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Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, April 15 2014

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

Two members of the Russian parliament, Andrei Lugovoi and Vadim Dengin, have proposed regulating popular bloggers (those with an audience of 3,000 or more unique visitors a day) exactly as they regulate mass media outlets, including mandatory fact checking and the assumption of responsibility for the consequences of what you print.

Some Russians are, understandably, not very happy. Journalist and blogger Oleg Kozyrev believes it will be used to smother “socio-political bloggers, civic and ecological projects.”

(Russia already has laws and systems in place they can use against bloggers—like popular opposition leader and vocal anti-Putin writer Alexey Navalny, who is currently under house arrest and banned from from using the Internet.)

Blogger Oleg Lurie praised the proposed law, saying it would give bloggers like him the same rights (the right to request information from the government, for example) as journalists, although a rough Google translation of this article from the Russian news outlet Vedomosti suggests otherwise.

Marat Guelman, a gallery owner and the former assistant director of the television broadcast Channel One Russia, with a formidable Twitter following, wrote:

Not funny: They really decided to equate blogs with over 3000 readers to mass media. I didn't understand how it would work, but someone explained. You get an order that requires you to register [your blog]. Because, you understand, they've shut down all the [actual] mass media, but the f*cking journalists just won't stop writing. [translation by Global Voices]

In Feburary the word on the street was that bloggers with more than 10,000 visitors a day would be treated like mass media. If the number of visitors a day continues to fall at that rate, by midsummer anyone and everyone posting on the Russian Internet will be treated like mass media.

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