Russia’s lower house parliament has passed an anti-terrorism legislation that will permit steep prison sentences for dissent, as well as mandate phones and ISP companies to keep huge communication data for an extended period. As many expressed alarm over the matter, the Russian Ministry of Communications clarified that it is indeed prepared to amend the controversial series of laws.
The “Yarovaya law” considers that the inability to report information regarding crimes and terrorist attacks is an offense. Additionally, it pushes the strongest penalty for “extremism” from four to eight years of imprisonment. While others regard the bill as somewhat extreme, it is in fact softer compared to its previous version, which would have permitted the stripping of Russian citizenship.
Edward Snowden, who has been in Russia since 2013, has expressed his thoughts on the matter via Twitter. According to him, the “Big Brother law” was an “unworkable, unjustifiable violation of rights” that would “take money and liberty from every Russian without improving safety.” He also added that such measures will roll back personal freedoms and privacy.
However, there are contentions that the bill was only meant to target opponents and protesters against the Kremlin.
“It’s very infamous provision of Soviet law they’re basically re-enacting, and it’s problematic because there’s no legal clarity,” argued Tanya Lokshina, the Russia program director for Human Rights Watch via The Guardian.
“It’s clearly designed for selective implementation.”
Amendments to the Bill
Fortunately, it appears that the Russian Ministry of Communications is willing to make some changes on the bill. The possible changes include telecom requirements to store all user data and content covering messages and phone calls for up to six months.
The top officials of Russia’s leading mobile operators have come together to pen a joint letter against the bill. According to the letter, the bill is “technically and economically impractical.” If the bill pushes through on its requirements on telecom providers, then companies will have to shed around 2.2 trillion rubles ($33.8 billion).
“We believe that there will be serious issues with the application of this law,” Moscow Times quoted Nikolai Nikiforov, Russian Minister of Communications and Mass Media.
“We are confident it will require a number of amendments.”