Russians Support Recent Laws Restricting Freedoms

MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti) – Russians generally support a number of recently passed laws that impose restrictions on the freedoms of speech and assembly and on access to information, according to a poll released Thursday by the independent Levada Center.

About 62% of respondents say they support a much criticized law that imposes restrictions on the Internet. The law, which came into effect on Monday, provides for creating a “website blacklist” and forces Internet companies to block banned content. Fifty-eight percent of Russians also gave their backing to another law that drastically raises penalties for defamation, signed this week by President Vladimir Putin.

Nearly half of respondents in the Levada poll – 45% – support yet another new law that tightens control over non-governmental organization (NGOs), and a similar poll released by All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM) showed that 67% of Russians consider the law on foreign-funded NGOs a good measure to prevent foreign interference in Russia’s domestic affairs.

In recent weeks, however, many Russians “have grown more cautious and reticent” when speaking about government legislative initiatives, the Levada survey shows. “The lukewarm responses could be attributed to lack of thorough awareness about those bills. On the other hand, the blame could be laid at the doorstep of state-controlled television channels, which failed to highlight all sides of the laws,” the pollster said in its report.

The survey shows however that Russians expressed divergent views on the motives behind government legislative initiatives. While a majority of respondents see the law on the Internet as a way to curb moral decadence, about 28% said it was “a way for the government to black out opposition websites.” About 47% of respondents said the law on defamation was a clever maneuver by state officials to defend themselves rather than the people while 36% thought otherwise.

More than half of respondents (57%) believe a law passed in May that steeply increases fines for violations at political rallies is an attempt to stem the wave of opposition protests around the country while 30% said it would foster stability in the country.

Levada Center interviewed about 1,601 respondents in 45 regions for the survey, which had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

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