Russian court convicts anti-Kremlin magazine of slander
MOSCOW, Russia – A Russian court Friday, December 13, convicted an opposition magazine and its reporter of slander, ordering them to pay a fine of US $33,000 to two judges.
The New Times magazine was found guilty of defaming two Moscow judges in an article alleging they engaged in plagiarism.
The article written by journalist Zoya Svetova used information published by website Dissernet, which inspects academic works by Russian officials for possible plagiarism by comparing them against existing works by other authors.
The article "Plagiarists in mantles" said that judge Dmitry Gordeyuk, known for systematically rejecting appeals of Russian opposition activists currently under arrest after the massive May 6, 2012 anti-Vladimir Putin demonstration, has written a thesis that closely resembles a previous article by his advisor.
Gordeyuk and the advisor, Yury Bespalov, proceeded to sue the magazine, saying the article is slanderous and incorrect.
The Presnensky District Court sided with the judges, ordering the magazine to pay 500,000 rubles (US $15,000) to each of the judges in damages, and Svetova to also pay a smaller sum of 100,000 (US $3,000).
The New Times is one of Russia's most vehemently anti-Kremlin publications, published on a weekly basis with circulation of 25,000 copies.
Svetova is a veteran journalist who reports on human rights issues and is also an activist involved in public monitoring of Russia's prison system.
She said the verdict could set a dangerous precedent and threaten other journalists who report on Russia's court system.
She called the lawsuit "legally sloppy" and said the plaintiffs weren't able to prove that the articles were damaging because they didn't even show up to the hearing. Meanwhile, the defense was not permitted to call up their witnesses.
"The judge essentially was their legal representative," she told Agence France-Presse. "She simply repeated the text of the lawsuit."
"The verdict is a violation of freedom of speech," she said. "It's payback to journalists." – Rappler.com