Action against Hate Speech in Russia

13 November 2006

On 1 June 2006, the Russian weekly newspaper "Nedelya Goroda" published an article entitled "Keep money away from children!", which repeatedly identified Romani women as thieves and swindlers and ended with the following statement: "Department of Internal Affairs asks local residents to provide information about where Romani individuals live without permission". On 10 August 2006, Russian non-governmental organisations Romani Juvlikano Congresso and Volgograd Human Rights Centre sent statements to the Volzhskiy Public Prosecutor in southern Russia, urging the prosecutor to hold authors of the article responsible under criminal law.

Earlier, on 23 May, the ERRC sent a letter of concern to Mr Alexey Dmitrenko, editor- in-chief of the Russian daily newspaper "Budni" (Samara), expressing concern at the prevalence of anti-Romani hate speech in the newspaper. The letter was copied to the Volga region Directorate within the Russian Federal Surveillance Service for Compliance with the Law in Mass Communications and Cultural Heritage Protection. ERRC media monitoring in Russia had earlier revealed that the newspaper's articles repeatedly identified Roma as drug dealers and criminals. In the letter, the ERRC urged Mr Dmitrenko to take a firm stand against the hate speech and to refrain from publishing of inflammatory anti- Romani language.

In a response dated 28 June, Ms Zhdanova, director of the above-mentioned state institution, informed the ERRC that the federal institution had sent a written warning to Mr Dmitrenko, strongly recommending that the newspaper be more cautious in preparation of materials, which may affect ethnic, racial and religious questions. Ms Zhdanova also informed the ERRC that the institute's expert for supervisory control of the observance of legislation in the sphere of mass communication was instructed to place the newspaper "Budni" under special control. The full text of the letter is available HERE.

Earlier, on 7 April, Ms Antonina Suhovskaya, a Romani woman from Saint Petersburg, filed a civil complaint with Moscow's Presnenskiy District Court seeking moral compensation from the newspaper "Moskovskiy Komsomoletc" after the paper published an offensive article on 1 August 2005. The article, entitled "I Do Not Want to Learn, Yet I Want to Propagate", about a Romani family from southern Russia, expressed insulting opinions about Romani customs and lifestyles. Excerpts from the article read:

"Glory to God, we do not come across them often. These Gypsy encampments, Tajik gastarbeiter (guest workers) are the Marginals. They have their own laws. They inhabit some kind of near-ground stratum – closer to animals, rather than people, – and copulating in a disorderly manner, like little beasts that know nothing except the smell of heat. Let them copulate; let them even give birth in the first grade (of school); this is their personal affair. Indeed, but what if they would like to copulate with our eleven-year-old daughters? And marry them? This is where the horror is […]. Gypsies are gypsies. They smoke, drink, give birth early […]."

In her complaint, supported by the ERRC and local lawyer Ms Marina Nosova, Ms Suhovskaya claimed that such statements humiliate her dignity and honour. The complaint was filed under Articles 151 and 152 of the Russian Civil Code, which state that if physical or ethical distress is inflicted on a citizen, the citizen is eligible for compensation of moral damages. On 7 August, the Moscow's Presnenskiy District Court rejected Ms Suhovskaya's claims for both an official apology from the newspaper and for compensation of moral damages. On behalf of Ms Suhovskaya, on 17 August the ERRC and Ms Nosova filed an appeal against the decision. Monitoring of the media in Russia conducted by the ERRC since 2002 shows that the climate of intolerance towards Roma is particularly reinforced by overwhelming hate-speech in the media. ERRC actions against hate speech in Russia are funded in part by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

(ERRC, Romani Juvlikano Congresso)


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