Putin out to silence his critics with a range of new laws

 

Moscow

Vladimir Putin's United Russia party pushed two controversial laws through the lower house of parliament yesterday, in what critics said was the latest sign of a crackdown at the beginning of the President's new term in office.

The Duma passed a law that will force any organisation operating in Russia but funded from abroad to brand itself a "foreign agent" on its website and promotional materials, and also cleared the re-introduction of a libel law that was taken off the books last year.

The bills will now need to pass through the upper house of parliament and be signed off by Mr Putin, usually a formality. They are the latest in a series of laws to have been passed since Mr Putin returned to the Kremlin in May, including a bill that raises the fines for unauthorised protests by approximately 120 times. A law on the internet, ostensibly aimed at paedophiles and extremist sites, was also approved by the Duma this week.

Wikipedia closed its Russian-language site in protest at the law, which it says could be used to increase censorship and close down sites the authorities find inconvenient..

The libel law is also, in theory, similar to many laws on the books of other countries, but critics say it is the way the law is implemented that is crucial. A small group of independent and opposition-minded journalists picketed parliament, protesting that the law could be used by authorities to silence journalists from making allegations about corruption and other abuses of power. The maximum fine for libel is now 5m roubles (£100,000).

"The purpose of this law is not to defend the honest name of people, but to worry journalists and bloggers who are trying to uncover things that are inconvenient for the authorities," said Yury Saprykin, a leading Russian journalist.

The Duma itself is dominated by Mr Putin's party, but since street protests against his rule have swelled in Moscow in recent months, the previously loyal Just Russia party has become more of a genuine opposition force.

Yesterday's hearing was marked by scandalous scenes. Just Russia MP Ilya Ponomarev said the Duma was filled with "crooks and thieves" from United Russia, and that by passing the law, journalists would be unable to call them by their real name.

The other law approved yesterday means any non-governmental organisation engaging in political work in Russia with funding from abroad must stamp any material they distribute with "foreign agent".

Human rights and other organisations working in Russia say they have little choice but to take money from foreign donors, as Russian businesses are reluctant to donate to organisations deemed in any way politically sensitive.

"We're seeing Putin's response to the fact that for the first time, he isn't in full control," said political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Life and Style
The reindeer pen at the attraction
lifeLaurence Llewelyn-Bowen's 'Magical Journey' and other winter blunderlands
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible