Putin signs bills banning fake news, insults

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed into law a series of bills criminalising persons who would spread “fake news” or “disrespecting” the state, in a move which, critics say, will curtail freedom of speech of criticising the government.

The new legislation allows Russian authorities to block websites or Internet accounts that publish what they deem to be “fake news” and penalises those who post material found to be insulting and distasteful to state officials, state symbols and Russian society.

According to the new law, individuals found publishing “fake news” will have to pay a fine of 100,000 rubles, while public officials will have to cough up 200,000 roubles. For corporate organisations, the fine has been set at 500,000 roubles, TASS news agency reported.

However, the new legislation mandates that news publications registered with Roskomnadzor (federal executive body responsible for overseeing the media), including online media sites, would be given a chance to take down reports deemed as fake news before their websites are blocked by the government.
Those companies not registered with Roskomnadzor will be blocked without warning, as per the law.

A fine of 100,000 roubles has been set for those who insult Russian authorities, government agencies, public, flag or the nation’s constitution.

Repeat offenders will face huge penalties and can be locked up for at least 15 days, according to TASS.

The lower and upper chambers of the Russian Parliament had approved the bills earlier this month.

The new legislation has been routinely criticised by prominent Russian journalists and public figures, saying it amounts to censorship. However, the Russian government has denied the same.