Stephen Fry, Tina Brown, 'GoT' Writers Condemn Political Repression in Russia

Stephen Fry – H – 2018
Credit: Getty

Cultural and political VIPs have signed an open letter condemning Moscow for calls on Western tech giants, such as Facebook and Google, "not to succumb" to Russian authorities' pressure.

British actor Stephen Fry, legendary magazine editor Tina Brown and Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have joined several dozen international cultural and political VIPs in signing an open letter protesting political repression in Russia.

The letter, also signed by former chess grandmaster and famed dissident Garry Kasparov, Nobel Prize winning novelist Herta Müller and British author and commentator Timothy Garton Ash, condemns "widespread lawlessness, the arrest of political opponents, violence by police officers against peaceful residents, the unlawful detainment of children [and] threats to parents" in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

The issue of political repression has been especially acute in Russia recently, following a series of protest rallies that hit Moscow's streets in late July and early August. The demonstrations, sparked by the city authorities' decision to ban several opposition candidates from legislative elections Sept. 8, were brutally crushed by riot police. Numerous people were arrested and sentenced to prison terms for their alleged involvement in the protests, which Moscow has called illegal.

The case of young actor Pavel Ustinov, who was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison Monday on the charge of assaulting a police officer during the rally, has caused public outrage. Several VIPs from the Russian film and TV industry have called for his release. Ustinov claims he was an innocent bystander and was not even taking part in the demonstration when riot police grabbed him.

The open letter also calls on major international companies operating in Russia to stand up for democratic rights and freedoms.

"Russian authorities are trying to force such companies, from Facebook to Google, to comply with domestic laws that stifle civil society," reads the letter. "We consider this pressure to be illegal and call on the international business community not to succumb and to demand political independence when operating in Russia."

For the last few years, Russian authorities have been trying to make global tech giants comply with a law stipulating that Russian's personal data should be stored inside Russia. So far, Facebook and Google have not complied.

Fry has long been concerned about human rights issues in Russia. Back in 2012, he called for stripping Russia of the 2014 Winter Olympics because of its anti-gay laws.