Vice Squad
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Russian antitrust agency upholds public morals

Despite some arguments to the contrary, I have always thought that Russia was a rather unusual country (perhaps there is no such thing as a “usual” country, but I am not going to worry about these things here). Still, once in a while, even I get surprised about some things that happen there. As far as I could gather from a relatively brief news item on a Russian language news site, four years ago the Moscow branch of the Russian anti-monopoly agency decided that the advertisement for Moulin Rouge magazine was “unethical” and, therefore, prohibited the ad (or perhaps even the magazine – this is not clear from the news item). The ad showed a lady (quite beautiful one, I might add) who was topless, but covered her nipples with her hands. The publisher of the magazine appealed the decision to the Arbitrage Court. The publisher lost its case a couple of days ago.

First, it is a mystery to me why the anti-monopoly agency would be involved in making ethical judgments. But perhaps even more amazing were the arguments the agency used (and the court upheld and even specifically referenced) to motivate its decision. In its reasoning, the anti-monopoly agency cited the Sermon on the Mount (“everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart”) as well as the “Foundations of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church” (I won’t quote from there; it’s too boring). Moreover, the anti-monopoly agency also sprinkled its opinion with a few citations from the Koran including such statements as (my translation from Russian) “it is a sin to look at a woman who is a stranger and see parts of her body” and “it is a sin to undress needlessly and walk around naked” (I am not sure though what constitutes "need" with respect to undressing). Based on all this, the anti-monopolists concluded that the ad violated “common norms of humanity and morals” and contained “images offensive to the religious beliefs of individuals.” Wow. And I though that the Antitrust Division of the US Justice Department was too intrusive.

The Moulin Rouge publisher intends to appeal the court decision.

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