23 Apr 2019 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 23 Apr 2019 n° 36/2019 Russian Federation

Russia: President Putin Signs into Law Russia’s “Fake News” and “Internet Insults” Bans

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner CPJ AEJ Index RSF
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Partner CPJ AEJ Index RSF
The legislation allows courts to jail and fine people who use the internet to spread "fake news" or disrespect government officials and state symbols. The laws also allow Russian authorities to block websites that publish the offending material. Under the provisions of the signed laws, people found guilty of publishing "indecent" posts online that demonstrate "disrespect for society, the state, [and] state symbols of the Russian Federation" or for government officials would face up to 15 days in administrative detention. Individuals, including journalists, who post "fake news" could be hit with fines of up to 100,000 rubles (more than €1,350), while fines for public officials may reach up to 200,000 rubles (more than €2,700), and companies could be penalized as much as 500,000 rubles (about €6,875). The legislation gives the media watchdog Roskomnadzor the power to determine what constitutes "fake news". It defines "fake news" as any unverified information that "threatens someone's life and (or) their health or property, or threatens mass public disorder or danger, or threatens to interfere or disrupt vital infrastructure, transport or social services, credit organisations, or energy, industrial, or communications facilities." The law also obliges internet service providers to block access to content that "offends human dignity and public morality". It states that publications officially registered with Roskomnadzor, including online news outlets, will be given a chance to remove reports that the watchdog deems "fake news" before those sites are blocked, whereas websites not registered with Roskomnadzor can be blocked without warning. The law on online insults allows authorities to order fines of up to 100,000 rubles (about €1,375) for offending authorities, government agencies, the Russian state, the Russian public, Russia's flag, or the Russian Constitution. Second-time offenders may be fined up to 200,000 rubles (about €2,750) or serve up to 15 days in jail. It says those who violate the law more than twice will be fined up to 300,000 rubles (about €4,125) and spend up to 15 days in jail. Websites will be given 24 hours' notice to remove insulting material or face being blocked. On 2 April 2019, Roskomnadzor ordered the editorial offices of several news websites based in the city of Yaroslavl to remove reports on graffiti insulting President Putin on the grounds that they were "disrespectful," the first use of a recently passed law banning disrespect towards the government or public officials.
23 Apr 2019
New Russian laws could further limit media freedom, says OSCE Representative Harlem Désir.
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