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Putin bans swearing in books and films in effort to ‘protect culture’

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a meeting with Russian ambassadors, envoys and diplomats at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo//Maxim Zmeyev, Pool)

MOSCOW: A Russian ban on swearing in films, plays and books came into force Tuesday, a policy designed to appeal to conservatives but which President Vladimir Putin’s critics condemned as a further move against free speech.

Under the legislation that was passed in May, films containing “foul language” will be banned from wide release and books with swearwords will have to be sold in sealed packages with obscenity warnings.

Theaters will not be allowed to stage productions containing obscenities, according to the law, which imposes fines of up to 50,000 roubles ($1,500) for each infraction.

Russian media have reported that software known as the “swear-bot” will be used to police cursing online.

The law is meant to ensure “the protection and development of linguistic culture,” according to a statement on the Kremlin’s website. But critics say it is reminiscent of Soviet-era censorship and will suppress free expression.

Putin has struck a conservative tone in his latest term, praising what he calls traditional values and holding up the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral authority.

Last month, newspaper Izvestiya said communications watchdog Roskomnadzor planned to use a search program to root out rude words in online articles and comments attached to them.

The “swear-bot” faces a huge task, as Russian is known for the breadth of its obscene vocabulary.

A dictionary of Russian swearwords lists over 1,200 different phrases that use a single slang term for “penis.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 02, 2014, on page 11.

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