The Case of Sheikh Ali Salman [Bahrain]
Closed Contracts Expression
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The Khanty Surgut City Court ordered that a video containing statements that were critical of law enforcement be added to a unified register of banned extremist material because it allegedly contained extremist content. In the video, the leader of a Russian nationalist organization criticized Surgut City’s law enforcement authorities. The Khanty Surgut City Court added the video to the list on the basis of expert findings, which concluded that the video contained statements that could incite hatred toward government officials and exacerbate social tensions.
The case arose from the sharing of a video on a social media page for Surgut City. The video was of a speech given by Mr. Ayupov R.N, the leader of a civil society organization. The civil society organization was called “Sovest” (Honor), and was established for the purpose of nurturing the development of “traditional values” in the younger generation. It rose to prominence for its nationalist views, as well as its criticism of the government and law enforcement.
In the video, Mr. Ayupov gave a speech that criticized the city’s law enforcement. The Ministry of Interior of Surgut City requested that the Prosecutor General review the video for the presence of statements defaming the head of the city’s police and statements amounting to incitement to extremism.
The Prosecutor General carried out a review and, following this review, requested that the Khanty Surgut City Court add the video to the uniform list of banned extremist materials. In its request, the Prosecutor General alleged that the video aimed to create a negative attitude toward law enforcement, and thus could be used to incite hatred of a “social group”. Under Russian law, the term “social group” could include law enforcement and government officials.
In its decision, the Khanty Surgut City Court began by reviewing whether the video contained any information that could be deemed extremist. It relied on the conclusions of experts, who found that the video contained statements that (i) could incite hatred or enmity on the basis of an individual’s employment with the government or their nationality; (ii) denigrated or humiliated Surgut City’s government and law enforcement; and (iii) could incite viewers to violence against the authorities. Furthermore, the experts found that the criticism of government could contribute to the exacerbation of social tensions. As a result, full (or even partial) dissemination of the video could incite violence and other forms of illegal activity.
After reviewing the expert conclusions, the Court reiterated that the right to freedom of expression is protected by the Russian Constitution (Article 29), and that this right can only be limited by federal law to the extent necessary to protect the foundations of the constitutional order, morality, health, the rights and legitimate interests of others, and to ensure the country’s defence and state security (Article 55). The Court then gave an overview of law regulating expression online and through the mass media, including Article 13 of the Federal Law No. 114-FZ prohibiting the dissemination of extremist speech, and concluded that there was a prohibition on the dissemination of information that had been identified as extremist.
The Court noted that Mr. Ayupov had not given evidence justifying the statements in the video. The Court then stated that the expert findings in relation to the video clearly demonstrated its extremist aim and message. The Court thus approved the request of the Prosecutor General and added the video to the unified list of banned extremist materials.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This decision contracts expression by declaring a video that criticises law enforcement to be extremist. This decision was reached on the basis of the potential harm that could result from the video, rather than clear or definitive evidence that incitement to hatred or violence would directly and immediately result from publication of the video.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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