Дайджест
9 Октября 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 630

7 October 2013

STORY OF THE WEEK

Conference in Kishinev defends journalists’ right to independence and safety

A working meeting under the aegis of the International Federation of Journalists was held in Kishinev, Moldova, on 4-6 October, under the heading “For safety, rights and independence standards for journalists in the post-Soviet space”. Representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine made reports on media and journalist rights violations in their countries. The meeting discussed methods of defending media workers, including the provision of legal services to them. Special attention was given to impunity enjoyed by most perpetrators of crimes against the independent press – a trend characteristic of the majority of the post-Soviet countries – and to the need for journalists to stand up for their victimised colleagues as a single team.

Among the trends observed in Russia, speakers pointed to the following:

  • Journalist killings, while not increasing in number, have continued to take place;
  • Law enforcement has been either incapable or unwilling to bring journalist attackers to justice;
  • The number of threats preceding attacks has been growing, with law enforcement remaining inactive, which attitude encourages impunity and leads to new incidents;
  • Violations of media and journalist rights have been particularly frequent in the run-up to elections;
  • Censorship has been on the rise, especially at grass-roots level;
  • Journalists covering protest actions or exposing unlawful government practices have continued to be detained;
  • Editors in some regions have continued to be illegally sacked;
  • DDoS attacks on independent news websites have become more frequent;
  • More journalists have come to be prosecuted on “extremism” charges under Article 282 of the RF Criminal Code.

The Belarussian delegation initiated adopting an appeal demanding the release of journalists who covered the Greenpeace action near the oil platform Prirazlomnaya in the Barents Sea (see digest 629 ). The document reads:

“We, participants in the working meeting ‘For safety, rights and independence standards for journalists in the post-Soviet space’, hereby express our deep concern over the arrest of journalists Denis Sinyakov and Kieron Bryan, who were doing their professional work. We see it as a serious threat to freedom of expression for photographers to be detained along with activists, have their apparatus seized, and be prosecuted for their professional work. A photographer taking pictures of ongoing events is not legally liable for these – not even if the authorities disapprove of what is going on. We demand that our colleagues be immediately released and cleared of all the charges advanced against them.”

Signed by:
Oliver Money-Kyrle, Adrian Collin (International Federation of Journalists); Mushfiq Alasgarli, Nazaqet Agayeva (Journalists’ Union of Azerbaijan); Seda Stepanyan, Astgik Gevorgyan (Journalists’ Union of Armenia); Andrei Bastunets, Olga Babak, Andrei Klikunov (Belarussian Journalists’ Association); Zviad Pochkhua, Yevgeny Dzhokidze (Independent Journalists’ Association of Georgia); Petru Bogatu, Antonina Sirbu, Valeriu Sakharnianu, Maria Sakharnianu, Andrian Adam, Aleksandrina Pereu, Victoria Borta (Journalists’ Union of Moldova); Svetlana Svistunova (Journalists’ Union of Russia); Boris Timoshenko (Glasnost Defence Foundation); Oksana Vinnichuk, Olga Padiyarkova (Independent Media Union of Ukraine).

The meeting also discussed ways of providing legal defence for journalists. Svetlana Kuzevanova of the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre described mechanisms of such defence available in Russia and internationally.

The delegates agreed to hold conferences on journalist safety, rights and independence regularly in the future. The next meeting is scheduled to take place in Kiev, Ukraine, at the end of November.

 

RUSSIA

Authorities ban public debates over amendments to Miass City Charter

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Media in the city of Miass, Chelyabinsk Region, have been banned from covering amendments made to the city Charter. Protesting against this kind of censorship, TV journalists shut down a popular weekly news review, Den za Dnyom: Itogi Nedeli.

The Miass Charter is one of the city’s most unstable legislative documents, tailored by each new body of the City Assembly to fit into the policies it pursues. For example, when Mayor Vladimir Grigoriadi went to jail in 2004, the MPs deprived the Miass residents of their right to elect the city head (they feared Mikhail Zhmayev, a communist, might win the mayoral race that year), and delegated that right to the Assembly. In the process, they imbued the mayor with purely representative powers, leaving all economic matters for a hired city manager to decide. A new Assembly body in 2006 году restored the residents’ right to elect the mayor but left the latter without real authority: the city manager remained the de facto head of administration. Yet another body of parliament in 2012, under hard pressure from the public (nearly 500 persons had voted during public hearings for a “one-man rule” system), scrapped the city manager’s position and returned the full set of powers to the city head.

In a most recent development, federal authorities again found a number of “discrepancies” in the Charter of Miass in September, instructing the local MPs either to correct the latest Charter edition or return to the previous “two-men rule” formula. Amid backroom struggle for the latter option, the regional administration secretly ordered the Miass media on 16 September not to report anything at all about the process of Charter revision.

Unwilling to have the authorities dictate to the media what to do, Den za Dnyom editor Oksana Lytkina announced that the 20 September edition of her weekly news review was the last one ever. She closed the show in protest against the regional government’s [improper] information policy, she said.

Fifth lawsuit brought against journalist and blogger Sergey Reznik in Rostov-on-Don

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The RF Investigative Department for the region of Rostov has opened a new – the fifth! – criminal case against Sergey Reznik, a prominent journalist and blogger.

The proceedings were started in response to a complaint filed by Regional Deputy Prosecutor Roman Klimov. During his tenure as head of the Housing Commission at the regional prosecutor’s office, he devised a scheme to acquire elite housing at state budget expense, for which plot, among other dubious acts, he came under harsh criticism from Reznik.

“Between February 2013 and September 2013,” a special investigator wrote justifying his decision to start criminal proceedings against the journalist, “Reznik, in his LiveJournal blog, repeatedly and publicly insulted Klimov – then a government official – in connection with his official performance, and disparaged his honour and dignity using coarse expressions, thereby forming a negative image of the deputy prosecutor in the eyes of the public.”

As long as special investigators in Rostov waste their time probing into journalist “crimes”, they will likely take years to investigate far graver criminal offences committed by real murderers, swindlers, embezzlers and other corrupt individuals. But then, they have also dragged out the investigation of journalist cases for a very long time, as shown by the case of Aleksandr Tolmachev, editor of the newspaper Upolnomochen Zayavit, who has been held in pre-trial detention for nearly two years despite a drastic deterioration of his physical condition…

Oversight agency intends to shut down RosBalt news agency in St. Petersburg

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

As became known on 4 October, Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing the sphere of public communications] intends to strip one of the country’s largest online news agencies, RosBalt, of its media status in view of two official warnings earlier issued to the agency “in connection with its posting materials containing foul language,” according to the Roskomnadzor press service. In line with effective legislation, having issued two consecutive warnings to a media outlet, the oversight authority may go to court to punish the offender by recalling its registration certificate.

The question is who would benefit from a major news agency’s de-registration – especially considering that fact that “foul language” was contained in video clips borrowed from YouTube, not in RosBalt’s own news reports. Moreover, in both cases, RosBalt editors removed the “coarse” clips from the website on angry officials’ demand. Of course, one might theorise about whether or not the agency should have “beeped” the obscenities prior to the clips’ posting, as many other media, including Russia’s largest TV channels, do.

The situation looks like a stalemate. Roskomnadzor seems determined to go as far as it takes to carry out its plan. RosBalt, too, will fight to the end, trying to persuade the court that both the warnings and the de-registration claim are legally irrelevant. It boggles the mind to think how much time and energy Russian authorities waste struggling with the very same media that take pains to stem the tide of violence and extremism in the Web space.

Administration officials in Chelyabinsk sue news website editor for disclosing their “personal” information

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Officials of the Main Youth Policy Department (YPD) in the region of Chelyabinsk have asked the police to start criminal proceedings against Stanislav Vakhrushev, chief editor of the news website Itogi74.ru, in the wake of a series of publications (on Itogi74.ru and Chelbiznes.ru) about systematic violations and abuses in budgetary fund spending by YPD.

“The authorities are doing everything they can to prevent further investigation of their corrupt schemes,” Vakhrushev said adding that YPD officials Yekaterina Istomina and Tatyana Pashchenko on 23 September filed official reports with the city police department, asking to investigate what they called “the disclosure of our personal information” by Vakhrushev. They referred to Criminal Code Article 137, which provides for criminal liability for unlawful gathering or publishing information constituting a person’s private or family secrets.

Summoned to the police for questioning, Vakhrushev never actually came to understand what his report about the way government officials spend budgetary money – clearly open information that is of interest to the public – has to do with “private” information disclosure. The lady investigator handling the case did not let him see any of the photo pictures or printouts attached to the two officials’ reports to the police, nor explained in what way the editor had disclosed their “private or family secrets”.

“There’s no ‘youth policy’ at all in the region – there are some primitive schemes of how to dispose of budgetary funds,” Vakhrushev told the GDF. “The public pays tens of millions of roubles for youth programmes, but gets some third-rate amateur shows in return. We’ve reported about huge sums wasted, amounting to hundreds of millions of roubles, and have cited evidential documentation to prove every point we’ve made; in turn, [the department officials] have accused us, very absurdly, of publishing their ‘intimate details’. All this gives an idea about the scale of YPD operations and the personalities of officials working there.”

The two news websites have tracked mishandling of budgetary funds by the Youth Policy Department for about six months; their reports gave rise to a check-up resulting in the conclusion that YPD’s payment from the state budget for a Chelyabinsk delegation’s trip to Switzerland to attend an international conference had been an unlawful act.

This waste of taxpayers’ money on Soviet-style entertainments and overseas trips is nonsense, not “intimate details” about their organisers, journalists say.

Appellate authority in Voronezh cancels 300,000-rouble compensation payable by TV journalists to character of story on drug trade

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The regional court in Voronezh has cancelled a primary court decision requiring the regional branch of the Russian State TV/Radio Company (VGTRK), its journalists, and the Drug Control Department to pay 300,000 roubles in moral damages to an individual claimant.

In October 2012, VGTRK showed a story about the work of the local drug control authority – specifically, its solving a case that involved poppy trading. The report showed the main suspect, Aleksandr Polukhin, who was under investigation in connection with the poppy case, and the private house where he lived with his family.

In spring, Polukhin with two family members lodged an honour-and-dignity protection claim against VGTRK, its three film crew members, and the Drug Control Department officials who spoke before the camera. The Central district court in Voronezh satisfied their claim partially, qualifying the TV story’s content as not true to life and smearing, and awarding the plaintiffs 300,000 roubles in moral damages (see digest 624). The defendants challenged that ruling before a higher-standing court, with assistance from legal consultants at the local Media Rights Centre.

The regional court of appeals on 1 October cancelled the first-instance court’s decision and passed a new one – to reject Polukhin’s claim in full.

 

UZBEKISTAN

Journalist released from detention due to international solidarity campaign

Journalist Sergey Naumov, detained in the Khorezm Region of Uzbekistan on trumped-up charges (see digest 629), has been released. This outcome became possible due to a large-scale solidarity campaign carried out by fellow journalists in different countries of the former Soviet Union, who urged the Uzbekistani authorities, including the Minister of Internal Affairs, to set the journalist free.

“Dear friends, due to your amazing support, they released me from a solitary cell yesterday,” Naumov wrote in his blog on 4 October. “My heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped!”

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in September 2013

Attacks on journalists – 6 (NTV film crew, Moscow; Vladimir Romensky, correspondent, and Yevgeny Komissarov, cameraman, both of Dozhd TV Channel, Moscow; Tatyana Revenkova, general director, Khimki-TV, Moscow Region; Vladimir Kantemir, chief editor, Vechorka newspaper, Chita; Igor Kravchuk, reporter, web newspaper Express-Kamchatka-Online, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky; Sergey Semyonov, correspondent, Mir TV/Radio Company, St. Petersburg).

Instances of censorship – 2 (Mir TV/Radio Company, Moscow; media in Miass, Chelyabinsk Region).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 2 (Denis Sinyakov, freelance photographer, Murmansk; Kieron Bryan, freelance videographer, Murmansk).

Illegal sacking of editor or journalist – 3 (Svetlana Lolayeva, chief editor, Gazeta.ru, Moscow; Tatyana Revenkova, general director, Khimki-TV, Moscow Region; Andrei Khodorchenkov, chief editor, website of Dozhd TV Channel, Moscow).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 2 (Denis Sinyakov, freelance photographer, Murmansk; Kieron Bryan, freelance videographer, Murmansk).

Refusals to provide information (including bans on use of audio recorders and video/photo cameras; refusals to provide accreditation; restrictions on admittance to official events held by government bodies, industrial enterprises or state institutions) – 31.

Closure of media – 2 (Den za Dnyom: Itogi Nedeli television show, Sverdlovsk Region; TeleShow magazine, Yekaterinburg).

Withdrawal, purchase or seizure of print run – 4 (Mayak newspaper, Sverdlovsk Region; Kachkanarsky Rabochiy and Kachkanarsky Chetverg newspapers, Sverdlovsk Region).

Interference with media release – 1 (Novaya Gazeta, Moscow).

Interference with Internet publications – 11 (website of Iskusstvo Kino magazine, Moscow; RIA Novosti office in Paris; website Storonniki.info, Moscow; websites V-yakutia.ru, Sakhalife.ru, Nvpress.ru, Aartyk.ru, Shadrinnews.ru, all five based in Yakutia; website of Dozhd TV Channel, Moscow – twice; Internet publications in Frunzensky district of St. Petersburg).

Release of duplicate, i.e. rival, newspapers – 4 (Sovershenno Sekretno, Khabarovsk Region; Komsomolskaya Pravda v Kaliningrade, Kaliningrad; Nam Ne Vsyo Yasno and Yablochny Skaz, both based in Karelia).

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 2 (microphone of NTV film crew, Moscow; photo camera of Denis Sinyakov, freelance photographer, Murmansk).

Administrative pressure (unplanned inspections by sanitary, fire, tax inspectors, etc.) – 2 Svoboda I Slovo newspaper, Moscow Region; Vostochny Ekspress TV channel, Chelyabinsk).

Other forms of pressure/ infringement of journalists’ rights – 21.

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

Journalists protest against Belarussian Information Ministry’s cancellation of Logvinov Publishers’ license

We, participants in the meeting ‘For safety, rights and independence standards for journalists in the post-Soviet space’, are concerned over the news that Belarussian publisher Igor Logvinov has been stripped of his publishing license.

Explaining the reasons for this, the Information Ministry referred to the 18 April 2013 decision passed by the Oshmyansky district court in the region of Grodno, qualifying the content of the album “Belarussian Press Photo 2011”, released by Logvinov Publishers’, as “extremist”.

The very fact of a photo album labelled extremist has drawn a sharply negative reaction from the international public. Suggesting that an artistic album featuring works submitted by press photographers for a professional competition “distorts the reality” is absurd, as is the position of those government agencies which identified its content as “extremist”.

Anti-extremism legislation should aim to prevent crimes against the state and humanity, not serve as an instrument of censorship.

Logvinov Publishers’ is a flagship of Belarussian literature. We are convinced that cancelling its publishing license will deal a crushing blow to both Belarussian culture and the country’s international image. We urge the Ministry of Information to review its decision without delay.

Signed by:

Oliver Money-Kyrle, Adrian Collin (International Federation of Journalists); Mushfiq Alasgarli, Nazaqet Agayeva (Journalists’ Union of Azerbaijan); Seda Stepanyan, Astgik Gevorgyan (Journalists’ Union of Armenia); Andrei Bastunets, Olga Babak, Andrei Klikunov (Belarussian Journalists’ Association); Zviad Pochkhua, Yevgeny Dzhokidze (Independent Journalists’ Association of Georgia); Petru Bogatu, Antonina Sirbu, Valeriu Sakharnyanu, Maria Sakharnyanu, Andrian Adam, Aleksandrina Pereu, Victoria Borta (Journalists’ Union of Moldova); Svetlana Svistunova (Journalists’ Union of Russia); Boris Timoshenko (Glasnost Defence Foundation); Oksana Vinnichuk, Olga Padiyarkova (Independent Media Union of Ukraine).

Kishinev, 6 October 2013

 

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
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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