31 Августа 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 624

26 August 2013


Communist newspaper’s printing service provider searched by police in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Seven police officers from Irkutsk have taken the trouble of travelling to Omsk (at government expense, of course) to carry out an unauthorised search at the Iskra printing house which prints the regional communist newspaper Krasny Put. The regional Communist Party (CPRF) branch has its headquarters in the same building at 2, Ippodromnaya St.

The visiting police officers, accompanied by a local colleague and two alleged eyewitnesses (in all, 10 persons), stormed into the printing house and started to search for something, without explaining for what in particular or on what legal grounds, communist parliamentary faction leader Andrei Alyokhin told the GDF. They turned a deaf ear to Alyokhin’s warning that the building belongs not to the CPRF but to State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Kravets, meaning that outsiders can enter it only with the owner’s permission or with a warrant from the RF Prosecutor General. Without presenting either such permission or such a warrant, the officers proceeded with their “investigative action”.

The reason for their coming over to Omsk became clear from a report posted on the Irkutsk Region Interior Ministry Department’s website – about a police raid in the Novo-Lenino district of Irkutsk involving the search of a truck suspected of “carrying illegal alcohol”, as police had been tipped one day before. The searchers found no alcohol; instead, they seized “newspapers of unknown origin” that might have been produced “in violation of existing legislation”; the full print run – 300,000 copies – was “confiscated until the investigation is over,” the police report said, adding that, “as established by investigators, the newspapers were printed by a printing house in Omsk’s Ippodromnaya Street”.

The visiting police officers found nothing at Iskra of what they were after, Alyokhin said.

“The search they carried out was clearly unlawful,” he said. “One of the ‘eyewitnesses’ used different names when signing the protocols. After we checked their identities via our own channels, it turned out neither of the so-called ‘eyewitnesses’ was registered at what they claimed to be their official places of residence.”

The visitors seized several dozen copies of the Krasny Put and Omskoye Vremya newspapers, along with campaigning leaflets made in preparation for the 8 September local elections in several rural districts across the Omsk Region. The reasons for the seizure are unclear again; the newspaper they were looking for during the search is called Samoye Glavnoye, Kommercheskiye Vesti reported.

The police officers’ visit to Omsk was not in vain, Irkutsk police press service told the GDF. “The findings of that inspection are being reviewed and will be made public later,” it said. Also, it confirmed that the newspaper seized in Irkutsk was called Samoye Glavnoye.

The arrested issue was devoted to the forthcoming elections to the Legislative Assembly.

The Omsk CPRF branch has urged Russia’s Prosecutor General and Minister of the Interior to order the start of criminal proceedings against the unlawful searchers of Iskra, and asked a court of law on 23 August to annul the search-and-confiscation protocols which were made, according to Alyokhin, with numerous crude violations of Administrative and Criminal Code provisions.

Monopoly-holding publishing company liquidated in Chelyabinsk

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Central district court in Chelyabinsk on 19 August satisfied the regional prosecutor’s office’s legal claim for the closure of the Autonomous Non-Profit Organisation “Guberniya Publishers’” as one established in violation of effective legislation.

Established by agreement of government officials with the Filichkins – two families of local media tycoons, the publishing company produced and circulated media throughout the Chelyabinsk Region while abusing its monopolistic market position and severely censoring the media under its control. Guberniya’s sole official owner is Pressa, the Regional Association of Municipal and District Newspapers.

The editors of 24 district newspapers complained to the prosecutor’s office asking to liquidate Guberniya on the grounds that it was established in line with the “decision” of a “general meeting” that had never actually been held. Earlier this year, the officials introduced new rules of subsidy distribution in 2013-2015, whereby not a single municipal or district newspaper could hope for financial support from the regional budget because of failure to meet all the five officially established eligibility criteria (see digest 613). That reduced the list of candidates for the 36 million roubles allocated in budgetary support for the regional media to Gubernia alone, which the others found scandalous.

The media “patrons” from the ruling circles hastened to call it all “a misunderstanding” and a situation “having no corrupt motives behind it”; they attempted to approach the angry editors individually to persuade them to accept the terms and conditions proposed by Guberniya. To their merit, none of the editors agreed to that deal, dismissing it as a fraud.

The prosecutor’s office, for its part, researched a whole heap of orders and by-laws passed by the authorities in preparation for the establishment of a publishing company that turned over time into a monster of censorship. Guberniya checked every journalistic report to the last comma, demanding loyalty and threatening to leave the disobedient without any financial support at all.

The investigation yielded the conclusion that Pressa Association members had never held a general meeting to decide on Guberniya’s establishment.

As the company is undergoing judicial liquidation, the fate of the 36-million budgetary allocations remains unclear. Have the regional rulers found a way yet to misappropriate that money?

Stavropol physician to stand trial for attacking reporters

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Stavropol has upheld a decision to start criminal proceedings against Vyacheslav Kashnikov, chief physician of the municipal children’s clinic, on charges of office abuse aggravated by the use of violence. His lawyer’s protest against the decision was turned down.

According to investigators, Kashnikov on 6 June attempted an unmotivated attack on two Rossiya TV Channel reporters – observer Olga Skabeyeva and cameraman Andrei Melnikov – who had arrived at the hospital’s neurology department to report on the issuance of medical certificates that entitled school-leavers to take their graduation tests ahead of the scheduled date. Trying to drive the journalists away, the chief physician pushed them and grasped them by the arms painfully, leaving bruises (see digest 618).

As we have reported, the scandal flared up when it turned out that of Russia’s eight high-school graduates scoring the maximum 100 points in the Russian-language test, seven were from Stavropol, and all of them took the test earlier than their peers because they presented medical certificates of “suffering from amnesia and severe headaches”. The certificates were issued by the local children’s hospital.

Initially, criminal proceedings against Kashnikov were started by the city police department but were later terminated by a court of law at the department’s own request. The point is any legal action against Kashnikov as chairman of the Leninsky district electoral committee may only be taken by investigative bodies. After an independent check-up of the facts, the Investigative Committee re-started the proceedings against the chief physician, whose lawyer then attempted to challenge the relevant ruling in court.

The investigators have ordered a number of forensic expert studies and are looking for additional eyewitnesses of the incident.

Three legal claims lodged against Rossiya TV Channel’s branch in Voronezh for showing story about drug trafficking

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Voronezh courts have reviewed a whole three legal claims lodged in the wake of a TV report about the fight against drugs.

The Voronezh branch of Rossiya TV Channel in October 2012 showed a story about activities of the local department of the State Drug Control Authority (SDCA). Specifically, the story reported on a solved case of illegal poppy trading. It showed a suspect under investigation, Aleksandr Polukhin, in the private house his family lives in. In spring, Polukhin and two members of his family filed a legal claim in defence of their honour and dignity against Voronezh TV Co., its three journalists, and the SDCA and its employees who featured in the TV report. The Central district court satisfied their claim partially, recognising the story’s content as “untrue and smearing” and awarding each plaintiff 20,000 roubles in moral damages from the defendants.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the defendants requested legal advice from the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre, which then filed on their behalf an appeal that the regional court is to consider shortly.

At almost the same time, a similar claim was lodged against the TV company by the Shishkin family living next door to the Polukhins. They said showing their house in a TV story about drug trading was damaging to their honour and dignity, too. The court, though, turned their claim down.

That did not mark the end of the conflict. Yet another neighbour, a full name-sake of Aleksandr Polukhin, also claimed hurt by the drug story and demanded moral damage compensation. But the Central district court on 16 August rejected his claim, too.

The interests of the defendants were represented in court by Svetlana Kuzevanova, a legal adviser with the Media Rights Centre.

The regional court is to consider the journalists’ appeal against the first-case ruling at the end of August.



Prominent war correspondent being threatened

Jasur Sumerinli (Mamedov), a war correspondent and director of the Doktrina Centre of Military Journalistic Investigations, has told the Regnum news agency he has been receiving threats ever since he granted interviews on Azerbaijani-Russian military cooperation to several media. Commenting on Putin’s visit to the capital of Azerbaijan, he expressed the view that the Baku agreements on stepping up bilateral cooperation in the military-technical area and in personnel training were at odds with the concept of Azeri armed forces development according to the NATO standards.

“After that, I was approached by persons who claimed to speak on behalf of Azerbaijan’s government,” he said. “They told me official Baku had received protests from Moscow in connection with my statements and that my reporting called into question the future of bilateral military-technical cooperation and might disrupt the signing of bilateral agreements with Russia.”

They offered to pay him for his undertaking not to publish any such statements in the future; when he said no, they threatened him with reprisals, Sumerinli said. He warned that the Azeri authorities would bear responsibility for any potential punitive action against his family or himself, and asked civil society and the media for support.

[Regnum news agency report, 22 August

Further details



Journalist detained in Mogilev while fulfilling editorial assignment

Journalist Ales Asiptsov, a contributor to several independent media, was detained at the entrance to the Mogilevkhimvolokno chemical fibre factory in Mogilev early on 20 August.

“I was fulfilling an editorial assignment – questioning in-coming workers on different economic matters,” Asiptsov said. “After a while, a man came up to me, who did not give his name but said he represented the factory’s ideology pool; he told me to follow him.”

The journalist was ushered into a service room near the entrance, where a police officer was sitting. Without making any protocol, the officer told Asiptsov he was not allowed to take photo pictures or interview workers on the factory premises or the adjacent ground at the entrance.

Asiptsov was detained for asking workers about their salary, which is a commercial secret, another police officer told the BelaPAN news agency later. Brought to a nearby police station, the journalist was required to give written explanations, after which he was released, he said.

[Based on Naviny.by and BelaPAN news agency reports]



Tajik journalist and opposition activist detained at Tbilisi airport

Tajik journalist and civic activist Dodojon Atovulloyev was detained early on 20 August at the international airport in Tbilisi upon arrival in Georgia from Prague, according to a note he posted in his Facebook blog.

“I’m at Tbilisi Airport, detained on charges of extremism and terrorism at Interpol request,” he wrote. “I arrived from Prague by Czech Airlines, Flight 934, and was stopped at Passport Control, to stay there for an hour WITHOUT explanation. Allegedly, they had some computer problem. Then people started running about in agitation, and I soon learned why… It turned out the Tajik authorities are accusing me of religious extremism and terrorism, and my arrest was sanctioned by Interpol… I’m waiting for the Georgian government’s reaction. An airport official told me, ‘Your case is being decided at the very top. You just wait.’”

The Georgian authorities finally ordered his release, Atovulloyev reported a few hours later.

The journalist is in opposition to Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon; he has consistently criticised the current regime, positioning himself as leader of the Vatandor (Patriot) political movement. The Tajik Prosecutor General’s Office has accused him of calling for the forcible deposition of the government and of defaming the country’s President. According to Russian media reports, Germany has granted Atovulloyev political refugee status.

[Novosti-Gruziya report, 20 August]

Digest editor’s comment: Dodojon Atovulloyev was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport upon arrival from Prague on 15 July 2013. A few hours later the Russian authorities ordered his return by air to Prague.

“When I asked airport officials why I’d been detained, they said they didn’t know – they are just ordinary clerks,” Atovulloyev told the Asia Plus news agency. “Upon returning to Prague and getting some info from Moscow, I got some idea of what was going on. They were to detain me and hand me over to someone else. No one could say how all that might have ended for me in that case… I’m sure my arrest was facilitated by some Russian corrupt officials, who see me as a public disturber and who take big money from the Tajik authorities for ‘lobbying’ their interests in Russia.”



Svoboda Slova correspondent Igor Larra beaten up

At about 11 p.m. on 20 August, Igor Larra, an Aktobe correspondent for the newspaper Svoboda Slova, called a taxi to be driven home after visiting a friend. He had just walked out into the street and was heading toward the waiting taxi when four unknown man jumped at him, hitting him on the head with an iron bar and proceeding to kick away at him lying.

Coming to, Larra made it to the nearest police station to report the attack. He had to wait for three hours until police officers started acting. They accepted the report but put off his medical examination and certification of his traumas until the following day – an investigator would call him on the phone, they said. Having waited for the call in vain until the following afternoon, the journalist himself went to a hospital to have his scull injury and bruises officially certified.

Larra links the assault with a series of his publications criticising the poor performance of Aktobe Oblast Akim (Governor) Arkhimed Mukhambetov.

Larra suffered a similar attack in March 2010. The editors saw that not as an act of hooliganism but as a deliberate campaign of pressure on the journalist in connection with his professional work. “Igor has been writing a lot lately about the oil workers’ strike in Zhanaozen and about tensions between domestic and foreign oil prospectors in the region,” Svoboda Slova wrote at the time.

[Adil Soz Foundation report]



Some statistics cited

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

Radio Liberty: Moscow City Court to wait for Jabrail Makhmudov’s recovery

Radio Poland: Human rights groups in Russia

Novaya Gazeta: Disfavoured editor threatened in Krasnodar Region

Parkgagarina.ru: Pre-election scandals in Russia

Civitas.ru: Pre-election violations of journalist and media rights in Russia – an established sad tradition


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.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
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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