The Communications Ministry wants to grant civil registry access to Russia's federal media regulator, so it can audit media owners' relatives

18:45, 14 november 2017

Russia’s Communications Ministry has drafted legislation that would grant Roskomnadzor, the federal government’s media regulator, access to the country’s Unified Register of Civil Status Reports. In the amendment’s explanatory note, officials say regulators need the information to enforce Russian media laws, which restrict foreign ownership in Russian news outlets to 20 percent. The Communications Ministry says this also applies to “indirect control” exercised by relatives.

The magazine RBC asked Demyan Kudryavtsev, the board chairman of the newspaper Vedomosti, to comment on the legislation. After buying Vedomosti, Kudryavtsev was forced to transfer the asset to his wife, because he has Israeli citizenship, which he’s tried to renounce (though Israel doesn’t issue documents to record such requests).

“I don’t know anything about the Communications Ministry’s initiative,” Kudryavtsev told RBC. “But if it’s illegal to be somebody’s relative, it should apply to everything else. For example, a State Duma deputy who owns nothing because his factory is owned by his wife. If we’re saying that a person and their relatives are all one thing, then let’s see everything that way. If we did that, it’s not entirely clear what would happen with our state administrative system.”

Kudryavtsev refused to speculate on what the legislation could mean for Vedomosti’s current shareholders’ structure. “We’re not going to guess. We live in an ever-changing world,” he said.

Russia’s law limiting foreign ownership in Russian mass media outlets has been in force since the beginning of 2016. The adoption of the restrictions on foreign ownership forced out existing shareholders at several major news publications. Before Kudryavtsev, Vedomosti was co-owned by the publishing house Sanoma, the Dow Jones, and the FT Group.