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From Russia With Love?

Recent legislation in Russia is limiting the freedom of speech rights of gay activists, which is bringing a lot of negative publicity to the country leading up to the 2014 Olympics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is putting yet another cap on the free speech rights of Russian citizens, this time, directed toward the LGBT community. The President recently signed new laws that ban the "spreading propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and gay pride gatherings according to the Associated Press. This new legislation strikes a huge blow freedom of speech and gay rights activists alike in the country, as it effectively restricts any form of speech that could be in support of promoting the rights of homosexuals.

Poor image leading up to Olympics 
One of the most contentious parts of this law is the use of the word "propaganda." The word itself is quite ambiguous meaning that it could be used very loosely to limit any sort of speech that might show support for the rights of homosexuals.

This becomes even more complicated as the 2014 Olympics are fast approaching, bringing a lot of negative attention to the country. Russian authorities have been quick to add that it does not ban being gay or lesbian, only the dissemination of the propaganda, meaning that gay and lesbian athletes are welcome to participate but they cannot take part in any form rally or protest.

History of poor free speech 
Russia has been notorious of late for its violation of the free speech of its citizens. A couple years ago, it sentenced three members of the artist collective Pussy Riot to various prison sentences after a protest in a Russian Orthodox Church. In this particular instance, the limiting of free speech was reactionary, as the protest, which was a direct criticism of President Vladimir Putin, disrupted a church service. Many feel that they should have never been arrested in the first place, and their subsequent jailings have led to many protests involving musicians from around the world in support of their cause, according to Amnesty International.

In this case, there is another contentious word being used in their sentencing, "hooliganism." In this instance it becomes clear again, that this is a term that can be applied quite loosely and across many different situations. As a result, more citizens have had their individual human rights violated when trying to voice criticism of their government.

Both of these situations force many to wonder – what kind of a slippery slope this ambiguous language will lead to in terms of human rights in Russia?

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