The Russian State Duma is seen in Moscow on September 19, 2021. The Duma recently expanded a law criminalizing the distribution of so-called "fakes." (Alexander Nemenov/AFP)

Russian government expands law banning ‘fakes’

New York, March 22, 2022 – In response to the newly proposed legislation penalizing the distribution of “fakes” concerning the Russian government’s activities abroad, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Russian legislators and President Vladimir Putin should drop new amendments banning so-called ‘fakes’ and allow free reporting about the war in Ukraine,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “The Russian public deserves to know what their state agencies and army are doing in Ukraine. Penalizing the dissemination of factual information under this pretense of calling it fake news is pure censorship, and only deepens the country’s crackdown on the media.”

On Tuesday, March 22, the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s legislature, adopted amendments to the criminal and administrative codes that would impose fines of up to 5 million rubles (US$48,245) and prison terms of up to 15 years for those convicted of disseminating “fakes,” or information that authorities deem to be false, about the actions of Russia’s government bodies abroad, according to the website of the Duma and multiple media reports.

The new amendments cover the actions of government bodies including Russian embassies, the prosecutor’s office, the Federal Guard Service, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, and others, according to those reports. The bill will next go to the upper house of parliament, and will become law if signed by President Putin.

The legislature previously adopted amendments earlier this month imposing prison terms for spreading “fake” information specifically about the Russian military, which Putin enacted into law, as CPJ documented and media reported.