Putin has made it illegal for Russians to insult him online

  • 22/03/2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial set of Bills that make it a crime to insult government officials, including himself.

The legislation also makes it a criminal offense to publish what the Putin regime deems 'fake news' online.

People who break the new rules may be fined up to 1.5 million rubles (NZ$34,000) for publishing false information and 300,000 rubles (NZ$6800) for insulting the president or government, according to the Moscow Times.

Repeat offenders could face up to 15 days imprisonment.

Critics say the new laws are being rushed through Russian parliament, are not properly thought out and represent a new level of censorship.

The legislation will impact on international platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, reports the Hollywood Reporter, as they may be required to identify and police what the Kremlin considers 'fake news', removing examples of content deemed to be breaking the rules.

More than 100 journalists, authors and human rights activists have signed a petition opposing the law.

The Kremlin denies the new laws amount to censorship.

"This sphere of fake news, insulting and so on, is regulated fairly harshly in many countries of the world, including Europe," Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Moscow Times.

"It is therefore of course necessary to do it in our country too."

British human rights organisation Article 19 says the new laws "create a powerful instrument to control journalism".

"In the context of a continuous crackdown on freedom of expression in Russia,  this legislation, if passed, would constitute another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition. It must be withdrawn," said Article 19 spokesperson Sarah Clarke.

The bills, which amend existing information laws, have passed both chambers of Russian parliament overwhelmingly, in less than two months.


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