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Former judge asks for criminal charges to be brought against journalist, files defamation suit against newspaper

(CJES/IFEX) - A criminal case has been filed against journalist Rimma Urazbakhtina, of the "Chas Pik. Na Magistrali" newspaper, in connection with her article "Uroki Vezhlivosti" (Lessons in Courtesy). The journalist is facing charges of violating Article 129 of the Russian Criminal Code (slander contained in a public statement in a media publication) and Article 130 of the Russian Criminal Code (insult in a public statement in a media publication). Roza Gilyazutdinova, a former judge who is the plaintiff in the case, has also accused the journalist of violating the constitutional principle of the inviolability of a judge by disseminating classified information on a judge.

The article contained information on the early termination of the powers of Justice Gilyazutdinova, the reasons for the decision, as well as the opinions of other judges and various people who were hurt as a result of the judge's actions.

The judge found the information contained in the article, as well as the form in which it was presented, to be defamatory and false. Urazbakhtina said the purpose of the article was to inform readers about Gilyazutdinova's performance during her tenure as a judge and deputy court chairman.

Gilyazutdinova has also filed a defamation lawsuit against "Chas Pik. Na Magistrali". The plaintiff is seeking a refutation of the information contained in the article and 10 million rubles (approx. US$431,000) in moral damages.

According to CJES, the public has a right to know about the work of courts, judges and judicial bodies. The principle of the inviolability of judges, which is guaranteed by the Russian Constitution, protects the judicial system from media interference in the administration of justice, but it cannot be used to secure the personal goals and privileges of a judge.

In this case, the information on the sanctions against Gilyazutdinova could not have affected the administration of justice and was not aimed at encroaching on the interests of judicial bodies. However, the article was very important for the formation of public opinion on the judicial system and the responsibility of judges.

CJES is concerned about the increase in the number of criminal cases against journalists and is calling on the authorities to amend the criminal legislation. The organisation is calling for the decriminalisation of "slander" (a crime enshrined in Article 129 of the Criminal Code), "insult" (Article 130 of the Criminal Code), and "insulting an authority" (Article 319 of the Criminal Code).

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