Saint Petersburg Union of Journalists Going to Court to Seek End to Restrictive Media Laws

20. 12. 2013
Translated from Russian by Translators for Justice

The Union of Journalists of Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast are seeking to have laws repealed which restrict the professional activities of journalists. This is being done, amongst other means, in court.

As the news agency Rosbalt reports, citing the press office of the Union of Journalists, a resolution concerning this matter was passed by journalists during an administrative meeting on December 19th. The resolution document highlights the unease journalists felt in relation to laws and amendments passed by the Duma, the Russian parliament, which are prohibitive in nature. For example, an article on slander was reintroduced into Russia’s criminal code in 2012. Draft legislation on self-regulatory organisations for media outlets has been submitted for the Duma’s members to review. If passed, this legislation would revoke the licence of any media outlet that does not join a self-regulatory organisation.

The Union of Journalists also reports that the law forbidding gay propaganda among minors, which is already in effect, allows for the penalisation of those who publish materials that have, in fact, no connection with homosexual propaganda.

The resolution document states: “The practice of passing amendments to media laws which concern the unprintability of words carries with it a very serious danger. On the basis of these same amendments, we have recently witnessed the scandalous revoking of Robalt’s licence, one of Russia’s largest news agencies, and one which maintains high language standards.”

Members of the union are uneasy about the emergence of these and similar draft laws which, in their view, infringe on citizens’ constitutional rights to information and interfere with the professional activities of journalists.

The YouTube videos titled “Dzhigit from Krasnodar” and “Pussy Riot Desecrated Oil Derricks” led to the complaint against Rosbalt by Roskomnadzor, the Russian state body responsible for overseeing the media. In the assessment of Roskomnadzor’s staff, these videos contained vulgar language. As a result, the supervisory body issued the news agency two warnings. Although these clips were deleted from Rosbalt’s website, Roskomnadzor still took legal action to have the activities of the news agency restricted. On October 31st, Moscow State Judge Marina Lopatkina ruled in favour of Roskomnadzor’s case. Since then, Duma members have spoken out in support of the news agency. Many others have also spoken out, including the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly, Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights, the Russian Union of Journalists, the Union of Managers of Regional Media of Russia, the Petersburg and Leningrad Region Union of Journalists, and many other political and public figures.

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