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Russian Internet to be censored?

Disputes about the new edition of the Russian law on mass media have revealed different approaches to the probability of tougher control over the Internet in the country.

It is generally admitted that propagation of fascism and terrorism on the Internet must be prohibited, but people still stick to various opinions. Champions of governmental control are sure that licensing is the measure to do with criminals and hooligans on the Internet. But communications experts warn that too much control over the Internet will stop development of this perspective economy sphere. Even if licensing is introduced, terrorists and hooligans will still use communication facility such as email, phone and the Internet.

The Federation Council Commission for Information Policy discussed a new concept of the law on mass media on October 6. It was reported soon after the sitting that the Commission suggested introduction of normative censorship “to fix issues prohibited for publication, thus making the court the censor”. Censorship must also apply to the Internet: every website will have a supervising provider. Spokesmen for the RF Ministry for Culture and Mass Communications also insist Internet resources must be obligatorily licensed to prevent creation of outlaw websites.

But there are lawmakers and experts who do not like new barriers in the communications sphere. Federation Council Chairman Sergey Mironov thinks there is no need to impose special restrictions provided by the law on mass media on websites as well. He explains that there is no technical opportunity to impose any restrictions on the Internet; that is why it makes no sense to bring censorship or toughen governmental control on the Internet. Chairman of the Federation Council Commission for Information Policy Dmitry Mezentsev is sure there is no censorship on the Internet and it will never be introduced there.

Deputy Minister for Information Technologies and Communication Dmitry Milovantsev is sure that licensing of the Internet will make providers escape the RU zone for the COM zone based in the USA. He adds that the Internet is unlicensed everywhere in the world.

The RF Communication Ministry developed a new version of the law on information, informatization and protection of information which concerns development of the Internet. Chief of the Ministry’s law department Mikhail Yakushev says the new document is to be submitted for consideration of the government.

The new version of the law will include present-day notions, because the previous legislation adopted ten years ago disagreed with development of information technologies and progress of the Internet. The progress has become the reason of numerous problems recently. Mikhail Yakushev believes it makes sense to make one law to prohibit spam, spreading of the state secret, commercial and family secrets.

The legislation suggested by the Communication Ministry does not specify the activity of Internet mass media. Mikhail Yakushev emphasizes that electronic mass media must not differ from printed ones. In his words, the new legislation means no pressing upon electronic mass media at all. The State Duma is expected to adopt the new legislation in 2005.

Mikhail Sergeyev

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