New York, April 22, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on President Vladimir Putin to veto a new bill that would subject popular bloggers to the same restrictions as traditional media in Russia. The bill was approved by Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, in a final reading today.
The bill would apply to blogs with more than 3,000 daily visitors. As with other laws recently adopted in Russia, the language of the bill is broad and open to wide-ranging interpretation and selective implementation by government agencies. It bans bloggers from using their platforms for “committing crimes, divulging state secrets, publishing extremist materials, as well as propagating pornography, the cult of violence, and cruelty,” according to local press reports. They would also be banned from using swear words, the news agency Itar-Tass reported.
The bill would also require the bloggers to publish their real names and contact details, news reports said. They would be allowed to publish only confirmed information and could be punished for distributing “unchecked facts,” the news website Lenta reported. Punishment for violating the law would range from a fine of up to 500,000 rubles (US$14,000) to suspension of blogging activities for up to 30 days.
“We call on President Vladimir Putin to veto this restrictive bill that, if passed, will censor the remaining independent voices in Russian media,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “The broad restrictions laid out by this legislation invite both its abuse by Russian authorities to silence their critics and self-censorship on the part of bloggers in order to avoid potential repercussions.”
The proposed legislation comes amid a series of steps to restrict independent reporting in Russia. Kremlin pressure has prompted the firing of the heads of some media outlets, while authorities have blocked access to several independent and pro-opposition news websites and the personal blogging platform LiveJournal. A law signed by Putin on January 30 allows government agencies to block without court approval Internet publications that “contain calls for unsanctioned acts of protest.” With the space for independent online news media rapidly shrinking, individual bloggers have filled the void.
If signed into law, the new bill will go into effect on August 1, the Russian press reported.