Blogger Charged in Russia

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Prosecutors have charged a Russian blogger who wrote on a popular Internet site that police should be publicly incinerated in what is believed to be the country’s first such case against a blogger.

Savva Terentyev said Wednesday he was charged with inciting hatred in a court in the northern city of Syktyvkar. The charges filed Tuesday stemmed from his posting on a Web forum in February 2007 that criticized police in the wake of a raid on an opposition newspaper.

“They’re trash ? and those that become cops are simply trash, dumb, uneducated representatives of the animal world,” he wrote. “It would be good if in the center of every town in Russia … an oven was built, like at Auschwitz, in which ceremonially, every day, and better yet, twice a day … the infidel cops were burnt. This would be the first step toward cleaning society of these cop-hoodlum scum.”

The case comes at a time of growing concerns in Russia that authorities have begun to tighten control over the Internet.

Web logs, online newspapers, chat rooms and other Internet sites have emerged as a vibrant source of critical news and commentary in Russia, compared with much of the national media.

During outgoing President Vladimir Putin eight years in office, much of the once-critical mainstream media has been brought to heel. Major television stations have been taken over by the state, or by state-owned corporations. Reporters often resort to self-censorship fearing retribution by officials.

The RIA-Novosti news agency said Terentyev could face a $12,600 fine if convicted.

Internet experts say Terentyev’s case is the first time criminal charges have been brought against a blogger.

The Internet’s unfettered nature and people using it to challenge the government has long worried the Kremlin. Though access is still relatively uncommon in the country, Russians have quickly taken to using the Internet for sharing often biting commentary, or even to organize political demonstrations.

As a result, Russian lawmakers and authorities are discussing ways to tame the Web.

Galina Kozhevnikova, an expert at the SOVA center which studies hate crimes in Russia, said Terentyev’s prosecution stemmed directly from new legislation on allegedly extremist literature, which she said was seriously flawed.

“To prosecute a person for a private commentary written on a not-very-popular blog that no one takes seriously in any way whatsoever ? this is clearly an abuse of the law and discredit to the law,” she said. “This is clearly a signal to the blogosphere, which in Russia people now read like the free press, for real information.”

Parliament’s upper house is considering legislation that would make Web sites with more than 1,000 readers daily subject to the same regulations as print media.

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