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Russia Says You Can't Mention Ukrainian Nationalists, Unless You Say They're Bad

Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Roskomnadzor, Russia's government-run media watchdog, has issued a new set of “clarifications” about the media's freedom to mention officially recognized “extremist” groups. The Justice Ministry has banned 41 such groups, most recently targeting five Ukrainian nationalist organizations in November 2014. 

According to Roskomnadzor's statement today, Russia's law against extremism prohibits the dissemination of any information about a banned extremist group, unless media outlets also indicate that the organization has been “liquidated” or that its “activities have been banned in Russia.” The other permitted way to mention such organizations it to do so “in a negative light, ascribing them characteristics like ‘radical,’ ‘extremist,’ or ‘nationalist.'” 

Any newspaper or website caught violating these rules is subject to a fine and an official warning from Roskomnadzor. The Justice Ministry has the power to revoke the accreditation of any media outlet that's received more than one government warning in a single 12-month period. In the last 12 months alone, Roskomnadzor has issued warnings regarding supposedly extremist content to at least six major Russian news outlets, including Lenta.ru, Novaya Gazeta, Polit.ru, BusinessOnline, BFM.ru, and MediaZona.

Update, February 15, 2015: Roskomnadzor later deleted from its February 13 announcement the language about needing to cast mentions of extremism organizations “in a negative light.” The agency offered no explanation for the revision, nor did it issue a formal retraction.

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