28 Января 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 644

20 January 2014



Retired deputy mayor sentenced to suspended prison term for killing journalist in Irkutsk Region (Siberia)

Amid numerous angry statements by media and human rights groups about continued impunity for the violators of journalist rights, and about law enforcement’s failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate crimes against journalists, the recent report about a journalist’s killer convicted in the region of Irkutsk might be called good news signalling a major improvement in the situation – but for some nuances suggesting such an assessment would not be to the point.

Eighteen months ago, on 7 July 2012, journalist Aleksandr Khodzinsky was murdered in Tulun, Irkutsk Region. Police fairly quickly identified the suspected killer – Gennady Zhigarev, a former deputy head of the city administration turned head-manager of a local business company. After 12 months of investigation, the case was submitted to the city court in Tulun, which established that Zhigarev had stabbed Khodzinsky seven times in the chest, stomach and leg. For that, it sentenced the killer to a suspended (sic!) 22-month term of imprisonment.

Generally, Russian courts seldom take compassion on criminal offenders, particularly in homicide cases. But this time, the court reportedly took into account such mitigating circumstances as the voluntary partial payment by the defendant of material and moral compensation to the victim’s family, and his poor health, as well as the time he had already served in pre-trial detention while the investigation was in progress. But the main reason for the passing of so lenient a sentence was the court’s decision to re-qualify the “deliberate killing” charges initially brought against Zhigarev under Criminal Code Article 105, punishable by 6 to 15 years in jail, as “a killing in the heat of passion” (Article 107). This “heat of passion”, in the court’s view, resulted from Zhigarev’s “continuous prior conflict with Khodzinsky”, in the course of which “the victim badly insulted the defendant”.

The way the court looks at it, a critical journalist who had repeatedly exposed in local media numerous abuses attending the construction and operation of the city market, himself provoked Zhigarev to attack and kill him. A queer angle, one might note, particularly in view of Regional Human Rights Ombudsman Valery Lukin’s statement that the murdered journalist “fought against arbitrary and unlawful practices selflessly, without pursuing any personal ends, which means his relationships with the accused cannot be seen as a private conflict over day-to-day matters”.



Court in Khabarovsk rules to change newspaper data-out

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

On the eve of Russian Press Day, the Central district court in Khabarovsk made a kind of “present” to the regional print media by approving a new system of newspaper dating – in support of an earlier instruction to the same effect issued by the Far Eastern department of Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing public communications].

The court passed its decision upon considering what Roskomnadzor saw as an “administrative offence” committed by the newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets v Khabarovske (MKK) through publishing “wrong” output data. Having analysed the newspaper’s content, the oversight agency concluded that MKK mostly published entertaining, rather than public and political, information. The journalists, in their turn, tried to prove that Roskomnadzor officials “could not count pages properly” and “used some vague criteria to classify the topics covered”. (Asked in court how she determined the subject matter of MKK reports, a Roskomnadzor official said, “That’s self-evident!”). Moreover, they rejected the claim altogether as irrelevant, because on the day to which the plaintiffs referred the newspaper had not been released at all.

This sparked off debates over the date at which a newspaper should be deemed issued. “Article 26 of the Media Law, entitled ‘Issuance Date’, says in no uncertain terms that a media product shall be deemed issued at the date of its circulation,” an MKK representative said in court. But officials of the Far Eastern Roskomnadzor Department argued that what really matters is not the front-page date (which has marked the newspapers’ issuance since the times Peter the Great released his first number of Vedomosti) but the date on the last but one page, where the output data are printed in a tiny font indicating the day when the newspaper was signed for printing. The latter date, of course, is earlier than the front-page one, because the printing process with preparations, and the paper’s delivery to the reader take quite some time – 24 hours or more.

“When you’ve signed a newspaper for printing, this means the paper has been issued,” Acting Far Eastern Roskomnadzor Head Olga Shakhmatova persuaded the court. “No changes to the print run and no textual corrections are allowed after that moment. If a newspaper issue is changed prior to printing, then you’ll have a newspaper with a different ordinal number.”

“The newsmen may write whatever they like on the front page,” she added. “They may not put any date at all!” As it turned out, the National Russian Standard (GOST R 7.0.4-2006), titled “Publications. Output Data. General Requirements and Formatting Rules”, prescribing the correct system of newspaper dating, “is not binding due to the optional character of its application, and is therefore disregarded by Roskomnadzor,” according to the lady official. This standard, by the way, clearly says, “The issuance data (day of week, day number, month and year) shall be printed on a newspaper’s front page” (Article 7.3.3, GOST “Newspaper’s Output Data”). In other words, this National Standard is not a standard anymore!

It seems strange that the Khabarovsk court turned a blind eye to Constitutional Court practices – specifically, to Ruling No.17-P of 24 October 1996, which settled a similar judicial dispute over dates. Answering the question, “At what date should a law be deemed to have entered into full legal force after its official publication in the media?” the court ruled, “The date of a newspaper’s signing for printing shall in no case be deemed to be the date of [a law’s] official publication, because information [about such a law] has not yet been released in real terms.”

The Khabarovsk dispute, in which the court upheld Roskomnadzor’s position, is anything but a petty one. Following the court’s logic, if a newspaper has been signed for printing but has not yet come off the press, or if a print run has been seized and has never made it to the reader, the editors can still be held liable for any “offence” the authorities may choose to accuse them of!

But the main question is what date a newspaper should now be marked with. Judging by the Khabarovsk court and Roskomnadzor rulings to refer to the date at which a newspaper is signed for printing, the readers can at best ask the street vendors for yesterday’s newspapers!

Regional ex-minister in Khabarovsk at law with police official and two media outlets

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

A Khabarovsk Region former privity minister, Aleksandr Davidenko, who is facing attempted fraud charges under Criminal Code Article 159 and has therefore been placed under house arrest, has lodged a legal claim with the Central district court in Khabarovsk to challenge some actions by a police official and two media outlets.

The police official – Ivan Kostenko, chief of the regional Department for Economic Security and Countering Corruption, who reported the charges brought against Davidenko to a news conference – is posing as the main defendant, and the media outlets Amur Media and Debri-LV, which circulated that information, as third parties.

“The statements the police official [Kostenko] made, publicly and categorically, about my committing a grave, premeditated criminal offence as a member of a criminal gang, flagrantly violated both my rights and Russian legislation: public officials may not call a person guilty until his guilt has been proven in court,” Davidenko wrote in his legal claim, adding that he had not committed any crime – either individually or collectively.

Attached to his claim was a copy of the police warrant to start criminal proceedings against him, which said, in part (most names are omitted – there are too many of them): “Davidenko, during his tenure as the Khabarovsk Region Privity Minister, in April-December 2012, acting in collusion… with the deputy head of the Land Department…, an agent of the Realty Assessment and Sales Centre…, the head of the regional Property Fund, businessman…, and several unidentified persons…, for the purpose of enabling the said businessman to take possession of... a number of land plots without going through the established procedure and without paying due money for his acquisition of the said land; pursuing narrow selfish interests and a priori knowing that the below-named heads of families with many children [a list of 30 names is provided] had not been involved in the allotment of those land plots; acting fraudulently and with malicious intent…”, and so on, and so forth. This very long citation boils down to Davidenko’s signing a paper showing that several families with many children had allegedly received free of charge 30 land plots worth a total of 12.7 million roubles – whereas in reality all that land was sold to one individual businessman.

This exposing evidence (which he personally attached to his legal claim) notwithstanding, the ex-minister asked the court to identify police chief Kostenko’s public assertion of Davidenko’s guilt as unlawful, and to consider the claim in his absence (because of his being under house arrest), but in the presence of his attorney.

Media oversight agency requires Perm-based newspaper to justify reporting on arrest of property of man accused of embezzlement

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Yuri Shchebetkov, head of the Perm Region Roskomnadzor Department (see item 1 above), has asked the weekly newspaper Novyi Kompanyon (NK) to justify its reporting on the arrest of property of Andrei Agishev, an ex-member of the ruling United Russia Party accused of embezzling huge amounts of budgetary funds.

As reported in digest 635, Agishev demanded that the newspaper publish a disclaimer and apologise for its 24 September 2013 publication “A Seaside Barbeque”. A former deputy of the regional Legislative Assembly and former general director of PermRegionGaz Ltd., he frowned at NK for its informing the public about the arrest of his five apartments in downtown Perm, a recreation centre in Polazna village not far from the city that belonged to him, and his stakes in a number of business companies. Having considered a police motion, the Lininsky district court in Perm authorised the arrest of those assets to secure Agishev’s repayment of his multimillion debts to the victims – the state and GazpromMezhRegionGaz Perm Ltd. (the legal successor to PermRegionGaz).

NK Chief Editor Igor Lobanov refused to disclaim what he described as “a well-checked and accurate report”. In his 9 January reply to the Roskomnadzor inquiry sent to him after New Year’s holidays, he reminded the media oversight agency that the property arrest motion filed by Anton Sulimov, a senior investigator with the Investigative Department of the regional Interior Ministry, had been satisfied in the course of open court hearings, of which the Leninsky district and Perm regional courts officially reported on their websites on 22 July and 24 September 2013, respectively. Those reports are deemed to be official information available to all internet users, so their reprinting by a newspaper cannot be seen as a breach of the Personal Data Law, Lobanov wrote.

Independent newspaper in Stavropol ignored by authorities on eve of Russian Press Day but receives warm greetings from readers

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Acting Stavropol Governor Vladimir Vladimirov has held a news conference to mark the first 100 days of his work as head of the Stavropol Region. The conference was attended by a record number – more than 70 – of media representatives: held on the eve of Russian Press Day, the conference, according to the protocol, was to be crowned with greetings and an award-handing ceremony.

“It’s through your eyes that people look at the world we live in,” the governor said addressing the journalists. “I thought for a while about things that I could wish you today, and decided I should wish you never to experience internal conflicts and to live in peace and harmony with yourselves, always.”

Journalists were then called onstage to receive flowers and letters of thanks – “For contributing to the development of the regional media space”, “For covering the activities of the Stavropol Region Government”, etc. Every media outlet was honoured – except the independent newspaper Otkrytaya Dlya Vsekh I Kazhdogo.

Meanwhile, Otkrytaya spent last year enjoying the status of Russia’s best regional newspaper, conferred on it based on the results of the previous year’s All-Russia Professional Regional Press Competition (co-sponsored by the Zhurnalist public fund and the Moscow Region Journalists’ Union). Throughout 2012, Otrkytaya retained and confirmed its high status month after month, and kept up the good work in 2013, earning the regional prize “Public Initiative” in the “Beginnings of New Power” nomination. In the “Spark of the South” competition, jointly organised by the business magazine Ekspert-Yug and the national Media Union, Otrkytaya’s deputy chief editor Oleg Parfyonov won in the “Best Feature Story” nomination. The newspaper’s correspondent Yelena Suslova was nominated for the Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, and Otkrytaya was awarded a special diploma for publishing the nominee’s writings. Those are not all the journalistic contests in which Otkrytaya hit the winners’ list.

In 2013, its circulation increased 50% to 16,700 copies. Nearly all of its staff writers are graduates of two or more universities and holders of scientific degrees. They represent the region’s intellectual elite.

The new regional leader’s decision to ignore Otkrytaya is hard to explain: the newspaper has never claimed to be in opposition to the incumbent authorities – rather, it has said it just cannot “remain indifferent to anyone infringing ordinary people’s interests”. It has not criticised the new governor – on the contrary, it has suggested his election may improve the quality of life in the Stavropol Region.

While the ruling circles ignored the independent newspaper, Otkrytaya received – and continues publishing – readers’ warmest Press Day greetings that could not fit into that day’s issue.



Some statistics cited

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

ITAR-TASS: Russian Press Day

Polskie Radio 24: Reszka świata: Elista

Park Gagarina: GDF on media and journalist rights violations in Russia in 2013

Novyi Vtornik: Davydov and “friends”




Journalists in Maritime Region resolve on jointly defending freedom of expression

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

It is hard to believe, but until recently the Maritime Region did not have a Journalists’ Union branch of its own – not since the early post-perestroika years. Professional issues used to be discussed locally, including in social networks. Independent media fought single-handed against arbitrary treatment by government officials supported by the regional Information Policy Department, the largest in the Far Eastern Federal District.

Late last year, a group of prominent Maritime journalists suggested re-establishing the regional Journalists’ Union department. The group included Valery Bakshin, Vladimir Oshchenko, Andrei Ostrovsky, Viktor Staritsyn, Aleksandr Syrtsov, Viktor Sukhanov and others; they all became the “founding fathers” of the would-be union branch.

By a unanimous vote, the post of Union chairman went to Viktor Sukhanov, executive secretary of the PrimaMedia holding, and the post of executive secretary of the Union – to Andrei Ostrovsky, chief editor of the Vladivostok edition of Novaya Gazeta. The meeting also established an auditing commission and other bodies required in line with the Union’s charter.

“One reason for re-establishing the regional branch was the absence of a common pad for discussion,” Sukhanov told the GDF. “Another was the need to defend the journalists’ professional interests, freedom of expression, and right to keep the readers and viewers comprehensively informed about the regional developments. It goes without saying that a single journalist’s opinion is much less weighty than that of a whole organisation.”

Apart from uniting journalists and defending their rights, the Maritime department of the Russian Journalists’ Union will pursue a number of strictly professional goals, such as expertise sharing, professional development assistance, and learning about state-of-the art media technology. Plans include holding training sessions and workshops to give journalists better legal protections. Special emphasis will be on work with journalists in the provinces.

The Maritime branch of the RJU is now going through the final stage of its official registration.

Servile media in Omsk vie for budgetary piece of cake

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Polina Kharlamova, director of the House of Journalists in Omsk, has announced the establishment of an expert council – “a self-regulating organisation” designed “to optimize the relationships among local media of all types and categories”.

A good idea, one might say, considering the local media community’s current division into numerous interest groups depending on the type of media outlet a journalist works for. Quite often, those disunited groups have disputes and frictions leading to conflicts and mutual insults – a natural thing, though, for the competitive environment they operate in.

Since the new council was conceived as a 15-member body, Kharlamova officially invited one of the region’s most prominent journalists and bloggers, Viktor Korb – the founder of West Siberia’s first news websites, independent internet pads and web forums – to take a seat on the council. But when he agreed, she sent him an e-mail saying, “Unfortunately, the Expert Council’s composition has already been approved; your name is not on the members’ list.” Korb posted his correspondence with Kharlamova in his blog for everyone to read.

It is not clear who or what made the Journalists’ House director change her mind. In an interview for the business weekly Biznes-Kurs, she said Korb dropped out “because it’s difficult today to call him a media representative in the full sense of this word: his publications have such small audiences that they can hardly be referred to as ‘mass media’ proper, contrary to many other popular media outlets in Omsk”.

“Korb’s audiences are large indeed – much larger than the aggregate number of readers of those newspapers whose representatives are on the council now,” commentators wrote on the Biznes-Kurs website. “If these were barred from the budgetary ‘cake’, their ‘popular media outlets’ would be unlikely to survive.” Yet many agree that “sponging” is perceived in the Omsk journalistic community today as a kind of “valour”, since most TV channels, news websites and newspapers vie not so much for their readers or viewers’ interest as for closeness to state resources.

If “the state” is to be understood as “the bosses”, i.e., the managers of those state resources, rather than the taxpayers, at whose expense government officials live and thrive, then Viktor Korb’s is definitely an “anti-state” position, as expressed in his numerous publications protesting the shameless plunder of, and constant crackdowns on, ordinary people whose rights and freedoms government executives at all levels habitually abuse. But if “the state” refers to the citizens, as proclaimed in the Russian Constitution, then there should be no particular difference between state-owned and independent media. This could be confirmed by an Expert Council – not the one established at the House of Journalists but one that would be self-regulating in real terms; one that would not be dependent on any oversight agencies, whether government-led or other. It’s time to start translating this idea into reality, Korb noted in his interview for Biznes-Kurs.



Journalists in Voronezh express solidarity with convicted ex-editor of regional newspaper Molodoy Kommunar

The Guild of Analytical Journalists has published an open letter calling on the judiciary to mitigate the sentence passed in the case of Aleksandr Pirogov, former chief editor of the Voronezh-based regional newspaper Molodoy Kommunar.

As the GDF has reported, the Leninsky district court in Voronezh on 25 December sentenced Pirogov to four years in prison on charges of embezzlement and office abuse. The decision drew vigorous protests from the local media community; many journalists and human rights activists found the verdict too harsh and going beyond the framework of present-day judicial practices. The Voronezh Guild’s appeal, supported by the majority of local journalists, read as follows:

“The journalistic community was bewildered by the heavy sentence passed in the case of … Aleksandr Pirogov – four years in jail with the payment of 20 million roubles in damages – at a time when this country’s top-ranking leaders have been calling to make criminal legislation and justice administration more humane, and in the wake of the recent amnesty declared by President Vladimir Putin particularly with a view to humanizing criminal legislation.

“As Pirogov’s colleagues and citizens representing the most active part of society, we watched the judicial proceedings closely. Initially, Pirogov was accused of taking a bribe, which charge was eventually lifted in view of no elements of crime in his actions. Then new charges were brought against him – those of embezzlement and abuse of office. Without attempting to interfere with the work of investigators, prosecutors or judges, we called their attention to a number of points that were indicative of what we saw as a ‘convictive’ bias in the trial that was at odds with the major rule of any judicial process: any doubt or ill-proven point should be interpreted in favour of the accused. As an example, one may stress the fact that Pirogov said some of his pleas – to question eyewitnesses, request documents, etc. – were turned down by the court.

“We know Pirogov has pleaded not guilty and considers the trial over him to have been biased and unfair. Therefore, we cannot rule out that the harshness of the sentence passed in his case stems from the sharpness of his critical assessments of the performance of Russia’s law enforcement and judiciary.

“Comparing the verdict returned in Pirogov’s case with sentences passed in other trials over persons facing similar criminal charges, we are compelled to state that ‘justice’ in his case was actually administered according to the well-known American formula: ‘If you steal a buck, you go to jail; if you steal a railroad, you become a senator.’

“We know of many examples of executives who have stolen hundreds of millions of roubles from the state budget but have got away with only suspended imprisonment terms and no compensation payable for the damage done. The Media Rights Centre, which, too, sees Pirogov’s sentence as inordinately harsh, has cited a whole number of such cases in a statement that said, in part: ‘The Butyrsky court in Moscow found Iosif Reikhanov, ex-deputy prefect of Moscow’s North-Eastern District, guilty of embezzling 376 million roubles (sic!) and sentenced him to a suspended five-year term of imprisonment, with no fine or compensation payable. Boris Geltzer, a former vice-governor of the Maritime Region, was sentenced to a suspended 3.3-year term of imprisonment for embezzling 12.5 million roubles. In the Altai Region, a court of law convicted three electoral committee chairpersons of embezzlement and abuse of office (Article 160 of the RF Criminal Code), sentencing them to suspended prison terms.’

“On the very day the Leninsky district court convicted Pirogov and ordered his arrest right in the courtroom, another court in Voronezh found a certain Mr Fastovsky guilty of 74 machinations with residential apartments resulting in his theft of 50 million roubles, and sentenced him to only seven months in jail. Notably, none of the victims who claimed damages was awarded any compensation.

“We may as well add that Pirogov’s is the heaviest sentence in at least the past decade, resulting in a journalist’s having to spend a long time behind bars. The previous high-resonance trial took place 12 years ago, when journalist Grigory Pasko was imprisoned for 7 years on espionage charges.

“Our colleague is not dangerous to society; he did not commit any crime endangering the life or health of people around him; and he has no access to state resources now. His confinement to prison, far from contributing to his ‘correction’, will only aggravate the situation – the more so since he has already suffered serious moral punishment by undergoing, together with his family, terrible ordeals during the four years of investigations and judicial proceedings…

“Esteemed judges, relying on your competence, professionalism and commitment to the principles of humaneness, fairness and impartiality in administering justice, as spelt out in the Russian Constitution, Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, we hereby urge you to pay due attention to the case of Aleksandr Pirogov and to the media community’s concerns over the extreme harshness of the sentence passed in his case.”



Alexei Simonov

President, Glasnost Defence Foundation

Dear Mr Simonov:

I, Tatyana Olegovna Tadyyeva, worked for the municipal newspaper Ulagannyn Solundary since 2005 as a correspondent; then as executive secretary since 2011; and as editor-in-chief since 1 February 2012, appointed to that position by Y. M. Yargakov, the-then head of the Ulagan district administration. I am the only professional journalist (with a university degree) in the entire district.

The subject matter of this message is that since October 2013 I have been subject to constant discriminatory pressure from the newly-elected district head N. A. Sanin, his first deputy V. I. Yntayev, and the administration’s chief of staff I. K Kuyukov. On 17 October, Sanin summoned me to his office and urged me either to take another position or to resign as chief editor voluntarily. I refused to, telling him the district administration reshuffle was of no concern to me and that I was determined to continue doing my regular work. For the following week, Kuyukov kept coming to my office, persuading me to resign of my own free will. Meanwhile, each new issue of our weekly newspaper was read through – prior to printing – by the administration’s press secretary K. A. Tadina, as well as by Yntayev and Kuyukov... Of course, I tried to reason with them, telling them we did not want “to go against the stream” – that, is, to be in opposition to the incumbent authorities – but all in vain. Actually, our entire team has always supported both President V. Putin and Altai Republic Governor A. Berdnikov – but this point was hardly of any interest to them. The only thing they were willing to know was “who supported whom” during the latest election of the Ulagan district head. They would often give oral instructions to remove from a fully made-up and ready-for-print newspaper some photos or stories about persons they disfavoured.

Yntayev kept telling me I retained my post only because they “took pity on me”; he threatened to “call the prosecutors and the special police force against economic crime” to check our newspaper’s work… On 9 December, in response to a district administration request, the district Council assigned the local chief auditing commissioner to carry out an unplanned audit of the newspaper’s economic performance in 2011-2013. Sanin and Kuyukov threatened to initiate the start of criminal proceedings against me, unless I resigned voluntarily. On 14 January 2014, they appointed Tadina acting editor-in-chief and said she would be my boss whose orders I had to obey.

Finally, on 15 January, they showed me Decree No.40, “On terminating the work agreement with an employee”, allegedly for my “flagrant (one-time) violation of Article 55 of Federal Law No. 94, ‘On the placement of orders for the purchase of goods, jobs and services meeting state or municipal needs’”. In fact, they fired me for failing to quote prices – that is, for not doing what the administration itself was supposed to do… Since 14 January, I have been on a sick leave taking medical treatment at an out-patient clinic but spending my full working day at my workplace. This notwithstanding, they first appointed press secretary Tadina to act in my stead as chief editor, and then they terminated the work contract with me on Yntayev’s orders on 15 January.

I very much hope the GDF will be able to help me.

Sincerely, Tatyana Tadyyeva

GDF editor’s comment: The GDF Legal Service will assign specialists to provide counselling for T. Tadyyeva.


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,
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

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