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Russian lawmakers move forward with legislation banning online insults of state officials and outlawing the spread of ‘fake news’

Russian federal lawmakers have passed the first readings of two controversial bills that would prohibit online insults against state officials and ban the publication of “fake news.” Under the former law, offenders would face up to 15 days in jail, while media outlets and individuals who violate the latter law would be subject to fines.

The legislation’s most outspoken co-author, Senator Andrey Klishas, refused to attend Thursday’s plenary session, despite an official request from the State Duma Council that he personally present the draft texts of his laws. Senator Lyudmila Bokova, who also co-authored the bills, was present, instead. Deputies from the Communist Party and LDPR voted against the legislation, arguing that it was worded too vaguely.

The legislation has the support of the prime minister’s cabinet and the presidential administration, though it has been criticized by Russia’s Communications Ministry, Justice Ministry, and even the federal censor, Roskomnadzor. The two bills now go to committee, where deputies will amend the text, before lawmakers vote on the legislation's second and third readings. If passed, the bills then go to the Federation Council and president for approval.

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