Sacked journalist puts spotlight on Russia's gay pride march ban

 

Moscow

The sacking of a journalist at one of Russia's leading news agencies over a homophobic outburst on his blog has reignited an inflammatory debate over a ban on gay pride marches in the country.

Nikolai Troitsky, a political commentator for the state-run RIA Novosti agency, wrote on his personal blog that he dreamed of inventing a bomb to kill only gay people. He quickly deleted the post, but another blogger complained to RIA, and the company terminated Mr Troitsky's employment.

The scandal erupted last month when Mr Troitsky posted photographs from a gay parade in Berlin on his blog.

"You have to hope that this kind of abomination will never come to pass in Russia," wrote the journalist. "I don't have any time for this kind of 'freedom and democracy'. There's no tolerance for this, you can't help but think of a powerful bomb, that would only kill queers."

RIA called the remarks "unacceptable" and fired the journalist, but Mr Troitsky was then invited on a prime-time television show.

He apologised for his call to violence, which he said was made in a heated moment, but reiterated that he did not want to see gay parades in Moscow – opinions with which almost all the audience appeared to agree.

Under its previous mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow earned a reputation as one of the least gay-friendly cities in Europe. The mayor famously described homosexuals as "satanic", and vowed the city would never host a gay parade.

Gay activists hoped that with the appointment of a new mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, the homophobia may subside, but they have been disappointed.

Mr Sobyanin has said he will take the same line as his predecessor. When small gay marches have occurred, riot police have arrested the participants.

Most of the participants in the television debate, including the host, agreed that Moscow does not need gay parades.

One of Russia's best-known sociologists told viewers that if children were exposed to gay parades, it could have an effect on their sexuality.

Two gay activists on the show were interrupted every time they tried to speak by angry, middle-aged women shrieking that they were perverts.

The programme ended with the host wishing "the talented journalist" good luck in finding a new job.

Nikolai Alekseyev, Russia's best-known gay rights activist, says that the fact that the subject is discussed at all on Russian television is progress.

"There won't be any new homophobes from watching these programmes, but some intelligent people who can think for themselves will hear the messages of tolerance," he said.

Nevertheless, there is a long way to go. One of the programme's guests was an Orthodox Christian activist who arrived with a photograph of Elton John.

"This is Elton John. How did they make him a knight? Knights were supposed to be the cleanest, the most pure people," he said. "And now he has adopted a child... the child will turn out to be just as much of a faggot as he is."

With that, he ripped up the photograph and threw it on the floor, and the studio audience erupted into applause.

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