Putin Signs Law to Punish Nebulous Internet 'Extremism' in Russia

Russia continues its war on freedom as Moscow passed a law that says people could receive a prison sentence for supporting extremist activities online. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law on Monday.

However, the extremist activities were not specified, which means the law could be interpreted to range from terrorism to disagreeing with the current regime. The Moscow Times said Professor Vyacheslav Dmitriyev was arrested “for reposting an article about a theoretical coup d’etat on a social network.”

A person could be arrested just for liking something on Facebook. From The Moscow Times:

The law also entails the addition of a new article – "financing of extremist activities" – to the Criminal Code.

Those found guilty of providing or collecting funds for an organization known to be preparing an extremist crime will face up to three years in prison, as well as up to 500,000 rubles ($14,700) in fines and being barred from holding certain positions.

Public incitement of extremism – including in the media and on the Internet – will get the offender up to five years in prison.

Anyone found guilty of organizing the activities of a group deemed by the authorities to be extremist will also face time behind bars: up to eight years in prison and up to 500,000 rubles in fines.

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media watchdog, compiled a list of more than 2,000 websites vulnerable so far.

Putin has been on a rampage against free speech and expression but really escalated censorship after Ukraine’s Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on February 22. Moscow shut down three news websites critical of the Kremlin and the blog of longtime opposition leader Alexei Navalny. On March 12, Lenta.ru’s chief editor Galina Timchenko resigned, but employees said she was fired because she defied the Kremlin and published an interview that quoted the Right Sector Party’s leader. Moscow identifies the group as extremist and a threat to Russia. The next day many employees resigned in protest of her firing and censorship efforts from Moscow. Kommersant reporter Anastasia Karimova posted her resignation letter on Facebook and Instagram. She left because of censorship and said there is no acceptable work in Moscow for journalists.

Kommersant Ukraine was shut down by its Russian publisher due to lack of funds, but a source told The Kyiv Post it was over censorship. In April, the US accused Russia of censorship when Moscow shut down Voice of America.

On May 6, Putin passed a law that outlaws profanity in the arts. This law is as vague as the newest law and does not define exactly what is considered profane, but if one is found guilty, he or she could be fined. The language law echoes an essay by Leon Trotsky, a Marxist revolutionary, called “The Struggle for Cultured Speech.”


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