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Russia: Blogger on Trial for Writing Fiction

Dmitry Shirinkin (a Perm-based LJ user tetraox) faces trial for having written on his blog that he had purchased a gun and was going to kill a few dozen people in one of the city’s colleges.

According to Shirinkin, the text – posted on April 21, but made private on April 22 – was a work of fiction, “inspired” by the Virginia Tech shooting. According to the prosecutor's office, however, Shirinkin has violated Article 207 of the Russian Criminal Code by “distributing false information on a planned terrorist act.” The trial is likely to take place in September; if convicted, the Russian blogger may receive a three-year prison sentence.

A concerned reader (LJ user rassty) asks (RUS) Shirinkin:

I wonder how the LJ community is going to keep you from being destroyed? And by the way, do you have a good lawyer – or a court-appointed one?

Shirinkin replies:

The lawyer's good, an old friend, a colleague from the legal community. Experienced, respected. Has been working at this particular court a lot.

[…]

There's no way for LJ to help me. LJ is a virtual thing, unfortunately( I'll have to work it out on my own(

Anton Nossik – LJ user dolboeb, a representative of the company that oversees LiveJournal's Russian segment – is not too optimistic (RUS) about the direction that Vladimir Putin's Russia is moving in:

[…] Though, of course, it's good that it is all still happening in Perm, not in Moscow. But [the Commander's footsteps] are getting louder.

LJ user pavel_kireev, in a comment to Anton Nossik's post, writes that the government is beginning to tighten the screws on Russia's internet users:

How good I felt on the web in 2001… In 2003, I felt safe but knew that it wasn't going to last. And now, freedom has ended…

LJ user denbor argues (RUS) the details of Shirinkin's case with LJ user zemsky, also in the comments section of Nossik's post:

denbor:

You've confused the terms. He's not being tried for LJ. LJ is nothing but a technical means through which he distributed false information on a terrorist act in the making. This is what real freedom is about. He was free to do what he did, and the prosecution was free to apply legal means to him. Why is everyone so upset? The law enforcement officials have not violated any laws. Any clever lawyer would tell you that they were using the article appropriately. All within the legal framework. […]

zemsky:

Only a mass medium can be used to distribute information. A newspaper, for example. Or a phone call. And it was clear right away that this was a work of fiction. And it wasn't the author who distributed false information, but that other person, the one who had turned him in. […]

denbor:

Quote: “And LJ is a tool for expressing all kinds of nonsense.”

An interesting definition. But it appears that we'll have to get used to the idea that the internet is also a mass medium, and the one that's even more efficient than TV, radio or newspapers […]. […] And he hasn't been imprisoned yet, right? His case is just being considered in court. If he proves that this was nothing but a work of fiction, great. The main thing is to get the people to understand that they will be held responsible for their words. Unfortunately, people in Russia aren't used to this – or have gotten unused in the 15 years of anarchy.

Anton Nossik concludes (RUS):

The main thing is to get the people to understand that they will be held responsible for their words. Unfortunately, people in Russia aren't used to this – or have gotten unused in the 15 years of anarchy.

Priceless words.

We've spent 15 years without censorship, without Criminal Code articles for “anti-Soviet agitation” and “distributing false information that defames the regime.”

Now we're getting back there.

And of course, there are those who like it.

The only thing that's not clear is why they were sitting online, waiting for this event, instead of appealing to the North Korean embassy, asking for political asylum.

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