According to the press release (PDF) regarding the recent judgment, the issues considered by the ECHR as regarding complaints about the 2003 Russian Duma elections were the (1) the opposition’s access to an “effective remedy” to complain about media bias in favor of United Russia; and (2) that the media’s aforementioned bias prejudged the fairness of the elections. The ECHR ruled both claims to be invalid as shown in the extended quotes below:
“However, the applicants had had the possibility of requesting invalidation of the results after the elections, which they had used. The Supreme Court had had the powers to annul election results; it had examined the applicants’ claims and delivered a reasoned judgment. The independence of the Supreme Court had not been questioned, and the Court did not consider that its impartiality was an issue. … It therefore concluded that the proceedings before the Supreme Court had to be considered an effective remedy in accordance with the Convention.”
“The Court first addressed the applicants’ claim that the TV companies had been manipulated by the government. … Thus, the applicants had not presented any direct proof that there had been abuse by the Government of their dominant position in the TV companies concerned. The TV journalists themselves had not complained of undue pressure by the Government or their superiors during the elections. Indeed, formally speaking, the journalists covering elections had been independent and, under Article 10 of the Convention, had had wide discretion to comment on political events.”
“Furthermore, it concluded that Russia had complied with its obligation to act in order to ensure that elections were free both in procedural as well as in substantive terms. … Also, opposition parties had been able to convey their message on TV by using the free and paid airtime provided without distinction to them and to the other political forces. The OSCE reports had confirmed that while the main country-wide State broadcasters had displayed favouritism towards United Russia, voters who sought information had been able to obtain it from other available sources. Finally, the Court recalled that imposing prior restraints on free speech of the journalists had to be avoided, especially in the sphere of political debate. The Court stressed that the Russian legislation proclaimed the vprinciples of neutrality and editorial independence of public media and prohibited journalists from taking part in political campaigning, and the applicants did not produce sufficient evidence that those principles were not complied with in practice.”
“The Court concluded that Russia had taken measures which guaranteed some visibility of opposition parties on Russian TV and ensured editorial independence and neutrality of the media. While equality among all political forces during those elections might not have been achieved, the State, in the light of its broad discretion to decide (wide margin
of appreciation) on such matters, had not failed to meet its obligation to ensure free elections.”
No surprise the liberals and commies were none too happy with failing to get the ECHR to delegitimize the 2003 elections.
The lawyer Vadim Prokhorov, who prepared the opposition’s joint complain to the ECHR: “These court judgments drive the situation towards street democracy… One thing is perfectly clear now – the European Court treats the situation regarding the ‘independent’ nature of the Russian media by analogy with the European media, whereas electronic media here depend entirely on the ruling party, which is what the ECHR failed to take into consideration.”
Vadim Solovyev, KPRF lawyer: “Politics has finally reached the European Court… Europe is faced with grave economic problems, and I suppose they hope to get our gas and oil. On the other hand, I assume that it is hard for a court to create a precedent that might affect other countries of the so-called new democracy, where election campaigns are at least as complicated as in Russia, specifically the former Soviet Union nations, such as Ukraine and Georgia.”
Vladimir Ryzhkov, independent opposition: “Although I normally tend to deny a political aspect of ECHR judgments, this one is obviously political. The case is almost a decade old and the judges must have reached an impasse – to invalidate the results of the vote, but what to do with the parliaments? It was Russia’s fifth Duma, but we have a new one working now. I have not seen the text yet but I expect the document includes recommendations for our legislators not to repeat the situation regarding unequal access to TV coverage.”
H/t @CraigJamesWilly for drawing this to my attention.