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  2. Activist who reported polluting emissions at the Segezha Pulp and Paper Mill won a lawsuit

Activist who reported polluting emissions at the Segezha Pulp and Paper Mill won a lawsuit

Alexander Gnetnev
Segezha Pulp and Paper Mill
Photo from 7x7’s archive

On February 11, the Arbitration Court of Karelia dismissed the claim on the protection of the Segezha Pulp and Paper Mill's business reputation against environmental activist Natalya Pastushenko and administrator of the Otrazhenie (‘reflection’). Karelia Public Page Tatyana Smirnova. Representatives of the plant could not obtain a refutation of the published opinion and deleting the post. Lawyer Elena Paltseva, who represents the activist and the administrator of the public page, where the text about the environmental situation in Segezha was published, before the court, told 7x7 about it.

Representatives of the plant stated in court that the post about the polluting emissions of the Segezha Pulp and Paper Mill by Natalya Pastushenko on vk.com had caused damage to the enterprise’s reputation. The management of the plant demanded deleting the text and refuting its content.

Lawyer Elena Paltseva convinced the court that the information in the text of defendant Pastushenko was her beliefs, written in an affirmative form. Paltseva stressed that the claimants' demand to refute critical information and delete the post violated the author's right to freedom of speech and thought, spelled out in the Constitution.

The lawyer also pointed out that there were circumstances in the case that were not refuted by any of the parties, which had formed the basis of Pastushenko’s text as an evidentiary foundation for personal opinion: these were a mass bird kill in Segezha and polluting emissions detected in the air. The lawyer's position was that the author of the post had tied these facts together by publishing her own judgement of the environmental situation in her city.

“The author has established a causal relationship between these two facts — between the death of birds and the presence of polluting emissions in the atmosphere — in her publication. In my opinion, this is nothing more than the author's inner conviction, which is expressed in an affirmative form. And so we thought that forcing the author to express a different belief through a court, through a refutation, in fact, to abandon her original belief, the causal relationship that she had established for herself would definitely go into conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution. And it will mean a violation of the citizen's right to freedom of speech,” Elena Paltseva told the correspondent 7x7.

Elena Paltseva said that experts from Moscow had inspected Natalya Pastushenko’s text and recognized four phrases out of five to be statements, and one — to be affirmative. According to the lawyer, the author expressed her judgement of the environmental situation in Segezha on the Internet, without claiming her commentary expert.

“The opinion can be expressed in the form of a statement. It is not about formally judging by the use of marker words ‘I think’, ‘It seems’ — you need to study the structure of sentences, the context of these phrases in general. And we have the whole context ‘screaming’ that this is an opinion of a caring resident of Segezha,” summed up Paltseva.

The post that caused the lawsuit was published in May 2020. Its author, Natalya Pastushenko, stated that residents of Segezha had blunt immunity due to the adverse influence of the plant, therefore they were more vulnerable to coronavirus and cancer. The text was published a few months after an accident in Segezha: there was a massive bird kill in the Karelian city.

In November 2019, residents of the Karelian city of Segezha reported a massive bird kill, fetid fog, and yellow snow. The pictures were published in social networks. The Segezha Pulp and Paper Mill stated that it had checked the ambient air analysis in the area of influence of production and found no excess of the permissible level of pollution in the air.


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