Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Is Propaganda Protected Free Speech?

Jul 24 2019

On June 28, 2019, Free Russia Foundation hosted a conference Finding Practical and Principal Approaches to Countering the Kremlin’s Influence Campaigns While Upholding Sanctity of Free Speech at the Hague, Netherlands.

On June 28, 2019, Free Russia Foundation hosted a conference Finding Practical and Principal Approaches to Countering the Kremlin’s Influence Campaigns While Upholding Sanctity of Free Speech at the Hague, Netherlands.

See the full agenda
Download the speakers’ bios

At the conference, FRF unveiled a new report by the Congressional Research Service Limits on Freedom of Expression, which examines the scope of protection extended to freedom of speech in thirteen selected countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. This report focuses on the limits of protection that may apply to the right to interrupt or affect in any other way public speech. It also addresses the availability of mechanisms to control foreign broadcasters working on behalf of foreign governments.

Panelist for this conference included moderators Leon Willems, Michael Weiss, Kristina Vaiciunaite, and Daniel Mitov, as well as, many other human rights activists, legal experts, authors, journalists, media experts, etc. who weighed in on the concept of protected free speech and worked together to articulate measures for countering disinformation.

The event was punctuated by the keynote remarks delivered by David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech, and Richard Hoogland, D66 Board member International Cooperation.

Panel One

Panel one featured presentations by Leon Willems, Roman Dobrokhotov, Vasily Gatov, Luke Harding, Thomas O. Melia, Peter Pomerantsev, and Olga Romanova who discussed practicalities of finding a balance between protecting free speech and combating disinformation campaigns by Russia. Speakers highlighted the limits of fact-checking. According to the new evidence from neuroscience research, audience rejects the corrected information once the disinformation has previously been delivered. Instead speakers suggested contracting propaganda with personalized positive stories that affect emotions rather than the rational mind. It is also critical to follow strict guidelines of providing accurate information and avoid acting like Russian sources. Finally, there was a consensus on the panel that media too shares a responsibility as an agent of democracy for what types of narratives it highlights regularly (negative over positive).

Panel Two

Speakers of the second panel included victims of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign: Vladimir Kara-Murza, Marina Litvinenko, Alena Balaba, Tatiana Gerasimova, Martin Kragh, Ilona Sokolova, and Liz Wahl. The discussion examined real cases of individuals targeted by Russian-state sponsored disinformation campaigns and the effects it had on them personally and the defense strategies they used against it. The speakers discussed the role the Kremlin played in labeling those who disagree with its policies as traitors and how that has dehumanized them and put a target on their back. Martin Kragh shared stories of victims of disinformation who had to deal with loss of jobs, threats against their lives and the lives of their families.

Panel Three

Jens-Henrik Jeppesen, Oleg Kozlovsky, Jeremy Lamoreaux, Joanna Szymanska, Nathalie Vogel, and Ilya Zaslavskiy spoke on the tactics and mechanisms of disinformation, and examined ways to protect social media platforms and the impact of inauthentic digital content. The discussion included evaluation of the current EU Commission’ approach to disinformation such as defining the disinformation narrowly as verifiably false information designed to mislead the public for political or commercial reasons and its inclusion in the code of conduct. Although the collaboration efforts among the EU member states against propaganda have been remarkable, panelist agreed on the critical need to expand coordination beyond the countries in the EU. Oleg Kozlovsky highlighted the importance of raising public awareness of the disinformation campaigns, particularly among the children and following the example of Finland, which recently introduced strategies for reading newspapers in the curriculum.

Panel Four

The fourth panel speakers Ralf Fuecks, Jelger Groeneveld, Padraig Hughes, David Kaye, Miriam Lexmann, Scott Martin, and Marko Mihkelson discussed legal and policy mechanisms for combating state disinformation. While for the nations within the European Union the mandate to uphold freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, dominates the discussion: there are certain limits and legal precedents where speech is either infringed upon or not well defined. The speakers in this panel, all legal and human rights experts, addressed the clash of enumerated individual speech rights against the boundaries of collective rights of a state actor; and discussed cases where states and other governing bodies such as the U.N. and the E.U. had established limits on hate speech, defamation and libel, and articulated anti-obscenity laws; because of these established limits and precedents it can be used to limit the harm rendered by state-sponsored propaganda. Finally, the panelists articulated legal recourse options available to those targeted by disinformation campaigns. Padraig Hughes, for example, weighed in on the litigation around defamation without harming free speech tenets, which is more nuanced than legislating. David Kaye raised the issue of legislating transparency such as the rules and nature of enforcement. Miriam Lexmann brought attention to the underlying problem and incentive of disinformation which is that disinformation is a business model: It does not serve local interests but rather seeks to reap profit. Similarly Scott Martin discussed that disinformation bases itself off of an economic model but he calls for regulation to deal with these issues, specifically international regulation.

The conference was followed by a closed working lunch moderated by Melissa Hooper, to gather and solidify concrete policy recommendations. The discussion focused on finding recommendations on how to combat Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts. The attendees articulated strategies for countering state-sponsored propaganda all while having to maintain a balance between upholding free speech and limiting the damage of disinformation campaigns. They then evaluated whether the existing law can be used to establish limits on damaging speech and the need for new remedies to curtail the purveyors of propaganda.

On June 28, 2019, Free Russia Foundation hosted a conference Finding Practical and Principal Approaches to Countering the Kremlin’s Influence Campaigns While Upholding Sanctity of Free Speech at the Hague, Netherlands.

See the full agenda
Download the speakers’ bios

At the conference, FRF unveiled a new report by the Congressional Research Service Limits on Freedom of Expression, which examines the scope of protection extended to freedom of speech in thirteen selected countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. This report focuses on the limits of protection that may apply to the right to interrupt or affect in any other way public speech. It also addresses the availability of mechanisms to control foreign broadcasters working on behalf of foreign governments.

Panelist for this conference included moderators Leon Willems, Michael Weiss, Kristina Vaiciunaite, and Daniel Mitov, as well as, many other human rights activists, legal experts, authors, journalists, media experts, etc. who weighed in on the concept of protected free speech and worked together to articulate measures for countering disinformation.

The event was punctuated by the keynote remarks delivered by David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech, and Richard Hoogland, D66 Board member International Cooperation.

Panel One

Panel one featured presentations by Leon Willems, Roman Dobrokhotov, Vasily Gatov, Luke Harding, Thomas O. Melia, Peter Pomerantsev, and Olga Romanova who discussed practicalities of finding a balance between protecting free speech and combating disinformation campaigns by Russia. Speakers highlighted the limits of fact-checking. According to the new evidence from neuroscience research, audience rejects the corrected information once the disinformation has previously been delivered. Instead speakers suggested contracting propaganda with personalized positive stories that affect emotions rather than the rational mind. It is also critical to follow strict guidelines of providing accurate information and avoid acting like Russian sources. Finally, there was a consensus on the panel that media too shares a responsibility as an agent of democracy for what types of narratives it highlights regularly (negative over positive).

Panel Two

Speakers of the second panel included victims of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign: Vladimir Kara-Murza, Marina Litvinenko, Alena Balaba, Tatiana Gerasimova, Martin Kragh, Ilona Sokolova, and Liz Wahl. The discussion examined real cases of individuals targeted by Russian-state sponsored disinformation campaigns and the effects it had on them personally and the defense strategies they used against it. The speakers discussed the role the Kremlin played in labeling those who disagree with its policies as traitors and how that has dehumanized them and put a target on their back. Martin Kragh shared stories of victims of disinformation who had to deal with loss of jobs, threats against their lives and the lives of their families.

Panel Three

Jens-Henrik Jeppesen, Oleg Kozlovsky, Jeremy Lamoreaux, Joanna Szymanska, Nathalie Vogel, and Ilya Zaslavskiy spoke on the tactics and mechanisms of disinformation, and examined ways to protect social media platforms and the impact of inauthentic digital content. The discussion included evaluation of the current EU Commission’ approach to disinformation such as defining the disinformation narrowly as verifiably false information designed to mislead the public for political or commercial reasons and its inclusion in the code of conduct. Although the collaboration efforts among the EU member states against propaganda have been remarkable, panelist agreed on the critical need to expand coordination beyond the countries in the EU. Oleg Kozlovsky highlighted the importance of raising public awareness of the disinformation campaigns, particularly among the children and following the example of Finland, which recently introduced strategies for reading newspapers in the curriculum.

Panel Four

The fourth panel speakers Ralf Fuecks, Jelger Groeneveld, Padraig Hughes, David Kaye, Miriam Lexmann, Scott Martin, and Marko Mihkelson discussed legal and policy mechanisms for combating state disinformation. While for the nations within the European Union the mandate to uphold freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, dominates the discussion: there are certain limits and legal precedents where speech is either infringed upon or not well defined. The speakers in this panel, all legal and human rights experts, addressed the clash of enumerated individual speech rights against the boundaries of collective rights of a state actor; and discussed cases where states and other governing bodies such as the U.N. and the E.U. had established limits on hate speech, defamation and libel, and articulated anti-obscenity laws; because of these established limits and precedents it can be used to limit the harm rendered by state-sponsored propaganda. Finally, the panelists articulated legal recourse options available to those targeted by disinformation campaigns. Padraig Hughes, for example, weighed in on the litigation around defamation without harming free speech tenets, which is more nuanced than legislating. David Kaye raised the issue of legislating transparency such as the rules and nature of enforcement. Miriam Lexmann brought attention to the underlying problem and incentive of disinformation which is that disinformation is a business model: It does not serve local interests but rather seeks to reap profit. Similarly Scott Martin discussed that disinformation bases itself off of an economic model but he calls for regulation to deal with these issues, specifically international regulation.

The conference was followed by a closed working lunch moderated by Melissa Hooper, to gather and solidify concrete policy recommendations. The discussion focused on finding recommendations on how to combat Russian propaganda and disinformation efforts. The attendees articulated strategies for countering state-sponsored propaganda all while having to maintain a balance between upholding free speech and limiting the damage of disinformation campaigns. They then evaluated whether the existing law can be used to establish limits on damaging speech and the need for new remedies to curtail the purveyors of propaganda.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Signing of the Treaty on the “Incorporation of New Territories into Russia,” De Facto the Annexation of the Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Sep 30 2022

On Friday, September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” as well as the occupation administrations of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, signed treaties in the Kremlin on “joining Russia.”

Free Russia Foundation strongly condemns the decision of Vladimir Putin and his administration to continue the illegal annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine. The forcible change of international borders at the expense of another sovereign state and the so-called “referenda” that preceded it are a serious violation of the foundations of international law and cannot be recognized under any circumstances.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation: “Today Vladimir Putin has de facto announced the illegal annexation of the occupied territory of a sovereign state. The signing of this treaty is a blatant violation of the fundamental norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, of which Russia is a member. Such actions by the Russian President, together with previously announced military mobilization and nuclear blackmail, only lead to an escalation of the conflict and new human sacrifices. In the modern world, borders cannot be redrawn at gunpoint. Russia’s actions are illegal and unacceptable to the civilized world.”

Free Russia Foundation, which provides support to Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, calls on all countries and international organizations to join us in resolute and public condemnation of Russian military aggression and its illegal actions to tear away the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We urge you to call on the Kremlin to cease its hostilities and leave the territories it has seized.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Kremlin’s Decision to Annex the Occupied Territories of Ukraine and Preparations for Mobilization in Russia

Sep 20 2022

On September 20, 2022, the occupation authorities of the self-proclaimed republics “LNR” and “DNR” and other occupied territories of Ukraine, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, hastily announced that they would hold “referendums on joining Russia” in the near future. The authorities of the “LNR” and “DNR” added that the vote will take place as early as this week, from September 23 to 27, 2022.

On the same day, the Russian State Duma introduced the concepts of “mobilization,” “martial law” and “wartime” into the Russian Criminal Code. The deputies voted for the law in the third reading unanimously — all 389 of them. Now voluntary surrender, looting and unauthorized abandonment of a unit during combat operations will result in imprisonment.

From the first day of the war unleashed by Putin’s regime and its allies against independent Ukraine, Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights activists forced to leave the country because of direct security threats, has condemned the crimes of Putin’s regime against independent Ukraine. We respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and consider human life and freedom to be of the highest value.

The forthcoming “referendums”, mobilization, and martial law are a collapse of the whole system of “Putin’s stability,” the illusion of which the Kremlin has been trying to maintain since the beginning of the full-scale war with Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is preparing to blatantly violate international law once again and launch an attack on democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe. Any statements by the Kremlin that residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine want to become part of Russia are false.

Three decades ago, the Ukrainian people proclaimed the independence of their state. Since 2014, the world has seen that Vladimir Putin has undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and any attempts at anti-war protest in Russia through military force, repressive legislation, false statements, and massive state propaganda. Despite all the suffering inflicted on Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve this goal: Ukrainians continue to show fortitude and determination to defend their country at any cost, and Russian anti-war resistance continues despite repression.

We consider any attempts to tear away Ukrainian territory through so-called “referendums” categorically unacceptable and call on state institutions and international human rights organizations to join the demand for an immediate end to the war and the liberation of the occupied territories. Any war brings suffering to humanity and endangers peace. We will not allow a totalitarian dictatorship to prevail and we will continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence and Russia’s democratic future.

Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Vladimir Milov as Vice President for International Advocacy

Sep 01 2022

September 1, 2022. Washington, DC. Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Russian politician, publicist, economist, and energy expert Vladimir Milov as FRF Vice President for International Advocacy.

In her announcement of Vladimir’s new role, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome this distinguished Russian civil society leader to our team. I am certain that Vladimir will become our force multiplier and make a profound contribution to FRF’s mission, including strengthening civil society in Russia, standing up for democracy defenders who oppose war, both inside and outside the country, building coalitions and mobilizing supporters. Vladimir Milov’s professional skills and extensive experience in human rights advocacy will help us come up with effective and innovative approaches to combat the authoritarian regime and repression that the current Russian government has unleashed against citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Vladimir Milov was born on June 18, 1972. From 1997—2002 he worked in government agencies, more than 4 years of which were in senior positions, from assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Commission to the Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia.

Vladimir Milov has bravely and publicly called out the authorities for monopolizing the economy, and encroaching into public and political life of Russian citizens. Milov’s profile as an opposition leader rose thanks to his joint project with Boris Nemtsov. The report titled “Putin. Results,” condemned the activities of the Russian government during Putin’s presidency. In 2010, Mr. Milov headed the Democratic Choice movement, which later served as the basis for the creation of a political party with the same name.

In 2016, Mr. Milov became an associate of the unregistered presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. On May 11, 2017, he began hosting a weekly segment on the economy, “Where’s the Money?” on the NavalnyLIVE broadcast on YouTube.

In April of 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania amidst persecution of Alexei Navalny’s organizations. In February of 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Vladimir Milov to the list of media outlets considered as “foreign agents.” Vladimir Milov is a regular guest expert for the world’s leading media outlets — CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal.

Kara-Murza faces a new charge as the Kremlin cracks down on its opponents

Aug 04 2022

Russian pro-democracy politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who’s been in jail since April for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, now also stands accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” which names Free Russia Foundation in the newly filed charge.

Free Russia Foundation, unconstitutionally designated as an “undesirable” organization by the Russian government in June 2019, did not organize an event on political prisoners in Moscow in 2021. FRF does not have any presence or programs inside Russia. Additionally, FRF has never conducted any work in the State of Arizona.

FRF strongly condemns the new charges brought against Vladimir Kara-Murza by Russian authorities and demands the dropping of all charges against him and calls for his immediate release.

“All actions of the Kremlin directed against Russian opposition politicians and activists have nothing in common with establishing the truth. They are instead aimed solely at getting rid of opponents of Putin’s regime,” FRF President Arno stated.

Free Russian Foundation and Boris Nemtsov Foundation launch “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign

Jul 25 2022

Russia is not Putin. We are Russia.

We aim at sharing this message with our friends around the world — therefore, in cooperation with Boris Nemtsov Foundation we are launching “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign.

We are going to be telling the stories of active pro-democracy anti-war Russians who have not lost their hope. US nationals also participate in this campaign: Francis Fukuyama, investigative journalist Casey Michel, and alumni of Boris Nemtsov Foundation media school.

Thank you for your donation:

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom honors the political legacy of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian liberal opposition politician assassinated in Moscow in 2015. It promotes freedom of speech and education along with the vision that Russia is a part of Europe.