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Judicial reprisal against Novaya Gazeta newspaper represents another stage of the onslaught against the free mass media

Press realease

"The decisions made over the past week at Basmanny Intermunicipal Court of Moscow to satisfy the USD 1.5 million demands of the plaintiffs against Novaya Gazeta is a convenient way of closing a disturbing newspaper." This was the statement of Sergei Mitrokhin, deputy of the State Duma from the Yabloko faction and Deputy Chairman of the YABLOKO party on the situation around Novaya Gazeta.

On February 22, 2002, Basmanny Intermunicipal Court of Moscow satisfied the suit from the Chairman of the Krasnodar Territory Court Alexander Chernov on "the defence of honour and dignity, and compensation for moral damage" (Ed. legal wording used instead of the term "defamation" in Russia). The compensation of the moral damage amounted to 30 million roubles. On February 28, 2002, the same Basmanny Intermunicipal Court of Moscow satisfied another pledge against Novaya Gazeta this time from Mezhprombank, with compensation of up to 15 million roubles. If these decisions come into force, Novaya Gazeta will virtually cease to exist.

"The amounts envisaged by the decisions of the court are unprecedented for Russian litigation. As in the liquidation of TV6 television company, this implies direct use of the judicial authorities for political goals or in corporate interests, rather than compliance with the law," added Mitrokhin.

According to Mitrokhin, representatives of YABLOKO know from their own experience the normal path of litigation and the results of reviews of defamation cases and compensation for moral damage. He also said that "several months ago the leader of the YABLOKO party Grigory Yavlinsky won the same kind of suit against the ORT TV channel, but the compensation envisaged by court decision was far lower: only 4,000 roubles."

Mitrokhin is certain that: "the decisions by Bassmanniy Court are attributable to irritation of the authorities with the emergence in Novaya Gazeta of disagreeable articles. This is obvious in view of constant pressure on the journalists of Novaya Gazeta for the past two years." Mitrokhin said that examples of such pressure include the recent detention of a journalist of Novaya Gazeta Anna Politkovskaya in Chechnya and further clumsy attempts by the interior, the military and secret services to blacken the reputation of the journalist."

See also:

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

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