Licensing / Media Regulation
The Case of Patrick Chitongo
Closed Expands Expression
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A first instance court held that Russian law permits journalists to seek accreditation, but does not require it. The case concerned a freelance journalist employed by a foreign media company who was charged with an administrative violation of operating without a journalistic license.
Danil Aleksandrov is a freelance journalist who works for Meduza.io, a Latvian based website that publishes in Russian on Russian and international news.
On June 18, 2016, 49 children between the ages of 12 and 15 who were vacationing at a lake camp in Karelia, in Northwest Russia, were caught in a storm while sailing. Their boat capsized and 14 children drowned. Meduza hired Danil to report on the tragic events.
On June 30, 2016, he interviewed the head of the provincial district where the camp was located. On leaving the office of the provincial head, he was apprehended by the police. The police threatened to confiscate his equipment, unless he signed a protocol of an administrative violation. Danil chose the latter. He was charged with violating the Code of Administrative Rules, Section 19.2, Part I, which penalizes conducting not-for-profit work without a license, when such a license is necessary. The police alleged that since Meduza was a foreign entity, Danil needed accreditation or a license from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to perform any journalistic activities in Russia.
The court conducted a textual review of the legal provisions dealing with accreditation of journalists.
First, the court laid-out that Article 12 of the Federal Law No. 99-FZ “On licensing various activities” from May, 4, 2011, does not require persons to seek a license to work for mass media companies.
The court further clarified that Article 48 of the Russian Federal Law No. 2124-1 “On mass media companies” from December 27, 1991, grants foreign mass media companies the right to request accreditation for their journalists from a government body. Article 55 of the Law No. 2124-1 additionally specifies that foreign media companies may seek such accreditation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as per the guidelines of Article 48.
Furthermore, Section 3 of the Government Order of the Russian Federation No. 1055 “On Rules of Accreditation and Stay of Foreign Media Entities on the Territory of the Russian Federation” refers back to the Law No. 2124-1 for guidelines on accreditation for foreign mass media companies and journalists who work for them.
The court concluded that the above provisions clearly do not require journalists to be accredited, although they may be accredited if they so desire. Accordingly, the court held that the requisite elements of the administrative violations were absent from this case and dismissed the charges brought against Danil.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
A licensing scheme is an obstacle to freedom of expression because it obstructs the exchange of information and ideas. The court in this case clarified that accreditation for journalists in Russia is a right, rather than a requirement, and in this way expanded freedom of expression.
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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