On Wednesday, State Duma deputies discussed and approved, in different readings, three draft laws that had set off a negative reaction throughout the public. President Vladimir Putin hastened parliamentarians. On Tuesday, he met human rights activists to discuss these initiatives. Criminal penalties for slander have been brought back. The Internet will have “blacklists” with malicious websites. Non-commercial organizations, which receive foreign grants, will be put under tough financial control. Political scientists and experts consider the authorities’ hasty measures preparations for possible autumn protest actions.
Deputies rather quickly approved amendments, which envisaged making up registers of websites with banned information and introducing the procedure for blocking the Internet resources, Kommersant notes. Without the court’s decision the black list may include websites on drug propaganda, child pornography and suicide calls. The amendments raise apprehensions that censorship can be introduced in the Internet. The presidential Council for Human Rights and such leading Internet companies as Wikipedia state this. On Wednesday, Yandex joined the protest: the portal’s familiar catchword – “All Search” – was crossed the word “all”. State Duma deputies had no questions and the amendments were approved on July 11 in the second and third readings.
Afterwards deputies started debates on the draft law on slander, the Novye Izvestia daily newspaper writes. Member of the United Russia party Pavel Krasheninnikov thought that decriminalization of this article and its transition to the Administrative Code turned out to be harmful for the society. That is why he proposed to re-include the article on slander to the Criminal Code. Under the new law, in addition to the established meaning (slander is information, which discredits honour and dignity of a person), the law includes slander on the appropriation of corporate opportunities, slander on a repelling disease and sexual slander. The debates reduced to the following: the draft law is aimed at fighting against dissent. After the document was approved in the first reading, lawmakers of opposition factions pledged to prepare the great number of amendments.
At present, any deputy and any official will be protected. Whatever he does, he will be protected by Article “Slander”, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper writes. The law on slander is not only the reprisal against the press but also this finally eliminates the protest movement. The United Russia law on violations during rallies turned out to be insufficient because the rally can be organized in compliance with all rules. But it would be necessary to stop protesters’ mouth. At present, one can easily file charges against protesters.
The United Russia faction lays emphasis on draft laws. “One of the key ideas of the authorities is to consolidate parties around tough legislation,” president of the Centre for Political Technologies Igor Bunin said. “It is necessary everyone to vote ‘for’ – Liberals and Conservatives regardless their views and to share responsibility for the events,” the expert said, adding, “The hot autumn is before us and the authorities are trying to create suppression mechanisms.”
The state continues to tighten the screws, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper comments on Wednesday’s initiatives put forth by Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. He is convinced that the authorities are in a hurry ahead of a sharp reduction in budget revenues. “The speedy and negligent accession to the WTO leads to losing two millions of jobs in the near future. So, mass protest will grow up. It is necessary to neutralize it by stopping protesters’ mouth by the fee of 300,000 roubles. And those who say something indiscreet will be easily accused of slander and made to pay the bigger fee, or gone to prison. This is the logic of the authorities. It is extremely dangerous for the situation in the country,” Zyuganov said.
Organizer of protest actions, State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov is convinced that mass street protests will not fall back. “There will be no Navalny with Gudkov and Ponomaryov. Other leaders will appear and they will be more radical. Repressions cannot stop anything – the point of no return passed away. It is like putting out a petrol fire.” The radical opposition will scale up protest actions, Gudkov pledges. “We will organize rallies and take part in all elections,” he said.
There are not reasons for approving tough laws immediately, head of the Effective Policy Fund Gleb Pavlovsky said. “Indeed, everything is doing in an absolutely calm and loyal society. It seems that any wars, extremely fierce battles, are at the head of the ruling upper circles. And peace reigns in the country,” he said.
Member of the Scientific Council of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, Nikolai Petrov, considers the events Russia’s drift “towards authoritarianism, which exists in the form of legislative initiatives”. “October is the key time when it will be clear what happens with protests,” the expert said. “Will gubernatorial elections take place held as the power wants? The authorities are tightening the screws ‘just in case’, but it would come pat later,” Petrov believes. The existing political system is too primitive and rude in order to take control over the protest situation, the expert stresses. There are two ways – or to complicate the system by making it more democratic, or to further tighten the screws, he notes.