Police Hit Back over Poor Image in Press

Russian police believe the media is biased against them and they should more vigorously defend their good name, including via courts of law, according to an official document circulated by the Interior Ministry, Life News reported on Friday.

The document, signed by Deputy Interior Minister Sergei Bulavin, orders drafting of a departmental order before July 1 ensuring “consultative, methodological and practical assistance to personnel in lawsuits over the protection of [their] honor and dignity.”

Police units are to monitor the media, keeping tabs on all “negative” publications about the police and responding to them promptly and effectively, the document continued.

The ministry believes law enforcement personnel do not pay enough attention to criticism.

In 2011 there were 479 critical publications on the Interior Ministry’s regional divisions but only seven lawsuits filed and 23 formal refutations issued over them.

The ministry recommends not only that the media be sued for compensation and ordered to publish a retraction but also publish a response with the police making their point.

Lawyers doubt that more lawsuits will have a positive impact on the police image.

“There’s no way the ministry will ‘dissuade’ [the media] from criticizing [the police] by going to court,” said experts at the Vash yuridichesky poverenny [Your Legal Counsel] law firm.

Police trade union head Mikhail Panyushkin, who has repeatedly been sued by the Interior Ministry for defamation, believes that the most important thing is to ensure equal rules of the game for ordinary citizens and the police.

“A rank and file police officer who feels he has been insulted should be able to uphold his rights in court but then an ordinary citizen should also be able to sue a police officer if he has to,” Pashkin says.

Today, however, it is even impossible to find out the name of a police officer on duty, he added, because police either don’t wear the badges or use the same badge and pass it on to each other when they go on patrol duty.

“On the whole, I believe the police have earned the image they have in the press,” Panyushkin said.

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