Russia’s media watchdog vowed to crack down on swearing on Tuesday after President Vladimir Putin signed a wide-reaching law banning the use of obscenities in films, theatre and mass media.
Putin on Monday signed legislation that bans outright the use of swear words in films, stage performances and media, prompting a storm of criticism from leading arts figures who called the law unworkable and overly draconian.
The language law comes as part of a broader crackdown on independent media and popular bloggers, apparently aimed at muzzling political debate.
The government media watchdog on Tuesday vowed to “strengthen monitoring of the observance of norms and demands of the law banning the use of obscenities in media”.
“Work on rooting out this form of transgression will be carried out as a priority,” the watchdog said.
Mainstream Russian media rarely uses obscenities, still seen as shocking. But commentators on online media often use swear words, raising the possibility that this could trigger a ban.
“This will be a real headache for editors because of having to clean up comments on websites,” the editor of Moi Raion freesheet, Alexei Sinelnikov, told Izvestia daily.
The law, which comes into force on July 1, introduces fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($1,410/1,000 euros) and says that films that contain swear words will be refused distribution licenses.
It has triggered outrage among the arts community.
“It is a sanctimonious law. The people who initiated it don’t talk any other way,” Mikhail Ugarov, a renowned playwright and director, told Moskovsky Komsomolets daily.
The law would force alterations to texts that are protected by copyright, Ugarov added.
“Russian life is becoming more and more hypocritical, insincere and prudish,” award-winning theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov wrote on Facebook, saying swear words had been declared “enemies of the people.”
“We will really miss them,” he said.
Russia has already introduced compulsory age certification for everything from concerts to stage plays to television shows.
“Lawmakers seem to have a secret desire to protect young people from the defiling influence of subculture trends in liberal society”, wrote a journalist in an opinion piece on RAPSI legal news website.
Russian has a richly developed system of obscenities, many originating from prison and criminal slang.
Putin himself makes a point of talking tough and using coarse language in phrases such as his famous pledge “to wipe out (militants) in the outhouse”.
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