The Russian government has passed into law a new measure that was aimed at cracking down on false information about the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Russian lawmakers quickly passed on third and final reading a new bill that would penalize and put behind bars anyone found to be spreading fake information about the virus outbreak. The bill was passed upon the order of President Vladimir Putin, who said that Russia was in dire need of countering “provocations, stupid gossip, and malicious lies” about the outbreak.
Putin signed the bill into law today, April 1.
Putin was reacting to an opposition-leaning radio station’s interview with a political analyst who alleged that the government lied when it said that not a single person died from the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The analyst was quoted that some 1,600 persons would have died already since mid-January.
State-run media and telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor was quick to pressure the radio station to remove the interview from the website, saying the demand was part of the government’s campaign against fake coronavirus news.
Under the new measure, anyone proven to be spreading fake coronavirus information will be slapped with a three-year jail term and up to five years for false information that would result in the death of a person. The sentences are on top of a $25,000-fine, while media outlets can get penalized of up to $127,000 if they disseminate disinformation about the virus.
A broad set of measures was outlined, and allowed for the creation of a special task force to oversee virus information, while a group within Russia’s Investigative Committee was put together to chase down alleged disinformation.
Social media users will not be spared from the hunt down, as those who doubted the official numbers, along with news outlets questioning the government response, were said to become the targets for law enforcement seeking to weed out anything that didn’t correspond with the official data.
PHOTO COURTESY: FLICKR