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Monday, April 28, 2008

Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Journalism

The Daily Mail reports (hat tip: Reader Penny):

Russian MPs voted yesterday for further media censorship in response to a newspaper report that Vladimir Putin had divorced his wife to marry a gymnast. The Duma, or parliament, voted 339-1 in favour of allowing the authorities to suspend and close down Press and television outlets deemed guilty of libel. Defined as "dissemination of deliberately false information damaging individual honour and dignity", libel is now subject to the same sanctions as the promotion of terrorism, extremism and racial hatred.

Moscowsky Korrespondent claimed in its pages earlier this month that Mr Putin, 55, had divorced his wife Lyudmila in order to marry Alina Kabayeva, 24. The president, who steps down on May 7 to become prime minister, denied the allegation. Miss Kabayeva won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and is widely regarded as one of Russia's most beautiful women. The gymnast is often seen on talk and reality television shows and is now a Duma member for a pro-Kremlin party. Korrespondent, which is a tabloid, was shut down on Wednesday after Moscow authorities banned its distribution.

The media bill passed by the Duma will go to the upper house for approval and then to Mr Putin for him to sign it into law. MPs rejected the first draft of the bill in January but approved a revised version submitted after Korrespondent ran its story. Mr Putin's critics say he has presided over a steady rollback of post-Soviet media and political freedoms. All the major national television networks have come under the control of the Kremlin or its allies and the print media has experienced growing pressure from Government officials.

Other Russia has more.

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