March 7, 2014
The Russian newspaper Izvestia reports the Russian Duma is drafting amendments to the criminal code that will allow the Putin government to prosecute journalists as terrorists.
The law will establish administrative and criminal liability for media executives who “allow publication of false anti-Russian information, provide information and support to extremist anti-Russian separatist forces, including the reflection of events beyond the borders of Russia,” a reference to events in Ukraine and Crimea.
Izvestia, the former newspaper of record in the Soviet Union, reports the amendments were drafted after journalists “admitted incorrect historical analogies and interpretation of events in Russia and the Ukraine coup.”
State Duma deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov said he wanted “to amend the Criminal Code and Administrative Code and the law on combating extremism and terrorism” in response to a “number of crimes against the state [by] media professionals aimed at supporting terrorism, intervention, separatism and genocide.”
In addition, according to Fyodorov, the amendments will cover “articles about espionage, treason, armed rebellion” and punish journalists allegedly “inciting hatred or enmity, as well as humiliation of human dignity.”
Nikolai Svanidze, head of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation on International Relations and Freedom of Conscience, said the proposed law is an attempt to shut down criticism of parliamentarians. Svanidze explained freedom of speech is guaranteed by article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
In 2013, Russian authorities arrested former Mirror journalist Kieron Bryan during a Greenpeace demonstration opposing an Arctic offshore oil rig owned by the Russian energy company Gazprom. Activists and two journalists were initially charged with piracy. The charges were latter changed to hooliganism.
In February, political allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded an apology from writer Viktor Shenderovich. The satirist drew a comparison between the Sochi Winter Olympics and the 1936 Berlin games. Hitler had exploited the games for propaganda and to present the Nazi regime in a favorable light.
Shenderovich compared a 15-year-old Russian figure skater, Yulia Lipnitskaya, to Hans Woellke, a German athlete who won the gold medal in the shot put competition at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.