‘Democracy Disrupted’: defend basic values from Putin


In his forthcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump should “demonstrate a strong defense of American interests and democratic values by standing firm on four key priorities: solidarity with NATO allies, Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity, enforcement of the Magnitsky Act, and the release of political prisoners and other victims of persecution in Russia,” said the democracy watchdog Freedom House, in an open letter to the US leader.

The president should also raise the case of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who has been on a hunger strike since May 14, 2018, said signatories* to a letter organized by PEN America.

Oleg Sentsov, the recipient of the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, was detained in May 2014 in his native Crimea and brought to Moscow on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism, the letter states:

On August 25, 2015, Oleg was sentenced to 20 years in prison….Oleg’s case has garnered support from around the world. In February, PEN America coordinated a global day of action for Oleg that saw events held in 24 cities across 16 countries. And in June more than 50 writers, artists, and activists signed a letter to President Putin calling for Oleg’s immediate and unconditional release. 

Europe’s “rising illiberal tide risks exposing NATO members to Russian subversion, thereby reducing the alliance’s cohesion and effectiveness, and weakening its important post-Cold War role as a consolidator and defender of democracy,” analysts suggest.

In power longer than any Soviet leader other than dictator Joseph Stalin, he’s come to symbolize a concept of managed democracy and conservatism that values political strength over individual freedoms, writes Bloomberg analyst Henry Meyer.

Putin’s Witnesses, a film by Russian director Vitaly Mansky and supported by Current Time, has won the Best Documentary prize in the Czech Republic’s 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, RFE/RL reports:
Described by Variety as a “riveting, incensed documentary” observing then-Russian Federal Security Service Chief Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, it will be screened for Russian audiences on Current Time, a 24/7 Russian-language digital and television network led by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in cooperation with the Voice of America. …Putin’s Witnesses draws on extensive, unpublished footage of Putin and his circle, at home and during the presidential campaign, shot by Mansky between 1999-2000 when he was the director for documentaries for Russian state TV. “It is impossible to imagine any other director getting this much unguarded access ever again,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter.

The UK information watchdog says its investigation into the nexus between data analytics, social media and political campaigning is now “the largest of its type by any data protection authority”. All of Britain’s main political parties, the various factions in the Brexit referendum campaign data brokers and management businesses, and even a company that provides advice and gift packs to mothers-to-be, are part of the probe, the Financial Times reports:

Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said the Information Commissioner’s Office had been “astounded” by the amount of personal data in the possession of the UK’s major parties. According to the [Democracy Disrupted] report, many political parties bought marketing lists and lifestyle information from data brokers “without sufficient due diligence” as to their activities. They also used third-party data analytics companies without checking if users had given consent for their personal information to be passed on and used for political purposes.

Russia connection?

The ICO report does not mention Russia but Ms Denham told the FT that “some information was accessed from other countries, including Russia”. But she added: “That said, right now we are doing an investigation to see if the access was legitimate or not — many of the players in this story did work in Russia.”

It has now been nearly four months since March 4, when Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a bench in the British town of Salisbury, @DFRLAB adds. The investigation to determine the culprits of the attempted murder remains ongoing, as is the disinformation campaign led by Russia’s state-funded news outlets RT and Sputnik and the Kremlin itself.

*Signatories included Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy

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