Journalists, Judges, and State Officials: How Russian Courts Adjudicate Defamation Lawsuits Against the Media

Kurkchiyan, M., & Kubal, A. (Eds.). (2018). A Sociology of Justice in Russia. Cambridge University Press.

Posted: 4 Mar 2021 Last revised: 29 Nov 2021

Date Written: December 30, 2017

Abstract

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Russian courts heard between 10,000 and 15,000 defamation cases per year, which means that there was one per approximately 14,500 Russians. By comparison, in the UK, often dubbed a ‘defamation tourism’ destination for its supposedly high volume of defamation cases, courts hear only about 250 cases per year, for a per capita rate of one in 1.5 million. In other words, Russia’s per capita defamation lawsuit rate is 100 times greater than the UK’s! Why do Russians generate so many defamation cases? Who sues to protect their dignity and reputation the most often? What are some common triggers of defamation lawsuits? How do Russian judges decide defamation disputes? Who wins and who loses? Who gets a moral damage award and what determines its size? Does the political affiliation of the plaintiff affect their chances in court? The answers to these questions reveal part of the civil justice experience in Russia and illuminate the influence of Russian legal culture over judicial outcomes. They also carry important implications for the state of Russia’s media landscape and the independence of the courts from political interference. To address these questions, this chapter delves into the legislative basis for defamation disputes and the jurisprudence of Russia’s top court on the subject. It also analyses an original dataset that I compiled based on information collected by the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF). The dataset contains extensive information on close to 2,000 civil defamation complaints against media outlets, adjudicated by ordinary Russian courts from the majority of Russian federal regions, between 1997 and 2011.

Suggested Citation

Popova, Maria, Journalists, Judges, and State Officials: How Russian Courts Adjudicate Defamation Lawsuits Against the Media (December 30, 2017). Kurkchiyan, M., & Kubal, A. (Eds.). (2018). A Sociology of Justice in Russia. Cambridge University Press., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3757226

Maria Popova (Contact Author)

McGill University ( email )

Canada

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