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Courts ban journalists from citing witnesses

August 02, 2012, 13:13 UTC+3

The courts ruled that only indirect speech might be published

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MOSCOW, August 2 (Itar-Tass) — The Zamoskvorechye and Khamovniki courts of Moscow which are reviewing the cases against Rasul Mirzayev and Pussy Riots punk group activists banned reporters on Tuesday from citing witnesses. The courts ruled that only indirect speech might be published. Independent experts, bewildered by the decision, have criticized it.

The Rossiiskaya Gazeta reports that at first, Khamovniki court judge Marina Syrova had banned not only online broadcast, photographing and videoing, but also citing witnesses by journalists. Later, Zamoskvorechye court spokeswoman Yevgeniya Pazukhina asked the journalists not to cite the testimony of witnesses in the criminal case against Rasul Mirzayev. "Word-for-word citing of witnesses' testimony is prohibited by the Criminal Procedure Code; we ask to cite their testimony as indirect speech," the spokeswoman said. The measures are applied with the purpose to guarantee the parties' competitiveness.

"Such advice by press secretaries has no practical significance. There is only one thing that is important - the courts are trying to press the mass media and restrict the coverage of trials. They would hold all trials in camera if legislation did not prohibit it," head of the Moscow Public Observer Commission Valery Borshchev told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He also underlined that with the modern means of communications, such as notebooks, i-Pads and mobile phones - there is always an opportunity to relay information about the trial. "If someone tries to search a visitor at the entrance to the court, and seize the equipment permitted at open trials, it will be additional evidence of reprisals against the mass media. But even this will avail them nothing, because journalists will be able to write it down and will publish trial data at the first opportunity," he noted.

Moscow Bar president Genry Reznik told the Novye Izvestia that a judge has no right to dictate to the journalists how they should bring information to their audience. The lawyer sees no fundamental difference between direct quoting and conscientious rendering. Retired police Colonel, lawyer Yevgeny Chernousov also stated that he saw no logic in the ban. "It is not important what witnesses read about the testimony of other witnesses in the newspaper," Chernousov said.

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