20 April 2021
By Ivan Pavlov, lawyer [advocat], head of Team 29
Journalists and lawyers – these are the people whose professional rights will be violated. Some will be detained, others will not be allowed to see their clients. That is, some will not have access to information, while others will not have access to those who they need to defend. Both are fundamental professional rights.
I am an authorised representative of the St Petersburg Bar Association for the defence of the professional rights of lawyers. This institution was founded a couple of years ago. And it operates not only in St Petersburg, but also in several other regions. Lawyer representatives visit the scene, record violations of the professional rights of defence lawyers and provide them with prompt assistance so that their rights are protected and restored.
We are divided into teams of five. And this week my team are on duty. There will probably be a lot of work on Wednesday and Thursday. Because all the lawyers who are not allowed to see their clients will call us. Our task is to come and record the violation, try to resolve the situation and provide the lawyer with all the facilities so that he can meet with his client as soon as possible. You can follow the news on my Telegram channel: https://t.me/pavlovteam29
By the way, I have not heard that journalists will have a comparable system, a similar rapid reaction unit. For journalists, this happens quite spontaneously: one colleague sees how another is pressured or beaten – and takes several pictures, which are then published in the media and discussed on social networks. And often nothing happens later, in a legal context. But if we let our law enforcement officers get away with all this and do not react with legal methods, seeking sanctions against specific violators, then this will continue to be repeated, and get worse.
But journalists, unlike lawyers, have a criminal article addressing obstruction of professional activity. Though it’s “sleeping”, of course – almost nobody has been sentenced under this article – but it’s there. How to wake it up? Get in practice, submit claims, applications and complaints; and, yes, at first receive refusals. This path is long and thorny. We can lose 20 times, 100 times, 1,000 times, but time 1,001 things might change, a window of opportunity might appear that could help change the situation.
On 21 April during the protests Team 29 will open a hotline for journalists. Our attorneys and lawyers will be ready to answer questions, provide legal advice, and correct violations. And after the rally – help with filing a lawsuit. Team 29 will also monitor all violations related to freedom of access to information.
None of us exercise our rights enough. And rights are like muscles, they tend to atrophy. They must be constantly kept in good shape. Don’t just give up, go to court. Of course, journalists want to write articles or reports, not complaints. But they must fight for their rights. And we are ready to help them in this.
Translated by Anna Bowles