Pussy Riot go to number one: Stephen Fry, freedom of speech and the ‘punk affect’

I was out of the country when the Pussy Riot verdict came in last week, though I can report that Italy’s national TeleGiornale 5 news certainly covered the story, mentioning Amnesty’s work on the case. Yep, it was almost like Pussy Riot had gone to number one in the international pop charts all over the world.

I don’t think I need to say a lot more about the affair over and above what I said in Friday’s post - ie that the jailing of these three women is a gross overreaction by the Russian authorities and that the whole business marks another attempt to limit free speech and free assembly in modern Russia. (BTW, not everyone agrees with my post - and there have been criticisms of my position in the comments section. That though, is freedom of speech - and the freedom to disagree - in action, something that Putin’s Russia is apparently less and less willing to tolerate).

Now, with the women locked up for their “crime”, expressions of support are being collected by Amnesty (blogged about here). I rather like the message from a 13-year-old Danish “punk rocker” called Rasmus Emil Rjorth who says “Stay strong fellow punx you'll get out eventually and I will not give up!” Meanwhile, a chap in marketing who’s a Christian and whose message to Pussy Riot is that “God is on your side” - is also rather affecting …

Among the five and half thousand messages gathered since Friday’s verdict is one from the comedian and actor Stephen Fry, a well-known advocate of free speech. A self-described “Russophile”, his sadness at the turn of events in the country that produced Dostoevsky and Pushkin is almost palpable. It’s an “astoundingly unfair and disproportionate prison sentence”, he says.

Fry’s two-page letter is well worth reading in full. He has clearly read the (now well-known) closing statements from the three Pussy Riot defendants and praises their intelligence and their “good reason” in criticising “Putinist croneyism within the ranks of the Orthodox Church”.

I was also interested in Fry’s remark about how, in his view, Pussy Riot’s “’punk’ affect and ethos … can put some people off”. Well, au contraire Mr Fry, because I for one am generally delighted to see modern manifestations of punk, even a third of century on from Johnny Rotten’s first appearance and the debut Ramones LP (and in this context it was noteworthy, I thought, that Glen Matlock has been commenting on the case).

Ah yes, the music. Pussy Riot may now be Russia’s most famous prisoners of conscience, but they’re also a musical outfit. Their new song (Putin Lights Up The Fires) has been given a rather striking visual-montage accompaniment by the Guardian (the video embedded above) which includes a couple of images from last week’s Amnesty demo outside the Russian embassy in London. Is it destined for chart success?

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6 comments

Amnesty's campaign has degenerated into various anti-religious stunts. There have been arrests in France, Germany, and the United States for activities such as wearing balaclava masks, or disrupting religious services.

Amnesty should not be encouraging young people to break the law by wearing Balaclava masks on protests. That's (rightly or wrongly) illegal in many cities.

In the Ukraine there were calls to kill the Patriarch of Russia by Pussy Riot supporters, FEMEN also destroyed a memorial to Soviet era repression.

The freedom to worship is guaranteed by Article 18 UDHR and Amnesty should not be seen as condoning the Pussy Riot clones who are invading churches and other religious buildings without any discrimination. It is pure anarchy.

There is no legal basis for Amnesty's claims the activities of Pussy Riot were protected speech.

The documents given to the Russians by Amnesty, are irrelevant waffle, the Russian authorities have nothing intelligent to respond to. If amnesty was serious, they would explain the precise legal basis for the protected speech claims, that means proper case law citations from the ECHR etc.

There is no precedent for Pussy Riot's activities being viewed by any court as being 'free speech'. This campaign in the legal sense, is a spoof one, it is not authentic. Amnesty is presiding over a campaign condoning the harassment of Christians.

Pussy Riot Protestors In Germany Escorted Out Of Cologne ... ‎
Huffington Post - 11 hours ago
The three members of Pussy Riot -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30 -- were arrested in ...
Pussy Riot copycats booted from German cathedral‎ RT
Pussy Galore‎ German Herald
all 1465 news articles »

Gregory Carlin 6 years ago

Any legal system that involves the vague charge of "hooliganism" must be treated with suspicion. Azerbaijan is another country with this vague charge, as this case involving internet donkey bloggers shows :

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18665

Although I realise that there must be some flexibility in any system, a completely rigid one is not advisable, if it becomes too loose and vague then human rights violations are likely to occur as it can easily be abused. The Russian authorities need to charge these women properly if a crime has been committed and then have a fair trial under due process. This hasn't occurred and therefore they should be released.

Daveyboy 6 years ago

If Amnesty has a 19 versus 18 legal UDHR position, can we see it?

Gregory Carlin 6 years ago

'Thanks for the reply - have you got any sources which expose the fabrication of photos and videos relating to the orgies and sexual acts with dead animals that pussy riot members have been alleged to have been involved in?'

Dear Amnesty

Can I have an answer to the same question.

The issue is that children (U18) in Ireland are attending Amnesty organized demos. If the allegations are true, that is not appropriate.

So, where is the proof that the public sex and frozen animal part videos were faked.

G.

Gregory Carlin 6 years ago

From

http://rt.com/news/pussy-riot-cologne-cathedral-463/

Three years in prison have become a closer prospect for some German followers of Russian punk band Pussy Riot. The Catholic Church has pressed charges against Cologne Cathedral intruders, who now face longer prison terms than their heroes.
The three protesters have been charged with disturbing a religious service which, according to German law, could mean up to three years in jail.
"The right to demonstration cannot be set above the right to religious freedom and the religious feelings of the congregation,” Cologne Cathedral’s dean told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.
Three women from Pussy Riot received a two-year prison sentence for hooliganism over their controversial performance in Russia’s central Cathedral of Jesus Christ the Savior.
"The peace of Cologne Cathedral was disturbed – we can't and won't accept this," said Dean Robert Kleine to the newspaper.

Will Amnesty take up their case?

Erica Blair 6 years ago

Erica

It is entirely illegal to violate another person's formal religious space. There are no circumstances in which it is permitted.

In Ireland for e.g. there are can also restrictions even if it is outside in the same street and the church is empty.

The courts decide these issues.

The rule of law.

Gregory

Gregory Carlin 6 years ago