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Russia: Court Rules Against Book Reviewers

(May 11, 2009) On April 23, 2009, a federal district court in the southern Russian province of Dagestan issued an unprecedented ruling, ordering a journalist of a local newspaper to pay compensation in an amount equal to US$1,000 to a writer who did not like a review of his book published in the newspaper. The plaintiff, an author whose work of fiction was reviewed in the publication's book review section, sued the reviewer, claiming that the author and his family had experienced severe mental suffering and that his professional reputation was damaged as a result of the review. The writer stated that after reading the book review, he experienced chest pains, headache, and elevated blood pressure. He demanded to be compensated in the amount of US$150,000. Both parties were dissatisfied with the court ruling and expressed their intention to appeal.

Observers have commented that this judgment creates a very dangerous precedent, opening the way for lawsuits based on subjective opinion. Some have even suggested that if a book reviewer can be sued, a reader who did not like a book can sue the author for making a bad quality product. (Oleg Fochkin, Sud Zapretil Sudit o Knigah [Court Banned Book Reviews], MOSKOVSKII KOMSOMOLETS, Apr. 24, 2009, available at (last visited May 4, 2009).)