Russian reporters boycott parliament over sexual harassment scandal

Russian reporters boycott parliament over sexual harassment scandal
Several Russian media outlets have announced that they are ending cooperation with the lower house of parliament after its ethics commission dismissed sexual harassment accusations by a number of female reporters against an MP.

The decision was announced shortly after the State Duma ethics commission refused to take disciplinary measures against Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia MP had faced accusations of sexual harassment from several female reporters from a number of media outlets.

The commission noted that the allegations had been made almost simultaneously in the final stages of the presidential election campaign – despite the fact that the alleged incidents had taken place over a long period of time. It concluded that complaints therefore appeared to be part of a pre-planned PR stunt.

Many Russian media outlets did not take this verdict lightly. Television channels Dozhd and RTVI, whose journalists were among Slutsky’s alleged victims, issued statements announcing that they were ceasing any cooperation with the State Duma. Talk radio Ekho Moskvy, regional news site Znak.com, and news agency RBC soon joined the boycott; demanding that the parliamentary leaders restore order in the house and review the ethics commission’s decision concerning Slutsky.

Popular business newspaper Kommersant released a statement in which its editors condemned the decision and said they were suspending cooperation with Slutsky and with the ethics commission, but not the State Duma as a whole.

MP Otari Arshba, chair of the ethics commission, called the boycott an attempt to pressure the commission members. “The commission cannot just appoint someone as being guilty, regardless of how much someone might want this. All decisions must be made within the legal field and this has been done,” he said.

Arshba also accused reporters who had decided to join the boycott of blackmail, adding that “before taking such steps, one should think it over thoroughly, because decisions caused by emotions often lead to mistakes and can create problems in the future.”

Deputy Head of the Liberal Democratic Caucus in the State Duma Yaroslav Nilov MP alleged that the boycott may be caused by financial problems in the media outlets that had launched it. “We should not forget that this can be connected with some internal reasons, like austerity or optimization of human resources, with pursue of commercial profits. Don’t perceive everything literally,” Nilov told TASS.

MP Oksana Pushkina of the parliamentary majority party United Russia, herself a former television anchor, has approved the boycott. “Good for them! I am glad for my profession. It is good that my colleagues don’t betray their own,” Pushkina told RIA Novosti. “This problem [sexual harassment] exists in our country. It must be solved by means of legislation,” she added.

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