The Russian parliament, for the moment, has placed a hold on proposed legislation which would have threatened members of the media with libel suits if they dared criticizing government officials. Duma Speaker, Boris Gryzlov, who heads United Russia and controls the parliamentary majority, said his party has changed its positon on the bill which would have allowed courts to close media outlets for publishing libelous statements. The bill passed in its first reading by a vote of 339 to 1. It was authored by United Russia deputy, Robert Shiegel, the Duma’s youngest member and a former spokesperson for the pro-Putin youth group, Nashi.
The most incredible aspect of this story is that only one member of a legislature stood up to vote against a blatant attempt to halt criticism of the government. The lack of enthusiasm for freedm of speech in a legislature does not hold out much hope for freedom of speech and the press.