Free Speech or Hooliganism?
By now you've probably heard about the trial in Russia of the punk rock group known as Pussy Riot. Those of us who like to keep tabs on free speech issues are all waiting for the verdict to come down on this one. If found guilty, the three women on trial could face three years imprisonment.
At the core of the issue is a protest performance the women staged inside a Moscow church. They had some pretty negative things to say about Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the language wasn't exactly PG-13. Let's just say the performance wasn't quite in the vein of a Mark Russell parody.
Anyway, the women were arrested and charged with hooliganism and inciting religious hatred. The resulting trial has made Pussy Riot a household word. (Okay, probably not in my mother's house. And maybe not your mother's, either. There are some things my mother just won't say.) Meanwhile, Mr. Putin is now finding himself being cast in the role of the antagonist in news stories that also include the name "Stalin." (Oh, that can't be good for the Russian tourism industry.)
Okay, maybe critical public performance is still a bit new for the newly crafted Russian democracy. After all, they lived under totalitarian rule of the Czars for centuries and then under totalitarian rule of communism for about 75 years. This free speech thing might take a bit of getting used to.
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