Proposed Russian bill adds “unpatriotic information” to gay propaganda law
Moscow's Red Square will be without Scandinavian leaders on May 9th.(Photo: Thomas Nilsen)
A proposed new amendment to Russia’s child protection law - which already bans “gay propaganda” - would also ban the distribution of “unpatriotic information” to children. Russian policy expert Julie Wilhelmsen says it fits with the government’s ongoing bid to win over Russian nationalists.
Last year’s controversial bill to protect children from gay propaganda has a new amendment on the table, one that would add “protection” from unpatriotic information. The bill lands amid the ongoing propaganda war over Ukraine, in which patriotism has played a major role in garnering support.
“Writing explicit law to create loyal Russian citizens from the very beginning – via what you teach in school and so on – is just another tool to achieve the goal of creating an integrated, independent and sovereign Russia state,” says Julie Wilhelmsen, a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. “We do it in the West as well, but maybe not so directly.”
The new bill proposes to ban sharing with children information that “denies or distorts patriotism.”
The law in question, “On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development,” prohibits the distribution of materials that “may elicit fear, horror, or panic in children,” and originally protected children from incitements to harm themselves or commit crimes.
Two previous amendments established a mandatory rating system for media and censored some websites, and the law’s second amendment caught international attention for listing “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” as harmful content. This has been widely recognized as an appeal to the country’s vocal religious right.
In the latest amendment, patriotism is defined as “love for the fatherland, devotion to it, striving to serve its interests through one’s actions.”
Wilhelmsen says the proposed bill fits with the government’s ongoing strategy to co-opt ultranationalist and conservative sentiment in Russia, which has been seen as a threat to Putin’s power.
“They have been careful not to have these kinds of nationalist signifiers in their way of talking about what Russia should be, and their way of legitimizing their politics,” she explains. “But now since internally there actually is an opposition to the Putin regime, and it comes from these nationalist groups, then that’s a very smart way of neutralizing them as an opposition.”