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[Medvedev] Meeting with Rossiyskaya Gazeta journalists

Dmitri Medvedev

Gorki, Moscow Region
At a meeting timed to coincide with the newspaper's 20th anniversary, Dmitry Medvedev discussed topical social issues with Rossiyskaya Gazeta journalists.

In particular, the President answered questions regarding the law On the Police, the rejection of amendments to the law on protests, and the investigation into the attack on Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin.

* * *
QUESTION: Mr President, please allow us to ask you a few questions. The first is about the recent attack on Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin. It is widely known that you were among the first people to make a strong condemnation of this attack, but the public would still like to know when journalists will be able to work calmly, without fear for their lives.

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You said it rightly: my reaction was immediate and strong. I spoke with the law enforcement agencies, for entirely obvious reasons.

The fact is, journalists find themselves at a heightened risk. You know, I later checked Twitter, and people there were saying, 'Well, why aren't you reacting to other crimes?' Every day, crimes occur in this nation. And this happens not just in Russia, but in all nations, including some very serious crimes. Yet for some reason, the President reacted to only one of them, in a targeted way.

I did this intentionally, precisely because journalists are professionals facing risks, and the government must pay more attention to them and their work. Because a journalist's goal is to uncover the truth, to tell about people and events in the nation, and to do so professionally and honestly.

That is precisely why the work of journalists ­ whether they are right-wingers, left-wingers, moderates, or radicals ­ will always elicit a variety of reactions. Many people do not like it when journalists talk or write about them. Many politicians do not like being talked or written about, and I suppose that I, too, do not always like what is said or written about me or our nation. But that is the journalists' calling ­ to use their own eyes, their own arguments, and their own influence to tell about various events, giving them a subjective tint, because we are all people.

And in order for this right to be guaranteed, the state must certainly monitor journalists' work very carefully and make the necessary decisions when a journalist's health or life come under threat, perhaps even to a greater extent as compared to some other cases, precisely because of the social significance of their work.

As for this particular, rather saddening event, unfortunately, this is not the first such case, which indicates that the crime level in our nation is still very high. Furthermore, there are forces that believe they can silence anyone ­ including journalists and politicians ­ by using such methods, and that any means can be used to solve their own problems. These forces must be identified. Whoever was involved in this crime will be punished, regardless of their status, their position in society, and regardless of their other merits, if any. If this case involves some ordinary criminal motives, then they must also be fully proven through the investigation of this incident.

The investigation is underway. I spoke today with the Interior Minister; the investigation team is gathering evidence, working to bring to light possible existing evidence that may surround the case. Overall, regardless of what people may think ­ I saw today's publications, which claimed that nobody will be found ­ the perpetrators will be uncovered; I do not doubt it for a second. These kinds of crimes get resolved.

Incidentally, although the statistics are saddening, many cases have been solved. There are some high-profile crimes that have not yet been resolved and are still under investigation, but I am certain that law enforcement will get to the bottom of those cases.

I will say again that regardless of the forces behind this ­ right-wing, left-wing, or centre ­ the people responsible must be found and punished. (I have the general impression that this is not an ordinary crime, judging by the evidence; wallets are not usually pickpocketed that way. Given these facts, this crime represents a purposeful action.)

I suppose that is all I can say. And naturally, I hope that your colleague recovers quickly.

QUESTION: Mr President, what is the basis for your decision to veto the amendments to the law on protests? Did you find these amendments unsuitable for political reasons, or for purely legal ones?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You know, law and politics are generally one and the same thing, because politics must follow the law, and the law is always an expression of someone's will. Thus, I found these amendments unsuitable for political and legal reasons. But not all of them. I will tell you honestly, the amendment included things that I found entirely reasonable, but there were certain provisions that need improvement ­ they concern the procedure for organising such public events.

Thus, on the one hand, I would like to see us make well-considered decisions concerning the constitutional rights of our citizens, so that these decisions promote social order. These sorts of events, rallies, meetings and demonstrations should naturally follow social procedures; they should not disturb the public peace.

On the other hand, the provisions of the law should not suppress public activities. The most difficult part is finding that balance, and the President's challenge is to establish a balance between freedom and security. In my view, the version that was passed contains positive elements, but on a certain level, it seemed to disrupt that balance. And it must be maintained. I will make concrete suggestions.

QUESTION: Mr President, following extensive discussions, you submitted the draft law On the Police to the State Duma. What suggestions from the public did you find particularly significant? And will this unique experience in discussing socially significant decisions continue?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I will respond right away that this experience will certainly be repeated; I have already spoken about it. And we have started preparing for discussions of the law On Education precisely because, in my view, the experience from discussing the law On the Police was successful.

You know, I do not support extreme views like, 'What was the point of the discussions? We suggested that they change everything, and they didn't. What kind of discussion is that?' A person holding a reasonable position must understand that if the President has submitted an issue for discussion, then the President approves of that concept. He cannot simply say, 'You know, I've changed my mind, the concept will be different.' In that case, this person isn't being serious.

At the same time, in discussing the law On the Police, I can name a dozen cases when new regulations and provisions were added that we did not seriously consider at the initial stage, which seemed exotic, or which we thought we weren't ready for.

There were many different discussions, including on well-known international rules and regulations ­ the right to a phone call, for example, which we have never had and which, let's be honest, is not something that appeals to our law enforcement officers for entirely professional reasons. They say, 'Letting them talk on the telephone means ruining all of our work.'

And here, we also need to find a balance between helping law enforcement agencies and defending the interests of an average citizen who may only be suspected of having committed a crime, who may be altogether innocent. There are also well-known rules concerning the clarification of rights and responsibilities, as well as many other examples. Incidentally, I wanted to also take this opportunity today to focus on an issue that has not yet been given much attention, although it is rather important. It concerns the territorial nature of authority for future police agencies.

Here I mean that traditionally all our law enforcement and police officers currently have absolutely the same possibilities and options, regardless of whether they are in the region where they work or whether they are on vacation somewhere else, for example, at a resort.

That is not the case throughout the world. A police or a law enforcement officer is seen as a common citizen unless he or she is on assignment or on a field trip. These staff members must certainly be protected, but they can not just go and simply use their police authority. In any case, this is a thing typical for federations, or nations with states.

This issue has been included in our law. We still have to think some more about how it will need to be implemented, but essentially, it means that police officers have the authority to carry out law enforcement activities only in the region where they work, and if they arrive in other regions, that authority must be proven.

Because we know that unfortunately, there are examples when law enforcement officers, who in this case are acting unlawfully, arrive in another region in order to help some businessmen or simply to provide protection for certain crimes, and travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to do so. This results in a truly astonishing situation, when people arriving from an entirely different region for unclear purposes engage in 'law enforcement activities,' while the local police and law enforcement don't even know about it.

This needs to come to an end. The police force is not an apparatus for carrying out such activities or for protecting somebody's interests. This is one of the vivid, significant examples that require clarification.

I'll say again that overall, I feel this experiment turned out to be successful. Let's see how successful the law itself will be. If we notice it has certain problems, we will make amendments. I said from the very beginning that naturally, this law is the first experiment on the way to reform a system as complicated as the Ministry of the Interior. If we need amendments, we will make them. What's most important now is to begin working on it. In the near future, it must pass through parliament, and I hope that it will go into effect by the second quarter of next year.


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