GENEVA, Switzerland, July 18 (UPI) -- Russia is called on to avoid taking steps that would be viewed as further curtailing fundamental rights to information, a top U.N. policy official said.
Beginning in early July, the State Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, enacted a series of measures seen as curbing civil freedoms. Legislation adopted July 11 limits the amount of information accessible on the Internet.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in a statement Wednesday, called on Moscow to avoid taking further restrictive steps.
"Criticism and debate may sometimes be uncomfortable for the authorities but they are crucial elements in developing any society," she said.
Opposition voices in Russia have grown louder since State Duma elections in December. Mass protests erupted when Vladimir Putin won a third non-consecutive term as president early this year. Duma elections, which saw the ruling United Russia party secure its dominance, and presidential elections were viewed as slanted in Putin's favor.
"I urge the government to ensure that its laws are in line with its international human rights commitments and national legal framework," said Pillay.