Russian Federation: “Fake news” bill prompted by COVID-19 threatens freedom of expression

On 31 March 2020, the Russian authorities passed amendments to the Criminal Code and to the Code of Administrative Offences that introduced criminal penalties for “public dissemination of knowingly false information” in the context of emergencies, and administrative penalties for media outlets that publish such information. The legislative changes also expand criminal sanctions for violating sanitary and epidemiological regulations. The two respective laws were passed by the State Duma and Council of Federation and signed by President Putin with extraordinary speed, on the same day, with nearly no public discussion. Amnesty International is concerned that these amendments will be used to further curtail the right to freedom of expression and silence criticism of the authorities.

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