14 September 2022
by Valentina Rodionova
The Moscow Municipal Court has issued a decision abolishing the Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union. This is what the capital’s prosecutor’s office demanded. Many grievances had accumulated against the organization, including participation in actions to support journalists Ivan Safronov and Ivan Golunov, a protest against recognizing media editorial offices and individual journalists as foreign agents, and the collection of funds in support of Meduza and OVD-Info. But the final point was “discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.”
The Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union was defended in court by attorney Maksim Krupsky, with the support of the Mass Media Defense Centre.
“This entire hearing is a major political farce. There are no grounds for abolishing the organization. I think even the prosecutor during the proceedings understood this because no proof of any kind was presented. The allegation itself was a mish-mash of things that cannot even remotely be the grounds for a fine, let alone elimination,” Moscow Helsinki Group member Galina Arapova, a lawyer and the director of the Mass Media Defense Centre, told Ridus.
According to the human rights activist, none of the arguments cited in the writ held up to any criticism and were all ridiculous. Among them were the failure of organization participants to pay their membership dues. The lawyers will appeal the court’s decision.
“All aspects of this case speak to the fact that the objective set was not legal, and no one even tried to observe the legal decencies. Evidently, the political objective was to silence an organization that was visible and active,” Arapova emphasized.
The expert emphasized that even though, according to the court’s decision, the Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union had to be abolished, legally speaking, its members could continue their activities in other forms. The union organization’s activities cannot be stopped using the instruments that were applied to it. To the contrary, in her opinion, the journalistic community will close ranks even more.
“Union members themselves are saying that they are still going to support journalists. They see this as their function. we do not have to preserve the legal entity to demonstrate solidarity. Our state simply cannot understand that this does not turn on money, this turns on justice. The union is not about defending journalists but about support and solidarity,” Arapova summed up.
Let us note once again that the Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union was founded by a group of journalists in March 2016. It includes 600 journalists from 40 regions. The association is affiliated with the International and European Federations of Journalists.
Previously, Human Rights Council member Eva Merkacheva in a radio broadcast urged journalists not to engage in self-censorship out of fear. Despite the new realities, no one has officially rescinded free speech in the country yet. In a conversation with Ridus, Russian Union of Journalists chair Vladimir Soloviev expressed his point of view on this issue.
Translated by Marian Schwartz