ISSN 2330-717X

Two New Laws Will Take Back Much That Putin Appeared To Give n Decriminalizing Internet Posts – OpEd

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In eight days, two new laws will go into effect that introduce serious civil fines and even imprisonment for individuals and groups who don’t obey judicial orders to stop distributing information the government finds offensive, thus reversing the “softening” of the anti-extremist laws for which Vladimir Putin has been given so much credit.

The texts of the laws which go into effect on October 13 now have been published in the government’s Rossiiskaya gazeta (rg.ru/2018/10/04/fz348-dok.html), but they haven’t received as much attention as Putin’s announcement. Viktor Kuznetsov’s commentary on Versiya is an exception (versia.ru/v-rossii-uzhestochat-nakazanie-za-otkaz-prekratit-rasprostranenie-informacii).

The Versiya writer makes it clear that both individuals and media outlets who run afoul of their provisions face enormous fines, potential detention, compulsory work for the good of the community, and even up to one year in prison if they continue to distribute materials Russian courts object to.

Among the kinds of posts that would potentially run afoul of these new measures are those that courts say distribute “illegal” or “unreliable” information, a potentially expansive category that could be used to go after all those who now run afoul of the anti-extremism laws Putin has “softened” and more besides.

What is particularly concerning, Kuznetsov says, is that the new laws apply “not only to citizens but also to the media, one of the chief distributors of information on the Internet.” Those courts hold to be in violation of their orders will find it difficult to defend themselves. And that will have a chilling effect on them as well as on individuals going on line.

That is because the new laws specify that anyone or any institution that doesn’t stop distributing information courts object to “within the course of a single day” face the threat of being blocked and entered into a government list as someone distributing “prohibited information.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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