Russian journalist accused of undermining constitutional system
Perm journalist and human rights defender Igor Averkiyev could face charges of calling for an overthrow of the constitutional system. According to the Russian newspaper “Kommersant”, the Privolzhk department of Rossvyazokhrankultury [the Federal Service overseeing the media, communications and cultural heritage] has detected elements of “extremism” in Averkiyevs article “Putin is our good Hitler” published in 2007. The article has been sent “for analysis and measures in reaction” to the Prosecutor of the Perm area.
Averkiyev asserts in his article that President Putin “like the Reich Chancellor Hitler 80 years earlier” aspires to absolute power, limited only by the leaders own ambitions and the love of the people.
The three pages of warning give an extensive analysis of the key themes of the article, including the phrase about Vladimir Putin continuing the cause of “dubious” [literally “dark”] national leaders, Ivan the Terrible, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao tse Tung. According to Rossvyazokhrankultury, the authors suggestion that dark circumstances be changed for a light choice “can be interpreted as a public call for a change to the basis of the constitutional order”.
The Prosecutors check could lead to charges being laid against the author under the article “public calls to carry out extremist activities with the use of the mass media”. This carries a possible five-year term of imprisonment.
The Prosecutors office said that at present they were simply carrying out a check and “were not talking yet of submitting material to initiate a criminal investigation”.
On Tuesday, Averkiyev gave his explanation to the Prosecutors office. He says that there was “nothing particular” in the article.
The 47-year-old is well-known in Prikamye for his human rights activities. He is the editor of the newspaper “Personal Matter” and heads the Perm Civic Chamber. The article in question first appeared on the site of the All-Russian Civic Congress, and later had a five-thousand print run in the newspaper “Za cheloveka” [“For the individual”], as an attachment from the Perm Regional Human Rights Centre to the publication “Personal Matter”.
Igor Yakovenko, General Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists comments:
“Undoubtedly a comparison with Hitler can be insulting for any person, yet when specially trained young people call democrats fascists, that is treated as normal, and nobody drags them off to court. Our leaders are hypersensitive to anything against their honour, yet dont notice the rights of others being infringed. Were probably seeing a case of local authorities wanting to prove their loyalty.”