Opposition activists are considering filing a lawsuit against state-controlled television channel NTV after it aired a documentary which alleged that Russians were paid to attend recent vote fraud protests, the Kommersant daily reported.
The 36-minute video, called “Anatomy of a Protest,” was aired by NTV on Thursday. Opposition leaders and activists condemned the film as “insolent lies and provocation.”
“We are trying to understand how the lawsuit should be written because it’s a complicated situation in terms of law,” lawyer Violetta Volkova, who defended several opposition activists in court, was quoted by Kommersant as saying. “But we are considering a collective lawsuit.”
Russian internet users reacted angrily to the broadcast, and NTV's website was attacked by hackers on Friday. Meanwhile, the TV channel said it had received “multiple requests from viewers” to air the film again on Sunday evening. NTV is part of the Gazprom Media holding.
Another Russian media holding, Expert, said on Friday it was breaking off its ties with NTV over the film which it described as a “cheap propagandist work.” The company accused the authors of the documentary of deliberately misinterpreting parts of its interview with the Expert magazine’s chief editor Valery Fadeyev.
Expert said Fadeyev, a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, was told his interview would be part of a news broadcast, not a film designed to blacken protesters.
“We consider it insulting how they got those comments and in which context they used them,” the company said in a statement published on its website. “The behavior of NTV employees does not meet even the most minimal standards of professional ethics.”
“It’s easy to break off ties that do not exist,” an NTV representative told RIA Novosti when asked to comment on the accusations. “We appreciate reporters who achieve the results that we want.”
One video featured in the documentary shows what its authors claim to be a process of money distribution to rally participants. However, internet activists denounced the video as a forgery, citing a blog post whose author said he saw how it was recorded near the Sokolniki metro station in northern Moscow in late February.
Initially, it was opposition activists who accused Putin supporters of paying to participants in demonstrations in his support. The authors of the documentary dismiss such statements as provocation.
Opposition activists are planning to stage a protest rally near the Ostankino television center in northern Moscow on Sunday. Some 1,600 people have signed up on Facebook and Russian social network VKontakte to attend the rally, and another 1,500 said they may join the protest.
The demonstration has not been sanctioned by the authorities.
Mass street protests took place across Russia following December 2011 parliamentary elections, in which United Russia won almost half of the seats in the State Duma. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow and St. Petersburg to protest against what they described as mass fraud in favor of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party. The protests were the largest in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered to investigate all reports of violations while dismissing allegations that they could have seriously affected the outcome of the vote, which he said was “the most honest” in Russia’s history.