• Sunday, Sep 27, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:52 pm

Putin signs laws against 'disrespecting' authorities, fake news

  • Published at 12:40 am March 20th, 2019
Russian President Vladimir Putin
File Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an inauguration ceremony of power stations in the cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol through videolink during his visit to Sevastopol, Crimea, March 18, 2019 Reuters

Another piece of legislation allows authorities to decide what amounts to 'fake news' and gives a media watchdog the power to demand an outlet delete the information

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed controversial laws that allow courts to fine and briefly jail people for showing disrespect towards authorities, and block media for publishing "fake news."

Putin signed off on the legislation against the advice of human rights activists, who warned the laws amounted to censorship and would be abused to further crack down on freedom of speech.

The law on disrespecting authorities backs punishment for "offending state symbols" and stipulates hefty fines and jail terms of 15 days for repeat offenders.

Another piece of legislation allows authorities to decide what amounts to "fake news" and gives a media watchdog the power to demand an outlet delete the information.

Websites that fail to comply would be blocked.

Fines could reach over $22,700 if the infraction leads to grave consequences like death or rioting.

Rights activists say that since first becoming president in 2000, Putin has gradually crushed freedoms in Russia, muzzling critics and bringing television under control.

The new legislation takes the crackdown on civil society to a whole new level, they say.

Critics say the legislation is vaguely worded and would have large scope for abuse, further complicating the difficult and sometimes deadly work of rights activists and opposition journalists in Russia.

The Kremlin is stepping up media control to counter a fall in Putin's approval rating amid mounting economic trouble, according to activists. 

"These new prohibitions and punishments are not just a continuation of the repressive legislative and practical measures that began in 2012," Yuri Dzhibladze, president of the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, told AFP.

"This is a completely new level which almost literally repeats the Soviet-era law about 'activities undermining the Soviet system' and 'anti-Soviet campaigning and propaganda'."

The authorities unleashed a major crackdown on dissenters after Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 in the face of mass protests.

"From now it will be police that will decide what fake news is and what's not," said Alexander Cherkasov of Memorial, a top rights group. 

"This will lead to a violation of civil rights and freedoms."

'Hating in silence'

Moscow on Monday marked the fifth anniversary of Crimea's annexation from Ukraine, a move condemned by the West but celebrated by most Russians.

Mikhail Fedotov, the chairman of the Kremlin's human rights' council, told AFP that the legislation had "numerous flaws" and his group had asked the president to reject it.

Even the usually pliant media criticised the new laws.

"Authorities want people to hate in silence," mass-circulation tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets wrote ahead of the signing last week.

"The authorities' desire to gag their subjects is a very old, shameful and meaningless desire."

In 2018, Putin was elected to a historic fourth term in office with a record vote share amid increasing international isolation.

But the 66-year-old Russian president's popularity ratings have taken a beating due to a controversial pension age hike and falling living standards as a result of tough Western sanctions over Ukraine and other crises.

Last month Russian lawmakers backed a bill that could cut off the country's internet traffic from servers abroad, which critics say is a possible step towards an isolated network like in North Korea.

blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail