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Fines Proposed for Disseminating Information about Rallies on Social Networking Sites

Source: (info), 31/05/12

· Right of assembly  · Freedom of speech

On 30 May the amendments to the bill on rallies were approved for the second reading by the State Duma's constitutional committee. As Vedomosti reported on 31 May, this latest version of the bill provides a more detailed gradation of illegal actions. Those who disseminate information about rallies on social networking services will also face fines.

United Russia initially proposed that ordinary participants in protests be faced with fines of up to 900,000 roubles and organisers with fines of up to 1.5 million roubles. However, in the end the maximum fine for citizens was lowered to 300,000 roubles. The number of offences covered by the bill also increased: the most minor offences will be punishable by fines of 10,000-20,000 roubles for ordinary participants. Public officials will face fines of from 30,000 roubles up to 600,000 roubles for major offences. Legal persons will pay fines ranging from up to 100,000 roubles for minor offences to a maximum of 1 million roubles.

Deputies yesterday decided that organising public events without informing the authorities will be considered an offence, even if no damage is caused. A fine will be imposed on organisers if their actions (or inactions) obstruct pedestrians or motor traffic, if their rally is attended by more people than was stated in the application, or if their rally required the involvement of additional police forces. A court will establish what constitutes an obstruction to pedestrians and if such an obstacle has been created, as sometimes people are prevented from simply making their way home, explained the authors of the amendments.

However, the major new development is that fines (up to 300,000 roubles) will be imposed on those who carry out "preliminary agitation or issue calls to take part immediately in a demonstration." Preliminary agitation will be recognised as a message, including via the internet, about the place, aims and orchestration of mass protests, reports, citing Vedomosti.

The Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building has provisionally scheduled the second reading of the bill for 5 June.