Update: The final version of the document issued by the Council of Judges removed the idea of punishing media outlets for the actions described below.
Russia’s Council of Judges has developed a new draft concept for the judicial system’s information policies in the next decade, says the newspaper Vedomosti, citing the document. Among other things, the federal agency wants to impose legal liability on mass media outlets and journalists for “pressuring” courts through “negative content published for money.” The council argues that Russia’s judges need additional protection from “biased publications.”
The Council of Judges advocates new regulations on how journalists report on judges’ work and the introduction of a mechanism to defend judges against “the media’s defamation of the judiciary.”
The draft concept says the “scandalization of justice” (“the manipulation of public opinion with respect to the judiciary, the belittling of its authority, and erratic, unfounded criticism”) has become an especially urgent problem today.
How journalists should be punished for this manipulation and erraticism remains unclear; the Council of Judges says Russia’s legislature should decide.
In November, federal investigators opened a criminal case after death threats were made on social media against judge Alexey Krivoruchko, who sentenced actor Pavel Ustinov to 3.5 years in prison for supposedly attacking police officers at a protest (following a public backlash, a higher court later commuted Ustinov’s punishment to a year’s probation). Officials have jailed two suspects, so far, and a third man was released on his own recognizance.
On December 5, the Council of Judges considered new rules on courtroom visitation that would prohibit individuals from attending trials in clothing that bears “disrespectful inscriptions.” According to the news outlet Open Media, the new rules could ban the paraphernalia activists frequently wear to hearings, including t-shirts showing the defendants’ photographs.