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Russia: Strasbourg hearing for journalist’s complaint against state snooping

A hearing into a complaint from a journalist about the lack of sufficient safeguards under Russian law against the monitoring of telephone communications by law-enforcement agencies is now underway at the European Court of Human Rights.

The hearing will be broadcast this afternoon from 14h30 (CET) on the court’s internet site (www.echr.coe.int).

The applicant, Roman Zakharov, is a Russian national who was born in 1977 and lives in St Petersburg. He is the editor-in-chief of a publishing company and subscribed to the services of several mobile network operators.

In December 2003, Zakharov brought judicial proceeding against the mobile network operators, the Ministry of Communications, and the Department of the Federal Security Service (“the FSB”) for St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, complaining about interference with the right to privacy for his telephone communications.

He maintained that, pursuant to the relevant order under national law – Order no. 70, describing the technical requirements for the system enabling operational-search activities on telecommunications networks, issued by the Ministry of Communications – the mobile operators had installed equipment which permitted unrestricted interception of all telephone communications by the FSB without prior judicial authorisation.

He asked the district court in charge to issue an injunction to remove the equipment installed pursuant to Order no. 70, and to ensure that access to telecommunications was given to authorised persons only.

The Russian courts rejected Zakharov’s claim. In a judgment upheld in April 2006, the district court found, in particular, that he had failed to prove that his telephone conversations had been intercepted and that the mobile operators had transmitted any protected information to unauthorised persons. Installation of the equipment to which he referred did not in itself infringe the privacy of his communications.

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Information: State surveillance

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