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Russian publishers warn of mass book removal risk due to bill banning LGBT propaganda

Russia’s publishing houses have warned of the risk of mass book removal due to the incorrect interpretation of legislative initiatives related to the ban on “LGBT and paedophilia propaganda” likely to be implemented in the country, Russian media outlet RBC reports.

According to the president of one of the biggest Russian publishing houses Eksmo, Oleg Novikov, the bill being discussed by Russian lawmakers jeopardises up to 50% of books sold on the Russian market. In particular, almost all books by Viktor Pelevin, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s biography, and many other titles are in the danger of being prohibited, Novikov says.

He thinks that the main problem of the bill aimed at banning LGBT propaganda in Russia is the “too broad wording and the lack of definitions in the law explaining the meaning of terms used”.

Alexey Ilyin, CEO of publishing house Alpina, also shared his concerns about the bill with RBC. According to him, the topic of LGBT is not the main one in many books and “is present without any positive or negative shades [of meaning]”. “We don’t understand: if, for example, a book features a character who’s gay or talks about homosexual relations among animals, and it’s neither admired nor condemned, will that be considered breaking the law?” he asks.

Partner in the Pen & Paper Law Society tells RBC that just a mention of homosexuality in a book could be deemed propaganda. Another question that remains unanswered is at whose expense publishers will have to be reviewing the books on whether the text fits the criteria set by law. According to Novikov’s estimates, such a review could cost one billion rubles (€16 million).

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On 27 October, Russia’s State Duma (lower house of the Parliament) deputies approved the first reading of the bill banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”. The document proposes to ban the propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations”, paedophilia, and gender change on the Internet as well as in media, books, movies, and commercials / advertisements. Additionally, according to the bill, foreign citizens could be expelled from Russia for LGBT propaganda.

On 11 November, Yana Lantratova, a member of Russia’s State Duma, proposed that video games which in her opinion, “promote” homosexuality, pornography, violence, and gore, should be banned in the country. In an interview for Gazeta.ru, she said that the list of games that should be banned includes all titles of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, two games of The Last of Us series, two parts of Dragon Age, as well as such series as Borderlands, Divinity: Original Sin, Life Is Strange, Fallout, Apex Legends, RimWorld, Overwatch, and others.

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