IPA Joins Criticism of Russia’s Anti-LGBTQ Bill

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The International Publishers Association warns that ‘publishers will find themselves at risk’ under the proposed legislation.

At the building of the State Duma on Okhotny Ryad in Moscow. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Konstantin Aksenov

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Einarsson: ‘Step Back From This Disastrous Bill’
After the Russian parliament’s lower house, the Duma, gave final approval on Thursday (November 24) to a proposed law that would expand restrictions on activities seen as promoting gay rights, the International Publishers Association (IPA) joined a widening international chorus of condemnation.

As the Associated Press Moscow reports, the draft passed out of the Duma on its third and final reading. It still needs approval in the upper house, the Federation Council, to be forwarded to Vladimir Putin to sign it into law.

The Guardian’s write-up from Pjotr Sauer interprets the bill’s intention as criminalizing “any act regarded as an attempt to promote ‘nontraditional sexual relations’—in film, online, advertising, or in public, expanding on “a notorious 2013 law that banned ‘propaganda’ of ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ among minors and was used to detain gay rights activists.”

By the end of October, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had moved ahead of the Duma’s votes, the high commissioner Volker Türk, an October 28 report wrote,  being “deeply concerned about this latest development, which infringes even further on international human rights norms and standards.”

In a statement from Türk’s spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, the office said, “The proposals would expand an existing law from 2013, which has been extensively examined and condemned by UN human rights experts as discriminatory, violating fundamental rights to freedom of expression, and leading to an increase in hate speech, hate crimes, and abuse, including against children.”

Oleg Novikov, who Publishing Perspectives readers know from his work at Russia’s Eksmo, is quoted by Le Monde‘s Moscow correspondent Benoit Vitkine that he believes that some 50 percent of the company’s output could run afoul of such a law. Among both classical and contemporary Russian literature that could be threatened by such legislation, the article says, might be “the entire work of [60-year-old novelist] Viktor Pelevin and even a biography of Tchaikovsky, who happens to have been homosexual.”

In its Thanksgiving Day report (November 24), the United States’ PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) NewsHour commentary indicated that the draft legislation coming out of the Duma last week , if made into law, “will outlaw advertising, books, films, and theater productions said to contain what the Russian government calls ‘propaganda.'” The report reminds viewers that the Kremlin outlawed same-sex marriage in 2020.

IPA: ‘The Russian State Stepping Up Its Censorship’

In the statement from the IPA in Geneva, Kristenn Einarsson, chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee and chief of the Norway-based World Expression Forum, WEXFO, is quoted, saying, “This new bill targets the LGBTQ+ community and sees the Russian state step up its censorship of creative works.

Kristenn Einarsson

“Russian publishers will find themselves at risk, even when publishing some classics of Russian literature.

“If there is time to step back from this disastrous bill, we urge the Russian authorities to do so.”

Reportedly, fines for actions deemed infractions under the new draft legislation could mean fines the equivalent of 5 million rubles (US$84,033) for institutions  and 400,000 rubles (US$6,722) for individual citizens.

In unrelated but similarly concerning incidents, the vote in the Duma followed by days the shooting attack on an LGTBQ bar in Colorado Springs on November 19, which left what are reported today (November 28) by local television news outlet KKTV to be five victims dead and nearly 24 injured.

At the Globe and Mail, Dylan Robertson in Ottawa reports that Canada’s foreign minister, Melanie Joly, has summoned the Russian ambassador, Oleg Stepanov, to press the Canadian government’s complaints for a third time this year, this time to discuss what it Joly’s offices call “hateful propaganda” being disseminated by the Russian embassy. Canada, Robertson reports, is among 33 nations that have signed a joint statement condemning the Duma’s draft legislation for the expansion of anti-LGBTQ regulations.

Robert Coalson, writing for Radio Free Europe before the vote, on November 12, put forward a potential link between the Duma’s actions and the disastrous state of Putin’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine, writing, “Many activists and people in Russia’s LGBT community link the draconian legislation with the country’s grinding war of aggression against neighboring Ukraine and the government’s efforts to rally broad support by insisting the country’s ‘traditional values’ are under assault by ‘Satanists’ at home and abroad.”

Here is the statement on the new draft bill from the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Russian market is here, more on issues of the freedom to publish and freedom of expression is here, more on LGTBQ issues is here, and on the International Publishers Association is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the global media partner of the International Publishers Association.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.