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Nationalist MP seeks media restrictions on Russia’s leading search engine

Published time: May 15, 2014 12:29
Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

A representative of the Liberal Democratic Party holds that Russian internet search engine and news aggregator Yandex should be classified as ‘mass media’ and face all the restrictions that entails.

MP Andrey Lugovoy has addressed Russia’s Prosecutor General with an official request to check if Yandex’s activities fall under the Federal Law on Mass Media. The parliamentarian notes in his letter that the search site publishes various news and analytical reports from Russian and foreign media outlets, and this can be seen as the distribution of mass information. Therefore, he writes, the company becomes a major means of mass communication and must be subject to the same rules as every other mass media outlet in the country.

The politician told the business daily Kommersant that in his view there was no difference between a story published in a newspaper and the same story published on the ‘Yandex top news’ web page. Lugovoy added that even if the Prosecutor General rules that the search engine cannot be considered a mass media outlet, he would prepare changes to the law and ensure that all activities of Yandex remained within the legal framework.

Besides, the Russian MP said that as Yandex’s parent company is registered in the Netherlands, it cannot be sued by Russian citizens who find the Yandex News reports abusive or false and this is an infringement of their rights.

The initiative has received support of Leonid Levin, the deputy chair of the State Duma Committee for Mass Media.

Many people receive information from the Yandex Top News page without even following the links to stories. Why not equate this page to mass media then?” Levin told the newspaper.

Yandex reported that it was unaware of any claims or legal actions by Lugovoy.

The issue of relations between news aggregators and mass media was raised in late April this year during the televised Q&A session between President Vladimir Putin and Russian journalists and bloggers organized by the United Popular Front movement. Putin admitted that “not everything was simple” in this situation, acknowledging that Yandex was not officially registered as mass media and still had many million people visiting its news page every day.

Putin also told reporters that the government and the presidential administration were aware of the problem and were discussing which internet sites should be registered as mass media.

Yandex executives strongly denied their involvement in the mass media business, maintaining they are related to it in the same way as the post office delivers conventional newspaper subscriptions.

There is no need to get a separate license for headlines on our web-page as these headlines are already a product of licensed media outlets,” the Yandex press service said.