From the Department of Puppet Presidents Are Good; Inciting Hatred Toward the Authorities are Bad:
- Update :
Savva Terentyev has the distinction of having dodgy politics and dodgy taste in muzak: he’s apparently also the first Russian blogger to have criminal charges brought against him for online “hate speech”: unkind comments he made about Russian police (and reproduced — in Russian — here). The comments were originally made on Russian journalist Boris Suranov‘s blog. The earliest reference (in English) I can find to his case appears on pravda (February 28): “In case proved guilty, Terentyev will be either charged the fine of 4 up to 12 thousand dollars or will have to pay off his 1 to 2-year minimum salary, or will be forced to obligatory work for 180 hours.”
In general, Russian authorities appear to be shitting their pants over the ability of bloggers to circumvent the ubiquitous censorship otherwise present in the corporate/state sector, almost all of which is bent to Putin’s will. According to an article in The Moscow Times (Incendiary Blogger’s Case Is Sent to Court, Natalya Krainova, March 13):
Reached on his cell phone Wednesday afternoon, Terentyev referred all questions to Ernest Mezak, a local human rights activist.
“We consider the prosecutors’ position illegal,” Mezak said. “There is no crime in Terentyev’s actions. Maybe he just violated moral or ethical norms.”
Terentyev would not comment on his case to prevent reporters from encountering problems with law enforcement authorities, which have questioned several journalists who have interviewed the blogger, Mezak said.
Er… actually… the Pravda article is not the first I can find; Robert Amsterdam has published an English translation of an article from August 13, 2007 and the Russian-language newspaper Kommersant, which is available here.
AFP by way of South Africa’s Independent:
Moscow – A Russian blogger faces up to two years in prison for insulting the police on the Internet in the first case of its kind in Russia, a spokesperson for local prosecutors said on Wednesday. “The case was sent for trial today,” said Yury Knyazev, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office in the province of Komi in the far north of Russia. “It’s under article 282 of the Criminal Code for inciting hatred,” which can be punished with a large fine or prison, Knyazev said.
Savva Terentyev, a local musician, said he hated the police and called for officers to be burned alive in a comment left on an Internet blog last year, according to an official copy of his charges published on the Internet. He was charged under new Russian laws against hate speech on the Internet.
Terentyev, who is out on bail awaiting trial, has become something of a cause celebre on Russian Internet forums, with numerous expressions of support from fellow bloggers appear on his own blog terentyev.livejournal.com.
Human rights organisations have regularly criticised police for abuses.
Terentyev has denied his guilt and told Echo of Moscow radio on Wednesday that he would appeal against any court decision against him, saying: “I can’t hope to have the fairest trial in the world.”
Blogger Charged in Russia
MOSCOW (AP) — Prosecutors have charged a Russian blogger who wrote on a popular Internet site that police should be publicly incinerated in what is believed to be the country’s first such case against a blogger.
Savva Terentyev said Wednesday he was charged with inciting hatred in a court in the northern city of Syktyvkar. The charges filed Tuesday stemmed from his posting on a Web forum in February 2007 that criticized police in the wake of a raid on an opposition newspaper.
“They’re trash – and those that become cops are simply trash, dumb, uneducated representatives of the animal world,” he wrote. “It would be good if in the center of every town in Russia … an oven was built, like at Auschwitz, in which ceremonially, every day, and better yet, twice a day … the infidel cops were burnt. This would be the first step toward cleaning society of these cop-hoodlum scum.”
The case comes at a time of growing concerns in Russia that authorities have begun to tighten control over the Internet.
Web logs, online newspapers, chat rooms and other Internet sites have emerged as a vibrant source of critical news and commentary in Russia, compared with much of the national media.
During outgoing President Vladimir Putin eight years in office, much of the once-critical mainstream media has been brought to heel. Major television stations have been taken over by the state, or by state-owned corporations. Reporters often resort to self-censorship fearing retribution by officials.
The RIA-Novosti news agency said Terentyev could face a $12,600 fine if convicted.
Internet experts say Terentyev’s case is the first time criminal charges have been brought against a blogger.
The Internet’s unfettered nature and people using it to challenge the government has long worried the Kremlin. Though access is still relatively uncommon in the country, Russians have quickly taken to using the Internet for sharing often biting commentary, or even to organize political demonstrations.
As a result, Russian lawmakers and authorities are discussing ways to tame the Web.
Galina Kozhevnikova, an expert at the SOVA center which studies hate crimes in Russia, said Terentyev’s prosecution stemmed directly from new legislation on allegedly extremist literature, which she said was seriously flawed.
“To prosecute a person for a private commentary written on a not-very-popular blog that no one takes seriously in any way whatsoever – this is clearly an abuse of the law and discredit to the law,” she said. “This is clearly a signal to the blogosphere, which in Russia people now read like the free press, for real information.”
Parliament’s upper house is considering legislation that would make Web sites with more than 1,000 readers daily subject to the same regulations as print media.
See also : Intervention to the 2007 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting by the IHF and SOVA Center : Civil liberties under threat in the fight against “extremism” in Russia: The problem of hate crimes perpetrated by members of racist and nationalist groups in Russia is serious and requires effective and resolute measures by the authorities. However, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Russia) and the Moscow Helsinki Group are concerned that the current fight against “extremism” in Russia is not limited to counter-acting racist and nationalist violence, but is also exploited to stifle the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and other civil liberties. With the December 2007 parliamentary and the March 2008 presidential elections drawing closer, the term “extremism” has been increasingly used to target those who criticize official policies, a development reminiscent of Soviet-era campaigns against “anti-Soviet” propaganda… | The Last Island of Freedom, The Other Russia, December 13, 2007