MOSCOW, March 22. /TASS/. The Russian Union of Journalists voiced bewilderment on Thursday over the decision of the ethics commission of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, to clear senior MP Leonid Slutsky of accusations of sexually harassing female journalists.
The organization stressed that "any attempts of pressure against journalists fulfilling their professional duties are unacceptable." There is a delicate balance in personal communication between a female journalist and a male politician, the statement said.
"In this situation the Russian Union of Journalists has always defended and will defend everyone who fulfills professional activity - regardless of whether this occurs when covering combat actions on the ground or in a cabinet during an interview when the situation may be perceived as the violation of ethic norms," the statement said.
The goal of any state agencies is to ensure "normal and calm professional activity of the journalistic community," the organization stressed. It also called on colleagues who face challenging situations to inform respective agencies, their editors and the Union’s branches in due time.
Sexual misconduct accusations
The Russian State Duma’s ethics commission on Wednesday found no signs of "inappropriate behavior" in the case of Chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee Slutsky accused of sexual harassment by three female journalists.
The commission had looked into two complaints - one from Dozhd TV producer Darya Zhuk and the other from BBC Russian Service’s correspondent Farida Rustamova about being subject to sexual harassment by Slutsky in 2014 and in 2017, respectively. Deputy Editor-in-Chief of RTVI Ekaterina Kotrikadze also accused the senior MP of sexual harassment when she worked for Georgian television seven years ago.
The committee members noted that the complaints were submitted almost simultaneously during the presidential election campaign in Russia and also after a significant amount of time had passed since these alleged ‘incidents’ took place. These facts signal the ‘selectivity’ in the female journalists’ approach and that their steps had been staged, they said.
The allegations come on the heels of the infamous scandal surrounding Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein who was accused of sexual abuse by over 80 women. These accusations triggered the #MeToo social media campaign. Slutsky earlier dismissed all the allegations against him ridiculing them as an attempt to "depict him as Harvey Weinstein."
Several Russian mass media outlets, including RBC, Kommersant, Ekho Moskvy radio station, RTVI TV channel and znak.com, have pulled their journalists from the State Duma in protest against the ethics commission’s decision.