A Russian court has sided with state oil giant Rosneft in two lawsuits which the firm brought against media group RBC.
The lawsuits disputed information published by RBC concerning Rosneft’s ex-President Eduard Khudainatov. The first case brought against the group centred on an article reporting plans by Rosneft to buy an oil field from Neftegazholding, a company owned by Khudainatov.
The second lawsuit concerned an article reporting plans by Rosneft to sell its stake in Siberian oil company Tomskneft. RBC cited sources close to the deal who said that one of Khudainatov’s companies may have been interested in acquiring Rosneft’s stake.
RBC is one of the few remaining independent business media outlets in Russia. It was established in 1993, and earned a reputation early on for investigative journalism and reports on corruption.
This is not the first time that Rosneft has brought successful lawsuits against critical media. Independent broadcasters Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd were also brought to court by Rosneft in recent years, as were American business news agency Bloomberg and Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
The cases brought against RBC appear to fit into a pattern whereby Russian oligarchs file expensive lawsuits against the independent media.
In Russia, oligarchs have almost always historically won these cases. Russian courts have often been accused of bias and corruption. In criminal cases, only around 0.25% of cases end in acquittal, while the courts normally side with the plaintiff in civil cases.
The process extends beyond Russia, however, with British and American courts also occasionally being used by oligarchs to alter what was written about them. One notable example was the libel case brought against British journalist Catherine Belton by Roman Abramovich over claims she made about him in her book Putin’s People. The two parties later reached a settlement which involved releasing a new edition of the book in which 1700 words were added or removed.
The ostensible aim of many such lawsuits is simply to create an expensive enough legal action that the less wealthy party is forced to settle or go bust.