State Duma adopts bill on showing ‘disrespect’ for authorities on web

On January 24, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament gave a first-reading approval of the bill providing for penalties, including detention, for ‘indecently’ expressing disrespect for the authorities and symbols of the state on the Internet.

332 MPs, mainly those of the ruling United Russia, were in favour of the project, 44 voted against. Among the opponents there were deputies of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), a populist and nationalist association led by notorious Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Open disrespect’

Those involved in ‘expressing open disrespect in indecent form’ towards the public, state symbols (the national flag, emblem and anthem), the Constitution of the Russian Federation and power bodies (the president, parliament, government and courts) may get a fine of up to 5,000 rubles (about USD 15-76) or be placed under arrest for up to 15 days.

At the request of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) will be authorized to block web materials including insults without any court decision.

During the debate, the authors of the project, deputies of the United Russia faction pushed for introducing penalties for using obscenities and affronting state bodies and symbols. According to Communist MP Denis Parfyonov, the draft bill is of ‘repressive nature’.

Stifling mass media?

The project was slammed by human rights defenders, including Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society. It aims at stifling those media workers who are not so loyal to the authorities, reputed Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner believes.

On Thursday, the Duma adopted one more bill directly related to mass media issues. In accordance with it, persons distributing false information (‘fakes’) in mass media may face a fine of up to 5,000 Russian rubles or even spend up to 15 days in custody. Corresponding materials will be blocked within one day. Calling on the fellow lawmakers to support the project, The United Russia referred to EU countries’ introducing penalties for spreading fakes.

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