Freedom of Association and Assembly / Protests, Political Expression
Microtech Contracting Corp. v. Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York
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The Russian media supervision ministry, Roskomnadzor, blacklisted Grani.ru in Russian web-space for allegedly calling for participation in illegal protests. Grani.ru appealed this censorship but the court dismissed the action citing the Law on Information which prohibits the posting of “illegal” materials on any website in Russia.
On March 14, 2014, Rosmoknadzor, the Russian media supervision ministry, satisfied a request of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation to block access to Grani.ru in Russia. The Prosecutor’s request was based on allegations that Grani.ru called for illegal protests, extremist activities and mass riots.
On April 22, 2014, Roskomnadzor served an order to the providers of Grani.ru’s website and ordered them to block access to the website in Russia. Illegal activities were cited as the reasoning behind the order, mentioning Grani.ru’s coverage of “strategy – 6” protests against the alleged illegal detention of participants in the May 6, 2012, protests in Moscow.
On May 6, 2014, the Taganski court heard Grani.ru’s appeal of the ban. The court upheld the ban, agreeing with the prosecutor’s findings that the website as a whole called for illegal protests. Grani appealed in the Moscow City Court on September, 2, 2014. The court upheld the website’s ban.
This was not the first time Grani.ru faced government censorship. Prior to the ban, the website received government warnings for publishing photos with t-shirts of the image of Pussy Riot, a Russian protest band, which Grani.ru took down.
The Taganski court rejected Grani.ru’s appeal of the ban in Russia by Romskomnadzor. Grani.ru argued that the ban was in violation of Russia’s law on the media and information, (Article 15.3). Specifically, Grani.ru argued that the law required the government to list publications that called for illegal activities, which the prosecutor and Romkomandzor never did.
The prosecutor stated that the duty to show that illegal information is absent from the site is on Grani.ru. The government responded by explaining that the ban was based on a complete analysis of Grani.ru, which determined the website’s call for participation in illegal protests and extremist activities.
Grani.ru argued that the prosecutor who analyzed its website lacked expertise and requested his participation in the trial as a witness. The court rejected this motion because it agreed that evidence supported allegations against Grani.ru. Just as the prosecutor, the court relied heavily on Grani.ru’s coverage of “Strategy 6” protests. The court agreed with the prosecutor that the coverage of the illegal protests called for participation in them.
Roskomnadzor admitted that Grani.ru’s publications do not directly call for participation in illegal activities, but the reading of its publications may be understood as a call for such participation. Grani.ru also argued that only a court order may ban a media company’s activities, which makes Roskomnadzor’s ban illegal. The prosecutor argued that Grani.ru lost its media license, hence the law on the media does not apply to it.
On September 2, 2014, Grani.ru appealed the Taganski court’s decision. The appellate court upheld the ban. The appellate court agreed with the prosecutor’s conclusion that Grani’s content called for illegal protests.
Grani argued that the Law on Information mandates the government to identify the exact materials that call for illegal action and that after Grani removes those materials from its site, the ban should be lifted. However, the court agreed with the prosecutor that Grani was reviewed as a whole and the court’s determination of the websites call for illegal activities came from this wholesome review. Thus, the court dismissed Grani’s argument.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case contracts expression because it allows the government to censor websites that illicit “illegal” activity and support protest bands.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Russia’s law on media and information
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.