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Legal Jamming

Over at Transitions Online, Aleksandr Kolesnichenko writes about the increasing pressure against radio station owners out in the far-flung regions of Russia carrying content from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who can even sometimes face criminal charges and the applications of bizarre regulatory infractions.  This tool box of legalism à la carte, the same kind we saw utilized in the Yukos case, is becoming more and more central to the authoritarian apparatus, with prolific uses in new areas.

“The Soviet authorities used to jam Radio Liberty and the Voice of America. Now, they actually revert to jamming, but using different, quite legal tools. They are creating a certain information climate in the provinces, while all independent information has been channeled to the Internet,” said Aleksei Simonov, president of Russia’s Glasnost Defense Foundation, a free press advocacy group. (…)

In fall 2005, Rossvyazkomnadzor ordered all RFE/RL partners to “bring broadcasting activity into line with license terms.” Most partners’ licenses did not allow them to transmit RFE/RL programs.

“Although the order was legitimate, there were only two ways to comply,” Glushkova said. The stations could take programs off the air or they could ask Rossvyazkomnadzor to change their licenses, which are valid for five years. “Most of our partners tried to introduce changes into their licenses. A few went so far as to file the necessary papers. All those who applied for changes had their requests turned down,” Glushkova said.