Journalists seized by court action in ECHR almost 8 thousand euros for legality of caricature on Primorye former Prosecutor

Journalists seized by court action in ECHR almost 8 thousand euros for legality of caricature on Primorye former Prosecutor
Ex-Prosecutor of the Primorye Territory Valery Vasilenko

A girl of easy virtue with the Prosecutor’s face, according to the journalists, represented the law enforcement system, closing its eyes to violations during the election campaign.

The European Court of Human Rights ordered the Primorye Government to pay the journalists of the newspaper Arsenyevskiye vesti a compensation in the amount of 7840 euros for violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of speech.

The verdict of the ECHR in the case of Grebnev and Alisimchik against Russia was posted on the web site of the Strasbourg Court on November 22, Kommersant writes.

Back in November 2003, the Primorsky Court found the editor Irina Grebneva and the correspondent Nadezhda Alisimchik guilty of defaming the then Prosecutor of the Primorye Territory Valery Vasilenko, although in a satirical article published by the edition, his name was not mentioned, and the material was completely not about the Prosecutor and supervisory agency as a whole, but on the election campaign of the State Duma deputies.

However, Mr. Vasilenko grew hot over the illustration to the article in one of the issues of Arsenyevskiye vesti in November 2003. In the collage, the Prosecutor recognized his face on the picture of a girl of easy virtue.

The pamphlet has been issued in the form of an interview with a fictional character: the head of the sex services agency “Contact or image!” named Vasilinka.

The illustration included a picture of a girl with the face of the Prosecutor in a mini-skirt and a blouse with a dollar pattern.

According to Irina Grebneva, the material explained the publication’s viewpoint on the course of the election campaign, to which, in spite of violations, the police did not react. Since Vasilenko has served as the Prosecutor of the region for a long time and, for many, personified the law enforcement agencies, his face was used as an image of the entire law enforcement system, explained the idea of the illustration the chief editor of Arsenyevskiye vesti.

After this, the magistrate’s court of Vladivostok found the author of the material and the editor of the newspaper guilty of defamation and ordered them to compensate the moral damage to the Prosecutor in the amount of 60 thousand rubles. The Frunze District Court of Vladivostok and the Primorsky Regional Court dismissed the journalists’ appeals.

However, 13 years later, the ECHR judged differently. The Russian courts have unduly restricted freedom of expression of journalists, according to the court’s decision. The ECHR noted that the journalists "in a satirical manner" condemned the inaction of law enforcement officers in response to the explicit authorities’ support of some candidates over others. And for public officials "limits of acceptable criticism are wider than for private individuals."

In this regard, the ECHR ordered the Russian authorities to pay the journalists 920 Euro each in respect of pecuniary damage and 3,000 euros in non-pecuniary damage. In addition, 2760 Euro will be paid to their lawyers.

Kommersant notes that three other complaints against decisions of the Primorye region courts regarding the corruption in the army, customs officers involved in the smuggling and torture in the investigative bodies have been sent to the ECHR.

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