MOSCOW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's parliament voted down on Friday a widely criticized bill that would have allowed the authorities to close media outlets prosecuted for libel.
The amendments to the current law were proposed by Robert Shlegel, a member of the dominant, pro-Kremlin United Russia faction and a former radical youth group leader. They were overwhelmingly passed by the State Duma in their first reading on April 25.
Media representatives slammed the bill, initiated under then-president Vladimir Putin, as aimed at further strengthening control over the media.
The editor-in-chief of the popular tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets, Pavel Gusev, was reported to have called the amendments "an extra tool for shutting down the media and fighting free speech."
President Dmitry Medvedev later also gave a negative assessment of the amendments.
Earlier reports said U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin had approached Medvedev over the bill, urging him to stand up for free speech in Russia.
Vladimir Putin was accused in the West of stifling media freedoms during his eight-year presidency, when leading television channels were taken over by the state or Kremlin-connected businessmen.
Speaking after the vote, Oleg Shein from the Just Russia faction called it "an unarguable success for democracy in Russia."
Under the current law, media outlets can be shut down for publishing state secrets and the statements of extremist groups.