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27 Jun, 2008 00:45

Russian press still waiting for new media law

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, is expected to reject a plan to change the country's media laws on Friday. The amendments suggest giving the authorities more power to close down news outlets if they commit acts of libel or slander. Alt

It’s aimed to give authorities more power to silence the Russian media and extend the definitions of libel and slander. However, a media libel bill that was on its way through the lower house of parliament now looks certain to be buried for good.

President Dmitry Medvedev stepped in to scrap the bill earlier this month and now even the man behind it seems to have admitted defeat.
“The President suggested excluding my bill from consideration and, most likely, the voting will support this. I think it still could have been changed and enacted. The bill wasn’t against journalists but the editorial staff, who I think should be held more liable for published material,” said State Duma Deputy Robert Schlegel.
While Schlegel’s proposals may have been pulled, there is a consensus that the law on mass media needs updating, having been passed 17 years ago in the last days of the Soviet Union.
A working group has been drafted in to tackle the task, but even they won’t be making amendments

“The bill itself was legally incompetent and its place is in the dump of history. The working group will now suggest ways to improve the law on mass media. It’s not about changing but rather developing the legislation,” said Mikhail Fedotov, a member of the working group on the new mass media bill.

So journalists on Russian TV, radio stations and newspapers now have to wait to see if there are to be any new laws affecting the way they work.

Whatever the working group propose, journalists are keen to stress there should be no confusion as to what is top priority.
“We need to move towards more freedom of the press, there is a lack of it in Russia and it is absolutely necessary for society. But it’s a process which should involve all the institutions of society,” said Vladimir Sungorkin, Editor of Komsomolskaya Pravda.