Information agency to be closed down in Russia

A Russian court pulled the license of Rosbalt Information Agency after warnings over the use of “obscene” videos in its reports.

Roskomnadzor, the Federal Service for Oversight of Communications and Information Technologies, filed an action against Rosbalt after it issued two warnings to the agency. The reason for the warnings were articles by Rosbalt that contained two YouTube videos, including a music video by Pussy Riot, a well-known Russian punk band. According to officials, the videos contained obscene words and expressions.

Russian law suggests a mass media outlet can be closed down for “numerous warnings for violations”; usage of obscene words has been such a violation in Russia since a relevant law was adopted in April 2013.

“We have several grounds to appeal against this decision to the Supreme Court,” says Rosbalt’s lawyer Dmitry Firsov, who called today’s decision “unprecedented.”

For instance, the decision to withdraw the agency’s license was made despite the fact Rosbalt had appealed against both warnings, and there have been no court rulings on any of the cases yet. Besides, the YouTube videos were removed by the agency from their articles immediately after the warnings.

Nikolay Ulyanov, the editor-in-chief of Rosbalt, was previously fined 20,000 roubles (around £400) for the presence of obscene words in the YouTube videos. Rosbalt is going to appeal against that fine as well.

Andrei Aliaksandrau, Index on Censorship