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Russia president opposes media libel law amendment

[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] Monday encouraged the Russian parliament to reject a bill that would allow officials to close media outlets suspected of spreading libel or slander. The measure, which passed the parliament's first reading [St. Petersburg Times report] by an overwhelming majority on April 25, would amend Russian media law [Article 4 text], expanding the definition of libel to "dissemination of deliberately false information damaging individual honor and dignity" and giving officials more power over the media. In a letter [text, in Russian] to parliament, Medvedev wrote that the amendment could severely limit journalism without stopping the spread of extremism, the purported goal of the bill. BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

Extremism has been a major concern for Russian politicians [JURIST report]. In 2006, then-President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial law [JURIST report] that criminalized publicly defending terrorism, "humiliating national merit," and publicly slandering government officials. Last year, a lead prosecutor suggested censoring the Internet [JURIST report] to combat extremism. Opponents of the new bill see its dismissal by Medvedev as a continuation of his inaugural promise to respect Russian laws and rights [JURIST report] and as a departure from Putin's tight control over the media during his presidency.

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