Dishing out “disrespect” toward government or state officials online could now land people in jail in Russia, after lawmakers approved legislation that critics say echoes Soviet-era laws that targeted political dissidents.
According to The Guardian, the law “stipulates fines of up to 100,000 roubles (£1,155) for ‘indecent’ online posts that demonstrate a ‘blatant disrespect for society, the country, Russia’s official state symbols, the constitution, or the authorities’.”
The could be doubled for repeat offenders, or they could be jailed for 15 days.
Critics have complained that the law is so vague that nearly anything could be construed as “disrespect,” including satirical memes.
“Soon we’ll be telling jokes about the authorities in whispers in the kitchen,” Moscow-based lawyer Sergey Shvakin wrote on Facebook.
Andrei Klishas, a senator from Putin’s ruling United Russia party, authored the law, as well as another that “will give the authorities powers to block webpages that publish ‘disrespectful’ material or ‘fake news’.”
That law was also approved by the parliament.
Putin, whose approval rating has plummeted following his decision to increase the national retirement age by five years, is expected to sign the legislation in the near future, The Guardian said.
In January, the Russian leader’s approval rating had dropped to a 13-year low of 33 percent.
The Guardian also noted that Putin is “thought to be extremely sensitive to perceived insults,” recalling that he targeted the satirical television show Kukly (Puppets) shortly after assuming power for the offense of poking fun at him.
“Within months,” The Guardian wrote, “the NTV channel was taken under state control, and jokes about the ex-KGB officer quickly disappeared from Russia’s television screens.”