Putin on Blasphemy, Spying, Slander and Enduring Values

13 November 2012 

Source: HRO.org (info
President Vladimir Putin has told a meeting of the Human Rights Council, which was newly reappointed on 12 November, that there is no need to hurry in passing a draft law that would make it a criminal offence to insult the feelings of religious believers. The news was reported in Lenta.ru citing RIA-Novosti.

"Let's ask our colleagues not to hurry with this bill,” said the President in response to criticism of the draft law on criminal prosecution for insulting religious feelings. At the same time, Interfax quotes the President as saying that such a law is necessary.

"We have a duty to protect the feelings of citizens and representatives of all faiths. What we are seeing at the moment happens because of a lack of shared culture and people have not taken enduring values to heart. Of course, you can't just instil such values forcibly, but the state cannot step back from protecting believers and the representatives of faiths,” said Putin.

The bill on blasphemy, which was submitted to the State Duma on 26 September 2012, would enable sentences of up to five years in prison for insulting the feelings of religious believers and desecrating religious sites.

Irina Khakamada, a member of the Human Rights Council, is quoted by NEWSru.com as saying that the bill in question is “very controversial” and “very dangerous”. She described the law in its current form as having “a destructive force and it discredits all sides in this conflict.”

“Any artist, simply by giving his own interpretation of signs and symbols, could offend religious feelings and end up behind bars, “ she said. Khakamada also said that she intends to propose that the bill be replaced by an alternative draft law at the next meeting of the Human Rights Council.

Interfax-Religion reports that one of the authors of the draft law, Yaroslav Nilov (Liberal Democratic Party), who also heads the State Duma's Committee on Public Associations and Religious Organizations, supported Putin's stance.

“I and my fellow committee members completely agree with the President that this law should be well thought over and reviewed. Freedom of conscience and religious faith are very delicate matters,” he explained.

Putin also gave comments on other controversial bills that have already been passed by parliament –on treason and reinstating slander as a criminal offence.

“Let's look again and think it over. There should be no scope for ambiguity in the definition of treason,” he is quoted as saying by Fontanka.ru. A bill that stiffened the sentences for espionage was approved by the Council of Federation on 31 October 2012.

The law, which once more makes slander a criminal offence under Russia's Criminal Code, was signed by the President on 30 July 2012. Putin has not ruled out that there could be some further amendments to the wording of the law. He also emphasized that slander should be treated very seriously, since it is often highly damaging to the reputations of public figures.