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Website editor cleared of libel charges over article criticising corruption at federal agency

(CJES/IFEX) - The criminal case against Andrei Dumler, the head of the information agency Baikal Media Consulting (BMK), has been thrown out of court. The journalist was charged with slandering the department of the Federal Service for the Enforcement of Punishments (UFSIN) for the Republic of Buryatia.

In November 2007, a report entitled "Money Vanishes at Noon" was published on BMK's website. The publication accused the UFSIN department of forgery, embezzlement, violations of the anti-monopoly legislation, and involvement with criminal organisations. Sergei Such, the head of the UFSIN department for the Republic of Buryatia, filed a civil lawsuit against the agency, and a criminal case was opened against the website's editor, Dumler, who was charged with libel.

A preliminary investigation showed that the publication was a word-for-word reproduction of an article previously published by a different media outlet, , which was found by the Federal Service for the Supervision of Mass Media, Communication and Protection of Cultural Heritage (Rossvyazokhrankultura) to be a media outlet and could therefore be prosecuted. Under Russian media legislation, an editor cannot be held liable for disseminating false information "if it is a word-for-word reproduction of reports or materials or their parts disseminated by a different media outlet, which can be identified and prosecuted for this violation of the media legislation of the Russian Federation."

Thus, BMK cannot be held liable for reproducing an article taken from a different media outlet. However, as a plaintiff in a civil case, Such has a right to seek the publication of a refutation on the BMK website and the prosecution of the proper defendant, .

All charges against Dumler have been dropped and he can freely travel again.

Updates the Dumler case:

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