Novye Izvestia, which is part of the media empire controlled by the dissident oligarch Boris Berezovsky, reported today that the country’s Interior Ministry is drawing up a number of amendments to Russia’s security law that would put significant limitations on citizens’ access to the Internet. According to Novye Izvestia, the Interior Ministry’s proposed amendments include mandatory registration of Internet users with the Interior Ministry’s organs–that is, the police. Thus to purchase a modem or to install a direct link to the Internet in your home (such as a DSL line), you would first have to receive permission to do so from your local police department. The police, in turn, would issue such permissions only on the basis of corresponding OK’s from your local housing commission and even your neighbors. On top of this, the government would charge a fee for permission to use the internet. Novye Izvestia claimed that the Interior Ministry specialists who are drafting these amendments are also seeking to institute a provision requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to inform the authorities about the number of their users. This, according to the paper, would require ISPs to install new equipment at their own cost. Novye Izvestia said that the Interior Ministry was in the process of drafting these amendments and gave no indication when or even if they might be put into effect (RBK, NTV.ru, February 1).
The Interior Ministry was quick to deny the Novye Izvestia report, with its press service saying that that no one had introduced such amendments or planned to do so. Likewise, Aleksei Rudakov, deputy head of the legislative division of the Interior Ministry’s main legal department, told the Gazeta.ru website that his ministry can only draft a given law or amendment at the behest of the government, which then decides whether or not to introduce it. Rudakov said that amendments like those described in Novye Izvestia would have to come through his office, and he had not seen anything of the kind. In addition, Gazeta.ru cited an unnamed source in the Cityline ISP as casting doubt on the Novye Izvestia report. “The rumors about frightening new documents for control over access to information are, of course, in the interests of Novye Izvestia, which is controlled by Boris Berezovsky, who is trying in every way to give the current Russian administration the reputation of Big Brother,” Gazeta.ru wrote. Last week, Berezovsky’s TV-6 was shut down on the orders of the Press Ministry. At the same time, the website noted that Russia’s special services and law-enforcement agencies already have the right to monitor Internet traffic using a technology known as SORM, which ISPs have been required to install at their own cost (Gazeta.ru, February 1).
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin vetoed a bill this week that would have prevented the retroactive application of a law prohibiting foreigners, foreign companies and individuals with dual citizenship from owning 50 percent or more of television companies that broadcast to more than half of Russia (Moscow Times, January 31). The veto is likely to make investment in Russia’s media market less attractive to foreigners. Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly that last year took control of NTV television away from Vladimir Gusinsky’s Media-Most group, claims it wants to sell NTV and get out of the media business altogether. A number of foreign media interests are said to be eying NTV, reportedly including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Ted Turner, Vivendi Universal, Bertelsmann and Central European Media Enterprises. The latter belongs to Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder fortune (Forbes, February 4).
BEREZOVSKY SAYS THERE’S NO WAY HE’LL BE EXTRADITED.