Russian newspaper fined for violation of gay ‘propaganda’ law
By Brody Levesque & Mark Singer | MOSCOW — A Russian newspaper is the first media organization to be fined under the anti-gay propaganda law introduced last year. Alexander Suturin, editor-in-chief of the Molodoi Dalnevostochnik newspaper in the Russian Far East, was fined 50,000 rubles ($1,400USD) Monday the Russian Federal media watchdog agency, the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service which oversees enforcement of the law.
The paper came scrutiny for alleged violation of the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law after it published an interview by journalist Irina Severtseva profiled Alexander Yermoshkin, an a openly gay middle school teacher and 18-year teaching veteran who was fired from his job after a group of 678 residents of Khabarovsk, calling itself the Movement Against Sexual Perversions, formally complained to School Number 32 where he had been employed, asking for his termination.
The group asked for Yermoshkin to be fired alleging he could exert a negative influence on the children and make them think that “nontraditional relations are as normal as traditional ones.”
In the profile of Yermoshkin, who was known locally for his gay rights and environmental activism, the newspaper noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had given public assurances that the anti-gay law would not affect LGBT people’s job prospects, claiming “the rights of people with nontraditional orientation are infringed upon neither in terms of profession nor salary level.”
But, the article also claimed that Putin’s statement “does not appear to be accurate.”
“In a recent poll conducted by the Russian group LGBT Network, 38 percent of respondents said they had experienced difficulties at work due to their sexual orientation,” the newspaper reported.
Following publication, the watchdog agency said it had received several complaints about the article — titled “History of Gay-ography” — despite the fact that the newspaper printed the required caution notice on its front page that the article was intended for readers aged 16 and above.
Investigators took exception to the reference to Putin, coupled with a quote by Yermoshkin, who said, “My very existence is effective proof that homosexuality is normal.”
Galina Yegoshina, a specialist with the agency said Yermoshkin’s statement “goes against logic.”
“By offering it to underage readers, the author is misleading them about the normality of homosexuality,” said Yegoshina. “According to the author’s logic, it would be possible to call normal and even effective the existence of rapists and serial killers.”
Molodoi Dalnevostochnik’s editor-in-chief responded to the agency’s investigation, noting the article shows the negative sides of being a homosexual and cited constitutional provisions outlawing discrimination.
The action Monday is the least severe action that could have been levied against the newspaper as it had faced a potential fine of up to a maximum penalty of 1 million rubles and shutting down its presses for 90 days.