IFJ Warns of “New Intolerance” in Russia as BBC FM is Axed and European Court Condemns Press Violation

The International Federation of Journalists has warned of an “intimidating new intolerance” in Russia in the wake of official censorship of the BBC and a recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights which condemned Russian courts for violating press rights and free speech.

The IFJ condemned the removal by Russian regulators of BBC broadcasts on FM after the network’s partner in Russia, Bolshoye Radio, said it had been told to remove the BBC or risk closure. It is the third Russian FM station to drop BBC programming. Although the BBC Russian Service can still be heard on medium and short wave frequencies, the IFJ says the Russian decision is an “act of censorship.”

Earlier this month the European Court of Human Rights found that Russia had violated the rights of trade union leader Viktor Gavrilovich Dyuldin and journalist Alexander Kislov who were victims of a defamation claim by regional government leaders. The two were signatories to an open letter attacking official corruption which was published by a local newspaper in the Penza region in 2000.

The letter, signed by civil society leaders and newspaper editors, accused local government of attacking journalists and independent media and of failing to implement anti-corruption policies. Some 22 regional government leaders lodged a civil action claiming defamation. They won the case in court, but the European Court said the action was a violation of free speech rights and contravened Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“These developments illustrate how precarious is the state of free expression in Russia,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “We support our colleagues at the Russian Union of Journalists who are battling to protect journalists’ rights at a time when there is an intimidating new atmosphere of intolerance of dissent.”

The IFJ said that the Russian Government must act to protect free speech and press freedom ahead of next year’s Presidential elections. “The coming elections will be a test of Russia’s commitment to democracy. Media must be free to work without restraint – including foreign broadcasters like the BBC,” said Boumelha. “The European Court decision is a victory for free speech over a flagrant violation of press freedom. Citizens and journalists must have the right to speak out against incompetent and corrupt government.”

To read the court decision, click here.

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide