Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the fine that Echo of Moscow received today because of a link in a blog hosted on this leading independent radio station’s website. The fine sets a worrying precedent that could open the way to an escalation in censorship.
Echo of Moscow was fined 20,000 roubles (250 euros) for “obscene language” although it did not post the offending swearwords. The words were uttered in a YouTube video to which a link was included in former presidential candidate Ksenya Sobchak’s blog, which is hosted on the site.
The radio station’s editor-in-chief, Vitali Ruvinsky, was also convicted and was fined 5,000 roubles (65 euros).
“This conviction takes harassment of the Russian media to a new level of absurdity,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Holding a media outlet responsible for content for which it has absolutely nothing to do opens the way to an infinity of abuses.”
Many prominent public figures keep a blog on the Echo of Moscow site. In the offending post, Sobchak referred to the insults she received from a passer-by during his campaign for the March 2018 presidential election. “I was not offended,” she wrote. “I know that [this person did not represent] the Chechen people.”
The 40-minute video to which she posted a link followed her as she walked though the streets of the Chechen capital, Grozny, and met residents. A 2013 law banning the use of swearwords in the media was used as grounds for a complaint by federal communications regulator, Roskomnadzor.
Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.