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Russian Duma Passes Bill On 'Website Blacklist' In Final Reading

The bill was rushed through Russia's State Duma.
The bill was rushed through Russia's State Duma.
The Russian parliament has approved a contentious bill that activists fear will introduce Internet censorship by blacklisting sites deemed undesirable.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at a meeting with ruling United Russia party leadership in Moscow Oblast, strongly backed the law.

"The Internet must be free. Secondly, it should be regulated by a set of rules, which mankind has yet to work out, and it's a very difficult process because we cannot regulate everything, nor can we leave [the Internet] outside the legal realm," Medvedev said.

"Thirdly, the people's basic rights and freedoms must be upheld, including the right to information on the one hand and the right to be protected against harmful content on the other hand."

The bill was rushed through the parliamentary process after the initial reading on July 6.

It has to be signed by the president and is expected to become law in November.

The amendments to an existing information law are being promoted as a crackdown on child pornography but many fear they will have broader implications.

Russian newspapers report the final version has narrowed a previously broad term of "harmful information," saying only child pornography, suicide how-to instructions, and drug propaganda can lead to website closure without trial.

However, in all other cases, court rulings will be needed to add a site to the register.

Site owners will also have the right to petition against the decisions to include their sites in the register.

Critics Fear Crackdown

The decision to mitigate provisions of the bill likely came as a reaction to an outburst of indignation, which the emergence of the bill produced among leading Internet companies like Yandex, the Group, Google, and human rights groups.

State Duma lawmakers are also expected this week to debate legislation that aims to control nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Russia's lower house of parliament gave preliminary approval on July 6 to a law that would brand many rights and campaign groups "foreign agents," a move opponents say is an attempt to stifle the anti-Putin movement.

The measure, presented by United Russia, would tighten controls on NGOs that receive foreign funding by forcing them to submit reports on their activities twice a year.

The amendments to the Russian information law and the law on NGOs follow the rapid passage of a law that increased the potential fines for protesters.

They also follow June police raids on the homes of protest organizers, who are accused by authorities of fomenting unrest in connection with protests against Putin's May 7 return to the Kremlin to start his unprecedented third term as president.

With reporting by AFP and Interfax
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