MOSCOW, August 21 (RIA Novosti) – A widely distributed magazine that a lobby group said advertised prostitutes in Moscow was shut down by court order on Wednesday because it was an “erotic” publication masquerading as an advertising periodical.
Flirt v Bolshom Gorode (Flirting in the City), issued every three weeks and regularly handed out to pedestrians or left on car windshields, was a de-facto erotic magazine despite registering as an advertising publication, a Moscow Region court ruled.
Being labeled erotic in the official permit would have limited the magazine’s distribution to specially designated shops. The magazine said on Twitter that it was only offering dating ads, but a call to a random ad revealed an apparent prostitution ring.
The magazine was never notified about the recent hearing and will appeal the ruling, it said on Twitter. The publication was shut down once before due to a similar accusation but reopened under a tweaked name.
The complaint against the magazine was filed by the state media watchdog Roscomnadzor, acting on a request from the Safe Internet League, a government-affiliated group that had previously campaigned against controversial online content.
The magazine was pandering sexual services, a criminal offense in Russia, said the group, which lobbied for last year’s law on the extrajudicial blacklisting of websites that allegedly promote child abuse, suicide or illegal drugs.
Media registration rules may be radically tightened to prevent magazines such as Flirt v Bolshom Gorode from operating, the Safe Internet League said Wednesday in a statement.
Russian legislators have in recent months focused on upholding morals in the country, banning “gay propaganda” toward minors, introducing the Internet blacklist and tightening rules for public slander. Critics claim that the campaign is designed to draw the public’s attention away from a sagging economy.