Russian journalist on trial for defaming local governor in Internet chat room

New York, February 23, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the criminal defamation prosecution of Dmitry Tashlykov, a reporter for the Kovrov-based weekly Vladimirsky Krai, for remarks made in an Internet chat room.

Tashlykov was charged with defaming Vladimir regional Governor Nikolai Vinogradov in an Internet chat room in January 2006. His trial began January 30 in the local court of small crimes in Kovrov, east of Moscow, and the next session is scheduled for February 28, according to local press reports. If convicted of “Public Insult” and “Insulting a Public Official,” he faces up to one year of corrective labor for each charge.

Tashlykov believes the governor has targeted him for publishing materials that criticize Vinogradov, the journalist told CPJ.

“It’s outrageous that authorities should seize on remarks made in an internet chat room as a pretext for silencing a journalist,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on the local court to drop the charges against Tashlykov immediately.”

Vinogradov denied the charges against Tashlykov were violations of press freedom. “Press freedom is the ability to express one’s point of view correctly and respectfully, in the interests of currents affairs and society,” the television channel NTV reported quoted Vinogradov as saying.

Investigators interrogated five other chat room participants and confiscated some of their computers, but only Tashlykov was criminally charged, the Moscow-based state daily Rossiskaya Gazeta reported.

The Internet provider and administrator of the chat room provided Tashlykov’s user name and password to investigators, who used this information to determine the journalist’s presence and identity in the chat room, Rossiskaya Gazeta reported. However, technological experts could not confirm Tashlykov’s participation in the chat room, according to local press reports.