Russia’s efforts to flood the media landscape in both the United States and the European Union with hacked emails and fake news have been well documented. Less known are Russia’s own moves to drain its information space of news and facts that do not conform to Kremlin narratives.
Russia has long handed out criminal penalties to individuals and entities for circulating information on Russian territory that authorities deem to be “false.” This policy enjoys legal sanction in the form of an executive order – On the Approval of the Doctrine on Informational Security of the Russian Federation – signed by President Vladimir Putin last December. The order effectively acknowledges that the supremacy of the state’s version of events is a vital national interest. Accordingly, information portraying Russia’s government and its policies in a “biased” manner threaten the nation’s information security, the document states.
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Bakhtiyor Avezdjanov is a program officer for Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, an initiative seeking to advance understanding of the international and national norms and institutions that protect the free flow of information. Prior to joining Columbia University, he worked with the UNHCR in Sudan, as well as in Kyrgyzstan for Freedom House, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Tian Shan Policy Center at the American University of Central Asia. He has focused on issues concerning free speech, torture prevention, and refugee rights.