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IRIS Plus 2011-1: A Landmark for Mass Media in Russia

Author: Andrei Richter, Moscow Media Law and Policy Centre

Published: 06/02/2011

When on 15 June 2010 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation adopted Resolution No. 16 “On the Judicial Practice Related to the Statute of the Russian Federation ‘On the Mass Media’”, the first international voice applauding this step was that of Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, who called it a “landmark resolution” and “a commendable effort to bring Russian court practice in line with international media freedom standards”.

In addition to its paying tribute to international standards, the Resolution merits recognition as it shows how Russian Media Law may be adapted to the changed media environment, a task that the Russian legislator has not explicitly handled and that therefore has become an issue for the courts. In several of the 38 points contained in the Resolution, the Supreme Court instructs lower courts as to how to interpret and apply the Statute on the Mass Media of 1991 to digital and Internet based services in today’s market. Through these instructions, as well as via its comments on other areas relevant to the media, the Supreme Court fills in the gaps in the overall legal framework applicable to mass media.

The Resolution provides more than simply guidance for Russian courts. It offers an approach to a more modern legal framework that Russia might provide for the audiovisual sector. For this reason, the content of the Resolution needs to be made accessible to a much wider audience than Russian courts. This requires translating the original Russian text into other languages, on the one hand, and explaining its meaning and context to readers who lack education in the Russian legal system, on the other hand.

This IRIS plus does both. Its lead article highlights the most important commentaries of the Resolution and pinpoints to which provisions of the Statute on Mass Media or other legal texts they relate. The ZOOM-part contains the translation of the full text of the Resolution into the language of this publication. It should be noted that translating the Resolution was a comparative legal study in itself given that a significant part of the Russian legal terminology and concepts have no equivalent in many other countries and their respective languages. This is certainly true for English, German and French, the official working languages of the European Audiovisual Observatory. In case of doubt we recommend also consulting the original Russian version of the Resolution, which is available at:

Drawing the circle to a close, the related reporting of this IRIS plus focuses on international media freedom standards set by the European Court of Human Rights in more recent decisions that might guide the Russian Supreme Court when it makes pronouncements on future issues concerning the mass media.