Russia Proposes Restricted Access to Land Registry

In a move that angered Russia’s anti-corruption activists, Russia’s Economy Ministry has proposed restricting access to the Unified Land Registry (EGRN), a database widely used by journalists and campaigners to uncover corruption in the country’s elite, Vedomosti reports.

The parliament’s website has published the bill, which would introduce fines of up to 400,000 rubles ($6.150) for publishing, sharing, or selling information from the registry. It will be debated in parliament following a public appraisal.

Critics say the legislation falls in line with attempts to restrict access to information in the wake of several high-profile investigations into official corruption and note previous attempts by authorities to restrict access to sensitive data capable of revealing the undeclared assets of powerful figures.

“This bill strictly regulates the rights of those who possess information to use it freely and distribute it as they wish,” Ilya Shumanov, deputy director of Transparency International Russia, told Vedomosti, adding that anyone who accesses information that doesn’t concern state secrets from a government registry should be allowed to legally distribute it.

In 2015, the Federal Security Service backed legislation that would anonymize the personal data of real-estate owners, but it foundered in parliament after the Justice Ministry warned that it would endanger property rights. In 2017, the Duma passed amendments that limited the publication of officials’ details and those of their family members to instances when their express permission was granted.

A description of the new bill on the parliamentary portal presents the initiative as a response to complaints from Russian citizens about “duplicate websites” that allegedly present fake information acquired from the EGRN register.