Putin tightens control of independent media with Russian blogging law

M. Scott Brauer - Russian opposition political activist and blogger Alexey Navalny prepares to be arrested during an unsanctioned anti-Putin demonstration in Lubyanka Square in central Moscow, Russia. Moments after this photo, police grabbed Navalny from the crowd and arrested him.  He was later released.  The protests come a year after protests in 2011 calling for fair elections and an end to corruption in Russia.  Navalny, a lawyer and political and economic activist, is known for his political blog on livejournal, which he has used to organize anti-corruption and anti-Putin demonstrations.
M. Scott Brauer – Russian opposition political activist and blogger Alexey Navalny prepares to be arrested during an unsanctioned anti-Putin demonstration in Lubyanka Square in central Moscow, Russia. Moments after this photo, police grabbed Navalny from the crowd and arrested him. He was later released. The protests come a year after protests in 2011 calling for fair elections and an end to corruption in Russia. Navalny, a lawyer and political and economic activist, is known for his political blog on livejournal, which he has used to organize anti-corruption and anti-Putin demonstrations.

After my participation in the US-Russia Young Media Professionals Exchange in late 2012, I’ve been keeping an eye on news regarding media and journalism in Russia. The latest development is a new law requiring bloggers to register with the state if they have more than 3000 visitors daily. Taking a page from other internet-censoring countries such as China and Iran, Russian bloggers with an audience that size (which is remarkably small…dvafoto frequently hits that number through our various outlets) cannot operate anonymously and must maintain an archive of their previous 6 months of posts on Russian soil. The law is widely seen as a move to stifle dissent.

Another Russian internet law, which went into effect on Feb. 1, 2014, was immediately used to shut down the blogs of well-known dissidents Alexei Navalny (seen in my image above; blog link) and Garry Kasparov (wiki). And these laws led Pavel Durov, founder of Russian Facebook-clone VKontakte, to leave the country rather than comply with orders to turn over information about political activists in Russia and Ukraine.

This follows 6 months or so of efforts to shut down or marginalize independent media in Russia. One of the biggest independent voices in Russia media, Telekanal Dozhd (TV Rain), was dropped by almost all cable providers around the country. Moscow City Court revoked the license of independent online news agency Rosbalt. Lenta.ru‘s progressive editor-in-chief was fired, and almost half of the staff lost jobs as new editors friendly to the Kremlin were brought in. The long-time director of prominent liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy was forced out and replaced with a Kremlin supporter. Putin dissolved state news agency RIA Novosti, which had been known for semi-independent reporting. I could go on, but the Committee to Protect Journalists page on Russia is a good resource to learn more.

On the subject, here’s a great overview of newspaper culture in Russia that includes a timeline of major events in the history of the Russian newspapers.

And at Wired’s Raw File blog, by the way, you can see my photo essay focusing on state-run media in Russia.

Defamation, Girls, and pictures through a window: recent legal news affecting photography and copyright

There’ve been a bunch of legal developments in the world of photography and copyright in the past couple weeks. Here are a few things that have been on my radar that all have relevance to freelance and staff photographers in the US:

UPDATE: Judge rules commercial drone use legal in USA (updated)

“A ruling by an administrative law judge on Thursday held that the Federal Aviation Administration lacks clear-cut authority to ban the commercial use of drones in the continental U.S.” -Wall Street Journal

In January, I wrote about the legal issues of using drones for journalism in the US. This week, administrative law judge Patrick Geraghty struck down a $10,000 FAA fine against Raphael Pirker, a drone videographer, stemming from the 2007 filming of a University of Virginia advertisement using a 5-pound drone. The judge stated that the FAA lacks authority to regulate commercial drone usage, and as such, could not fine Pirker for his drone usage. The judge’s decision can be appealed. The Wall Street Journal also reports that the FAA is considering case-by-case waivers to its ban on commercial drone usage.

I’m very curious to see how drone usage evolves in the US and elsewhere. It could mean a lot for journalism and Facebook has plans to use 11,000 drones to facilitate internet access throughout Africa. As the ACLU has been documenting, however, police agencies across the US are using drones for surveillance and data collection.

UPDATE March 10, 2014: The FAA has appealed the decision, saying, “The agency is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground.”