MOSCOW, July 13 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia’s State Duma lower parliament house on Friday passed an anti-defamation bill envisaging criminal liability for defamation and libel. Relevant amendments to the Russian Criminal Code were passed in the second and third, or final, readings.
In the third reading, the document was supported by 238 lawmakers (the United Russia faction), while 91 voted against.
Initially, the maximal punishment under the draft law providing for the return of criminal liability for defamation was two years in prison. This provision was however cancelled in the second reading but instead fines were considerably increased. Thus, a maximal fine for a libel accusing a person of committing a grave crime was fixed at five million roubles.
Thus, a person spreading deliberately false information that dishonours another person and harms his or her reputation will be fined up to 500,000 roubles (up to 100,000 roubles in the first reading). Defamation made in a public statement or in mass media carries a fine of up to one million roubles (instead of 200,000 roubles in the first reading), and defamation with the abuse of power envisages a fine of up to two million roubles (up to 300,000 roubles in the first reading). Tougher sanctions are envisaged for false statements about someone’s disease hazardous for others – from 500,000 to three million roubles.
Other sanctions include compulsory labour for a term of up to 480 hours.
The law also envisages punishment for libeling “a judge, a juror, a prosecutor, an investigator or a bailiff.” Fines range from two to five million roubles.
The bill was submitted by United Russia lawmakers led by chairman of the Duma legislation committee Pavel Krashenninnikov. Meanwhile, on July 10 at a meeting with Human Rights Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov, Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights Boris Titov, President Vladimir Putin proposed “to leave the article on defamation in the criminal law,” but emphasized that he would ask parliamentarians “to exclude a sanction on imprisonment.”
The document was met with criticism from society, including from the journalist community. A number of pickets were held in front of the State Duma on Friday, when it discussed the bill.