[JURIST] Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] has signed a controversial law against extremism that a Kremlin statement described as "aimed at improving the definition of extremist activity by classifying socially dangerous actions as extremist." Crimes embraced by the legislation approved late Friday following passage by the Russian parliament [RFE/RL report] earlier this month include incitement to racial hatred, publicly defending terrorism, "humiliating national merit, public slander of state officials and hampering the lawful activity of state organs.
Human rights groups, independent media organizations and government critics fear that some of the categories are so broad that the law could be used to stifle dissent and repress opponents [WAN press release], and a Moscow radio station reported that G8 leaders had tried to dissuade Putin from approving the measure during the recent St. Petersburg summit. A spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website], an international media right group, said in a statement: "This measure is reminiscent of the kind of catchall laws that were used in Soviet times to control the media. Those in power can now label any journalist an extremist and effectively stifle critical reporting. The law could result in three years' imprisonment for journalists and potential shutdown of their publications. It is expected to go into force in 90 days. AFP has more.