Government Seeks to Close Website for Anti-Islamist Comment

Moscow, Russia - Court hearings will start on Friday against a popular independent news website in Siberia for extremist views expressed in a comment.

Russia’s Federal Service on Law Maintenance Control in Media has brought in a suit against after the website had published a violently anti-Muslim comment from an anonymous reader known as “Bratka” last month on a forum discussing the controversy over the publication of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

The service has also sent a notice to the popular news website Gazeta.Ru for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed saying it had committed an action aimed at arousing religious and social hatred and set up a real threat of causing damage to the social security.“

Speaking on Bankfax.Ru, the service’s spokesman, Evgeny Strelchik, quoted by AP said that the news site had distributed extremist views and should therefore face closure. ”They published the opinion of a person who incited religious hatred,“ he said.

The prosecutor’s office in the Siberian region of Altai said that Bankfax had deleted the offensive comments a day after they were posted, only after prosecutors had complained.

Prosecution spokesman Valery Ziyastinov said that a criminal case for inciting religious hatred had been opened and if found, the anonymous reader would face four years in prison.

However, Oleg Panfilov, head of the media freedom watchdog, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, said that the news site had long irked the authorities and the extremist comment posted on its chat forum was a convenient excuse to target it.