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Russian newspaper fined for violating country’s anti-gay propaganda law

Thursday, January 30, 2014
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MOSCOW — A Russian newspaper has become the first media organization to be fined under the country’s anti-gay propaganda law after it profiled an openly gay teacher.

Alexander Yermoshkin

Alexander Yermoshkin

Alexander Suturin, editor-in-chief of the Molodoi Dalnevostochnik newspaper in the Russian Far East, was fined 50,000 rubles ($1,400 USD) Monday by the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service, the Russian Federal media watchdog agency that oversees enforcement of the law.

The newspaper came under scrutiny for alleged violation of the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law after it profiled Alexander Yermoshkin, an a openly gay middle school teacher who was fired from his job after a group of 678 residents of Khabarovsk, calling itself the Movement Against Sexual Perversions, complained to the school where he had been employed, asking for his termination.

The group alleged Yermoshkin could exert a negative influence on the children and make them think that “nontraditional relations are as normal as traditional ones.”

In its profile of Yermoshkin, known locally for his gay rights and environmental activism, 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.”

The article also claimed that Putin’s statement “does not appear to be accurate,” citing a poll conducted by the Russian group LGBT Network, that found “38 percent of respondents said they had experienced difficulties at work due to their sexual orientation.”

Following publication, the watchdog agency said it had 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.

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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 with the agency said Yermoshkin’s statement “goes against logic.”

“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.”

The fine is the least severe action that could have been levied against the newspaper — the maximum penalty for violating the law is a fine of 1 million rubles and shutting down its presses for 90 days.

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