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Prosecutor of Saint-Petersburg v. Snob.Ru

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    May 5, 2015
  • Outcome
    Injunction or Order Granted
  • Case Number
    2-3346/2015
  • Region & Country
    Russian Federation, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Hate Speech

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

In 2013, Snob, a Russian online magazine, published an article about migrants in Moscow and their relationship with the city’s residents. The article contained stereotypical and derogatory references about migrants from the Caucuses and Central Asia, as well as other nationalities. According to the author, the offensive words were meant as satire and the purpose of the article was to defend the migrants, show their similarities to Moscowites, and expose the irony of xenophobia.

In 2015, two years after the article’s publication, the Prosecutor of Saint-Petersburg requested an injunction from the court to add the article to the Federal list of extremist materials and ban it in Russia. The court granted the injunction, ruling that the article was offensive and propagated racial superiority of certain nationalities, making it extremist and illegal material under the Russian federal law against extremism.


Facts

On October 17, 2013, Yevgeniy Babushkin, published an article on an online Russian magazine, Snob. The article, titled “Charlie Chaplin – a black-ass. About treatment of migrants” (Чарли Чаплин — черножопый. Об отношении к мигрантам) aimed to demonstrate that migrant workers are not that different from native Moscow residents. To do that, the author listed stereotypes of migrant workers and compared them to Moscow residents. For example, in one paragraph, the author describes a woman who works in a public restroom, and that to a Moscow resident she is unsurprisingly a migrant, a stereotype. He then tells the reader that when the migrant woman’s shift ends, she is replaced by an ethnic Russian who likely has similar problems and dreams.

In another paragraph, the author lists negative stereotypes of Poles, Italians, and Jews in America, calling xenophobic remarks past their time, and asking for more humor, as exemplified by Charlie Chaplin in “The Immigrant”.

In many parts of the article, the author referred to stereotypical migrants as per the beliefs of a Moscow resident, a “black-ass,” which is a derogatory Russian term for persons with origins in Asia and the Caucasus.

In 2015, the Prosecutor of the Pushkin Region in Saint-Petersburg conducted a check on conformity of Russian online publications with the federal law against extremism. During the check, the article in question was identified as being extremist by an expert commission from the Pushkin State University. Thus, the Prosecutor requested a district court to grant an injunction that would place the article on the federal list of extremist materials and ban its dissemination in Russia.

The author was not invited to the hearing.


Decision Overview

First, the court outlined guarantees for equality of rights of all persons and citizens in Russia and the prohibition on hate speech, provided by Articles 19 and 29, respectively.

The court did not define extremism wholly, but stated that under federal law, and that it includes propaganda of superiority based on social status, race, nationality, religion, language, religion, among other acts; calls for social, racial, national or religious hostilities; violation of the rights of a citizen on the basis of social status, religion, race, nationality or language; and public calls to undertake the forbidden acts listed above; distribution and creation of extremist material.

The court also defined propaganda as an intentional act to disseminate information with the purposes of: forming certain beliefs, behaviors, stereotypes, and world-views; inciting activities or preventing activities, and substantiating or justifying unlawful activities by praising them and presenting them as the norm.

The court agreed with the conclusions of the expert commission affirming that the article contained parts that are extremist, in particular, citing the article’s paragraph that negatively portrayed certain ethnic groups. The court cited a part of the commission’s conclusion that referred to the article’s delineation of stereotypes associated with Jews, Poles, and Italians in the United States as an example of propaganda of ethnic superiority of some.

Based on these considerations, the court granted the injunction to place the article on the list of extremist materials and ban its dissemination in Russia.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The decision censors counter speech. It disregards the intent with which a counter-speech article might use the terminology found in hate speech. This means that hate speech and counter speech may receive similar punishments for using certain words even if the intent for their use was opposite.

Moreover, the court’s definition of propaganda is overly broad and has the potential to include any speech with an opinion, even if it does not have an unlawful purpose.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Related International and/or regional laws

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Russ., Const. Dec. 12, 1993, art. 29, sec. 2
  • Russ., Const., Dec. 12, 1993, art. 19, sec. 2
  • Russ., Fed. Law On Combatting Extremist Activities, No.114-FZ, (July 25, 2002)

Other national standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.


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