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Russian Court Strikes Double Blow to Press and Freedom of Expression in Anti-LGBTI Ruling
Freedom House condemns the conviction on January 30 of Aleksandr Suturin, a newspaper editor in Khabarovsk, under Russia’s draconian ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” The recently-imposed ban prohibits most public discussion of LGBTI people and issues and has contributed to an atmosphere of hostility and violence towards LGBTI people across Russia.
Suturina, editor of the newspaper Young Far Easterner, was convicted and fined the equivalent of about $1,500 for quoting a local geography teacher who was fired because he is gay and because of his activism on behalf of LGBTI rights. Prosecutors focused on the former teacher’s statement, “My existence is effective proof of the normalcy of homosexuality.”
“This conviction of a newspaper editor for doing his job by quoting a local activist is a new low point for the Russian justice system,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “When it’s illegal to discuss the universal equality of people, the rights and equality of all people are threatened. Russia must overturn this law and end its prosecution of of LGBTI people and advocates.”
The ruling is a sign that Russian prosecutors and judges see the reach of the anti-LGBTI law as extending to individuals who report on LGBTI people and issues.
Independent media have come under increasing pressure in recent years, with the passage of an Internet blacklist law in 2012, the re-introduction of a criminal libel statute in 2012, frequent charges under vague anti-extremism statutes, a ban on “insulting the feelings of religious believers,” and harassment of those who air criticism of the government. In late January 2014, several cable and satellite TV services stopped carrying Russia’s only independent TV station, Dozhd.
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