A journalist in Siberia has been accused of “controlling minds” with a reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” in a milestone case in Russia’s legal system, the Kommersant business daily reported on Tuesday.
Police in Russia’s republic of Sakha had accused Mikhail Romanov, a reporter for the Yakutsk Vecherniy weekly, of “affecting the human subconscious” with an article on the alleged torture of an academic. The authorities suspected that the article had tapped into readers’ subconscious by writing: "This is a story about how anyone can be squashed by the government machine. It's also about how Big Brother is watching, reading all comments on online forums,” Romanov’s editor told Kommersant.
This is the first time that a Russian journalist has been tried under a new law that punishes media for publishing information “containing hidden insertions affecting the human subconscious," Kommersant reported.
The case has been forwarded to a Yakutsk city court for consideration, the outlet cited the city’s police department as saying.
Fines for violating the law range between 2,000 rubles ($31) and 50,000 rubles ($785).
Police told Kommersant that Romanov had repeatedly declined to provide testimony, citing his “limited eyesight and inability to read text.”
“That circumstance hasn’t kept him from working at a computer,” the Yakutsk police department was reported as saying.
The Russian Union of Journalists argued in a statement that “even someone without a literary education understands that this was only in reference to George Orwell’s ‘1984.’”