6 Apr 2022 17:54

Prosecutor General's Office could be given power to shut down media outlets, initiate website blocking for fake news, discrediting Russian Armed Forces - bill

MOSCOW. April 6 (Interfax) - A group of Duma deputies has introduced a bill, which allows the Prosecutor General's Office to revoke the registration of a media organization and initiate a ban on access to a website that spreads fake news, discredits Russia's Armed Forces and urges sanctions.

The document, which appeared in the Duma database on Wednesday, was authored by members of the Duma commission on countering foreign meddling, led by the head of the commission, Vasily Piskaryov, who also chairs the Duma security committee.

The initiative proposes a new article (Article 56.2) to the law on mass media.

Under the bill, the Russian registration of a media outlet could be declared invalid on the ground of a demand by the prosecutor general or his deputies, leading the outlet to be banned from operating and its correspondents to lose accreditation. The outlet can be either Russian or foreign.

The first ground applies to foreign media outlets. The Prosecutor General's Office would be allowed to initiate a ban on a foreign media outlet working in Russia in response to the shutdown of a Russian media outlet abroad. The changes are being proposed to the law "On measures to influence on persons involved in the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms."

The other grounds concern any media outlet.

These include, first, knowingly spreading several categories of misinformation disguised as credible reports: a) those which pose a threat to public health and property, risk disrupting public order, public transport, the banking system, the energy sector, and communications, b) those relating to the deployment of the Russian Armed Forces to protect Russian interests and Russian citizens, to maintain international peace and security, c) those relating to circumstances which "pose a threat to lives and public safety."

Secondly, the bill proposes to ban the dissemination of information in an indecent form which "insults human dignity and public morality," disrespects the public and the state, Russia's official state symbols, Constitution, state authorities.

Thirdly, the bill proposes a ban for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, urging organization and participation in unauthorized events, imposition of anti-Russian sanctions, and extremist propaganda.

The Prosecutor General's Office would send its demand to the telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor, which would terminate the registration of a media outlet and its broadcasting license.

The bill also proposes to extend part one of Article 15.3 of the law "On information, information technologies and information security," which lists grounds for restricting access to a website.

Under the proposed changes, a website can also be blocked for discrediting the deployment of the Russian Armed Forces and calling for it to be thwarted. Also, urging sanctions against Russia, Russian individuals and Russian organizations.