The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, approved a bill in the final, third reading, which introduces fines for publishing materials showing disrespect to the state, its symbols and government organs. Repeat offenders could face a 15-day jail sentence.
The Duma also endorsed a separate bill that will block anyone publishing “fake news” online, that is perceived to threaten public health and security. The bills are expected to quickly pass in the upper house before President Vladimir Putin signs them into laws.
The legislation also imposes restrictions on online media. The bill bans the spread of “unreliable socially-important information” that could “endanger lives and public health, raise the threat of massive violation of public security and order or impede functioning of transport and social infrastructure, energy and communication facilities and banks.” The bill gives those who publish such information a day to correct or remove it. If they fail to do so, prosecutors will move to block them.
Critics termed the legislation as part of Kremlin efforts to stifle criticism and tighten control. However, embers of the main Kremlin faction, the United Russia, who drafted the new legislation, argued that they were needed to protect the state.