“Pioneer” appealed to the Constitutional Court the revocation of the rental certificate

26 July 2019
Author: Team of authors
Mass media: RBC

Pioneer Cinema, the only one to show the banned comedy “The Death of Stalin” last year, intends to challenge the rules for renting films in the Constitutional Court. The current system has signs of censorship, the applicant considers.

Pioneer Cinema has filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court about the violation of rights and freedoms due to the actions of the Ministry of Culture to revoke the rental certificate of the movie “The Death of Stalin”, a representative of Pioneer Cinema Bartolius Law Office told RBC.

The appeal of Centromobile-Pioneer LLC, the cinema manager, the general director of this company Mary Nazari and Yuliy Tay, the representative of the company in court, is “under preliminary study,” the website of the Constitutional Court says.

The Ministry of Culture did not respond to the request from RBC.

The essence of the complaint


“Pioneer” disputes the constitutionality of the applicable laws in the field of cinematography that govern the procedure for issuing and revoking a rental certificate for a film. They, as stated in the text of the complaint, “establish a system of preliminary censorship” prohibited by the Constitution and violate the applicant’s right to disseminate information.

The cinema theatre also believes that its proprietory interests have been affected. Pioneer Cinema was fined 280 thousand rubles for showing the film without a rental certificate, and it also had to return money for previously sold tickets.

In addition, the courts of all instances refused to investigate essentially the issue of the validity of the ban on the film, for which the cinema was punished — thereby, in the applicant’s opinion, his right to judicial protection was violated. Pioneer Cinema tried to challenge the norms of the law on extremism, since they, in the interpretation of the court, make it possible to recognize a satirical statement on a political topic extremist, Bartolius lawyers specified.

What the Pioneer was fined for


Pioneer Cinema, owned by Alexander Mamut and Roman Abramovich, became the only cinema in Russia to feature Armando Iannucci’s satirical comedy Death of Stalin. The Ministry of Culture two days before the premiere of the tape revoked her rental certificate. The picture was to be released on January 25, 2018.

The official reason for the ban is “the identification of materials prohibited by law during a public screening of a film” (paragraphs “d”, paragraph 20 of the rules for issuing rental certificates prescribed in government decree No. 143 of February 27, 2016).

Cultural figures watched the film before the premiere at a meeting of the public council of the ministry and found signs of “extremism and distortion of the images of historical figures”.

Pioneer Cinema showed comedy in three sessions without a rental certificate, for which the magistrate`s court of the Dorogomilovsky district of Moscow imposed a fine.

The Prosecutor General’s Office, which was asked by the cultural figures to check the film, did not find any signs of extremism.

Prospects for handling a complaint


Should the Constitutional Court recognize the current system of censorship of films as unconstitutional, this will become an extremely important decision not only for the film industry, but also for the media, websites and other disseminators of information, Yuliy Tay, managing partner of Bartolius Law Office, believes.

The actions of the Ministry of Culture contradict Art. 29 of the Constitution (which guarantees freedom of thought, speech; prohibits censorship), Ilya Shablinsky, member of the Human Rights Council, is sure. However, as Shablinsky suggests, the Constitutional Court is likely to recognize the ruling, which Pioneer Cinema is trying to appeal, consistent with the Constitution. “But in its legal positions, the court may indicate that such actions by state bodies are in fact an act of censorship and cannot be permissible,” Shablinsky said.


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