April 15, 2019 / 3:15 PM / 3 months ago

Russia blocks news site for anti-Putin graffiti under new law

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a gala concert on the occasion of Cosmonautics Day, at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia April 12, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian authorities blocked a regional news website over the weekend over a report about graffiti insulting Vladimir Putin, its chief editor said, under a new ban on insulting officials online.

The legislation, which Putin signed into law last month, allows authorities to block sites that carry content deemed to show “blatant disrespect”.

Kremlin critics say the measure is a form of direct state censorship. The law’s authors say it is needed to preserve healthy public debate online.

The 76.Ru news site in Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow, was blocked by state media watchdog Roskomnadzor for more than 12 hours on April 12-13, Chief Editor Olga Prokhorova said.

She said Roskomnadzor informed 76.Ru after the site had been blocked that its report about graffiti on the columns of a local police station crudely slurring Putin contained information that had been flagged under the law against insulting authorities.

After the news site removed a photograph of the graffiti from the report and sent a screenshot to Roskomnadzor, the site was unblocked, Prokhorova said. The amended report about the graffiti was accessible on Monday, but did not mention what it said.

Roskomnadzor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another Yaroslavl-based news site, Yarkub, said on Saturday it had also been blocked over a similar news item. It removed all mention to Putin in the reports and was unblocked, it said on the Telegram messaging service.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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