Attempts to overregulate Internet undermine free speech and free media in Russia, says OSCE representative
VIENNA, 23 April 2014 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today criticized new legislation increasing government regulation of the Internet in the Russian Federation.
“I deplore yesterday’s decision of the State Duma to adopt the amendments to the law “On information, information technologies and on protection of information” and call on the President of the Russian Federation to veto them and stop attempts to restrict free expression and free media,” Mijatović said. “If enforced the proposed amendments would curb freedom of expression and freedom of social media, as well as seriously inhibit the right of citizens to freely receive and disseminate alternative information and express critical views.”
The new legislation forces owners of websites and web pages visited by more than 3,000 users daily to register with the authorities and imposes additional responsibility on them for verifying the accuracy and reliability of posted information, following election law, respecting reputation and privacy, restraint from using curse words, etc.
Penalties for violations include high fines and blocking of websites and blogs.
“These amendments put bloggers under de facto regulation of the law on the mass media and force all significant news websites to register as ersatz mass media outlets,” Mijatović said. “This is being done by imposing on the websites additional restrictions but providing no real privileges such as those enjoyed by the Russian media outlets. The amendments were reportedly caused by the urgent need to counteract terrorism in the country, but I am not aware of a case where additional registration requirements and high morale of online resources have been instrumental in stopping terrorists. I sincerely hope that the authorities would realize this as well as the transnational nature of Internet and repeal the amendments, which will lead to disproportionate restrictions on media freedom.”
Mijatović noted that the Civil Society and Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, as well as many civil society and media organizations, also expressed concern about the new requirements.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on facebook.com/osce.rfom.