Russian draft law restricts foreign ownership of news aggregators to 20%

The new draft law – amendments to Russian law on information, its protection and informational technologies – has been introduced to Russian state duma. These amendments aim to limit permissible ownership share in news aggregators, operating in Russia, for foreign persons. All major Russian-baked news services – Mail.ru and Yandex.News – do not comply with proposed requirements.

What is the rationale and reason of draft law? The explanation note, accompanying the draft law, states that the owners of news aggregators, as well as owners of mass media and audio-visual services carry out very important public function – they disseminate publicly available information to wide audience and they “have information impact on Russian citizens on regular basis”, therefore “the Russian law should make similar requirements on them”, perhaps the legislator confused words “relevant” or “appropriate” with word “similar”. But who really know what the legislator was thinking about.

The main purpose of new law is to restrict “participation” of foreign capital in news aggregators operating in Russia. The law proposes new restrictions on foreign capital in order to prevent threat to public order and thus to create enabling environment for development of civil society in Russia. The proposed law aims to ensure independence for dissemination of news in Russia from foreign political forces.

What the law is about? First of all it provides the requirements to the owner of news aggregator. The foreign state, international organisation, overseas legal entity, Russian legal entity with foreign participation, foreign citizen, stateless person, person with double citizenship (one is Russian and one is of other state) are not eligible to be the owner of news aggregator operating in Russia. Any of such person can’t be owner, can’t control, directly or indirectly, such service. Under certain conditions any of such person don’t even have voting right.

Russian internet watchdog – Roskomandzor – is supervising authority, it would control whether news aggregators, operating in Russia, comply with this law. If news aggregator does not comply with this law the access to such news aggregator is to be restricted by ISP at the RKN’s request. News aggregators, who do not comply with this law, would have six months “to bring everything in order”.