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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Government Bans Spread of Drug Information

In an attempt to discourage drug abuse, the Federation Council this week approved a controversial amendment to the law on mass media forbidding all media, including the Internet, to disseminate information on the production, use and sale of illegal drugs.

The amendment, unanimously approved by parliament's upper house Wednesday, states that media outlets can not spread information about methods of "producing, preparing and using" drugs or about places where drugs are sold. Information about the medical advantages of illegal drugs via mass media is also prohibited.

The wording of the new amendment is almost identical to Article 46 of the law on drugs, which was adopted in April 1998. The law has drawn criticism for imposing tougher penalties for drug possession, forbidding private doctors from keeping illegal narcotics on their premises and banning treatment of drug addicts in private hospitals.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Sergei Polyatykin, medical programs director of the Moscow-based No to Alcoholism and Drug Abuse charity foundation, said he favored the amendment.

"Unfortunately, the print media and the Internet today are full of pseudo-anti-drug literature that describes in detail what kinds of drugs there are, where they are grown, what their effects are," Polyatykin said.

"At the very bottom, this literature mentions the dangers of drugs ... but such mentions don't discourage a teenager from trying a drug," he said. "A teenager does not understand the categories of life, death, health, illness. He is fearless and immortal. He is intrigued by the description of the drug and he wants to check it out."

But an official at the St. Petersburg Vozvrashcheniye Foundation f the first group to have launched a free needle exchange in Russia f said the amendment would be a step back in the fight against the country's growing drug problem.

According to the official, who declined to give her name, the ban on information about drugs would jeopardize the numerous nongovernmental anti-drug information programs that use mass media to inform people about the dangers of narcotics addiction.

"In order to fight a problem, one needs to know exactly what the problem is," the official said. "If there is no in-depth information about drugs in the media, the nation will be ignorant and, therefore, more vulnerable to drug abuse."

She said the vague terminology of the amendment might jeopardize the needle-exchange programs, whose success largely depends on the dissemination of information about them in the media.

Andrei Richter, a media expert, said the amendment was "useless" since "the existing criminal laws are sufficient to fight drug abuse."

He said he did not believe the amendment would be used to put pressure on the media.

Drug use and drug trafficking have increased dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when drugs became more readily available. The Health Ministry said last month that drug abusers account for about 90 percent of the country's AIDS cases.

Earlier this year, Interior Ministry officials said they confiscated more than 60 tons of drugs in 1999, compared with 45 tons in 1998. They said more than 650 tons of materials used in making drugs were seized last year.

The amendment, which must be signed by President Vladimir Putin before it comes into effect, was approved at the recommendation of the Federation Council's committee for science, culture, education, health and environment.