Lawmakers in Russia Recommend Internet Regulation

censorship.  Source: vestnikmostok.ruRussia’s Public Chamber, which oversees draft legislation and advises the Parliament, has upheld recent legislation that would regulate information on the internet. Members of the panel, which was formed by President Vladimir Putin in 2005, met at an extended session of the Committee for communications, informational policy and freedom of speech in the media. As the Gazeta newspaper reported on April 17th, the group discussed legislation introduced by prosecutors that would put controls on cyberspace and attempt to keep the web free of immoral and unethical materials.

Pavel Astakhov, a celebrity attorney that leads the “For Putin!” movement, voiced support for the law. He added that the suggested measures seemed more lenient than laws in the West: “Here, only acts that lead to material loss, which must be proven, are punished, while in other countries, the accountability sets in for any attempt to inflict such an act.”

The Chair of the Information Policy Commission of the Federation Council, Lyudmila Narusova, also voiced support for stricter control of the internet.

“The lack of legal regulation of the Internet leads to terrorist propaganda and to the publication of recommended methods on how to assemble a ‘shahid’s belt’ [a belt of explosives that is worn by Muslim suicide bombers],” she said. “The Government is obligated to keep citizens out of harm’s way, and any talk of censorship is groundless.” Narusova believes that the draft law could help prevent a wide range of crimes, including child pornography and pedophilia.

Senator Vladimir Slutsker, a Federation Council delegate from Chuvashiya who introduced his own version of an internet regulation bill in February, said that a new law was needed since the relevance of the regular law on mass-media was questionable. “It is not clearly written into the law itself, and [cases] are now given up to the buy-out of the courts.”

Nearly all the speakers agreed that controls on the internet must be reinforced. One of the few dissenting voices came from Mikhail Fedotov, a Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, who co-authored Russia’s the original draft law on mass-media. Fedotov is certain that there is no need to institute any new restrictions regarding extremism and other specific crimes on the internet. “What if the salesman killed the customer,” he asked, “would we try him using the law ‘On the protection of the rights of the customer?’”

Fedotov asserted that a single amendment to the law on mass-media, which would allow for prosecuting slander on the web, would suffice.