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11.10.2014

Russia’s Novaya Gazeta accused of ‘extremism’

   

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media control body, has issued a formal warning over alleged ‘extremist activity’ to one of Russia’s few truly independent and critical newspapers, Novaya Gazeta.  The warning is over particular passages in an article by Yulya Latynina “If we’re not the West, then who are we?”.

Roskomnadzor claims that the article by well-known political commentator Yulya Latynina is in breach of the law on extremism which bans incitement of social, racial, national or religious enmity. 

The sentences in the text that they object to are as follows:

“the Russian official authorities, deputies … have discovered the existence of a particular “Russian culture” which counters European soullessness…. They haven’t in fact come up with anything new. Hitler back in Mein Kampf countered austere Nordic culture to the current European debauchery and soullessness. This is typical ploy of fascism: under the pretext of liberating a nation from alien culture’ to liberate them from any culture whatsoever and to plunge them into the times and customs of barbarism.”

“Only three contemporary developed nations – the Jews, Chinese and Indians – can claim a thousand years of indigenous culture.  All others are offshoots, mixes, mixed-blood [literally: dirty blood]”.

The above two passages have prompted Russia’s control body to inform of the following:

[According to the law against extremism] “incitement to social, ethnic, national or religious enmity; propaganda of exclusiveness, superiority or inferiority of a person on the basis of social, ethnic, national, religious or linguistic identity or their attitude to religious; the public knowingly false accusation of a person holding a state position in the Russian Federation” of a crime constitutes “extremism”. 

Latynina’s article is certainly likely to have annoyed many of those in the Russian leadership pushing a strongly anti-Western line.  She demolishes the current rhetoric, spells out its true roots and thus presents some “bad news for the official authorities, television oracles and ideologues of fascism: Russian culture became great when Russia became Europe”.

Just because you don’t like reading a text does not make it extremist.

Novaya writes that their lawyers are currently studying the article in question, however from their first impressions, they believe it likely that they will have to disagree with the view of Roskomnadzor and argue their case by involving high-class linguistic specialists.

They also point out that government officials demonstrate very strange focus in their hunt for alleged ‘extremists’ while ignoring derogatory statements about whole social groups and nations even where the material is overt war-mongering.

Novaya Editor Sergei Sokolov fears that the step could be part of coordinated state repression.  According to Russian legislation, the publication can be closed if it receives a second such warning in the space of 12 months. 

Given the baffling lack of any ‘incitement’ in the phrases which Roskomnadzor has criticized, the fears seem very well-founded. 

Halya Coynash

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