28 October 2021
Alexey Seregin, a journalist from Yoshkar-Ola, was accused of publishing extremist materials for two-year-old news on the social network “VKontakte”, which was accompanied by a picture with the inscription “A.U.E.”.* On 27 July, the court imposed a fine of 1,500 rubles on him. The man tried to appeal the fine.
In August 2019, Alexey Seregin published on his page information that during a meeting of State Duma deputy Boris Chernyshov with voters, he was attacked by teenagers shouting “AYE”*. An image with the symbols of a banned organization was attached to his post.
The journalist was charged under Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code (Propaganda or public display of symbols of a banned organization). The Yoshkar-Ola City Court issued a decision to collect a fine of 1,500 rubles from Alexey Seregin. According to the court, since the page is open, anyone could have access to this photo, and the author did not give comments to the post expressing condemnation of the organization’s activities.
Vladimir Protasov, a lawyer of the NGO “Man and Law”, who represents the interests of the journalist in court, does not agree with the accusation and believes that there is no offence.
– Legislation on the dissemination of extremist materials contradicts the principles of freedom of speech, – Alexey Seregin believes. — This is a crime in the eyes of the Russian state, but I do not consider such people to be criminals who have harmed society. I don’t understand what harm I did to society by publishing this photo, how it made society’s life worse. What do I think about the fine? The court in Russia is a continuation of the security forces and is busy stamping their decisions. The person who allegedly wrote a statement against me, apparently, does not exist in nature (the name “Solomon Hirsch” indicates the trademark humor of the security officers who invented it). They could have come up with this case for three reasons. The first one is that the “E” department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Mari El Republic needs successfully solved cases, the so-called “sticks”. The second reason is that the Mari security forces and their masters in the executive branch do not like my journalistic activity, and I am warned by this fine to change the tone of publications or stop them altogether. Thirdly, the case was needed as an excuse not to let me go to the elections as a candidate, since a person convicted under the article for distributing extremist materials is temporarily deprived of the right to be elected to the authorities. I have no such intention and have never had such an intention, but, as knowledgeable friends told me, I am on the lists of unreliable illegally maintained by the “E” Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB. Judging by the cases of Yuldashev, Mirbadalev and a bunch of similar ones across Russia in recent months, Putin decided to deprive such people of even formal chances to get elected somewhere. I’m not interested in guessing what the real reason is here. If the Supreme Court confirms the fine, I will have to pay it. But I plan to appeal it until the last legal opportunity.
Sergei Poduzov, a co-chairman of the NGO “Man and Law”: “In this particular case, we are considering how much the state violated the standard of compliance with article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and dissemination of information. In our opinion, the representatives of the State have created all the conditions under which it can be said that the guarantees of article 10 of the Convention in respect of Alexei Seregin have been violated. Why? In such cases, from the point of view of respect for human rights, it is considered how much the representatives of the State evaluated the publication as a whole. In the case of Alexey Seregin, the context of the publication was not considered at all, all attention was focused on the photo with the inscription of the banned organization. But what, in the opinion of law enforcement agencies, is the public danger of publication when a person talks about the illegality of the organization’s activities? What is the public danger of a minimum number of views? There was no evaluation from this point of view.”
In the Republic of Mari El, there has long been a practice that law enforcement agencies “closely accompany” the work of activists, journalists and bloggers. The most interesting thing is that, according to the data of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mari El, in 2019, only 2 appeals of one applicant who was found guilty of a similar offense were considered. While the Yoshkar-Ola City Court in 2019 considered 5 cases of an administrative offense, and in 2020 – 2 cases where all were found guilty with a fine. In March of this year, Anton Mirbadalev, a deputy of the State Assembly, was fined 1,000 rubles for distributing extremist materials. Because of the fine, he could not be elected to the State Duma this year. The deputy was convicted for a video he had posted on VKontakte in 2010. At the time of the accusation, the video had 2 views.
In October 2019, Alexey Seregin was searched in connection with the “FBK Case”*. The investigation seized all electronic media from him and did not return it, although Seregin was not accused of anything in this case.
*An organization banned in Russia
The project “IdelRealia” is included in the register of mass media of foreign agents.