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26.04.2016 Strategic Litigation Workshop for Journalists Held near Moscow on April 17-19, 2016

The three-day journalist workshop "Court Reporting: Media Coverage of Strategic Litigation in Russia" was held in the Moscow region. The workshop was delivered as part of the Project "Promoting better quality journalistic reporting of constitutional litigation at the regional level within the European human rights framework". The Project is being implemented by the Institute for Law and Public Policy. The work on court reporting was initiated by the Institute in 2015 under the Project "The Media and the Constitutional Court". The workshop was funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The on-site event brought together 19 participants from 11 Russian regions, namely: Ekaterinburg, Moscow, Chelyabinsk, Voronezh, Maikop, St.Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Luchegorsk (Primorsky Territory), Petrozavodsk, Syktyvkar and Kirov.

The workshop curriculum for lectures and practical exercises was designed to develop a comprehensive theoretical understanding of strategic litigation along with practical skills to better communicate with higher courts in Russia. As part of their preparation for the workshop, all participants studied the legislation on the Constitutional Court and  on the media, as well as defamation rules and some problematic articles on strategic litigation.

 

Alexander Blankenagel, public law professor from the Humboldt University (Germany), provided a comparative journalist perspective on constitutional justice in Germany, Russia and the UK. He described how the system of constitutional justice is basically organized and explained the concept of abstract control over rules and regulations. Separately, he addressed the issue of institutional competition between domestic and international courts. Professor Blankenagel used the German practice as an example of successful harmonization of national legislation with ECHR judgments. The principle of parliamentarian discontinuance within the operation of international treaties generated intensive discussion.

 

The complicated subject of acceptable and permissible actions in the area of court reporting was covered by retired constitutional judge Тamara Morschakova, heаd of Judiciary Chair at the Higher School of Economics. She emphasized the importance of court reporting  as judges and courts can only resort to the society in seeking protection. Journalists were explained how they could help ensure the independence of judges.

 

A practical session was delivered by Andrei Rumyantsev, PhD in Law at Regensbourg University, to present the relevant techniques of clear, confident and conflict-free coverage of legal matters. He provided the real-life examples of situations where changing headlines could lead to serious conflicts with speakers. The participating journalists learnt different techniques of media monitoring and coverage of legal developments.

 

The legal implications of photo publications in the media and on the Internet were highlighted by the media lawyer Svetlana Kuzevanova. She used the examples of the discretionary use of photos and pictures to explain the related risks: defamation, infringement on private life, disclosure of personal data, instigation of hatred, and demonstration of Swastics.

 

The ILPP Litigation Team Leader Grigory Vaypan and Senior Lawyer Olga Podoplelova outlined the characterizes of constitutional language and the specifics of constitutional justice. The participants learnt how to use amicus curiae briefs in court reporting and watched the video of the Constitutional Court pronouncing its judgment on the enforcement of the ECHR Judgment in the case of Anchugov and Gladkov v. Russia of 4 July 2013. The moderators then specified the types of arguments commonly used to report on constitutional justice.

 

A training session was delivered by the jornalist Stanislav Vakhrushev to discuss the reporting strategies and techniques used to identify the problematic field, strategic facts and access to relevant and recent information. He explained the difficulties of formulating information inquiries, most common reasons for refusals, lack of regulations concerning official information for restricted use as well as conflicts of interest involving officials providing the information. Various Russian regions were discussed to demonstrate the barriers and opportunities in journalis accrediation with and access to the public authorities.

 

Video conferences were organized with the Russian Constitutional Court Press Service and the ECHR Press Service whose representatives, Yulia Andreeva and Nina Salomon respectively, described the procedure and possibilities  for interacting with press services, explained what and when needs to be provided to editors to include case details, how to work with court archives, and how to obtain court accreditation, audio or video records.

Supreme Court Deputy Head for Public and Media Relations Alexey Latseiko described in detail the functions of the Supreme Court Press Service and the contents of information bulletins and publications provided to the journalists.

In conclusion, Andrei Rumyantsev reviewed the texts on constitutional justice prepared by the journalists and gave practical recommendations for making them more accurate and adequate in terms of regional news coverage.


Text: Institute for Law and Public Policy

Photo credit: Taya Kraukhina / Institute for Law and Public Policy

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