News Brief

Back to USSR: Russia Prohibits Govt Criticism Online

Russian President Vladimir Putin is one step closer to making it illegal to criticize or joke about his government online.

A new law sailed through Russian parliament allowing courts to jail those who “disrespect” the government, state officials or the president, according to the Guardian.

Under the new measure, which Putin is expected to sign in the coming weeks, Russians could be fined up to $1,500 – more than double what the average Russian earns a month – and repeat offenders jailed for up to 15 days.

Critics say the law is so vaguely worded that even jokes posted online about the president could become criminal, eerily similar to how Soviet-era “anti-communist agitation” law was used to send dissidents to Soviet prison camps.

“Soon we’ll be telling jokes about the authorities in whispers in the kitchen,” wrote Moscow-based lawyer Sergey Shavkin, reported the Guardian.

Russia’s anti-extremist laws have already allowed the government to jail bloggers and ordinary Russians who criticize the government on social media, but this latest legislation goes a step further by criminalizing “disrespect.”

Parliament also approved another law which, if signed by Putin, will allow Russia’s internet censor to block “disrespectful” or “fake news” websites.