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22 Ноября 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 636

18 November 2013

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Appellate court rules to continue legal proceedings against independent editor in Khakassia

As we have reported, legal charges under Criminal Code Articles 128.1 (“Defamation”) and 319 (“Insult to a government official”) were brought by the Investigative Committee against Mikhail Afanasyev, editor of the Novyi Fokus web magazine, at the request of Col. Aleksandr Zlotnikov, deputy head of the city of Abakan’s police department, in the wake of a critical publication that said, in part, that during hearings of an earlier administrative case against the same journalist, Zlotnikov said Afanasyev had pushed two pregnant women under the wheels of a police vehicle.

Both women categorically refuted this, and the court trusted their words – unlike the colonel’s. That caused Afanasyev to write his article “You Are a Liar, Colonel Zlotnikov!” which critically assessed the deputy police chief’s testimony in court with reference to the ruling passed by the court in that case. This notwithstanding, the editor was charged with defaming Zlotnikov (see digest 607).

A justice of the peace in Abakan on 6 September fully acquitted Afanasyev, finding him not guilty either of defamation or of insult to a government official (see digest 626). But a higher-standing judicial authority, while upholding the lifting of defamation charges and putting the relevant decision into full legal force, cancelled the first-instance court’s ruling as regards insult charges and returned the case for review, according to a “Khakassia” news agency report.

The situation looks queer indeed. Two courts have cleared Afanasyev of the defamation charges, thereby acknowledging he wrote the truth.

A police officer claimed insulted by that truth. If so, hadn’t he better look for an alternative job?

 

RUSSIA

Prison term of video engineer’s killer in Sverdlovsk Region dwindles visibly

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The media’s attention has again been attracted to the high-resonance case of a former police major, Pavel Miroshnikov, who shot and killed his neighbour, video engineer Yevgeny Ilyushchenko, in 2011. It seems the killer may soon get out of prison.

The tragedy occurred early on 23 January 2011, when Miroshnikov, 45, who was on duty that day, dropped in at his home apartment for a late-night snack. Being in a state of intoxication, he bullied Ilyushchenko, who was smoking on the landing, and shot and killed him (see digest 509). The Ordjonikidzevsky district court sentenced the police officer to 13 years in jail, but the Sverdlovsk Region Court of Appeals later slashed his prison term to five years.

Now, less than three years later, Miroshnikov has filed a request with the Tagilstroyevsky district court in Nizhny Tagil, Sverdlovsk Region, for getting released on parole. True, the court sitting of 18 October did not take place because the convict had asked to attend the hearing in person. The sitting was postponed until 15 November and was due to be held at Penal Colony No. 13, where Miroshnikov is serving his term. But it did not take place at that date, either.

The former law enforcer has withdrawn his parole request for the time being, and the proceedings have been suspended, pending his settlement with the victim’s widow, who has lodged a civil law claim against him and been awarded compensation. Yulia Ilyushchenko says she has twice been approached by Miroshnikov’s lawyers, who asked her how much of the 715,000-rouble compensation she might wish to receive to give her consent to the convict’s release on parole. So far, she has been paid only 29,000 roubles.

Yet the killer seems to be determined to stop at nothing to regain freedom…

Multiple offender attacks journalists after yet another trial in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The weekly newspaper Biznes-Kurs (BK) intends to report to the police an attack on its photo correspondent Irina Gubareva and reporter Vitaly Gannashchuk. The incident occurred outside the Kuibyshevsky district court in Omsk, as businessman Dmitry Konoshenko was leaving the place with his lawyer after trying to win back two cars of foreign make from his mother, according to an earlier report by BK.

Gubareva took a picture of Konoshenko walking down the steps of the court porch. Taking notice of her camera lens pointed at him, the businessman grinned, walked up to her leisurely and – gave the camera a sharp kick. Gannashchuk, who was standing by, waved him aside mildly, according to eyewitnesses. The man started cursing badly without bothering to explain the reasons for his rude behaviour. The journalists turned to go away, but Konoshenko ran after them, grabbed Gannashchuk by the neck and tried to push him onto the ground. “Who gave you the right to write about my mother and me?” he shouted, evidently thinking of his trial as a topic banned for coverage. “Who said you may attend my court hearings – who gave you that right?”

If he really thinks the reporters have treated him unlawfully, he as an experienced leguleian might demand satisfaction through a court of law; yet he preferred to have the matter out publicly outside the district court, cursing badly in the presence of a young lady journalist.

The businessman who attacked its staffers is an interesting personality, BK noted. “Konoshenko is one of the most notorious adventurists in Omsk,” the newspaper wrote. “He has been tried for eleven criminal offences, including for coercing a person into suicide.”

Sverdlovsk legislators hush up debates over regional budget

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

After live coverage of a conciliation commission meeting at the Sverdlovsk Region Legislative Assembly to discuss a draft budget for 2014 was terminated minutes after it began, the journalists who had gathered at the Assembly press centre to watch MPs coming to grips over different budget items rushed to the PC monitors to follow the debates via the Internet, but online coverage was cut short, too.

The regional public was frustrated: the largest municipalities and the deputies representing them had been pressing for inclusion of their development programmes in next year’s budget law, so debates were expected to be really hot…

When the scandal over the hushing-up of parliamentary debates spilled into the social networks, the authorities decided to backpedal and ordered to resume live coverage after the lunch break, but the netizen community remained excluded.

Media representatives have never learned who ordered the switch-off of cameras. Did the people’s representatives themselves decide to discuss socially important issues in an atmosphere of secrecy?

Regional court chairman in Perm invites journalists to return to old-time “rule by telephone” practices

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

If a reporter is barred from attending a court hearing, “the Journalists’ Union is free to complain to the reception room of the Regional Court Chairman,” the web newspaper Newsko.ru reported the court chairman himself, Vladimir Velyaninov, as saying in his address to a conference discussing media cooperation with the judiciary. But since the official did not refer to any particular provision of effective legislation, his words sounded like a call to return to notorious Soviet-era “rule by telephone” practices.

Such a theoretical and practical conference is held in Perm for the second time already. The previous one took place back on 25 May 2005, yielding a 223-page book of conferee speeches and normative documents supposed to make the judiciary more transparent. Since then, Articles 241 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (“Glasnost”), 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure (“Glasnost of trial”) and 24.3 of the Code of Administrative Procedure (“Openness of hearings of administrative cases”) have remained effective, detailing how open or closed hearings shall be held. A judge may close the courtroom door to the public only based on a well-motivated decision; nothing else will give him/her the authority to bar citizens, including media reporters, from attending a court sitting.

In practice, though, it often has been different. A court secretary may delegate reporters to the chairperson of a district or city court for authorisation. And a judge may invite conflicting parties to decide whether or not to allow the press to attend a hearing that has not been announced as a closed one. Actually, journalists are thus denied exercising the citizens’ common right to be present in the courtroom during a trial. Some reporters prefer to show their civil passports, not their press cards, when entering a court.

The court chairman’s suggestion voiced in Perm takes the settlement of conflict situations beyond the framework of law. Meanwhile, glasnost remains a fundamental norm of justice administration. Trampling on it should lead to the unconditional cancellation of sentences, decisions and resolutions passed in secrecy, rather than to mere dressing-downs given by higher-standing judges to their reports.

Addressing the conferees, Velyaninov did not mention the option of a journalist’s turning to the qualifying college of judges to punish an ill-performing judicial official. Now it’s up to the press itself to decide whether to act in compliance with law or to revitalise old-time “telephone rule” practices.

 

UKRAINE

Freedom of expression restricted, journalists targeted in Kiev

Vitaly Tereshchenko, a reporter for the Ukrainian news website Ekologiya I Sotsialnaya Zashchita (esz.org.ua), was attacked and beaten up by three security guards at the illegal construction site in Kiev’s Zhilyanskaya Street, which he was taking pictures of. Having received a shoulder slip, the journalist was saved from further beating by local residents who were protesting against the unlawful seizure of the land plot adjacent to their apartment house.

“As you see, attacks on journalists performing their professional duty have become a norm,” Ukrainian MP Aleksandr Briginets commented. “Police are protecting criminals, and this makes journalist attackers still more aggressive. Each attack on journalists should be thoroughly investigated; if media workers are intimidated, beaten and barred from doing their work, society may be left uninformed about a variety of life situations. That would be fatal to freedom of expression, without which Ukraine’s development as part of Europe would be impossible.”

The parliamentarian complained to the Supreme Rada Committee on Freedom of Expression and Information and to the prosecutor’s office about builders’ attempt to hamper a journalist’s work, and urged Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Minister to form a special working group to investigate the assault on Tereshchenko.

[YaKiev.com report, 11 November]

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

Polish journalists’ open letter to Russian colleagues

Warsaw, 11 November 2013

Dear colleagues and friends:

During a nationalist demonstration in Warsaw on Monday, 11 November, a group of hooligans threw firecrackers onto the premises of the Russian embassy and set a sentry box on fire.

On Wednesday, another group of hooligans similarly attacked the Polish embassy in Moscow. The two events demonstrate how dangerous it may be to compete in hostility.

We cannot allow enemies of freedom, human rights and democracy to set the tone in relationships between our countries.

Let us prevent a further escalation of hatred by substituting it with a competition in goodwill!

Although we had nothing to do with the attack on the Russian embassy in Warsaw, we apologise to you for that incident, which has been resolutely condemned by the Polish authorities.

The same nationalist hooligans who attacked your country’s embassy, attacked as hatefully those Poles whom they see as their ideological opponents.

This shows that the conflict that manifested itself in the attacks on the two countries’ diplomatic offices is not related to ethnicity of statehood.

It is not that Poles are struggling with Russians – it is enemies of freedom who are struggling with freedom defenders.

In this struggle we consider you, our colleagues and friends, to be our allies, and we ask you to look at us the same way.

Only by pooling our efforts can we stop the extremists sowing seeds of discord between us.

On behalf of the Journalist Society Association,

its President, Severin Blumstein

Media Rights Centre, Article 19 and Russian Journalists’ Union hold training session on journalist security in Voronezh

“One thing uniting Mexico and Russia is impunity enjoyed by journalists’ killers,” Ricardo Gonzales, Russian Black Soil Region correspondent for the Mexican branch of Article 19, said addressing the 15 November training on journalist security in Voronezh.

The trainees were taught about the legal aspects of journalists’ work regulation and how to defend themselves if the author of a publication is threatened not even with a jail term but with real physical violence. Apart from instructing the conferees how to behave in a dangerous situation, Gonzales shared his views on why many killers of journalists have never been brought to justice.

“In Mexico since 2000, 74 journalists have been killed, 29 media workers have been reported missing, and bombs have been set off in 41 media offices – with most of those crimes remaining unsolved,” he said. “This is what we call impunity, which has two reasons behind it: either the government lacks the funds to catch the perpetrators, or it is unwilling to do so.”

Gonzales sees the only way out – to draw broad public attention to each of the unsolved murders and attacks.

“Hushing up problems only adds to their gravity and pushes up the level of risks,” he noted.

Galina Arapova, head of the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre, agreed.

“Over the past 15 years, 349 journalists have been killed in Russia,” she said. “Media offices have not been bombed – instead, they’ve been subjected to [incessant unplanned] inspections. Yet we belong within the sad category of countries with high levels of violence and impunity. Not a single killing of, or attack on, a journalist has been fully investigated in the past few years. And it’s absolutely unclear what to do about this, since our efforts have been insufficient, while the media community has kept silent.”

Although the last high-resonance murder of a journalist in the Black Soil Region occurred in 1997, Russia is still facing this threat, Arapova noted. In Dagestan, for example, journalists have paid for their [critical] publications with their lives, she said.

“We live in a country where the number of murdered journalists is comparable to those in countries where open armed conflicts are underway,” Arapova said. “Unless journalists change their attitude to their victimized colleagues, they may themselves share their fate someday.”

[Vrntimes.ru report, 15 November]

 

Letters

Dear Mr Simonov:

A fourth criminal case has been started against Vadim Rogozhin, chief editor of the web newspaper Chetvyortaya Vlast, at the request of Saratov Vice-Governor Denis Fadeyev, who happened to find Rogozhin’s 10 December 2012 article “Leaders of Mental Invalids” libellous. Since then, more articles criticising the governor and his team have appeared, but nearly a year after the first publication Fadeyev suddenly decided to sue.

We see this as an act of intimidation and an encroachment on freedom of expression. All Saratov-based media and many federal ones share our view.

I hereby ask you to help organise, within the shortest possible time, an expert study of that article’s language, and provide essential consulting and other practical assistance. I also appeal for help and support to Pavel Gutiontov, Secretary of the Journalists’ Union of Russia and Chairman of the Committee in Defence of Freedom of Expression and Journalists’ Rights; Mikhail Gorbanevsky, head of the Guild of Linguistic Experts on Documentation- and Information-related Disputes; and Galina Arapova, director and senior legal expert at the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre.

Sincerely,
L. N. Zlatogorskaya,
Chairwoman, Saratov regional branch of the Journalists’ Union of Russia

 

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