A senior Russian diplomat dismissed as groundless Western partners’ attempts to link media pluralism and freedom of expression with foreign ownership of media in the country.
Andrey Kelin, Moscow's Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was speaking at a meeting of the OSCE permanent council in Vienna.
“It is not for the first time that we hear that there are crackdowns on freedom of expression and of the media in Russia,” Kelin said, commenting on some critical remarks about a new law limiting foreign ownership of Russian media holdings, signed by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
“It’s a pity that our partners simply turn a deaf ear to detailed information we have provided at previous meetings of the permanent council regarding the situation in this sphere in Russia,” the diplomat was quoted as saying on Russia's Foreign Ministry website.
“Attempts to link media pluralism and freedom of expression with the share of foreign stakeholders are groundless at least,” Kelin said, adding that “the Russian journalistic community have shown understanding of new legislative changes.”
The diplomat recalled that similar restrictions existed in many countries of the world. For example, Canada has set a 20% limit of foreign ownership in broadcasting media. The United States allow foreigners to control no more than 25% of television and radio broadcaster. France will not allow non-EU citizens and companies to possess more than 20% of its mass media.
The European Union and the United States ignored suspension of Russian channels in Latvia and Lithuania, the situation with media freedom in Ukraine, and pressure on journalists and their dismissals in those countries, Kelin said.
The high-profile law setting a 20-percent restriction on the share of foreign stakeholders in Russian mass media and a ban on foreigners’ role of co-founders of media outlets was published on Russia's official web portal for legal information on Wednesday.
The idea of such amendments to the Russian law on mass media was proposed by deputies from Russia's Communist Party, Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party. Previous legislation set no restrictions on foreign persons’ or entities’ participation in print or on-line periodicals. A 50-percent cap was applicable only to stakes in television and radio broadcasters.
The law specifically stipulates that the restrictions on foreign presence in the mass media are effective unless an international treaty to which Russia is a party provides otherwise. The Mir (World) interstate radio and television broadcaster jointly sponsored by Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Moldova, and the television company of the Union State of Russia and Belarus are examples of such exemptions.
The new rules will take effect on January 1, 2016, giving media owners until February 1, 2017 to adjust their ownership structure.