Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ruining Stalin's Reputation...



Defamation and Libel are two big issues for journalists and is something that we are currently going over at Uni as it serves a very important purpose.

During a lecture we were given two examples of cases, first was the case of Dr Joe Rahamim who successfully sued Channel Four and ITN who defamed him by questioning his ability to do his job. Rahamim won £175,000 in damages....see for full details of that case.

The second was of Britney Spears sued American magazine Us Weekly, which claimed her and then husband Kevin Federline made a sexually explicit video. Spears failed to win $10m dollars she sued for as the judge said that as Britney Spears had "put her modern sexuality squarely, and profitably, before the public eye"the report was unlikely to be seen as defamatory (

After these cases I started to look at others and I came across this rather bizarre one which caught my eye. It is a case in Russia where a Stalin's grandson is seeking a case against a Russian newspaper in defence of Stalin's reputation. He is demanding ten million roubles which is around £200,000 after a newspaper accused Stalin of personally approving executions.

The first thing that struck me about this case was that Stalin is in fact dead and in the UK wouldn't be entitled to his reputation and therefore the case wouldn't have been considered or the report considered defamatory. Also, under Stalin's rule there was millions of deaths and therefore articles claiming he personally approved executions wouldn't harm his reputation, especially as the newspaper in question printed proof from Soviet archives with Stalin's signature on them approving executions, so there's the justification.

But Stalin is being in turned in somewhat of a hero in Russia who has turned The Soviet Union into a superpower and as the Times online article says, "Vladimir Putin, during his time as President, endorsed a new school textbook describing Stalin as an “efficient manager” who behaved “entirely rationally, as the guardian of a system”. So perhaps this case is another step towards achieving a better reputation for Stalin?

As this is a case that wouldn't be pursued in the UK, it is an interesting defamation case to look into as it shows how other countries deal with this issue and how other countries perhaps have stricter and tighter defamation rules than the ones here in the UK. If it was in the UK and you could defame a dead person, I can't see how it would be seen as defamatory as it is well known that there were millions of deaths under Stalin and also the newspaper has produced proof and therefore has justification to the accusations.
Here is the Times online article...

1 comment:

  1. Yeah a rough equivalent here would be some relative of Oliver Cromwell (very much the Stalin of England and Ireland) suing after an article pointed out that Oliver Cromwell killed millions of people. There's no way that a relative of Cromwell could sue in the UK. The law must be different in Russia, which does not really have a free press (which is to say that it is even less free than in the UK I suppose).

    Well spotted though.