Federal court upholds journalist’s conviction

New York, October 7, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disappointed that the Kalininsky District Court, in the city of Chelyabinsk, today upheld journalist German Galkin’s conviction on criminal defamation charges and sentence of one year in a labor camp.

On August 15, Galkin was convicted of criminal defamation following a trial that was closed to the public. The court sentenced Galkin to one year in a labor camp for allegedly libeling and insulting two deputy governors of the Chelyabinsk Region, Andrei Kosilov and Konstantin Bochkaryov, who report to Chelyabinsk’s pro-Communist governor, Pyotr Sumin.

Galkin is publisher of Rabochaya Gazeta and deputy chief editor of Vecherny Chelyabinsk, both of which are critical of the governor.

Kosilov and Bochkaryov filed the charges in June 2002 because articles published in the February, April, and June editions of Rabochaya Gazeta alleged misspending by the Chelyabinsk regional administration, including the purchase of expensive cars and the creation of a pro-government television channel ahead of gubernatorial elections in 2005.

Kosilov and Bochkaryov claimed that Galkin—who is also the local head of the Liberal Russia opposition party—had penned the three articles, even though Galkin was not listed in any of the bylines and denied having written them, according to local press reports. Lawyers representing Galkin reported numerous procedural violations throughout the investigation and the closed trial.

“German Galkin’s conviction has set a terrible legal precedent,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Russian leaders must do everything they can to ensure that he is freed, and that criminal press offenses are taken off the books.”