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Russians could face fines for condemning government's actions on the Internet

Before Russian leader Putin approves the bill, it has yet to be endorsed by the upper chamber of the Parliament
18:08, 7 March 2019

b-online.ru

Russia is on the way to approving a new law, designed to punish those making public protests against the government policies on the Internet.

'Although established TV, radio and print outlets are already subject to penalties for spreading false reports under the watchful eye of Russian media authority Roskomnadzor new legislation will target online media and private individuals. But critics fear the amendment, passed Wednesday by Russia's lower house, the Duma, could also be used to suppress undesirable content. The new legislation will also open up the possibility of prosecuting online operators and private individuals for disparaging or insulting government agencies and other state authorities', DW wrote in its article on the matter.

Related: SBU blocks 300 Internet sources used by Russia against Ukraine

Whilst the Russian MPs stress it's merely about public safety, not freedom of speech, some experts warn that law could lead to crushing the freedom of public expression of thought - to a certain extent. 'The powerful are taking action against information they perceive as a threat," said Iliya Grashchenkov, political scientist and the teacher at the Russian University of Humanities.

'He also argues the law could further divide Russian society because it could be used to selectively target private individuals, while potentially corrupt civil servants escape criticism out of public fear it could be seen as an insult. Other online critics agree, adding that the wording of the new law is deliberately vague, giving judges plenty of room to move in any given case. But Russia's judiciary is not independent. In practice, especially in politically charged cases, judges are bound by instructions from above', the article concludes. 

Related: Russia opposes U.S. project on providing Internet to remote corners of world

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