Denis Kamalyagin*, the editor-in-chief of the Pskovskaya Guberniya (‘Pskov Province’) Media Outlet, has filed a lawsuit against the regional Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) because of five refusals to officially register the online media outlet. The agency justified the last refusal by the provision of the Law on Mass Media, which prohibits foreigners from establishing mass media. Kamalyagin* suggested that the officials had mistakenly refused to do this because of his foreign agent status. The journalist told 7x7 about filing a lawsuit.
Denis Kamalyagin* demanded in the lawsuit to declare Roskomnadzor's refusals to register the Pskovskaya Guberniya Online Media Outlet illegal and to oblige the agency to register the media outlet. He told 7x7 that Pskovskaya Guberniya’s unofficial status negated the efficiency of journalists' work, since their texts were not indexed in search engines and the Medialogia Professional Citation Service did not take them into account in its ratings. According to him, the media outlet's employees are tired of the "lawlessness" of Roskomnadzor.
The journalist believes that he has a chance to win a court case against the agency, since, unlike the appeal against the foreign agent status, this story is not federal and politicized, but a local one.
"The situation with Pskovskaya Guberniya is a common illegal decision. I can be refused only if I am convicted under articles for disseminating information, have a foreign citizenship, or I am a legal entity registered abroad or an entire state. In the lawsuit, I explain that none of this applies to me, so I do not understand how the court can refuse me. I assume that the story of the non-registration of Pskovskaya Guberniya comes from the reaction of the Pskov authorities to our work. If they put a spoke in our wheels at the federal level, I am going to get megalomania soon," Kamalyagin* told 7x7.
Pskovskaya Guberniya had to be re-registered after the editorial office stopped publishing the printed version of the media outlet in February 2020 and the certificate of the print media was suspended. Since that time, the media outlet’s editor-in-chief Denis Kamalyagin* has tried to have Pskovskaya Guberniya Online Media Outlet registered five times, but Roskomnadzor would refuse to do this. Since March 2020, the agency has referred to the impossibility to accept documents due to coronavirus restrictions, the journalist having no absence of dual citizenship certificate, etc.
The fifth time, the agency explained the refusal by the fact that Kamalyagin* did not have the right to register mass media according to Article 19.1 of the Law on Mass Media. According to it, foreigners, joint citizens, international organizations, foreign legal entities, and Russian legal entities with foreign participation cannot establish mass media. Kamalyagin* suggested that Roskomnadzor equated his foreign agent media individual status to foreign or dual citizenship. At the same time, the journalist stressed that he was only a citizen of Russia.
Denis Kamalyagin* has been the editor-in-chief of the sociopolitical Pskovskaya Guberniya Media Outlet since 2014. He took charge of the media outlet after journalists published a text about the secret funeral of contract servicemen of the airborne forces’ division, who died in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, near Pskov. After the text was published, the media outlet's journalists were threatened, and its CEO Lev Shlosberg was attacked.
In April 2020, somebody hacked Denis Kamalyagin’s* personal Telegram account. Two Telegram channels of the media with a total audience of more than 3 thousand subscribers were linked to it. At the moment, unknown people update both channels on behalf of the media outlet’s journalists, publish criticism of the opposition and independent journalists, and praise the regional administration.
In September 2021, the Pskov Emergencies Ministry demanded opening a criminal case against Kamalyagin* under the article on the distribution of false reports because of a publication in Pskovskaya Guberniya. In the article, the media outlet's journalists, citing the prosecutor's office, reported about chemicals allegedly spilled at a military training area and four victims. Soon the agency rebutted the data, and the journalists edited the material.
The Ministry of Justice has included Denis Kamalyagin* in the list of foreign agent media individuals since December 2020. He became one of the first foreign agent media individuals. The journalist appealed the status in court, but the latter found the Ministry of Justice’s decision legal.