The Barents Observer takes Russian censors to court with support from ADC Memorial

Moscow city court has accepted a claim by The Barents Observer to challenge Russia’s censorship and media regulation agency Roskomnadzor’s arguments to ban the newspaper.

The Norwegian-based, bi-lingual newspaper has been blocked in Russia since February after it refused to unpublish an interview with Dan Eriksson, a homosexual Sámi man from northern Sweden. The story, originally published by Swedish newspaper Arjeplognytt, tells about Eriksson who lived through years of hardship, and twice tried to end his life, because of taboo and prejudices connected with his sexuality. He is now a happy man who works with mental health issues among young Swedish gays.

In its decision to block The Barents Observer from all readers in Russia, Roskomnadzor argues that the interview propagates suicide and is in conflict with the Russian Federal Law «On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection.»

ADC Memorial has decided to support bringing the case in for court.

«We support the Barents Observer’s decision not to unpublish this 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»,
says Director of ADC Memorial, Stephania Kulaeva.

«Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) Memorial has always been and continues to be the defense of the rights of minorities, indigenous peoples  and other vulnerable groups, opposition to racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of xenophobia,»
Kulaeva says.

The Barents Observer is thankful for the support from the prominent human rights group.

«We are a small newspaper in the Norwegian-Russian borderland with very limited financial resources. The help from ADC Memorial is essential for bringing this case to court,»
says Thomas Nilsen, Editor of the Barents Observer.

He explains the decision not to unpublish the interview.

«I will argue that the interview with Dan Eriksson will help others overcome traumatic taboos. This is the opposite to propagate suicide,»
Nilsen says.

The court hearing will take place on July 12th. After that, the court is will consider the documents and arguments by the two parties and is expected to render a decision in September.