Web Site Warned Over Video Showing Abuse

Web Site Warned Over Video Showing Abuse

Published: May 18, 2011 (Issue # 1656)

A video of four teens sexually assaulting a schoolboy over 10 rubles (35 cents) he owed them got local news web site Fontanka.ru slapped with an official warning last week, the first step toward shutting down a media outlet.

The video of the incident, which took place in St. Petersburg in late April, was shot on a cell phone camera by the teens, who used a shovel handle to rape the 12-year-old boy. All but one attacker were aged under 14.

The story hit local media on Tuesday, but only the local news portal Fontanka.ru posted an uncensored version of the video along with its report of the attack.

This prompted the Federal IT and Mass Media Inspection Service on Wednesday to order the video be deleted as it “promoted a cult of violence and cruelty” and thus violated the media law. The watchdog also said that it issued Fontanka.ru with a formal warning, two of which allow authorities to close a media outlet.

Fontanka.ru took down the video but its editor-in-chief, Alexander Gorshkov, said it would appeal in court. In an editorial, the site said it was seeking “to attract public attention” to the problem of bullying.

“The prosecution considers that we have violated the child’s rights. I respect the opinion of the prosecution but I insist that we took all necessary measures and efforts not to violate the boy’s rights. From the nine-second video it was impossible to determine the identity of the incident’s participants. It was not even possible to tell that it was children,” Gorshkov was cited as saying by Interfax.

Gorshkov said a full version of the video had been circulating for 10 days around the school where the teenagers studied.

Gorshkov said the web site would consider the prosecution’s demand to discipline those who allowed the publication of the video.

Prosecutors have opened a case into the assault, but only the attacker aged over 14 is old enough to be tried under Russian law.

Fontanka’s publication of the video caused a lot of discussion on the Internet, where opinions ranged from sharply negative reactions to praise of the site for honest journalism and voicing problems existing in modern society.

The incident occurred when a group of five schoolchildren gathered at a waste plot of land near the village of Lisy Nos outside St. Petersburg on April 28. They gave 60 rubles ($2) to the youngest boy and sent him to buy beer. On his return the boy told them that he had asked a homeless person to buy beer for them and given him the money, but that the homeless man had not bought any beer and had given back only 50 rubles ($1.70).

For the loss of the 10 rubles, the other teenagers wanted to punish the boy by fining him a further 100 rubles ($3.50). But when he did not have that money, they offered him an “alternative.” The boy agreed to the punishment under pressure from the elder teenagers.

Later the teenagers showed the video to their schoolmates.

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