Rosbalt news agency's registration certificate annulled - court ruling

The Moscow City Court has annulled the registration certificate of the Rosbalt news agency at the request of Russia's communications, information technologies and mass media watchdog Roscomnadzor, an Interfax correspondent has reported.

The Moscow City Court has annulled the registration certificate of the Rosbalt news agency at the request of Russia's communications, information technologies and mass media watchdog Roscomnadzor, an Interfax correspondent has reported.

Roscomnadzor had requested such a measure accusing Rosbalt of publishing more than one news item containing obscene language (Article 16 of the Russian media law).

Rosbalt representative Dmitry Firsov said that the Moscow City Court's ruling would be appealed.

"Absolutely, we will appeal this decision. We are confident that the agency did nothing wrong, and we view Roscomnadzor's lawsuit as groundless," Firsov said.

During today's session, the Moscow City Court's judge rejected a Rosbalt petition to suspend the proceedings in this case pending a hearing into an appeal against another court's ruling that imposed a fine on the Rosbalt editor-in-chief, as well as a hearing into an appeal against the lawsuit filed by Roscomnadzor.

In its lawsuit, Roscomnadzor demanded the "closure of the Rosbalt news agency, which abused media freedom on two occasions by publishing two videos containing obscene language on its website, after which it received two warnings from the authorities."

"This lawsuit was filed in response to the need to act in accordance with the law. If we did not do so, a higher oversight body might have accused us of lack of action," the watchdog's representative Maria Smelyanskaya said at the court session on Thursday.

The aforementioned violations were earlier recognized by a district court, which ordered the Rosbalt editor-in-chief to pay a fine, and they were admitted by the news agency itself, which promised to remove these videos from its website, she said.

"The positive decision made on our lawsuit will help further crackdown on the practice of using obscene language on the Internet," she said.

Rosbalt's legal team, for its part, argued that the lawsuit filed by Roscomnadzor was insufficient to prompt the annulment of the news agency's registration. Its registration might be annulled only if the news agency repeatedly violated the law, which did not happen because no court rulings imposing any sanctions on this media outlet came into force, it said.

"The arguments justifying this demand fail to offer a single piece of evidence. We view Roscomnadzor's actions as abuse of the law," Firsov said.

The court session also included a demonstration of the two videos that were submitted by Roscomnadzor to justify the warnings issued to Rosbalt on July 12 and July 25. Excerpts from conclusions drawn by Vinogradov Russian Language Institute specialists, who confirmed the presence of obscene words in these videos, were presented as well.

Smelyanskaya also said that the annulment of Rosbalt's media registration did not mean that this news outlet would cease to exist.

"It will be able to continue operating as a news website. Besides, it may apply for new registration as a media outlet," she added.

On October 25, a court in Moscow's Kuntsevo district imposed a fine of 10,000 rubles on Rosbalt editor-in-chief Nikolai Ulyanov, who was found guilty of disobeying the Russian Administrative Offences Code by permitting the publication of two videos containing obscene words on the news agency's website.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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