Reporters without Borders call on Putin to reject present version of the law on extremism


The international organization in defence of press freedom has called on the Russian President to not sign the law in its present form which defines aspects of extremism far too vaguely. The Committee to Protect Journalists has also recently called for changes to this law, which as we have reported here many times has aroused serious concern among human rights defenders both in Russia and in the international community.

We pass on the organization’s press release.

Free expression under threat from law that would step up fight against “extremism”

Reporters without Borders voiced concern today about parliament’s adoption of a bill reinforcing efforts to combat “extremism” that was approved by parliament on its second reading on 11 July. The press freedom organisation has written to President Vladimir Putin urging him to oppose its promulgation in its present form although he urged legislators to be resolute in their fight against “extremism” in his most recent address to the nation before both houses of parliament on 26 April.

“The fight against extremism is necessary and legitimate but it should not limit the freedom of the media and the country’s citizens,” the press freedom organisation said.

The bill refers to 13 aspects of extremism but they are defined very vaguely. It would punish “financing” and “organising” extremist activity “including by means of printed matter (...) telephone connections and other informational means.” It would also punish “public support,” “help” and “appeals” for “extremism.”

“It is vital that these concepts are defined more clearly in the run-up to the December 2007 legislative elections and the March 2008 presidential election or else a radio station, for example, could be closed down simply because a listener heard comments on the air that were deemed to have been extremist,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“The intelligence services would also be free to tap the phone calls of persons suspected of extremism,” the press freedom organisation continued. “It gives them a free hand to act, without concern for the right to privacy. The bill also bans the dissemination of news and information about NGOs and other groups whose activity is restricted under the July 2002 law on combatting extremism.”

Last March, Reporters Without Borders condemned the use of the fight against extremism to harass independent news sites, some of which were censored by the security services for several days.

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