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Russia tightens up legislation against fake news & insults directed at authorities

Russia tightens up legislation against fake news & insults directed at authorities
Russian legislators have tackled the much-dreaded issue of fake news, and disrespect towards state, by adopting a couple of bills against them. Misinformation offenses, however, won’t be criminalized and will only warrant fines.

The proposed legislation has received the overwhelming support of State Duma deputies, who approved them on Thursday in the first reading.

One of the bills prohibits publication of “socially important” false information, which “endangers life and well-being of citizens,” incites mass disturbance of order, disruption of infrastructure, and so on. Minor infringements will apparently be left unpunished.
The second bill prohibits publication of material, which “insults” the state and its symbols in an “obscene” fashion. The legislation shields the constitution, state symbols and all the branches of the state’s authority, from insults.

The legislation does not mean that the citizens would be penalized for speaking out against the authorities. Such criticism is a “necessity,” one of the legislation’s sponsors, Senator Andrey Klishas said earlier, and it can be made in “virtually any manner, except for blatantly insulting.” When asked by reporters how exactly one can tell criticism from an insult, Klishas explained the former is supposed to contain a “positive suggestion” of sorts.

The bills, however, do not criminalize the aforementioned offenses, suggesting only administrative – and arguably mild – measures against the violators. The spreading of “socially significant” fake news can result in a fine of up to 5,000 rubles ($75) for citizens and up to 1 million (over $15,000) for organizations. Insulting the state and authorities can also result in varying fines, as well as land a misbehaving person in jail for up to 15 days of administrative detention.

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