Scandal in Moscow over Cancellation of Screening of Anastasia Baburova Film
In Moscow a major scandal has broken out over the decision by film festivals to cancel the showing of a film by Valery Balayan about the journalist and anti-fascist activist Anastasia Baburova, murdered by a hired killer in the centre of the Russian capital on 19 January 2009. The organizers of the film festivals Profession: Journalist and Stalker consider the film’s cancellation a reasonable precaution. Human rights defenders and civic activists consider it to be an act of cowardice with regard to neo-Nazis.
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Oleg Orlov, chair of the Memorial Human Rights Centre , Ludmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group and Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the Movement For Human Rights, have issued a joint statement on the cancellation of the screenings of the film about the journalist Anastasia Baburova at the Profession: Journalist and Stalker film festivals:
“In Moscow, for ‘security reasons’ screenings of the documentary film by Valery Balayan, Love Me, Please, dedicated to the journalist Anastasia Baburova who was killed on 19 January 19, 2009, have been cancelled. The film was to have been shown on 16 November at 15:00 in the House of Journalists at the Profession: Journalist film festival, and in December at the Stalker International Human Rights Film Festival. Rather than take responsibility upon themselves, set up a metal detector at the entrance to the theatre, and ask the police to take appropriate measures, the festival organizers have taken their line either from the neo-Nazis themselves or from those who lead the official fight against extremism. This is cowardice that is incompatible both with the profession of journalist and with the idea of human rights, mention of which should now logically be removed from the names of the festivals.”
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Ludmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group: “It is outrageous that they have refused to show a film about a journalist, who was murdered in Moscow, in the House of Journalists. So what is the House of Journalists for at all, if films such as this cannot be shown there?”
And the fact that someone is trying to influence this decision is no justification. All the more so since, again, we are talking about the House of Journalists. I simply can’t understand how the organizers can cancel the screening because they fear some sanctions or other, some kind of provocation. If such things do take place, let then tell human rights defenders about them. We shall defend them.
And as for the Stalker Human Rights Film Festival - I just can’t believe it. The festival has been run for many years now, and they have shown many controversial movies. What has happened? Has there been a change of management? Or is it just that until now they had not been threatened, and now they are threatened?
It would be funny to say the organizers of the Stalker Film Festival should ask human rights defenders for help. There are human rights defenders among the organizers. I just cannot believe this. I hope they will change their minds and the film will be shown.”
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On 15 November 2010 at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow the 2nd National Film Festival Profession: Journalist opens. Over five days the festival will show 60 films. The film by Valery Balayan about the murdered journalist Anastasia Baburova remains in the festival programme, although the public screening of the film has been cancelled. The festival organizers say that this decision has nothing to do with the artistic merits of the picture.
The film Love Me, Please was to have been shown on 16 November at the House of Journalists as part of the film festival Profession: Journalist, and in December at the Stalker Film Festival.
However, Radio Liberty correspondent Elena Polyakovskaya reports, a few days before the Profession: Journalist Film Festival was due to start, the organizers cancelled both public showings, explaining their move by the impossibility of ensuring the safety of the viewing public. The reason for this is what happened when the film was shown at Novosibirsk State University on 9 November. There a group of unidentified persons attacked students who had gathered to watch the film.
Director of the Stalker Film Festival and the Profession: Journalist Film Festival, Igor Stepanov, believes that there is nothing provocative in the film, but said that he and his colleagues cannot take the risk: “We decided in any case not to risk the people’s lives and well-being. The film will be shown to the members of the jury, and those who are interested will be given a copy of the movie on DVD. The public showing we decided to stop and not to risk. What happened has made us realize there is a need to be careful.”
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In Moscow the screenings of a documentary film about murdered journalist Anastasia Baburova have been cancelled, director of the film Valery Balayan told Grani.ru. The organizers told him they could not guarantee the safety of the audience. The film Love Me, Please was to have been shown on 16 November at the House of Journalists at the Profession: Journalist Film Festival, and in December at the Stalker Film Festival.
The Profession: Journalist Film Festival is run by the Union of Journalists of Russia and the Directors’ Guild of Russia. President of the Festival is the head of the Union of Journalists of Russia, Vsevolod Bogdanov. The Stalker International Human Rights Film Festival, run by the Directors’ Guild, will take place this year for 16th time. President of the Stalker Festival is Marlen Khutsiev.
At Novosibirsk State University a group of unidentified persons attacked students who had gathered to watch Balayan’s film. There were between 20 and 30 attackers, one of them opened fire from a traumatic pistol injuring a student in the face. A criminal investigation has been opened into an incident of “hooliganism committed by an organized group”. The apartment of the organizer of the screening, student of Novosibirsk State University Mikhail Piskunov, was searched and a computer confiscated.
Among the possible motivations for the crime being considered by the police is that the event was staged, Pavel Zolotukhin, deputy head of the Centre for Combating Extremism of the regional police department said on Thursday. “Someone is interested in presenting this as a clash between two groups (the anti-fascists and neo-Nazis. - Ed.),” RIA Novosti quoted Pavel Zolotukhin as saying. “We have estimated a range of people who might be implicated in this crime,” Pavel Zolotukhin said.
According to the Vice-Chancellor for General Affairs of Novosibirsk State University, Dmitry Poluboyarov, the university administration cancelled the screening of the film on the grounds that this was a political action. According Poluboyarov, on the eve of the attack at the University leaflets appeared criticizing the Russian March.
If the students had approached the university administration, explained the need to put on the film in terms of their studies and the holding of a discussion with the different sides represented, “then we could have thought about how an event like this could have been held with the participation of experts, with all safety standards ensured,” Poluboyarov said.
After learning about the cancellation of the screening in the building of Novosibirsk State University, the students decided to watch a DVD of the film in another place. One of the students told Kommersant newspaper how near the laboratory building they were attacked with cries of “Who likes movies here?” and “Who is against fascism?”
The lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist Anastasia Baburova were shot dead on 19 January 2009 in Moscow. Stanislav Markelov had worked on cases involving war crimes, as well as human rights and environmental issues. The main suspect in the case is Nikita Tikhonov. He has been charged under Article 105 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (murder) and Article 222 of the Criminal Code (trafficking in weapons). For the more serious crimes under these articles the law provides for up to 20 years imprisonment or life imprisonment.
Initially Evgeniya Khasis had also been charged under both articles along with Nikita Tikhonov. Subsequently the charges against Evgeniya Khasis were changed to “complicity in murder”.