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silencing critics
March 18, 2019

New legislation banning "fake news" and making it illegal to "disrespect" the government online has just been signed into law in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation that says fines of up to 1.5 million rubles, or about $23,000, can be imposed for spreading "unreliable socially significant information," Bloomberg reports. It also bans exhibiting "blatant disrespect" online for Russia or its "authorities, the public, the Russian flag or the constitution," per Reuters. Showing this "blatant disrespect" can result in fines or jail time.

Under the bill, a state media watchdog can block websites that will not remove material that is determined to be in violation of the law, per The Washington Post. Critics fear, The Straits Times reports, that the legislation "is vaguely worded and would have large scope for abuse," allowing Russian officials to easily silence critics.

One expert told the Post that this new law "gives the prosecutor's office an extremely high authority and almost completely eliminates the Russian (albeit completely non-free) courts from the game," while another warned it gives the prosecutor general "essentially unconstrained authority to determine that any speech is unacceptable under the new law." Brendan Morrow

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