22 December 2011
On 22 December at 14:15 after a five-month break Savelovsky district court in Moscow continued its hearing of the defamation suit brought by Vasily Yakemenko, head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, against Marat Gelman, well-known gallery owner and art collector, and the web publication Gazeta.ru.
Damir Gainutdinov, a legal analyst with the Agora Human Rights Association who is representing Marat Gelman in the case, said the results of the linguistic expertise conducted at the request of the court of statements by Marat Gelman were already available to the court.
Marat Gelman. Photo Wikipedia
Professor Anatoly Baranov, doctor of philological sciences and head of the department of experimental lexicography of the Vinogradov Institute of Russian Language of the Russian Academy of Science, concluded that “the disputed statements contain no statements that Yakemenko committed any dishonest, insulting, incorrect or unethical acts, violations of the law or the norms of moral or personal or private life or professional activity.”
Openinform.ru’s correspondent reports that Professor Baranov wrote in his conclusions: “In the disputed statements containing negative information about Yakemenko there are no linquistic forms (words or phrases) with an insulting meaning or insulting emotional colour.”
All the statements by Marat Gelman the expert divided into opinion, conjectures joined with opinion, and the exposition of opinion.
At the same time, Vasily Yakemenko, who heads the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, said words published by Marat Gelman on Twitter and LiveJournal to the effect that he considers Vasily Yakemenko ordered the attempt to kill Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin (“I’ll say my view: it’s Vasya Yakemenko who ordered the attack”) to be inaccurate and defamatory.
Damir Gainutdinov points out that the position of the European Court and the Supreme Court of Russia in such cases is unambiguous: a suit can be brought to demand proof of a statement of fact, but not of an expression of personal opinion:
“The statement contested by Yakemenko is the expression of a subjective, evaluative opinion by Gelman concerning the investigation of a serious crime. The applicant demands a refutation. However, a refutation of the words “I consider” would take the form “I do not consider.” In other words. a refutation would oblige the respondent to deny their own opinion and conviction, which is directly forbidden by the Constitution of Russia.
Furthermore, Damir Gainutdinov argued that Yakemenko’s suit had no foundation in law because Gelman had expressed his opinion on a question representing a significant public interest. The European Court of Human Rights, Gainutdinov said, has on many occasions stressed that the possibility of restricting political expression or debate on issues of public interest is limited.
Gainutdinov emphasized that the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms protects not only the content of statements, but also their form. A comment via Twitter which cannot exceed 140 symbols or a blog are special forms of communication and expression of personal opinion. A blog post, like a communication via Twitter, presupposes brevity. In practice it is a statement that may not contain detailed reasons for the position put forward, or complex argumentation or links to sources.
Damir Gainutdinov concluded: “Satisfying this suit will represent an unlawful limitation on freedom of speech, and will also force Marat Gelman to refute his own opinion, and therefore we ask the court to dismiss the suit in full.”
Readers will recall that on 21 June Moscow’s Khamovniki district court dismissed a similar suit brought by Vasily Yakemenko against Oleg Kashin himself, the journalist Aleksandr Morozov, and the newspaper Novye izvestiya.