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Vyborg Prosecutor's Office against Putin YouTube Video Clip

Source: (info), 23/03/12

· Freedom of speech  · Public Prosecutor’s Office  · Leningrad region & St. Petersburg

On 21 March 2012, the editors of the newspaper Vyborgskiye Vedomosti received an official reply from the Vyborg City Prosecutor's office regarding the results of an investigation into the posting by journalist Andrei Kolomoisky on his blog on the Vyborgskiye Vedomosti website of a link to a satirical video clip on YouTube.

The Prosecutor's Office had considered there was evidence of breaches of Article 280, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (public calls to commit extremist activities in the mass media) and Article 282, Section 1 of the Russian Criminal Code (incitement to hatred or enmity) and had passed the materials on to the Investigative Committee for Leningrad region in order for a decision to be made on whether to institute criminal proceedings.

The link to the video, which Andrei Kolomoisky posted on his blog on the Vyborgskiye Vedomosti website on 2 December 2011, is a parody of an election campaign speech by Vladimir Putin and has attracted around 600,000 hits and 300 subscribers. On 3 December 2011, prosecutors demanded that the "video clip be removed from the site".

On 22 February 2012, the journalist was invited to the Prosecutor's Office "to provide an explanation". Andrei Kolomoisky refused to go. However, the news portal made an official request asking for information about the results of the investigation.

On 21 March, received a reply that the Prosecutor's Office considered that the video clip "had used statements calling for the destruction of the Russian people and fomented incitement of an extremist nature," and that Andrei Kolomoisky, "had committed actions that constitute the elements of offences prescribed by Article 280, Section 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (public calls to commit extremist activities using in the mass media) and also Article 282, Part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code (inciting hatred or enmity, and the humiliation of human dignity)".

Commenting on the case against Kolomoisky, experts at the Sova Centre noted:

"Anyone who has watched this video can see for themselves that it is a satirical clip, therefore the text ascribed to Vladimir Putin does not in actual fact contain any statements, ‘calling for the destruction of the Russian people and fomenting incitement of an extremist nature.’

This case has raised another very important conflict. Andrei Kolomoisky asserts that he is neither the author nor the publisher of the video clip. He did not upload the video on to the internet but merely saw it on Aleksei Navalny's blog and provided the hyperlink to it.

There can be no doubt that a hyperlink to a public statement is not the same as making the statement oneself. But in the eyes of the viewer a video embedded (on a blog, website, Facebook account, etc.) does not differ greatly from a video that has been uploaded by the author. For the time being neither the law nor precedent provides any grounds to unequivocally decide whether an embedded video is a republication or a hyperlink.

And finally, as the video was not uploaded onto the internet by Andrei Kolomoisky then the case, if it is brought, could feature other suspects."

[The video can be found on YouTube here – trans.]
Rights in Russia,
29 Mar 2012, 12:01