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Russian writers, journalists and rights activists qualified the bill on fake news as “direct censorship” - REUTERS

14.03.2019, 10:09
Russia’s human rights council and a group of over a hundred writers, poets, journalists and rights activists called on the upper house of parliament on Tuesday to reject the law on new fines for people who insult the authorities online or spread fake news, as REUTERS reported. Prominent cultural figures published an open letter (cited by Colta.ru) describing the bills as an unconstitutional “open declaration of the establishment of direct censorship in the country”. Human rights council member Ekaterina Schulmann said the legislation, which the lower house of parliament approved in January, duplicated existing law and added that it could be applied arbitrarily because its wording was so vague. One bill proposes fining people up to 100,000 rubles ($1,525) for showing “blatant disrespect” online for the state, authorities, public, Russian flag or constitution. Repeat offenders could be jailed for up to 15 days. The second draft law would give authorities the power to block websites if they fail to comply with requests to remove information that the state deems to be factually inaccurate. Individuals would be fined up to 400,000 rubles ($6,100) for circulating false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order”. Lawmaker Andrei Klishas, from Putin’s United Russia party and one of the authors of the bills, said false reports that inflated the death toll at a fatal shopping mall fire in Siberia last year illustrated the need to tackle fake news. “This kind of thing must be screened by the law,” he said. The bills - which now require only President Vladimir Putin’s signature before becoming law - received broad support in the upper house, days after thousands rallied to protest at tightening Internet restrictions. According to REUTERS
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