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Russian Supreme Court Consolidates the Practice of Applying the RF Law “On the Mass Media”

19.07.2010
4 min read

Pepeliaev Group advises that the Plenum of the Russian Supreme Court issued Resolution No. 16 dated 15 June 2010 “On Application of the RF Law “On the Mass Media” by Courts” (hereinafter – the “Resolution”).

The Resolution has been developed to ensure the correct and consistent application of legislation relating to the freedom of the mass media and the resolution of issues arising when courts apply RF Law No. 2124-1 dated 27 December 1991 “On the Mass Media” (hereinafter – the “Law on the Mass Media”).

A number of provisions of the Resolution are dedicated to issues relating to the dissemination of public information through telecom networks:

• Internet sites are not subject to mandatory registration as mass media, since no mass media products are created fr om the dissemination of public information thought the Internet.

This means that persons disseminating public information through Internet sites may not be held liable for the production and dissemination of a product fr om a mass media outlet that has not undergone registration. Persons who perpetrated violations of legislation by disseminating public information through Internet sites, which are not registered as mass media, are held liable pursuant to Russian legislation without taking into account the Law on the Mass Media.

However, if the founder of an Internet site is willing to register this site as mass media, the competent authority may not deny such registration. In this case, the name of the registration authority and registration number, inter alia, should be displayed in the site details. If no such information is displayed, persons who regularly disseminate public information through sites registered as mass media may be held liable for violating the procedure for displaying the details of the mass media.

• No broadcasting licence is required for disseminating public information through an Internet site.
A broadcasting licence is only required if wireless, wired or cable broadcasting facilities are used to disseminate mass media products. As such facilities are not used to disseminate public information through Internet sites, the party disseminating public information through the Internet does not need to obtain a broadcasting licence.

•  Legislation does not contain any restrictions on the methods used to prove that information is disseminated through telecom networks (including Internet sites).

Evidence on cases relating to the dissemination of information through telecom networks may be provided by (1) a public notary prior to the civil proceedings in court (for example, by notarising the content of the Internet site as of a particular date); (2) a court. In exceptional cases, wh ere speed is essential, during the preparation of the case for hearing and also analysis of the case, a court is entitled to examine the evidence on site (for example, to look at the information posted on a certain telecom site in real time). Evidence should be examined and analysed pursuant to the procedure established by legislation: the parties involved in the case should be duly notified, a report should be prepared based on examination of the results, witnesses or specialists should be summoned wh ere necessary, etc.

• If readers’ comments are posted on a Internet site registered as mass media without a preliminary edit (for example, on a readers’ forum), they should be governed by the rules established by the Law on the Mass Media in respect of original products broadcast without a preliminary recording.

If the competent state agency (Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor)) decides that this site abuses the freedom of mass media, it sends a relevant letter to the editors of the corresponding mass media outlet. In this case, the editorial board is entitled either to remove the comments that constitute an abuse of the freedom of mass media from the site, or to edit them. If such comments remain available for the users of this site after the state agency has sent this letter to the editors, the state agency may apply to the court.

When deciding on the liability of editors, the courts should determine whether the competent state agency requested the removal of information from the forum and whether the information, in respect of which the court is considering the editors’ liability, has been removed or edited.

Therefore, if the respective letter of the competent agency was not sent to the Internet mass media, the court should dismiss a request to hold said mass media liable for an offence.

It is assumed that this Resolution of the Plenum of the Russian Supreme Court will serve as the basis for the development of regulations by Roskomnadzor to be used by this authority in similar cases.

For further information, please contact:

Natalya Ivashchenko, Head of group "Telecommunications", at: (495) 967-0007 or by n.ivashchenko@pgplaw.ru 

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