Дайджест
18 Октября 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 587

15 October 2012

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Single-day regional votes in Russia: no reporters hurt

The elections held in a number of Russian regions on 14 October turned out generally calm, although some “traditional” law violations afflicting the interests of media workers and observers from different political parties were reported.

Specifically, in the gubernatorial vote in Bryansk Region, where judges of elections are known to be especially unfriendly toward the press, the electoral committee chairman at polling station No. 101 demanded that federal journalists present not only their press cards and written editorial assignments but also their media outlets’ charters. Those who hadn’t brought the charter were asked out.

The Golos Association, an election watchdog, said violation reports were coming from all the regions where elections were under way. “A total of 603 violation reports had been received by 2:48 p.m. Moscow time,” a Golos press release said, citing specific examples of reports from polling stations in the regions of Altai, Krasnodar, Irkutsk, Moscow, Ryazan, Saratov, Tver and Yaroslavl.

Altai, City Duma elections:

“Electoral committee chairman at polling station No. 97 has banned the use of video cameras and observers’ movement about the station, and demanded that all the video sequences already made be erased. A similar situation reported from polling station No. 1913.”

Saratov, Regional Duma elections:

“A reporter ousted from polling station No. 176; another one told to stay at a particular location outside the premises where work with absentee ballots was in progress.”

“A reporter ousted from polling station No. 1632.”

“Everyone except observers from United Russia Party disallowed to move about polling station No. 1699 or use video cameras.”

“Photo and video cameras banned at polling station No. 1641.”

Krasnodar, Regional Legislative Assembly elections:

“Reporter ousted from polling station No. 2342 for using video camera.”

Ryazan, gubernatorial elections:

“Golos correspondents prohibited to video-record committee members’ work with voter lists at polling stations Nos. 905 and 906.”

“At polling station No. 961, committee members restricted reporter and observer movement about the station; refused to show voter lists; threatened to oust anyone who disobeyed.”

Tver, City Duma early elections:

“Refusal to admit Golos correspondent without Xerox copies of passport and editorial assignment. Use of video camera restricted until a personal talk with committee secretary.”

Sverdlovsk Region:

“Two blackouts on Pervouralsk TV Channel during the ‘day of silence’ in Pervouralsk – both times right before the news going on the air.”

Moscow Region:

“In Khimki, Grazhdansky Golos correspondent Dmitry Doroshenko ousted from polling station No. 3017 for shooting from ‘wrong’ angle (different from that chosen by electoral committee) the scene of another observer being asked to leave.”

Judging by the above-listed violations, the voting day was relatively quiet indeed – at least no journalists were reported hurt.

 

RUSSIA

Independent journalist in Khakassia detained for “hampering police work”

Mikhail Afanasyev, editor of the Novy Fokus web magazine, was detained “for hampering police officers’ work” in Abakan, Khakassia, on 8 October.

One day earlier, Afanasyev posted a report on the detention of two men whom the police, for some unclear reason, had suspected of killing a third one, who was a friend of theirs. The author stressed the two suspects were under police pressure – they were beaten and threatened with rape in a police effort to have them confess and point to the place where they’d “hidden the body”. However, the detainees could not say anything definite, since their 10-day search for the missing friend had been in vain.

Late on 8 October, the detained men’s parents called Afanasyev on the phone to tell him the two suspects were to be transported to another place, and asked the journalist’s help. Afanasyev arrived at the pre-trial detention centre, saw a police vehicle and armed policemen, and started shooting video sequences of what was going on. It was then that he got detained “for resistance to the police”.

His camera was broken after the detention – but sequences shot by his colleagues remained.

Afanasyev spent that night at the detention centre for suspected administrative offenders. On the following day, a justice of the peace received a protocol about the “offence” the journalist had allegedly committed. The judge appointed a hearing for 24 October and let Afanasyev go home.

He intends to complain to the prosecutor’s office and request that legal proceedings be started under Article 144 of the Criminal Code (“Interference with a journalist’s lawful professional activities”), and that the police officer who broke his video camera be held liable for that.

Mikhail Afanasyev, a GDF correspondent in the Siberian Federal District and winner of the 2004 Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, has long had problems with local authorities because of his critical publications. He has repeatedly become the target of violent attacks; and 13 (sic!) legal claims have been filed against him on libel charges, but each time the court found him not guilty. Specifically, after Novy Fokus reported in detail about the tragic technical disruption at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower plant, he was charged with libel, and the Abakan prosecutor’s office accused him of inserting in his texts “secret passages appealing to the unconscious in a person’s mind and/or having an adverse impact on human health”. Five days later, however, the case was closed in view of no elements of crime in the journalist’s actions. And a few more days later, on 9 September, Afanasyev found himself in hospital with a concussion and a broken jaw after two thugs ruthlessly beat him with clubs. His attackers are still at large.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Abakan, ready to give M. Afanasyev whatever support may be necessary.

Severo-Kurilsk authorities reluctant to provide information

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

In previous editions of the GDF Digest, we have more than once reported on Sakhalin authorities’ typical reactions to independent press inquiries: refusals to reply; lies; references to non-existing law provisions or some internal sub-laws, etc.

Cited below are excerpts from recent messages sent to us by Aleksandr Chernega, the founder and editor of the independent newspaper Paramushir-Vesti (PV):

“…In his reply to my inquiry about the levels of income of the Severo-Kurilsk police chief and his deputy, Gen. V. Belotserkovsky of the regional Interior Department refrained from citing any figures but politely asked me, instead, to prove that PV belongs to the category of all-Russia newspapers. He is well aware my newspaper has no such status. On the other hand, would a national newspaper ever be interested in the level of income in some far-off provincial town? This is the particular reason why the notion of ‘all-Russia newspapers’ was included in Presidential Decree No. 561 o 18 May 2009: to make sure some newspapers don’t ever ask for this kind of information, while others don’t ever get the opportunity to obtain it – although in line with the Media Law and the Administrative and Criminal Codes of the Russian Federation, all Russian newspapers, regardless of their status, have equal rights and bear equal responsibility for law violations. Would you please advise me which ‘all-Russia’ media outlet I could possibly ask to inquire the Sakhalin Region Interior Department about the levels of income of the police chief and his deputy in Severo-Kurilsk?”

“…I’ve scored a few modest achievements in my ‘information struggle’ with regional electoral committee head L. Vetrova – although with the help of the General Prosecutor’s Office and Mr. Churov of the Central Electoral Committee in Moscow. After several refusals to provide information about how much was spent in the Severo-Kurilsk constituency on the 4 March presidential election, Vetrova finally sent me a letter estimating that spending at 612,000 roubles, and the cost of the same-day mayoral election, at 336,000 roubles (from the local budget) – meaning that a total of nearly 1 million roubles was spent on 11 judges of elections in Severo-Kurilsk and the 5-strong regional electoral committee! The latter committee’s chairman looked surprised when I showed him those figures; he said they’d have to check things up. My inquiry about the amount spent on the regional electoral committee during the elections to the Sakhalin Regional Duma was answered instantly: 568,000 roubles, but with no breakdown for the divisional electoral committees. Well, I guess I’ll have to contact the regional prosecutor about that.”

Perm journalists read out constitutional article to police officer

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region Interior Ministry Department’s internal security unit has urged the “Business Class” newspaper to disclose the sources it used in preparing its 17 September story entitled “Explicit and Cynical”; senior operative Alexei Sergeyev sent the editor a summons to come for questioning on 15 October.

The business weekly’s story reported on the closure on 17 August of a criminal case against Perm resident Dmitry Bagin, who had been under investigation for almost a year on suspicion of deceiving two persons while selling them his shares in Technical Diagnostics Burgas Ltd. for 14 million roubles. The charges were finally dropped in view of no event of crime in his behaviour, but it was established instead that the criminal proceedings had been started against him on 22 August last year in response to an anonymous complaint, a practice directly prohibited by law.

The victims and witnesses repeatedly changed their testimony, citing different transaction dates and different shares purchased. An expert study revealed forged signatures in documents they had presented. Four days after the investigation was terminated, one of the victims’ witnesses, Alexei Kurtsyn, was himself detained by the police after receiving half a million roubles from Pavel Kudryavtsev, former president of the regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry, allegedly to be handed over to Dzerzhinsky district court deputy chairwoman Tatyana Varakshina for her closure of a civil claim of 1.5 million euro from Kudryavtsev, Business Class reported.

By starting on 21 August criminal proceedings against Kurtsyn on charges of attempted fraud, the police refrained from keeping the suspect in custody. Senior operative Sergeyev said in a telephone conversation on 15 October that Kurtsyn has lodged a complaint against the journalists, which is now being reviewed, in which connection he urged Business Class to disclose its sources. The journalists, in their turn, read out to him the text of Article 51 of the RF Constitution, which “guarantees each citizen the right not to testify against him/herself and determines other cases where anyone is free not to give testimony”. Besides, pursuant to Article 49 of the RF Media Law, the journalist must keep their sources confidential, Business Class staffers told Sergeyev.

Reports about Maritime police practising torture give rise to police department’s legal claim against newspaper

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

After a series of newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti (AV) reports about people tortured by the Maritime Region police, hearings are in progress at the Frunzensky district court in Vladivostok of a business reputation protection claim lodged against the newspaper by the regional Interior Ministry Department.

The publications being challenged are Natalia Fonina’s 2011 stories “Torture Case Goes to Court” and “Police Uses Punitive Methods?”, as well as a statement entitled “Look Out, Mr President!” by Pyotr Dovganyuk, leader of the Khraniteli Zakona (Guardians of Law) public association.

According to the plaintiff, those publications “assert that Maritime police officers (specifically those from Operative/Investigative Department No.4) have committed unlawful and publicly censurable actions, such as torture (physical violence, attempts to beat confessions or desirable prejudicial evidence out of detainees during interrogation), exertion of psychological pressure, threats with torture or murder, and beating of persons under investigation for their filing complaints about torture and humiliation, etc.”

The author’s reference to stories she allegedly heard directly from victims of such police misbehaviour, the plaintiff said, “causes the reader to perceive those stories as absolutely truthful first-hand information”, whereas in the police department’s view, this is “smearing” information, inasmuch as it “creates an unfavourable image of us in the eyes of the public” and … “directly damages our business reputation”.

“Attempts to discredit law enforcement create an atmosphere of public mistrust … that hampers our work and destabilizes the situation in the country,” the police department said.

Trying to justify its claim, the plaintiff cited the Human Rights Convention and said the journalists must base their reports on reliable and trustworthy facts; “the more serious the charges, the more reliable must be those facts,” it said. This evidently did not refer to the facts cited by the author, the more so the police department also presented expert conclusions by a philologist it had hired to analyse the controversial texts.

The plaintiff wants 30,000 roubles in moral damages from AV chief editor Irina Grebneva, 20,000 roubles from the author Natalia Fonina, and 10,000 roubles from activist Pyotr Dovganyuk.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Journalist security specialists hold conference in Moscow

Moscow’s Central House of Journalists on 12 October hosted a working meeting of specialists in matters related to media workers’ security.

The conferees discussed the prospects of journalistic associations’ co-operation with human rights activists in defending journalists’ integrity. Taking part in the conference were GDF President Alexei Simonov; Russian Journalists’ Union (RJU) Secretary Pavel Gutiontov; Media Rights Defence Centre director Galina Arapova (Voronezh); Natalie Loskut (Article 19, Britain); Rodrigo Gonzalez (Article 19, Mexico); Roman Serebryany (RJU); Svetlana Svistunova, director of a documentary highlighting problems facing reporters in the North Caucasus; and GDF Monitoring Service head Boris Timoshenko.

Gutiontov reported on the RJU Secretariat’s recent assize meeting in Makhachkala, attended by heads of the Dagestani police, Investigative Committee and prosecutor’s office. He said that building on that experience, RJU heads are now planning to meet with law enforcement commanders in Moscow. Also, Gutiontov pointed to law enforcement’s sabotage in investigating crimes against journalists, and to lack of reporters’ own initiative to insist on the full-scale investigation of such crimes.

Simonov expressed regret at media owners’ reluctance to defend their staffers; he called their readiness to rise up in defence of reporters as “an exception, rather than the rule”. Among those actively standing up for their journalists, he named Novaya Gazeta and the RIA Novosti news agency, and said that the rest “are sitting on their hands”, thereby “making it difficult for the media community to defend journalists in distress”.

Arapova suggested picking out several cases with broad public repercussions for the media to monitor them closely and file official inquiries with law enforcement agencies, if need be. Also, she reminded the conferees of a programme being in place to defend journalists receiving threats, which gives reporters the option of temporarily leaving this country in extreme cases.

Such a programme effectively works in Mexico, Gonzalez said.

Timoshenko described in detail the GDF system of monitoring journalist rights violations and the potential of the “Media Conflicts in Russia” database as regards defending journalists’ integrity.

The working meeting was held under the auspices of Article 19 – an international freedom-of-expression watchdog.

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

Media Rights Centre in Voronezh co-sponsors crime reporting workshop in Ivanovo

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

An inter-agency inter-regional training workshop, “Crime and Courtroom Reporting by Press Services and Media: Typical Mistakes”, has been held in Ivanovo. The event, which was co-sponsored by the Ivanovo Region Judicial Department and the Voronezh-based Media Rights Defence Centre (MRDC) and anchored by MRDC director and senior legal expert Galina Arapova, brought together judges, court and law enforcement spokesmen, regional media reporters and law school students.

Speakers focused on such issues as legal liability for dissemination of smearing information; inviolability of a person’s privacy; and the use of underworld language in journalistic and press-service reports. Special attention was given to media liability for the circulation of reports based on government and law-enforcement press releases.

The hands-on section included analysis of the texts of official press releases and legal claims in defence of honour and dignity, with focus on typical mistakes.

 

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitoring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.

Contacts:

Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 432, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

Все новости

Архив
ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни