Russia’s laws prevent posting about Amsterdam’s Canal Parade 2014

Yes, Putin really did leave Amsterdam in 2013 after visiting the Dutch-Russian year of friendship. But some of his influence might not have left. While Dutch visitors and many other EU-tourists might think little about any consequences of posting selfies of themselves dancing, with in the background a boat on which Conchita is surrounded by rainbow flags and cheering people. For Russian visitors of the Canal parade 2014 in Amsterdam though, this might be very, very different.

As for Russian citizens this is in fact forbidden under the Russian anti-gay law, passed in 2013. It introduces fines for propaganda of non-traditional sex relations to minors, including posting in the media and on the internet. In practice, the relation to minors may be just an excuse to make public display of homosexuality or displaying gay pride symbols like the rainbow flag, be considered illegal and a violation of Russian law.

Russia’s Bloggers’ law and more restrictions of internet-use

This development fits into a very recognisable trend as on one hand Putin’s regime increasingly tightens governmental control of the remaining media to profoundly voice the Kremlin’s allowed opinions and news. And on the other hand regularly imposes new laws to restrict the free use of internet and social media by the people.

One such a law, passed in April 2014, requires bloggers with more than 3.000 daily readers to register and confirm to regulations that allow Russian authorities to access the users’ information. The law came into force on 1st of August 2014 and is viewed as another step on legal grounds, to further restrain social networks like Facebook, twitter, livejournal, Vkontakte and Google.

Before that, another ‘profanity law’ demands heavy fines for using four common vulgarities in the arts, including literature, movies, plays and television. (The words, though not mentioned in the law, are crude terms for male and female genitalia, sex and a prostitute.)

In addition, in February 2014, another Russian internet law provides the government to block websites, and was immediately put into effect against voices like Alexei Navalny and Garry Kasparov and online news sites that reported on demonstrations and political activities.

And in April 2014, the founder of Vkontakte, Pavel Durov fled the country, for fear of refusing to provide the government personal account information about activists in Russia and Ukraine.

Many fear that these are very visible steps of closing down social media, independent voices, and further restricting freedom of internet-use in Russia.

Putin’s power reaches even into the Canal Parade in Amsterdam

Under these developments, it remains a question of how many Russian visitors to Amsterdam, and also viewed the Canal Parade might feel reluctant, very selective, or even downright afraid to post about it. And they might simply refrain completely from posting any photos, movies, or selfies of the event on their Facebook, Twitter, Vkontakte or Instagram-accounts. 

Surprisingly the Russian authorities might not really be their first concern, as the opinions and comments of family and friends on such selfies might be far more condemning and discouraging. This might actually be quite an eye-opener on what responses are evoked by a Russian visitor after posting about the Canal Parade Amsterdam 2014. And a very tough aftermath as to try to tell and explain what this day in Amsterdam was all about. More homophobic responses might also mean the idea and the purpose of the day - to point out and celebrate the importance of equality - is totally missed. And perhaps a Russian boat in 2015 might be a very interesting idea to consider.

In the meanwhile, our Russian visitor, may possibly think twice about posting a selfie in Amsterdam ever again. And in that way, Putin’s regime still is very present in Amsterdam’s canals in 2014.

Author: Ernstjan van Doorn, who viewed the 2014 Amsterdam Canal Parade with Russian friends





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