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Political party wins defamation suit against "Saratovsky Rasklad" newspaper; publisher and editor-in-chief fined

(CJES/IFEX) - The Saratov Volzhsky District Court has ruled in favour of the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed by the Saratov regional section of the United Russia party against the newspaper "Saratovsky Rasklad".

The court found the information stated in the article run by the newspaper on 9 August 2007 to be untrue and defamatory to the reputation of the Saratov regional section of the United Russia party, reports the Rosbalt news agency, citing a United Russia press release. The article alleged that Vyacheslav Volodin, deputy speaker of the State Duma and secretary of the presidium of the general council of the United Russia part, had accidentally injured a woman while spear fishing.

The court has ordered the newspaper to publish a retraction within 10 days following the entry of the ruling into legal force, Rosbalt reports. In addition, the publishing house Premium, which owns the newspaper, was ordered to pay the plaintiff compensation of 200,000 rubles (approx. US$7800); the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Vladimir Spiryagin, was ordered to pay 30,000 rubles (approx. US$1170).

CJES had expected such a ruling, the current political situation in Russia and the increasing pressure on the media. CJES believes the newspaper will contest this ruling in a higher court, but there is not much hope that the court will demonstrate any sympathy for the journalists.

The most the newspaper can realistically hope for is a reduction of the damages award that has been ordered.

CJES believes that this defamation suit was motivated by the upcoming parliamentary elections, which the ruling United Russia party expects to win without difficulty. CJES believes that through this legal action, the party is making an example of "Saratovsky Rasklad" in order to demonstrate to the media at large the consequences of mentioning the party or its candidates in a negative context.

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