Дайджест
22 Августа 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 623

19 August 2013

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Pre-election scandals in Russia

As if by tradition, Russia has again been swept by a wave of journalist and media rights violations in the run-up to the different-level elections scheduled for 8 September.

In July, the Thirst of Life show was closed on Finam FM – “because of a conflict with the radio station management over a banned feature about election monitoring”, the show’s ex-host Irina Yasina said. Shortly afterward, Galina Kramich, chief editor of the Lyubimyi Gorod newspaper based in the Shatura district near Moscow, became the target of a violent attack (see Digest  621).

August began with reports about several print runs of the newspaper Novaya Kalmykia seized without explanation from street news vendors in Elista, Republic of Kalmykia. Moreover, in violation of a court ruling, the staff of another local newspaper, Izvestia Kalmykii, was ejected from its premises; the offices of Ura TV Channel and the news website Elista.org were searched; and the city’s chief investigator, Police Lt.-Col. Ubushiyev, asked the Moscow-based Internet service provider to block the Insider.org news web portal, on which, he claimed, “unidentified persons, driven by mercenary motives, have deliberately circulated falsehoods about the republic’s leader and some acting government officials in order to smear them in the eyes of the public”.

In Ryazan on 11 August, a fake issue of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta v Ryazani (NGR) was released, praising the ruling United Russia Party’s nominee running against the NGR chief editor in the forthcoming election. In the city of Polevskoy, Sverdlovsk Region, a local electoral committee head ruled to confiscate the print run of the Yabloko Party’s newspaper. In the Novosibirsk Region on 15 August, part of the print run of the communist newspaper Za Narodnuyu Vlast was seized – allegedly for purposes of scanning the issue for “extremist” content. In reality, that number carried analysis of acute social problems and criticism of the regional authorities.

In Moscow late on 13 August, Russkaya Planeta correspondent Pavel Nikulin was beaten up near a house in Chistoprudny Boulevard where, mayoral candidate Nikolai Levichev suspected, one of his rivals had unofficial headquarters. Levichev called the police; the officers spent several hours trying to break into the “suspicious” apartment to see what was going on there. A group of journalists and both candidates’ supporters watched the proceedings.

As he attempted to walk down the stairs to hand over his notebook PC to a colleague, several plain-clothed men blocked his way demanding to see his documents, Nikulin said. He tried to push one of the men a little aside to be able to move on, but they knocked him off his feet and punched him in the face. Nikulin appealed for help to the police officers standing nearby, but they stayed indifferent. Then the journalist waited for one of the attackers to walk out into the street, and pointed to him to the policemen, but they didn’t seem to care. And as Nikulin himself tried to detain the man, someone from the crowd ran up to him to punch him in the face once again.

It was Nikulin who attacked Fair Russia Party Chief of Staff Ruslan Tatarinov, Levichev claimed in a live interview for the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

“Ruslan was compelled to defend,” he said. “He just grabbed the attacker’s arm with his hand to ward off a blow, which means there was no fistfight at all. It’s yet another attempt to fan provocations and scandals around my personality – nothing more than that.”

This notwithstanding, doctors at the Sklifosovsky Emergency Hospital diagnosed Nikulin as having facial bruises, which they officially certified. The journalist intends either to report the beating to the police or to sue his attackers.

It is still three weeks before the voting day, and more scandals are likely to erupt. Hopefully, pre-election fistfights will not become yet another traditional way of resolving electors’ differences in Russia.

 

RUSSIA

Yet another critically-minded blogger accused of extremism in Murmansk Region

Aleksandr Serebryannikov, owner and author of the Bloger51.com news website, is under prosecution on charges of “extremism”, Barents Press Association Chairwoman Yelena Larionova told the GDF.

“The website is very popular due to its sharp criticism of the regional administration and other government officials; chat forum comments are biting, too,” she said. “The Murmansk Region Investigative Committee on 12 August accused Serebryannikov of extremism on the grounds of his ‘publishing materials aiming to fan hatred and inter-ethnic strife’, and required the journalist to give a written pledge not to leave town. He may be in for up to two years in jail. Why his publications have been labelled extremist is being kept secret by the investigators.”

The regional public organisation Otkrytyi Gorod (Open City) sees Serebryannikov’s prosecution as a pre-ordered pressure campaign. In this connection, the group has made public a statement reading, in part, as follows: “One cannot unequivocally assert that it is the regional authorities who are behind the provocations against the news website and A. Serebryannikov; yet the incumbent rulers are clearly interested in having the website closed and Aleksandr himself convicted, which is supposed ‘to teach other critics to keep their mouths shut’.”

The statement further says that Serebryannikov has more than once said in public that he will never allow any extremist stuff to be published on his website; he has been invariably reasonable in his contacts with all people, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. Moreover, it was he who initiated a meeting of netizens with law enforcement officials to discuss new legislation regulating Internet content.

“After that meeting, he decided to establish a public organisation to engage in educational work and keep in touch with the web users’ community,” the statement says. “Last winter, he travelled at his own initiative around several cities across the Murmansk Region, meeting with youth and schoolchildren and explaining to them the legal implications of attempts to post illegal content in the Internet.”

Comments and opinions published on the bloger51.com website often are at odds with official assessments of the regional developments; they criticise ill-performing officials of different rank and describe violations of ordinary people’s rights that the authorities feel free to commit while pursuing their double-standard policies, the authors stressed adding that the groups targeting the journalist have gone as far as “putting psychological pressure on Serebryannikov and attempting to blackmail him”.

Otkrytyi Gorod demands “lifting the veil of secrecy over Serebryannikov’s case; bringing in as many witnesses as possible into the investigation process; and ordering all-round expert studies of the case” in order to identify the masterminds behind this pressure campaign, no matter who they may turn out to be.

Disfavoured editor and his son threatened in Krasnodar Region, North Caucasus

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Anatoly Kuznetsov, editor of the Anapa-pro.com news website, who is under investigation on charges of Criminal Code Article 282 (“Instigation of inter-ethnic, racial or religious strife”), and his son Rodion Kuznetsov have been receiving threatening phone calls from unidentified persons.

The charges were brought against A. Kuznetsov in the wake of his placing on Anapa-pro.com of a video borrowed from the Internet for purposes of discussing extremism in inter-ethnic relations. His other “wrongdoings” include the heading, “Extremism from Bagirov, Putin’s Authorised Representative?” and the phrase, “MPs suggested jailing governors for inter-ethnic conflicts?”

In his report to the RF Prosecutor General’s Office, Rodion Kuznetsov wrote that early in July he had visitors – “two unknown, sturdy young men”, who quietly, without any aggression, asked him if he understood his family couldn’t live in Anapa any longer.

“They didn’t directly threaten me, but gave it to be understood in a roundabout way that unless we leaved Anapa, my father, myself or other members of my family might meet with an accident,” R. Kuznetsov wrote. “I took that as a very real threat, because I have small children. I can recognize those men…”

“A few days later, two other men, whom I didn’t know either, approached me to ask if I’d got full well what their colleagues had earlier told me,” Rodion Kuznetsov wrote in his report. “I’ve repeatedly heard my father say he has been receiving website messages urging him to give up his public activities, which he also takes as serious threats. Concerned about my health and life, and the health and life of my family and kids, I am now compelled to leave Anapa, where I had an apartment, and to move to another place.”

R. Kuznetsov urged the prosecutors to identify the persons who threatened him and his family with violence, and to assess their actions in legal terms.

The GDF will closely follow the developments in the Krasnodar Region.

Reporters in Yekaterinburg ousted from exhibition despite official accreditation

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

In response to a complaint filed by Aksana Panova, editor of the web newspaper Znak.com, the Oktyabrsky district investigative department in Yekaterinburg is looking into incidents that occurred at the Yekaterinburg EXPO Exhibition Centre recently.

As reported on the website, EXPO security guards and Sverdlovsk Region Governor Yevgeny Kuivashev’s bodyguards twice – on 10 and 11 July – hampered the work of Znak.com reporters who were accredited to cover the InnoProm 2013 Exhibition. On the first day, security simply refused to let the journalists through into the EXPO building, and tried to confiscate their accreditation badges. On the second day, they twisted photojournalist Vadim Akhmetov’s arms behind his back for taking pictures of the regional leader. They tore the accreditation badge off his chest, attempted to seize his passport, and finally drove him away from the exhibition.

The newspaper management complained to the prosecutor’s office about what it sees as interference with a journalist’s lawful professional work – an offence punishable under Criminal Code Article 144. An investigator already has questioned several Znak.com staffers, who had earlier been interrogated by police in connection with the incidents.

Musical radio station to cover government activities in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The regional media – traditional servants of the Stavropol power echelons – are frustrated: the state order for the coverage of the most important regional developments has been awarded to a little-known FM television/radio company, 26th Region, operating mostly online and devoting minimum air time to news coverage.

The passed-over veteran news broadcasters, like Radio Mayak and Radio Russia, are wondering how their luckier colleagues can possibly work off the 1.3-million-rouble budgetary allocations – by covering such serious topics as labour migration, inter-ethnic relations, road maintenance and repairs, utility services, trusteeship, etc., in the 2-3-minute news round-ups between musical programme strips? Or by making those part of the TrollNews shows, positioned as “the silliest news from all over the Universe”?

Unfortunately, doubt and suspicion generated by the bidding results look well-justified, considering the poor performance of the overseeing authority, the Committee on Public Communications. In July, the regional prosecutor’s office went as far as checking the committee’s ability to “spend budgetary funds thriftily, in view of the region’s heavy dependence on federal subsidising”. The inspection was caused by the committee’s initiative to carry out a major PR project – the issuance of a thick photo album highlighting Stavropol’s achievements scored over the years – which would cost the regional budget 757,000 roubles. The prosecutors killed that idea, calling it “very questionable”.

News agency in Rostov Region fined for improper advertising

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The regional branch of Russia’s Antimonopoly Committee has fined the Rostov News Agency 100,000 roubles for improper advertising, and the regional court of arbitration has confirmed that ruling.

The measure came in the wake of complaints filed by the editors of three newspapers – AiF na Donu, Molot and Vecherny Rostov – about a commercial ad placed by the news agency in the business magazine Delovoy Kvartal Rostov-na-Donu.

The ad featured the following text: “DonNews Agency. A newspaper is good for fish gutting [a hint at the Soviet-era practice to gut fish onto an old newspaper – to wrap up the waste and throw it away, rather than wash up plates afterward – Translator.] but not for advertising! Place your ads in the Internet! See our web portal for spicy commercials.”

The Rostov Antimonopoly Committee (RAC) qualified that as an instance of improper advertising and a violation of Articles 5.2.1 and 5.3.1 of the Federal Law “On Advertising”.

“A newspaper was improperly compared to a website in terms of advertising efficiency,” RAC Deputy Chairman Konstantin Korenchenko said. “As a result, the reader got a misleading impression that newspaper advertising is in all respects inferior to web advertising.”

Besides, the RAC asked a court of law to require the news agency to publish a disclaimer at its own expense. The agency challenged the committee’s actions, but all the higher-standing courts, including the 15th Court of Appeals, upheld the RAC ruling, although none of the courts relied on a linguistic expert study of the text in passing its decision.

“We ourselves hired a linguistic expert, Maria Cherkassova, author of the monograph ‘Aggressive Content in Media Texts’, to analyse the language of that advertisement,” Rostov News Agency Director Marina Payukova told the GDF. “The linguist concluded that, contrary to RAC assertions, our ad was neither aggressive nor improperly juxtaposing two different commodities. Moreover, it’s common knowledge the Internet is not a commodity.”

“Also, we attached to that expert conclusion the findings of numerous research institutes, including the Higher School of Economics, showing that television ranks first in terms of efficiency on today’s advertising market, followed by the Internet, and only in the third turn, by the print media,” Payukova said. “Yet the court disregarded our argumentation. We’ve decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court of Arbitration – that would be futile.”

Newspaper output data mystery under investigation in Karelia

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The newspaper Prizyv, issued by the Lakhdenpokhsky district administration in Karelia, is released once a week with a print run of 2,800. As the single official publisher of local normative acts, the newspaper carries all documents passed by the district municipal authorities (such documents come into force as of the moment of publication).

Oddly enough, several Prizyv issues surfaced recently that cannot be found in any library’s newspaper files. Moreover, none of the official government bodies received those issues by subscription. Worthy of noting is that those habitually-looking releases – in violation of the normal practice of continuous numbering – were marked by fractional numbers (No. 3/2, No. 14/2, etc.) and had inordinately small print runs – from 20 to 100 copies, which seemed strange for a newspaper supposed to publish really important official documents. The “odd” issues carried information about tenders for contracts to lease municipal property, transfers of agricultural land to the private housing construction sector, etc. Clearly, persons informed about those matters earlier than others (or they alone) were in a position to make big money quickly, since the newspapers with fractional numbers brimmed with very lucrative ads about different auctions and public land offers.

That re-division of land and other municipal property in the Lakhdenpokhsky district dates back to 2010, whereas the “fractional-number” newspapers fell out of nowhere just a short while ago, by a pure chance. The media exploded with noisy reports about the sensation, but not a single local government or oversight body has shown any reaction so far. Who ventured to release those “underground” Prizyv issues? If that was done by some malefactors, is law enforcement trying to track them down now? On the whole, the situation looks very unclear.

It so happens sometimes during election campaigns that campaigners, in a bid to leave their rivals behind, order the release of fake (duplicate) publications to carry their own campaigning stuff while using other newspapers’ logos and make-ups. But to issue a duplicate newspaper featuring official documentation is really an unprecedented thing in Karelia! The only plausible explanation is that the publishers of those pseudo-official issues of Prizyv wanted to make them available to a very limited group of readers – evidently to potential auction and business-deal participants only. But that is just a hypothesis. It’s up to investigators now to explain to everyone what the strange action was all about.

Convicted paedophile’s legal claim against editor turned down in Perm

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm on 14 August pronounced the actions of Marina Maslennikova, chief editor of the newspaper Argumenty I Fakty Prikamye (AIFP), well-justified, and turned down a legal claim filed against her by Sergei Krivonogov, a man convicted on paedophilia charges.

The plaintiff asked the court to declare AIFP’s 2012 publication “Hunt for Abusers of Children” unlawful and to require the journalists to publish a disclaimer. The newspaper reported that the regional court in Perm sentenced a 63-year-old local resident for sexual contacts with children (in December 2010-October 2011) to 17 years in a tight-security penal colony with mandatory psychological treatment. The man had already been convicted on the same charges earlier.

First, Krivonogov sent the editor a message demanding that she pay him 15,000 roubles in moral damages, journalist Tatyana Pleshakova, who had prepared the publication for printing, told the GDF. Already confined to a pre-trial prison, he filed a legal claim against Maslennikova on the grounds that “the sentence passed in my case had not yet entered into full legal force by the time of the publication… meaning that the story was published unlawfully and was not true to life”.

Preparing to attend the court session, defence lawyer Andrei Savinov asked Pleshakova to print out from the regional prosecutor’s office’s website the 12 December 2012 announcement of the sentence passed in Krivonogov’s case, based on which the disputed story was written later. Judge Olga Komarenko took the prosecutorial printout into consideration when turning Krivonogov’s claim down in full.

The district court was guided by the provisions of Article 57 of the RF Media Law, relieving media editors of any legal liability for circulating information contained in government bodies’ official press releases, Savinov told the GDF.

Court in Maritime Region rejects dairy factory’s reputation-protection claim against news agency

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Maritime Region Court of Arbitration has rejected a legal claim filed by OOO Khladokombinat (producer of meat and dairy products) against the PrimaMedia news agency. The honour-and-dignity protection claim was lodged in the wake of publications about low-quality milk produced by a dairy factory in Blagoveshchensk.

The PrimaMedia story, titled “Falsified Milk Found in Maritime Region”, reported the findings of a study of the quality of milk on sale in the region. A laboratory test showed the absence of butterfat in the Fermerskoye Podvorye brand of milk produced by OOO Khladokombinat in the Amur Region. Seeing the publication as libellous and damaging to its business reputation, the producer turned to the Maritime Arbitration Court, asking to ban the publication and require the authors to publish a disclaimer.

The court, however, found that the story accurately reflected the results of laboratory tests showing that the milk quality was below the standards established by the relevant federal law (FZ No.88 of 12 June 2008). The court disregarded the plaintiff’s reference to alleged “negative consequences for society” stemming from the PrimaMedia publication as irrelevant and not confirmed by any evidence in the case files. As regards the story’s phrases like, “To sum it up, the product’s labelling as ‘drinking milk’ is a falsification, since in line with existing technological requirements it should be labelled as ‘milk beverage’,” the court qualified them as evaluative.

Earlier tests organised by PrimaMedia exposed crude violations of technology in the production of sausage, canned fish and confectionery.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the Internet, including at:

Index on Censorship: Investigators identify mastermind behind editor’s killing

Grani.ru: Politkovskaya’s children asked not to boycott trial

Civitas.ru: TV company director in Chelyabinsk fired for airing anti-Putin video amid evening news show

Parkgagarina.ru: TV company director fired, threatened with criminal prosecution for showing anti-Putin video

 

LETTERS

Astrakhan journalists call for action of solidarity with colleague

Dear colleagues:

The Astrakhan Region’s journalistic community is appalled by the criminal prosecution of Rostov-based journalist Sergei Reznik, organised in retaliation for his critical publications and statements concerning ill-behaving officials from different power branches.

Whenever those criticised decide to gag a critically-minded reporter, they usually initiate the opening of a criminal case – or, still better, several such cases – against him. Reznik, an investigative journalist, has lately been followed by unidentified individuals. His house is under surveillance, and his movements about the city are being video recorded.

For those dissatisfied with Reznik’s truthful reporting, prosecuting him is evidently not enough. In July, Sergei’s car was deliberately smashed three times. Unknown persons have been calling his wife on the phone telling her nasty things and making recordings of those conversations available online. Attempts to put psychological pressure on a disfavoured independent journalist have so far been in vain – but three criminal cases against him have gone all the way to court, with sentences pending, and a fourth one is being framed up!

The legal sanctions for threats to, and attempts on the lives of, journalists were toughened in Russia not so long ago – and yet, an individual journalist may easily find himself behind bars if some evil-doers he has exposed in his reports decide to revenge themselves on him.

We hereby ask you to take steps to protect our colleague against undeserved punishment.

[Signed by:

Gleb Ivanov, chief editor, Fakt i Kompromat public and political weekly, Astrakhan;

Aleksandr Alymov, chief editor, news portals Astrakhanpost.ru and Hazaria.tv;

Maxim Tersky, chief editor, Ast-news.ru news agency.]

 

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.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

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 Monitring 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 438, 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

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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