Govt rejects proposal to ban mentioning terrorists’ religion in mass media

© Vitaliy Belousov
The Russian government has rejected an initiative from the Chechen legislature to ban any mention of terrorists’ religion in mass media, under threat of criminal prosecution and a prison sentence.

The cabinet has already forwarded its negative review to the lower house, which published it on its official website. In the document, the government experts said that the proposal contradicts the Russian Constitution.

In particular, the ban on public reports about the ethnicity or religion of a certain group of people, such as those involved in terrorist activities, is against the article of the Constitution that guarantees equal rights and freedoms to all citizens regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion or political inclinations.

READ MORE: Russian Muslims denounce ISIS as ‘enemies of Islam’

The State Duma Committee for Information Policy, which is working on the bill, has not yet developed its own position on the matter, the RBC news agency reported, quoting unnamed parliamentary sources. The source gave the possible deadline for consideration of the draft as this May.

The proposal to impose the restriction originated in the Chechen Republic in December last year. Its sponsors claimed that any mention of terrorists’ ethnicity or religion by journalists could be considered “instigation of ethnic or religious hatred” and should carry the same punishment, which is currently up to five years behind bars.

The authors of the bill also emphasized in their explanations that it was wrong to describe the members of the Islamic State terrorist organization (IS, previously known as ISIL/ISIS) as “Islamic terrorists” or “representatives of the Islamic State.” This provision mirrors the stance of a large number of Russian imams who in 2015 urged their parish not to use the word ‘Islamic’ when referring to IS, and instead suggested rendering the IS abbreviation as “Iblis State” – after the name of the Devil in Muslim tradition.

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Also in 2015, two major Russian Muslim unions issued fatwas against IS, denouncing the group as enemies of Islam and calling for the trial and punishment of all its members.

Since December 2014, Russia has officially recognized Islamic State and the affiliated group Al-Nusra Front as terrorists. All Russian citizens are banned from participating in these organizations or rendering any support to them under threat of criminal prosecution. The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier called on all nations to recognize the two groups as terrorists, in line with resolutions passed by the UN Security Council.