But who decides what is “fake”?
In 2019, the Russian president signed two vaguely worded anti-fake laws. They prohibited the spread of socially significant information deemed unreliable by the state authorities.
In 2020, the anti-fake legislation was extended due to COVID-19. According to lawmakers, they aimed to make illegal any doubts about the nature of COVID-19 and the reasonableness of combating the pandemic. In fact, the law has been selectively applied to journalists and activists for revealing problems and criticising measures provided by Russian authorities.
In March 2022, the new extension of the Russian anti-fake law introduced criminal liability for spreading “knowingly false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” with a maximum punishment of 15 years imprisonment.
The decision on what can be qualified as “false information” is up to Russian authorities. It may include any reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that contradicts the information officially given by the Kremlin. For example, reporting on the number of military casualties suffered by Russian armed forces or allegations of war crimes by the military.
This law, along with other measures, forced many Russian media to stop covering war-related events. Some foreign news agencies and independent media stopped their activities in Russia, and many journalists left the country to be able to continue their work.
By the end of September 2022, this law’s enforcement had resulted in more than 100 criminal cases.
To learn more:
- The fake news ‘infodemic’:the fight against coronavirus as a threat to freedom of speech (Agora International Human Rights Group)
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