Media Law Roundup: April 12th

Welcome to this week’s Media Law Roundup, a summary of developing media law and policy news.

Russia Bans Swear Words in Mass Media…but which ones?

This week, Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law establishing large fines for using obscene language in the media or other commercial activities. Producing goods or content with obscene words is now punishable with fines of up to 3,000 rubles ($100 USD) for individuals and 200,000 rubles ($6,500 USD) for corporate or legal entities. Law enforcement is also permitted to confiscate the offending object, document, or content, including data servers if the language is disseminated digitally. Critics argue that without an actual list of words or phrases considered obscene by the government, the law is vague and incomplete.

Interview: Myanmar Information Minister Discusses Press Freedom, Democratization

Japanese newspaper Mainichi interviewed Myanmar Information Minister U Aung Kyii to discuss the country’s new press law and Myanmar’s shift to a more democratic media system. The new press law, effective April 1st, permits privately owned newspapers to be printed and distributed for the first time in over 50 years. Print media continues to be the main source of news for the vast majority of the country where Internet penetration is only about one percent.

In the interview, U Aung Kyi says the new press law is a step toward more freedom in the media and democratization. He admits there is much more work to do to ensure Myanmar has a completely free media system, including transforming state owned outlets into public service media. Kyi would like Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) to follow the example of European networks like BBC, which are supported by the state but are financially and editorially independent.

Report: Kuwait Media Law Proposes $1 Million Fines for Insults to Emir

New media laws proposed in Kuwait could bring fines of close to $1 million for insulting the emir or the ruling family of the Gulf nation. It was also reported that the law may include fines of up to $700,000 for stirring internal tensions in the country. Information Minister Salman Al Sabah said that the proposed laws are not meant to limit free expression, rather they aim to elevate discourse through the media.

Trial to Spotlight Law Governing Speech in Malaysia

Less than a month before the Malaysian general elections, a sedition charge will be heard against opposition party Vice President Chua Tian Chang. The government claims that Chang broke the colonial-era sedition law by allegedly accusing the United Malays National Organization, a key group for the National Front government, of being involved in a violent clash over land in February. Chang denies the charges and his supporters contend that the Malaysian government have been using the law for a long time to silence critics of the regime. Malaysians will decide whether to keep the current ruling party in office on May 5.

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