In Russia, People Are Getting Fined For Posting Stories On Social Media About People Dying From Coronavirus

In Russia the official narrative is that nobody has died of coronavirus. But there are people in Russia who argue otherwise, saying that there have been indeed deaths from covid-19 in the country. But now the Russian government is fining citizens for posting stories about coronavirus related deaths in Russia, as we read in a report from the AP:

Two weeks ago, an opposition-leaning radio station in Russia interviewed political analyst Valery Solovei, who alleged the government was lying when it said no one had died in the country from the coronavirus.

Solovei told radio station Echo Moskvy at least 1,600 people might have died since mid-January. Russia’s media and internet watchdog, Roscomnadzor, quickly pressured the station to delete the interview from its website.

The demand was part of a widespread government campaign against what authorities called “fake news” about the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Russian lawmakers began putting some teeth behind the campaign, approving fines of up to $25,000 and prison terms of up to five years for anyone who spreads what is deemed to be false information. Media outlets will be fined up to $127,000 if they disseminate disinformation about the outbreak.

A 32-year-old woman was fined $380 — a significant sum in a country with an average monthly salary of about $550 — for posting on social media something she heard on a bus about the virus in her region. A 26-year-old man was fined a similar amount for a comment he made under a news report claiming a woman died of the virus in a hospital. Another woman faces a fine of about $380-$1,200 for posting about virus cases in her region where no infections were officially reported.

Asked whether the punishments fit these crimes, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they were “absolutely justified.”