A small Norwegian news service publishing news from the cross-border Barents region is taking Russia’s media regulation agency Roskomnadzor to court in an attempt to overturn the country’s ban on its online content. The Kirkenes-based Barents Observer publishes news in English and Russian, covering news from the north of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Roskomnadzor censors took issue with the Russian language version of the article “From suicide attempts to happiness and Sámi pride,” published in January 2019. It tells the story first shared in Swedish media of Dan Eriksson, a proud gay Sámi who overcame years of mental health issues and two suicide attempts before finding the courage to talk. He now works with LGBT+ youth and talks openly about his experiences in order to help others. Roskomnadzor claims the article is in conflict with federal laws on information and that it propagates suicide. The Barents Observer website has been blocked in Russia since February.
“I argue that the interview with Dan Eriksson will help others overcome traumatic taboos. This is the opposite to propagating suicide,” says Thomas Nilsen, the multilingual editor of the Barents Observer. He believes that the article is not the real issue behind the censorship. “We think that if it wasn’t this article, it would be another. We are one of the few media outlets publishing in Russian on foreign servers that are outside the control of Russian authorities,” he says.
The St. Petersburg-based Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC) are among the Barents Observer’s backers. They support the newspaper’s decision not to unpublish the story from its website. “We think that the interview with the gay Sámi man is very important and the ban of this article is a clear case of discrimination,” said director Stephania Kulaeva.
Read more: Forbes