By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
The other day I blogged about Chinese bloggers writing backwards to escape government censors and about Iranian bloggers facing a possible death sentence if they say the wrong thing to annoy Mr “Two Loaves Short Of a Breadbasket” Ahmadinejad. Well today I read that it’s apparently no better in Russia. A blogger there, 28 year old Savva Terentiev, has received a one year suspended jail sentence after local authorities took great exception to what he wrote on his blog.
The actual blog post was extremely inflammatory. Terentiev apparently said that the police were “scum” and that the “police force should be cleaned up by ceremonially burning officers twice a day in a town square.”
Now of course it goes without saying that I utterly condemn such comments. I have relatives in the police back in Great Britain and I have the utmost respect for law enforcement. But by prosecuting Terentiev for his blog post and giving him a suspended jail sentence, this opens the door to a dangerous precedent for free speech on the Internet. Despite the vileness of the opinion, Terentiev still has the right to voice what he thinks and not be prosecuted for it. That’s democracy. You can agree or disagree with him, love him or hate him but he can still say what he wants without ending up in front of a judge.
In Russia, everyone gets their news through state-controlled television, so the Internet is one of the few places where you can get news and opinions which is not controlled by the Kremlin. But now with this conviction and sentence, Russian bloggers are probably now hesitant to post anything for fear of being arrested. What’s next? Criticism of the president leading to a knock on the door?