Russia president pledges support for rights, press freedom

Russia president pledges support for rights, press freedom

[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] Wednesday reiterated his commitment to improving Russia's human rights record, preserving an independent media, and enforcing the rule of law. Speaking at the opening of the 10th World Russian Press Congress [RT video report], the former lawyer said said [text]:

Dear friends, this jubilee Congress is taking place on the eve of our national holiday, Russia Day. We are currently in the process of developing our political system. Our immutable guiding lines in this work, today and in the future, are the construction of a just and responsible society, respect for human rights, freedom of the press and freedom of speech and, of course, ensuring the supremacy of the law. This is something I wanted to say especially to this esteemed audience, even though I have spoken frequently on this subject of late.

I think that our present economic achievements and Russia's participation in deciding the problems and programmes of global economic development are also subjects of particular interest to you. These are subjects of concern to all of us, the complex issues that we traditionally name "global challenges."

Finally, we are just as firmly committed to the values of the rule of law and civil society.

Medvedev acknowledged that Russia faces daunting problems related to the growth of racism and fanaticism, and urged the media to take a positive role in fighting those ills. AFP has more. Russia Today has local coverage. Itar-Tass has additional coverage.

Medvedev's comments are the latest indication that he intends to depart from the tight control over the media that characterized predecessor Vladimir Putin's term in office. Last week, Medvedev encouraged the Russian parliament to reject a bill [JURIST report] that would allow officials to close media outlets suspected of spreading libel or slander. The measure, which passed first reading [St. Petersburg Times report] in the Russian parliament by an overwhelming majority on April 25, would amend Russian media law [Article 4 text], expanding the definition of libel to "dissemination of deliberately false information damaging individual honor and dignity" and giving officials more power over the media. Opponents of the new bill see its dismissal by Medvedev as a continuation of his inaugural promise to respect Russian laws and rights [JURIST report].