Content Regulation / Censorship
Loughran v. Century Newspapers Ltd
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Yelizaveta Krasikova shared a post on VKontakte, Russia’s social network website, from “Anarcho-news,” titled “A statement from Ukrainians to the people of Russia”. For this act, Yelizaveta was intially convicted under Article 280 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for inciting extremist activities and fined RUB 100,000. Later, Yelizaveta fell under mass amnesty provided by the Russian Duma. Her fine was waived, although the conviction still stands.
On March 2, 2014, Yelizaveta Krasikova, while browsing VKontakte, Russia’s social networking website, shared a post from “Anarcho-News” with her friends, using a “tell friends” button. The post, titled “A statement from Ukrainians to the people of Russia,” was original content created by the “Central HQ of the Rights Center.”
“A statement from Ukrainians to the people of Russia” said Russians and all other enslaved people of Russia have a chance, similar to the Ukrainians at the Maidan Square, to fight for their freedom from Putin’s chekist (KGB) regime. The statement’s author suggested to its listeners to participate in mass protests, organize guerrilla squads, block roads, and destroy military infrastructure.
For sharing this statement, Yelizaveta was charged with incitement of extremist activities under Article 280, para. 1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
The court did not raise the issue of the shared statement’s authorship and solely focused on its dissemination by Yelizaveta. The court relied on expert and secret witnesses in making its ruling that Yelizaveta violated article 280 of the Criminal Code.
The expert stated that the text of the shared post explicitly called for the overthrow of the constitutional order of Russia, led by Putin, and that it may have a motivational effect on the mind and actions of a person. The court determined the expert’s opinion to mean that Yelizaveta publicly called an unspecified group of people to change the foundation of the constitutional order and violate the territorial integrity of Russia.
Article 280 requires intent and the prosecution proved that element through the testimony of two secret witnesses. Despite the defense’s argument that secret witnesses should be used only when their physical safety is threatened, which has not been the case here, the court admitted their testimony. The witness testimony established that Yelizaveta understood that the shared statement’s content called for a violent overthrow of Russia’s government, just as it happened in Ukraine, and that she wanted to spread that message to other users of VKontakte.
Yelizaveta’s court testimony stated that she believed in the need to view issues from different perspectives, and thus, to do that one might need to consider statements that might appear absurd.
Despite the court proceddings, in honor of victory in World War II, the Russian Duma passed an act providing amnesty to all first time offenders of non-serious crimes. Yelizaveta fell under this act. Amnesty simply means that she does not have to serve the punishment for the crime, while the conviction still stands.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The judgment punishes people for sharing online content that might be considered extremist, and thus this contracts 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.
The ruling is from a court of first instance and can be appealed.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.