For the first time, Russia’s widely condemned gay propaganda law has been successfully used to target a publication.
The news that Alexander Suturin, editor-in-chief of the Molodoi Dalnevostochnik newspaper, was fined 50,000 rubles ($1,400) under the law illustrates the serious impact the legislation is having on civil liberties.
According to RIA Novosti, the publication was fined for reporting on a geography teacher, Alexander Yermoshkin, who was fired for being openly gay.
In a complaint against it, the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service (FMMIS) accused the newspaper of “promoting homosexuality” because it included a quote in the article by the teacher in which he said: “My very existence is effective proof that homosexuality is normal.”
In November, The Guardian reported that the FMMIS asserted that “this statement goes against logic. By offering it to under-age readers, the author is misleading them about the normality of homosexuality.”
A Russian court agreed with the complaint and fined Suturin. He has denied that the report constituted “propaganda” of gay relationships and called the ruling the result of a “shadow morality police.” He plans to appeal.
The ruling could lead to other publications self-censoring their content for fear of also being targeted and fined.
In addition to banning any pride events, LGBT protests or demonstrations, or any other public show of support for LGBT people, activists say that the “gay propaganda” law has also emboldened homophobic groups to increasingly violently target gay and lesbian people.