Putin Successor Pledges Fair Position On Internet Rules

    April 3, 2008

Russian president-elect Dmitry Medvedev said his country should take a balanced approach when it comes to regulating the Internet.

Critics charge that Russian authorities are trying to impose stricter regulations of the Internet, a popular place for political debate within the country, where the mainstream media kowtows to the Kremlin.

Speaking at a forum about the Internet Medvedev acknowledged what he called "the delicate question of the relationship between freedom of speech and responsibility," on the Web.

"The answer to this question is fairly simple: laws must be respected everywhere … at the same time, the state should take a calm, fair position," with Internet users, he said.

Russian authorities have shut down a number of regional Web sites critical of officials, claiming they did not have proper registration. One Kremlin lawmaker has floated the idea of having Russian Internet sites with more than 1,000 daily visitors register as media outlets, a move that would make them have to follow the same rules as newspapers.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Russia at 144 when it comes to press freedom out of a possible 169 countries.

Medvedev has said he is a fan of Internet news, including opinions from opposition sites. In his last job as deputy prime minister he ran a program to put every Russian school online.

Russia has 40 million Internet users out of a population of 142 million