The Duma committee behind the bill terms its an effective step to stop websites that promote child pornography, suicide acts and drug promotion
July17, 2012: The Russian parliament, on Wednesday has passed a law that gives the State the power to disallow the appearance of blacklisted websites over the internet.
In addition, another bill was also approved that terms ‘libel and slander’ as a criminal act that could accompany up to 5 years of punishment. Amid strong criticism from opposition parties, the two bills finally got approval with the committee members considering it as a welcome step to combat the dissent in the country.
The introduction of bills received rave reactions from the deputies as well as commoners from across the nations. The deputies in the opposition opined on the bills sarcastically as they said, “the bills are introduced faster that they can read them”.
The head of Moscow Center of Media Studies, Alexander Morozov too expressed is concern over the laws. He stated,
“It is always argued that these laws are against extremism, child pornography, and so on, but this legislation will hit the opposition and freedom of political expression,”.
Certain critical lawmakers also didn’t restrain from comparing the Russian parliament with “secretarial office” of the Kremlin after it gave the green signal to the restrictive laws.
Yet another critic, Alexei Navalny, who is the opposition figurehead and a renowned anti-corruption blogger, posted in his blog that the bill would restrict the web into a “Zombie Box”, which is a term for national TV in opposition slang.
However, those in the favor have a different story to tell. According to the administrative body that is the mastermind behind the bill drafting, i.e, the all-party Duma committee, after the bill was passed said, “it is necessary to combat websites that carry child pornography, drug promotion material and advice on suicide. ”.
The head of the committee, Yelena Mizulina, further expressed his views regarding the widespread criticism of the law as he said, “Critics of the bill were falsely attempting to accuse the authorities of internet censorship”. “There is no censorship here,” she said .
Notably, her statement came just a day after Wikipedia’s Russian-language version suspended its online appearance in a protest against the bill. It posted a statement in Russian-language whose English translation is given as below:
Lobbyists and activists supporting the amendments, argue that they are directed exclusively against the content such as child pornography “and things like that,” but to follow the provisions and wording to be discussed, will result in the creation of a Russian analogue of the “Great Chinese Firewall.” The practice of law, which exists in Russia, says a high probability of worst-case scenario, in which access to Wikipedia was soon to be closed across the country.
The site however was back to business on Wednesday as the bill got approval in the Parliament with hardly any public discussion or debate. It just expressed its concern over the issue as it wrote, “Imagine a world without free knowledge,”.
In the meantime, the bill that is all set to be signed in the coming November by Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has also aroused concerns from the US State Washington.
The US spokesman Patrick Ventrell, addressing the media in a statement said, “As Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton has noted, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right ‘to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’,”.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, too was critical about the law who is himself an avid social networking enthusiast. Talking to the officials of his ruling party, United Russia, he told, “The basic principle is that the internet should be free”.
“But it should also observe people’s basic rights and laws, including the right to information, but also the right to protection from harmful content.”, he said. Following into his footsteps, Kremlin’s own human rights council has also come down heavily on the bill that said “the law would see a new electronic curtain descended on Russia. ”
We can only hope that the bill does not gets a final nod else, it would be difficult for the people to access the internet the way they wish to and additionally the law could also pose a question mark on their right to freedom of expression.
Using a VPN could well come to their rescue in such a tragic situation. Still, it would be better if the bill doesn’t see the light of day or is tweaked a little bit to make it more lenient before it gets the final approval.
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