The Russian media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, is planning to ban TV series and movies that include LGBTI+ characters or references from streaming services, in line with the new “gay propaganda” law adopted in December.
The draft regulation targets online materials seen as “encouraging the attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations,” “creating a distorted idea of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations” and “forming a positive attitude towards changing the biological sex of a person”.
Sites or platforms that fail to delete this content risk being blocked by the authorities and fined up to USD 81,000.
“This unabashed censorship shows that the Russian authorities are wholly out-of-step with human rights, willing to blatantly violate the right to freedom of expression,” said Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director.
“Disguised as ‘protecting traditional values,’ this outrageous move will not only further stigmatise millions of LGBTI people but expose them to increasing discrimination and stigma, hostility and violent acts,” said Zviagina.
According to the newspaper Vedomosti, online streaming services have in response already removed movies and TV series such as Oscar-winners Brokeback Mountain and Call Me by Your Name, The Sex Lives of College Girls and several episodes of the British TV drama This Is Going to Hurt.
The anti-LGBTI law adopted by Russian legislators late last year broadened the 2013 “gay propaganda” law introduced to “protect” children to include a blanket ban on LGBTI public information or activities to all Russians.
The 2013 law has been used by the government to stifle pro-LGBTI events and to shut down organisations and online media.
In 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee found the law to be “ambiguous, disproportionate and discriminatory” and denounced “a blanket restriction on legitimate expressions of sexual orientation”.
“This censorship directive, not to mention the anti-LGBTI law itself, must be immediately repealed,” said Zviagina. “It’s time for Russia to stop promoting and endorsing discrimination against LGBTI people and understand and recognise that their rights are human rights, and protect them.”