A majority party MP is suggesting amendments to the Russian law on mass media, making it obligatory for civil servants and all politicians to reply to journalists’ queries under threat of fines.
Ilya Kostunov of United Russia submitted a draft detailing his proposal to the State Duma on Monday. He suggests new norms for the Russian Administrative Code, making official journalists’ enquiries equal to those of parliamentarians. Failure to reply in time would be punishable by fines of between 1,000 and 2,000 rubles ($27-$55).
The draft law applies to representative of federal and municipal bodies of power, various public organizations and unions.
“Everyone wants the mass media to deliver accurate and timely information about the work of state instances and public organizations. But journalists have to get this information from somewhere in the first place. The current law gives officials and politicians seven days for replying a reporter’s official enquiry, but it orders no punishment for exceeding this term or ignoring the questions completely,” Kostunov told the mass circulation daily Izvestia.
He added that the questions must be sent by mail, email, or even simply verbally. Russian law has allowed official document exchanges via email since 2005. The draft orders the mass media to add an email address for replies to every question.
The secretary of Russia’s Union of Journalists, Mikhail Fedotov, praised the initiative, saying the suggested amendments could be a real revolution with only one condition – the law must make official information requests possible for individual reporters, not only for mass media outlets as organizations.