News ID: 210843
Published: 0542 GMT February 28, 2018

Hundreds charged with online ‘extremism’ in Russia

Hundreds charged with online ‘extremism’ in Russia

More than 200 people were convicted for promoting "extremist" messages online last year, a Russian NGO said Wednesday, as it condemned the application of a law it said was infringing on free speech.

According to the yearly report by the Sova Centre, which specializes in studying xenophobia, 228 people were convicted under the "extremist propaganda" law in Russia last year -- up from 220 people in 2016 -- and 47 were given jail sentences.

Almost all convictions related to pictures, videos or messages posted online, the NGO said, adding it was possible the law was a pretext to enforce "political repression".

"The fight against extremism is growing, restricting freedom of speech. These restrictions are often applied too widely," it said in a statement.

Sova said that the list of banned "extremist" publications was updated 33 times over the course of the last year.

The list includes historical and opposition publications.

Last August a Russian court jailed an investigative journalist for three and a half years, in a case denounced by media rights activists.

Alexander Sokolov was arrested on suspicion of participating in a banned extremist group.

He denied wrongdoing, saying his prosecution was instead over an investigative report published two weeks earlier on government overspending on a project to build a new space port.

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