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Russia lawmaker proposes media restriction to reduce racial violence

A lawmaker from the centrist political party United Russia [political website, in Russian] on Friday announced a bill that would ban the media from disclosing the ethnic backgrounds of suspects, victims and other individuals during reports on crimes and trials. The law was proposed [Moscow Times report] by State Duma [official website, in Russion] Deputy Shamsail Saraliyev [Council of Europe profile], who described the bill effort to reduce racial violence [Izvestia report, in Russian]. Saraliyey, a Chechnyan who served as a press and information minister prior to his service in the Duma, contends that the media's emphasis on nationality provokes ethnic conflicts, and that the bill he plans to submit in the fall will likely garner a majority of support from the North Caucasus. Experts rejecting the lawmaker's reasoning include Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Kremlin's human rights council and co-author of Russia's media law, who maintains that such an issue should be reserved for the media industry rather than the government.

This is not the first time the Russian media has faced a controversial bill limiting the scope of its reporting. In March the State Duma considered adopting a law [JURIST report] that would ban the media's spread of "homosexual propaganda" to minors, and impose fines of up to 500,000 rubles (USD $16,500) for promoting the homosexual lifestyle. In February, St. Petersburg adopted a similar bill [JURIST report] that imposes fines against those convicted of promoting homosexuality. Proposed [JURIST report] in November, sponsors of the St. Petersburg bill claim that homosexual propaganda "threatens" Russia, thus making the bill a necessity. Ethnic and racial conflicts have not received mass Russian media attention since 2008, when Georgia filed a complaint [JURIST report] against Russia with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] for ongoing violations of the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [text] based on its removal of ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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