Russian prosecutors eye Internet censorship


MOSCOW (AFP) — The Russian prosecutor’s office wants tough anti-extremism laws to be extended to the Internet, state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported Wednesday, prompting fears of growing media censorship.

The prosecutors office has proposed a legal amendment to bring the Internet under the same rules as printed media, Vyacheslav Sizov, a top official at the prosecutor general’s office told the daily.

Newspapers deemed in court to have published extremist material can be shut down under current laws.

The new proposal is for any website deemed to have hosted extremist material to be blocked by providers in Russia “within a month,” Sizov said.

The Internet is the freest area of the media in Russia, where almost all television and many newspapers are under formal or unofficial government control.

The extremism law has already come under fire from human rights activists, who say its sweeping nature is open to abuse by officials wanting to outlaw legitimate criticism.

“It is a worry whenever the government tries to change any law,” Oleg Panfilov, director of the Centre of Journalism in Extreme Situations, told AFP.

“It is difficult to find anyone who is not against extremism but it depends on how the law is used. The government uses (it) selectively.”

News website was warned for extremism last year after it wrote about cartoons that satirised the prophet Mohammed.