Editor’s Note. In the following, the emphasis is ours.
[Kommersant founder Vladimir] Yakovlev and his colleagues were the first to introduce the Western principle of information presentation, “the principle of the overturned pyramid”: the essence of the information, what, where, and when, was compressed into the first three sentences. That was how lead stories appeared. (Since then it has become an indispensable attribute of every article in every edition of Kommersant). The details сame only after this lead. There was one more principle: just the facts — no evaluations, no moralizing, and especially no “personal author’s or civic positions.” Brevity, discretion in evaluations, a cool aloof tone, and irony.
Kommersant Saint Petersburg, No. 212, Supplement (4752), 14.11.2011
Public Morality as an Electoral Resource
The Legislative Assembly Plans to Ban Gay Parades
While United Russia’s faction in the State Duma adopts one outrageous bill after another, causing mass protests and hunger strikes throughout Russia, [Petersburg] city legislators are trying to save the party’s face at the regional level. Last Friday, United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov promised to introduce to the Legislative Assembly a regional law banning promotion of sexual perversion. ANDREI TSYGANOV has the details.
According to the Legislative Assembly’s web site, deputies of the city’s parliament plan, “at one of [its] upcoming sessions,” to consider the draft law “On Amendments to the Law of Saint Petersburg ‘On Administrative Offenses in Saint Petersburg,'” which would add a clause making “public actions to promote sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, [and] transgenderism amongst minors” an administrative offense. The [proposed] law also introduces penalties for “public actions aimed at promoting pedophilia.” The penalty [for violating this law], however, would be fairly nominal: in both cases it would range from one to three thousand rubles for individuals, while officials would be fined from three to five thousand rubles, and organizations, from ten to fifty thousand rubles.
The bill does not specify what is meant by “public actions.” However, there is reason to believe that the law, if adopted, may be sufficiently broad in scope. Cause for optimism is given by comments made by the author of the bill, United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov: “Calls from the public to stop the flow of immoral information which is dumped on children and young people have recently become louder and louder. Over the centuries in our country, family values were at the forefront. Today, attempts are being made to change basic social guidelines. Parents and schools sometimes are unable to c0unter the powerful show business industry, which promotes immorality and permissiveness. The purpose of this bill is to protect morals and morality as the foundation of a healthy society.”
The current initiative of Petersburg’s United Russia faction is not original: regional laws on the protection of morality exist in many regions of Russia (for instance, the Ryazan Region law on the protection of the morals and health of children, passed on March 22, 2006, and the law of the Arkhangelsk Region, “On Separate Measures to Protect the Morals and Health of Children,” passed in September 2011, etc.) and were adopted there long before the elections. Petersburg, on the contrary, was until recently a “pioneer” in the promotion of perversion, as well as in programs of “sex education” for children, which are linked [to perversion] and implemented via western grants: it suffices to say that during Valentina Matvyienko’s administration, Petersburg was the first and only Russian city in which several officially sanctioned “public actions aimed at promoting” sodomy took place.
The context in which the adoption of the first document in defense of morality in the city’s modern history is taking place is worth noting. A week ago, the State Duma, backed by the United Russia majority, adopted in the third reading the scandalous law “On Protection of the Health of Citizens in the Russian Federation,” which legalizes donation of children’s organs and provides for forced sterilization of the disabled and medical intervention, including abortions, without parental consent from the age of fifteen. This law has caused unprecedented protest by citizens — tens of thousands of letters, telegrams, and even mass hunger strikes by indignant parents across Russia, something completely ignored by both the Duma and the Federation Council, which subsequently ratified the law. In the same mode, despite strong public opposition, the Duma majority has attempted in the past few months to push through the law “On Education,” which in its current form undermines national traditions of education, reducing the latter to the “provision of (in most cases, paid) educational services.” However, unlike the law “On Health,” adoption of this document has at present been postponed.
It is clear that this legislative activity at the federal level hardly adds any votes for United Russia. In this regard, Vitaly Milonov’s obviously necessary and useful bill is only an attempt to reassure Petersburg’s concerned public by throwing it a “bone” in the form of a promised ban on insignificant (in the electoral sense) gatherings of sodomites.
Editor’s Note. You can send your comments to Kommersant at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Happily (for “Andrei Tsyganov,” apparently), the Petersburg Legislative Assembly voted for the bill during its first reading yesterday. Kommersant “has the details”:
Kommersant Saint Petersburg, No. 215 (4755), 17.11.2011
Promoters of Sexual Perversion Will Be Punished in Their Wallets
Yesterday, as [Kommersant] predicted, the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly approved the first reading of a bill that establishes administrative responsibility for the promotion of homosexuality, pedophilia and other forms of sexual perversion amongst minors. Thirty-seven of the thirty-nine deputies present at the meeting voted for the bill (there was one vote against the bill, and one absention). The bill proposes punishing the promotion of perversion with fines: from one to three thousand rubles for individuals, and from three to five thousand for officials. Such insignificant penalties outraged some deputies. Thus, Elena Babich, a deputy from the LDPR faction, said that in her opinion, “The hidden promotion of homosexuality and pedophilia is under way throughout the city.” “What is a fine of one or three thousand rubles for a pedophile, when they [sic] are supported by international circles?” the deputy complained. According to Elena Babich, penalties for such actions should be very palpable, and personal punishment in some cases might include severe prison sentences.
In turn, the author of the bill, United Russia member Vitaly Milonov, would not rule out that in the future the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly would go to the State Duma with a proposal to impose more stringent measures against pedophiles on the federal level. Deputies from the Motherland faction in the State Duma had previously made such proposals, including the introduction of criminal responsibility for promoting perversion, but these attempts were blocked by the United Russia majority.
Here, Sergey Chernov gives a little lesson in what actual fact-based reporting on this story should look like:
‘Homophobic’ Bill Attracts Protests
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
November 16, 2011
LGBT activists and human rights organizations are protesting in St. Petersburg with petitions against what they say is a homophobic draft law proposed by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in an attempt to gather more votes from conservatives ahead of the Dec. 4 State Duma elections.
On Friday, the Legislative Assembly’s legislation committee introduced a draft amendment to the local law “On Administrative Offences in St. Petersburg” that would outlaw “public actions directed at promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism to minors” if approved by the Legislative Assembly.
According to the draft law, violators will be fined. The fines would be from 1,000 to 3,000 rubles (about $33 to $100) for individuals, 3,000 to 5,000 rubles ($100 to $160) for officials and 10,000 to 50,000 ($325 to $3,630) rubles for legal entities.
“The objective of this draft law is to protect morals as the foundation of a healthy society,” said Vitaly Milonov, chair of the legislative committee and a United Russia deputy, on the Legislative Assembly’s web site.
According to Milonov, the draft law is designed to assist parents and schools in opposing the “powerful showbiz industry that promotes immorality and permissiveness.”
Speaking Tuesday, Igor Kochetkov, director of the LGBT rights group Vykhod (Coming Out), drew attention to mistakes in the draft law, which misspells some key terms in Russian in its title.
“The total illiteracy of the definitions is striking, you can’t find such words in a dictionary, which shows that the authors were very much in a hurry,” he said.
“They didn’t even bother to show it to people who know Russian.”
Kochetkov said that the draft law “was introduced unexpectedly on Nov. 11, and they want its first hearing to be pretty soon — as early as on Nov. 16.”
“This indicates that they want it to pass before the elections — that it is a move in their election campaign, definitely. I think that if they fail to get it passed before the elections, it will not be of interest to them once the elections are over.”
On Tuesday, LGBT activists held a series of one-man demos, which do not require preliminary authorization under Russian law, in central St. Petersburg. Activists set up a scarecrow with a poster reading “Don’t let democracy slip away” and stood next to it, one by one, distributing leaflets.
Their posters read “I’m not a scarecrow! Don’t scare kids with me,” “Those under 18 aren’t allowed to look at me” and “Don’t take kids to the ballet — men wear pantyhose there.”
According to Coming Out, more than 1,000 residents have signed the petition against the draft law in person during the past three days, while more than 6,500 have signed it on the Internet.
In a statement, Coming Out said that if passed, the law would put restrictions on the activities of LGBT rights organizations.
“Consequently, any information campaigns directed at lowering xenophobia and preventing hate crimes based on homophobia would become impossible.”
Although Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, Ryazan and Arkhangelsk outlawed “promoting homosexuality” in the 2000s by passing laws similar to the United Russia bill in St. Petersburg.
Kochetkov described the laws as “unconstitutional,” saying they “limit rights and freedoms, while the constitution states clearly that rights and freedoms can be limited only by a federal law, rather than by regional ones.”
“If such a law is passed in St. Petersburg, we will go to the city court and will take it to the Supreme Court no matter what.”
The Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center asked the Legislative Assembly to reject the bill as “contradicting Russian and international legal norms” in a letter Tuesday.
“The passing [of the law] would lead to mass violations of human rights on the territory of St. Petersburg,” it said.
Coming Out’s activists said they would continue to protest and picket the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, when the draft law is due to be heard.