Unprecedented crackdown on the freedom of expression

Russian State Duma has passed amendments to the article in Russia’s Criminal Code on “obstruction of the right to freedom of conscience and religion”. This is part of the range of legislative initiatives that impose harsh restrictions on the freedom of expression and present an assault against human rights in Russian Federation.

“This law is another assault on freedom of expression in Russia. It reflects the Russian authorities’ determination to stifle the expression of its citizens’ opinions and ideas. We call upon the Russian authorities to uphold the rights guaranteed by the constitution and international human rights treaties to which Russia is party”, says Joanna Kurosz, programme director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Civil Rights Defenders.

The legislative initiative came as a consequence of last year’s trial and conviction of the activists of female punk group Pussy Riots who protested in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral. The same day the State Duma passed the bill against “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” aimed at restriction of self-expression of individuals identifying themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bi- and Transsexual (LGBT) and punishment of those “spreading gay propaganda”.

The law imposes harsh measures against those protesting publicly when religious matters concern. Thus, the law envisages fines up to RUB 500,000 and up to three years of imprisonment for “public actions expressing manifest disrespect for society and committed to insult the religious feelings of believers”, if these actions are committed in places of worship. If actions take place elsewhere, the fine amounting up to RUB 300,000 and imprisonment up till 1 year are stipulated.

The law increases fines for the “unlawful impeding of religious organizations work or religious practice” up till RUB 300,000 or imprisonment up till 3 months. It also stipulates separate fine for conducting activities of this kind by individuals who ”commit abuse of office, resort to or threaten to commit violence” amounting to RUB 200,000 and imprisonment up till 1 year.

Categories: Statements.
Tags: Freedom of expression, Propaganda laws, and Pussy Riot.
Regions: Russia.