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‘Anna Karenina accidentally fell under a train’: Russian regional censors give journalists guidelines on covering suicide

Source: Mediazona

Kostroma Region’s division of Roskomnadzor, Russia’s censorship agency, held a “prophylactic seminar” for local journalists on covering sensitive issues like suicide, drugs, and “insulting the government.” The results, as journalist Kirill Rubankov told Mediazona, were somewhat absurd.

Rubanov posted a Roskomnadzor handout detailing phrasings that, in the agency’s opinion, would and would not constitute “violations” of Russian administrative law. The post inspired commenters to devise their own examples of permissible headlines, including “Anna Karenina accidentally fell under a train.” Rubanov has since deleted the post from Facebook.

Roskomnadzor’s own examples were no less unusual. The agency indicated that news stories about suicides in which the victim did not understand the consequences of their actions would be permissible; “A five-year-old girl jumped from the fifth floor of a building with an umbrella in her hands to imitate Mary Poppins,” for example, would not violate the agency’s interpretation of Russian law.

Other acceptable alternatives to common “violations,” the agency said, would include writing “fell from a bridge (wanted to take a swim)” or “confused acetic acid with [another, drinkable liquid].” The handout Rubanov posted also indicated that specifying the floor from which an individual jumped or the weapon used in a suicide case would not be permissible, while posting scholarly or artistic texts about suicide would be. Multiple local news agencies in Russia have been blocked or have faced threats of censorship after posting news articles about cases of suicide. editor Irina Ochagova told Mediazona that local journalists near Kostroma were invited to the Roskomnadzor seminar in an email that promised “explanations regarding current issues in mass communications,” including common legal violations committed by media outlets. According to Rubanov, about 30 journalists attended the May 30 event.

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