Deputies in Russia’s State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, considered amendments this week to the Code of Administrative Offenses that would levy fines on individuals and companies for distributing print media from foreign outlets without permission from Russia’s state media regulator, Roskomnadzor, RBC reports.
For the amendments to become law, they must pass two more readings in the Duma and be approved by the parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council, and then signed by President Vladimir Putin, according to Galina Arapova, a media lawyer and director of the Mass Media Defense Center (MMDC), a Russia-based independent organization that offers legal defense to journalists.
Under the proposed amendments, Roskomnadzor would have the authority to seize all print media distributed without permission and penalize companies, such as newsstands, with up to 30,000 rubles ($460) for the unauthorized distribution of media, according to a Duma statement.
Individuals who disseminate unauthorized foreign print media would face fines of up to 1,500 rubles ($23), while fines for public officials could reach up to 3,000 ($46), according to the Duma.
“The newspapers and magazines people bring for friends or family could potentially be seized in a practice similar to the confiscation of ‘extremist materials’ now,” MMDC’s director Galina Arapova told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). She also said that the new amendments have not clarified how the permissions would be issued.
“The amendments introduced in Russia’s State Duma show how authorities in Moscow are continuously scanning the landscape for new ways to tighten state control over news and information,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “We call on the Duma to drop these amendments and on Russian authorities to stop turning Roskomnadzor into a giant government censorship agency,” she added.