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Russia27 October 2006

In “grotesque” sentence, court fines website editor for insulting Putin

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the fine of 20,000 rubles (about 600 euros) that was imposed by court in Ivanovo on 24 October on Vladimir Rakhmankov, the editor of the online newspaper Cursiv, for “insulting the president” in an 18 May article headlined, “Putin as Russia’s phallic symbol.”

The fine was half what the prosecutor requested for the article, which was about the government’s attempts to increase the birthrate.

“This is utterly grotesque even if it falls far short of the gravest forms of persecution to which journalists are exposed in Russia,” the press freedom organisation said. “Prosecuting a journalist on a charge of ‘insult’ because of a satirical article is a flagrant violation of free expression.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “The situation of Russian journalists in the provinces is often very tough because of the high degree of concentration of authority.”

Rakhmankov was charged on 19 May, the day after he published the article. His home and office were searched, his computer was seized, and his website was illegally closed down on 22 May. According to the Russian criminal code, he had faced up to 12 months of hard labour.

He always insisted he did nothing wrong and that the local authorities were just using a pretext to punish him for criticising them in the articles he had published in Cursiv.

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