraine, a special focus is made on how the Kremlin can take advantage of the Russian-speaking communities outside Russia. How do you assess the danger of using these tactics in the new geopolitical situation?

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How the Kremlin will influence the Ukrainian elections

The main goal of the Kremlin in relation to the elections of 2019 is not to strengthen a “party of compromise”, but to present new evidence that Ukraine is a failed-state. This is not only because the concept allows the Kremlin to avoid the Minsk settlement.

The Elections in Ukraine — Presidential (March 2019), Parliamentary (September 2019) are the single most important events in the internal politics of the Kremlin. Since 2014, the entire Russian domestic policy were strongly dedicated to Ukraine — TV news and political talk-shows discussed about issues in Ukraine day after day, the entire agenda of Russia’s relations with the world was tied to the “Minsk settlement agreement”, the participants in the campaigns on the occupation of the Crimea and the invasion of Donbass continued to play important roles in Russian domestic and International politics.

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Waiting for Constantinople’s historical decision on Church autocephaly in Ukraine

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has reached an important milestone. Not only is Constantinople’s promise to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church decisive for Ukraine, but it is also important for Europe as a whole.

When Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas in 2014, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before the issue of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine would once again be on the agenda.

And so it is… In April, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople officially accepted the appeal to grant the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, a document that would allow a significant part of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful and churches to quit the Moscow Patriarchate and become one of the legitimate Local (Autocephalous) Churches.

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Expert comment: Toxic money from Kremlin: where is the red line?

An estimate of “toxic” economic presence from Russia in the US and EU has significantly changed in 2017. Shock of western societies from actions of Kremlin in Crimea in 2014 led to sanctions regime, halt to big deals (such as on sale of French warship Mistral) and downturn to trade volumes between European Union and Russian Federation by 50% in 2014-16. During this period some European industrial entities and politicians while criticizing annexation publicly spoke about ineffectiveness of sanctions. Most prominent voices came from Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

This led then Vice President Joe Biden to say in September 2016 that five EU countries are not firm in their stance on sanctions. But events linked to electoral campaign of Donald Trump led to a radical change of situation. Throughout 2017 a completely new background for perceptions of Kremlin on global stage was formed in the West.

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The Kremlin’s so-called “partners”

For the Kremlin’s friends in the west, the reality of Russia’s actions is finally sinking in.

This text originally appeared in Russian on Colta, a leading Russian platform for comment and discussion. Colta is funded by donations – find out how you can help here.

Before Crimea, everyone “cooperated with the Russians”. And until mid-2016, no one knew what to think or do with this history of cooperation. Sanctions hardly made a dent in this “cooperation regime”.

But beginning with the US presidential elections, important changes are taking place — and it’s hard to know what to call them or how to describe them. Externally, we see that people who were supposed to communicate with “the Russians” are losing their positions. And this is accompanied by public scandals. It’s not the case that these people cooperated with some questionable goals in mind, but they’d come into contact with a taboo — zashkvar in Russian criminal slang.

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