Russian MPs approve legislation punishing for fake news & insults directed at the state

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RT, Russia Today
March 7th, 2019

Spreading fake information and insulting the Russian state could result in hefty fines for individuals and organizations, according to a new law, adopted by the lower house of parliament in the final reading.

The new legislation includes two bills, dedicated to different types of misinformation.

One bill prohibits spreading “socially important” false information which “endangers life and well-being of citizens,” incites mass disturbance of social order or breaches public security. Minor infringements will apparently not be punished.

The bill suggests fines up to 400,000 rubles ($6,000) for private individuals, up to 900,000 rubles ($13,645) for public officials and up to 1.5mln rubles ($22,000) for organizations. The law doesn’t criminalize disinformation activities even if they result in death or major disruption.

The other bill deals with “insulting the state or its symbols,” which could result in varying fines up to 300,000 rubles ($4500) and administrative punishment. This legislation became a hot topic in Russia as many feared it would penalize people for speaking out against authorities.

However, the legislation’s sponsors argued that it won’t apply to criticism in “any form,” just that which is “blatantly insulting.”

President Vladimir Putin has previously said that “almost every country has [laws]” protecting state symbols.

The new law, however, doesn’t apply to traditional media – those officially registered as media – or news aggregators, which are regulated by separate legislation.