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Journalists inviolability initiative sparks controversy

August 08, 2013, 12:36 UTC+3
Presidential Human Rights Council and Public Chamber fractured on the issue of journalistic inviolability initiative
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MOSCOW, August 8 (Itar-Tass) - The Presidential Council for Civil Society Promotion and Human Rights (HRC) and the Public Chamber are mixed in their attitude to the idea of granting inviolability to journalists. State Duma member Mikhail Serdyuk representing A Just Russia faction came out with such a proposal recently.

“I have a dual attitude to this initiative,” says Human Rights Council and Public Chamber member, TV host Nikolai Svanidze. On the one hand, the measure can provide protection to pressmen, in particular, young ones, who are in the early days of their career. On the other hand, society will start looking at journalists as members of privileged caste of legislators, senior officials, as well as police and security officers, with the net effect of annoyance and dislike towards journalists soaring,” Svanidze said, adding that in that sort of situation formal immunity will be poor protection.

Svanidze also fears that the government may use the status to decide at its sole discretion who is a journalist and who is not.

“The intention is good, but the proposed solution is wrong,” Svanidze said.

“A clear description of who is a journalist and who is not is found in the current law on mass media,” said Yelena Masyuk, head of HRC permanent commission for freedom of information and rights of journalists. “Several years ago I would have been against granting inviolability to journalists. Now I am for it,” she said.

Chairman of the Moscow Journalists’ Union, Pavel Gusev, member of the Public Chamber and the Human Rights Council, welcomed the initiative.

“I support this idea. This may protect journalists, in particular, in the regions where they are may be persecuted by the authorities and private businesses. The legislator’s proposal sounds fine and promising, but the wording of the amendment should be studied in cooperation with experts,” Gusev said.

The daily Izvestia said earlier State Duma member Mikhail Serdyuk had proposed amendments to the law on the mass media introducing the term “journalistic immunity.” He hopes the measure would complicate the procedure of opening criminal or administrative cases against mass media workers.

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