Pussy Riot: jailed for dissent

The Russian feminist punk rock band “Pussy Riot” were found guilty today of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison each for their crimes. In March of this year, the band stormed a Moscow church and had a  guerilla performance of a “punk prayer” critical of the Russian government, and begging the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin.

The trial has sparked condemnation– both inside Russia and abroad– with supporters of the band calling for the immediate release of the women, and an end to Russia’s aggressive attacks on dissenters.

A woman in a pink balaclava holding a signs that reads "justicia"

A protester in Madrid demands justice for Pussy Riot. Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Many rightly view this latest injustice as Putin and his cronies clamping down on anyone who opposes the current Russian regime. This is by no means the first, or even the most remarkable attack on free speech in Russia. Earlier this year, the city of Moscow banned gay pride parades for the next century. Anyone marching for gay rights in Moscow in the next one hundred years is now subject to a 5,000 ruble fine (approximately $170 USD). In addition to this, anyone caught “promoting” homosexuality to minors is now also subject to similar fines, and criminal convictions.

With the current political climate in Russia, it’s sad, but unsurprising that a punk rock trio could be jailed for performing a song critical of Vladimir Putin. What is interesting is the law they  used to get them jailed in the first place.

Pussy Riot have been convicted of hooliganism inspired by religious hatred. Judge Marina Syrova contends that their performance offended members of the Russian Orthodox church. According to the official story, they’re not going to prison for questioning the government, but for offending the church.

Indeed, much of the trial has focussed on whether or not their performance was designed to offend members of the Russian Orthodox church. Prosecution witnesses testified that the women performed “devillish dances” inside the church. In fact, there were nine “victims” in this case, that contended that Pussy Riot offended them with their sacreligious performance. One of the lawyers for the victims described feminism as a “mortal sin.” Prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov successfully argued that the band should be locked away as menaces to society, otherwise they’d be free to strike again.

So, Pussy Riot are in jail, and many in the west will write it off as an appalling miscarriage of justice, but something confined to corrupt governments ruled by repressive regimes. However, could something similar happen in the UK, US or Australia?

It’s unlikely we’d jail women for supporting feminism; nor would we draft laws to prevent gay rights marches, but silencing people for “offensive” speech is already happening.

Australian newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt was forcibly silenced for daring to criticise academic grants and sinecure positiosn going to Australian aborigines. His crime was causing offense to the aboriginal community. The UK has jailed several people over the last year or two for offensive, racially charged tweets and rants while actual thugs walk free. Meanwhile, in the United States, the University of California wants to ban students protesting Israeli policy and the treatment of Palestinian refugees under the auspeices of  offensive “Hate Speech.” So it seems, it’s not a question of whether this will happen in the West– it’s already happening– it’s a question of how far western governments are willing to go.
Read More:

Pussy Riot band members jailed for two years – smh.com.au

Pussy Riot trial: prosecutors call for three-year jail term – The Guardian

Russia Bans Moscow Gay Pride Celebrations For 100 YearsHuffington Post

Hate Speech Controversy Shakes the University of CaliforniaThe Atlantic

Columnist sued for offensive blog Intentious.com

UK government jails online racists, while thugs walk freeIntentious.com

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Crime, Events, Gender issues, People, Politics, Law

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9 Comments on “Pussy Riot: jailed for dissent”

  1. August 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    It would be nice if more international attention was offered to other Russian dissidents who are less marketable and fashionable than Pussy Riot. Nevertheless, kudos to them for standing up to Putin and his mafia cronies, they would have surely been aware a gaol sentence was a realistic possibility for their ‘crime’.

    Rwanda is another country where freedom of speech has been systematically abused by a dictatorial government. For years Paul Kagame, up until recently a darling of Western aid, has been silencing, imprisoning and murdering political opponents, by (ab)using the countries post genocide laws.

    Finally, I must correct you on the Andrew Bolt reference. His ‘silencing’ was bought about by more than merely causing offence (to both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people), he was deliberately misrepresenting those in his article and was factually incorrect in many areas.

    • August 23, 2012 at 9:58 am #

      The correct restitution in Bolt’s case was publishing an article as a reply in the paper stating all the inaccuracies on the public record, or suing him for defamation
      NOT because it breaches Racial Villification Act 18c, which is a bad law and anathema to freedom of speech.

      • James Hill
        August 23, 2012 at 10:26 am #

        Spot on. It’s scandalous that a group of professional writers and academics would use the legal system to silence a critic. I read one half assed rebuttal to Bolt’s piece, which focussed less on his factual inaccuracies and more on how offensive it was and that was it. You fight bad speech with good speech, not with restrictive laws.

  2. August 19, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    “It’s unlikely we’d jail women for supporting feminism”

    More likely we’d jail people for not supporting feminism.

  3. Dornic
    August 20, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    Umm, slight difference between jailing 3 people for 2 years for criticizing the prime minister of a Country, and a group of Aborigines taking civil proceedings to restrict the republication of a story which directly derogated them based on their aboriginality, using demonstrated lies, to millions of people. The face that you seek to compare the two, is telling of your lack of intelligence and care for any facts on the issue of free speech.

    • James Hill
      August 21, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      Andrew Bolt wasn’t silenced for being factually incorrect (even though his article had factual errors, corrected after the fact) he was silenced for violating the Racial Discrimination act, specifically: he made statements that might “cause offense” to a racial minority. I’m fully aware people like you see no similarities between Bolt being silenced for offending aborigines and Pussy Riot being silenced for offending the orthodox church. That’s exactly the problem. Politics are so bitterly partisan right now that people will advocate all kinds of draconian laws to silence the other team without giving any thought as to how those laws might be used nefariously.

    • August 23, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      Lies can be dealt with by sueing for defamation… if the lie cannot be proven, them defamation proceedings will fail. There should be no determination of what is “bad” speech, because your enemies in the polity may one day determine your own speech as “bad”.

      PS: Pussy riot should go to jail for trespass, but the punishment is manifestly excessive. If they did not desecrate a place for publicity and expose themselves to litigation then they would not be in jail. They did this precisely to bait a reaction, and have to deal with the consequences.

  4. September 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    Isn’t it funny that, to Amnesty, hot white Russian chicks are more important than 34 dead black miners?

    For Amnesty, three pretty white chicks are clearly way more important than 34 dead black blokes.

    • James Hill
      September 11, 2012 at 8:26 am #

      I wouldn’t weep too much for those “miners.” They were part of two trade unions engaged in open warfare with each other. They came armed with machetes and tribal weapons fully ready to wipe out the other side. You should watch the uncensored video footage of the attack. A few hundred miners charged on a handful of police. If the police hadn’t defended themselves it would have been a bloodbath

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