30 Jun 2022 13:22

Russian Duma passes bill on media outlets' extrajudicial closure for fake reports, gives them 'right to a mistake'

MOSCOW. June 30 (Interfax) - A bill on extrajudicial closure of media outlets for publishing fake reports was adopted by the Russian State Duma at its third and final reading on Thursday.

However, the revocation of media licenses will not be immediate, and media outlets will have "a right to a mistake".

The legislation will allow the Prosecutor General's Office to revoke media licenses and to request a ban on access to Internet resources for disseminating false information, for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, and for calling for sanctions.

The authors of the bill are members of the State Duma commission on the countering of foreign interference in Russian affairs led by commission head, State Duma Security Committee Chairman Vasily Piskaryov.

Under the bill, if a media outlet violates these rules for the first time, the prosecutor general or his deputy will ask Russian telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor to suspend the operations of this media outlet for up to three months, and for up to six months in the event of a repeat violation.

If the media outlet corrects the violation within a three-month or a six-month period, it will be able to resume its operations based on a decision by Roskomnadzor.

If a repeat violation is committed, a media outlet's registration may be ruled null and void.

During the suspension period, a media outlet's "editorial office, editor-in-chief, journalist, publisher or distributor of media products shall not carry out activities envisaged by this law," it said.

Director of the Russian Digital Development and Communications Ministry's Mass Communications and International Cooperation Department Yekaterina Larina said that now, the bill clearly defines the status of a journalist or an employee of a media outlet during the period of suspended media license or accreditation. "Their status will also be suspended. That's important to prevent journalists from using their accreditation to work for other media outlets whenever problems are created by a particular journalist," Larina earlier said at a meeting of the relevant State Duma committee.

A media outlet's operations may be restricted if, under the guise of trustworthy reports, it disseminates "false socially important information posing the threat of inflicting harm on citizens' life and health, property, the threat of massive public order offenses or public security breach, or the threat of hindering the functioning or stopping the functioning of critical facilities and transport and social infrastructure, credit organizations, energy sector facilities, industry, or communication facilities, thus entailing the aforementioned or other heavy consequences."

The registration of a media outlet may also be revoked if it spreads false information about the activities of the Russian Armed Forces and Russian state institutions abroad, passing it off as trustworthy reports.

The bill also allows a media outlet's registration to be revoked if, under the guise of trustworthy information, it disseminates fake reports about circumstances allegedly posing a threat to citizens' life and security or about ongoing measures to ensure the security of the population and territories and about methods and techniques of protection from the aforementioned circumstances.

Furthermore, under the bill, a media outlet's registration may be revoked if it spreads information "in an indecent form, which insults human dignity and public morality and demonstrates obvious disrespect toward society, the state, official state symbols of the Russian Federation, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, or the state authorities in the Russian Federation."

Another ground for revoking a media outlet's registration is if it disseminates information aimed at discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, including calls to hinder the activities of the Russian Armed Forces, as well as information discrediting the exercise by the Russian state authorities of their powers outside Russia.

The same is applicable to information which contains calls for organizing or participating in unauthorized public actions, for committing large-scale public order offenses and public security breaches, and for introducing political, economic or other sanctions against Russian citizens or entities, or information containing propaganda, substantiation or justification of extremist activities.

A request to recognize a media outlet's registration as null and void will be forwarded to Roskomnadzor immediately.

The bill also prohibits reprinting, even not entirely, reports by other media that present incorrect information.

Under the bill, if false information about operations of the Russian Armed Forces and the Russian state authorities' activities outside of Russia, information aimed at discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, calls to hinder the Russian Armed Forces' operations or discrediting the Russian state authorities' work outside of Russia, or information calling for the imposition of sanctions on Russia, its citizens or entities is found on the Internet, the Russian prosecutor general or his deputies will immediately ask Roskomnadzor to take measures to restrict access to information resources spreading such information.

In a case of repeated dissemination by information of this kind by an information resource, the prosecutor general or his deputies should ask Roskomnadzor to permanently restrict access to this resource and its copies.

If a Russian media outlet is banned in the territory of a foreign state, the operations of a foreign media outlet in Russia, including on the Internet, may also be banned in a tit-for-tat response on the decision of the Russian prosecutor general or his deputies, the bill states.

A decision banning a foreign media outlet's functioning in Russia may be lifted only after the circumstances that led to this decision are removed.