Russian newspaper investigated for alleged violation of gay ‘propaganda’ law

Alexander Yermoshkin

Alexander Yermoshkin

MOSCOW — A Russian newspaper is the first organization to come under scrutiny for alleged violation of the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law after it published an interview with a openly gay middle school teacher.

The warning comes after journalist Irina Severtseva, writing for the newspaper Molodoi Dalnevostochnik, profiled Alexander Yermoshkin, an 18-year teaching veteran who was fired from his job after a group of 678 residents of Khabarovsk, calling itself the Movement Against Sexual Perversions, formally complained to School Number 32 where he had been employed, asking for his termination.

Alexander Yermoshkin

Alexander Yermoshkin

The group asked for Yermoshkin to be fired alleging he could exert a negative influence on the children and make them think that “nontraditional relations are as normal as traditional ones.”

Yermoshkin is known locally for his gay rights and environmental activism, and for holding “rainbow flash mobs” on Khabarovsk’s central Lenin Square since 2008.

In the profile of Yermoshkin, the newspaper noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had given public assurances that the anti-gay law would not affect LGBT people’s job prospects, claiming “the rights of people with nontraditional orientation are infringed upon neither in terms of profession nor salary level.”

But, the article also claimed that Putin’s statement “does not appear to be accurate.”

“In a recent poll conducted by the Russian group LGBT Network, 38 percent of respondents said they had experienced difficulties at work due to their sexual orientation,” the newspaper reported.

Following publication, the Russian Federal media watchdog agency, the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service, said it received several complaints about the article — titled “History of Gay-ography” — despite the fact that the newspaper printed the required caution notice on its front page that the article was intended for readers aged 16 and above.

Investigators took exception to the reference to Putin, coupled with a quote by Yermoshkin, who said, “My very existence is effective proof that homosexuality is normal.”

Galina Yegoshina, a specialist from the watchdog agency said Yermoshkin’s statement “goes against logic.”

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“By offering it to underage readers, the author is misleading them about the normality of homosexuality,” said Yegoshina. “According to the author’s logic, it would be possible to call normal and even effective the existence of rapists and serial killers.”

Molodoi Dalnevostochnik’s editor-in-chief responded to the agency’s investigation, noting the article shows the negative sides of being a homosexual and cited constitutional provisions outlawing discrimination.

Should the agency’s report result in a charges for the paper, Molodoi Dalnevostochnik could face a potential fine of up to a maximum penalty of 1 million rubles and shutting down its presses for 90 days.

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