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For Immediate Release
May 6, 2010
Internationally recognized educational journals restricted in Russia
MOSCOW—On April 30, 2010, the official Web site of the Federal Service for Oversight in the Field of Communication, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) published a message that this entity has revoked the “Permit to distribute foreign periodical publications of Awake! and The Watchtower in the territory of Russia.”
On April 28, 2010, some media agencies learned of the decree of Roskomnadzor, dated April 26, 2010, which revoked the permission to distribute both magazines used internationally by Jehovah’s Witnesses. These magazines are published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in Germany (Wachtturm Bibel- und Traktat-Gesellschaft der Zeugen Jehovas, е.V.), and permission to distribute them in Russia was granted by the State Committee of the Russian Federation for Press on July 24, 1997. When the official Web site of Roskomnadzor published its decree to revoke the permit, the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia was not informed. The Watchtower is published in 181 languages and Awake! in 82 languages; they are some of the most widely translated and distributed religious periodicals in the world. In Russia, people have been reading these educational magazines for many decades.
Vasily Kalin, Chairman of the Presiding Committee of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, has expressed the general opinion of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the Roskomnadzor’s decree. He noted: “Lately the situation keeps getting worse. The Roskomnadzor’s decision, which we learned about today, is absolutely shocking. The Supreme Court of Russia and the Supreme Court of the Altay Republic pronounced just a few of our magazines extremist. We don’t agree with these court rulings, but in any case these court rulings had nothing to say about other issues of our magazines. Therefore, there is absolutely no legal basis for the government to ban the distribution of all issues of the magazines in the territory of Russia. Besides the Roskomnadzor’s decree misspelled the name of our Awake! magazine and God’s name, Jehovah, which is part of the name of our organization. It could be said that the means for reaching such a decision and the form in which it was published give evidence of a clear disrespect for the rights and feelings of believers.”
Lawyer Viktor Zhenkov, who represented the Administrative Center at the hearing of the liquidation case regarding the Local Religious Organization of Taganrog, stated the following: “In its Ruling of December 8, 2009, the Supreme Court of Russia indicated that the decision handed down by the Rostov court does not affect the rights of the Administrative Center. At the same time, it is this court decision that Roskomnadzor used as a basis for depriving the Administrative Center of its right to distribute the given periodicals. Such misapplication of the ruling forces a tedious appeal process for the courts to deal with.”
It is noteworthy that the decree is a vivid illustration of the truthfulness of the statement made at the session of the Federation Council by the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Yu. Ya. Chaika. He presented a report on the situation regarding compliance with the law and legal order in the Russian Federation in the year of 2009 and stated that “almost everywhere the law is violated” by the government agencies.