Reporters Without Borders reiterates its condemnation of the confusion resulting from a new Russian law intended to protect minors from harmful content. Approved by the Duma in July, it allows the authorities to compile a website blacklist.
Reporters Without Borders said:
The law's vagueness and inconsistencies render its repressive provisions even more threatening and are encouraging journalists to censor themselves. The vague definition of 'harmful
content' leaves too much room for interpretation and increases the probability of overblocking. How are the media to cover natural disasters, wars and sex crimes with these constraints?
As defined, the requirement to put age ban
labels on content is absurd and dangerous. On the grounds of protecting minors, this law is likely to place serious obstacles on the media's ability to provide the public with general news coverage. We urge parliament to clarify this law and to strike
out those provisions that violate the constitution and international agreements that Russia has ratified.
Under the final version of the law, the media are supposed to prevent children from seeing content that contains violence, sex
or rude words and content that encourages them to smoke or drink alcohol. To this end, every offending story, video or photo will have to be labelled banned for minors under the age of 6, 12, 16 or 18.
Vladimir Pikov, the spokesman of
Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications) explained that all online media except news agencies were required to put age ban labels on their content but print media that
cover politics and current affairs were not. Each individual article or item was supposed to be labelled, but if that proves too complicated, the entire website must be labelled.
To avoid any risk, many online media representatives have
decided they may have to label their entire site as banned to those under the age of 18 even if this could have a big impact on their readership and could result in their site being blocked by some Internet Service Providers, public WiFi networks and
public institutions such as schools.
The independent newspaper Kommersant's lawyers say its entire website will be labelled banned to those under the age of 16 from today onwards. Although news agencies are supposed to be exempt, Interfax has
already decided to label its website only for adults.