Дайджест
27 Апреля 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 657

21 April 2014

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

CPJ 2014 Impunity Index released

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 16 April released its annual Impunity Index listing the countries where journalist killers most often go free. Russia is rated 10th, up one line compared to last year’s rating.

The three most dangerous countries for journalists to report from are Iraq, Somalia and the Philippines, followed by Sri Lanka, Syria, Afghanistan, Mexico, Columbia, Pakistan, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria and India.

In Russia, CPJ has documented 14 unsolved journalist killings over the past 10 years. The modest improvement over last year’s figure is due to the conviction and sentencing to 7 years in jail in 2013 of a Russian businessman for inciting the 2000 murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Igor Domnikov.

However, other killers of journalists in Russia are still at large. The CPJ Index, specifically, points to the virtual lack of progress in the investigation of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder case. “The retrial of several suspects in the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya proceeded in fits and starts, while the prosecution made no progress in netting whoever commissioned the murder,” the document says, also calling attention to the fact that “Two journalists died last year due to fatal assaults. Dagestan-based editor Akhmednabi Akhmendabiyev was shot from a car, and crusading environmental journalist Mikhail Beketov succumbed to injuries he sustained in 2008 when thugs beat him into a coma. Not a single person was arrested for the assault against Beketov, despite a personal promise by Vladimir Putin to bring the attackers to justice.”

Other points highlighted in the CPJ Impunity Index include the following:

  • 96 percent of victims are local reporters. The majority covered politics, corruption, and war in their home countries.
  • A climate of impunity engenders violence. In eight countries that appear repeatedly on the Index year after year, new murders took place in 2013.
  • Threats often precede killings. In at least four out of every 10 journalist murders, the victims reported receiving threats before they were killed.

For details, see www.cpj.org

 

RUSSIA

Regional court in Rostov confirms sentence passed in journalist Sergei Reznik’s case

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Pervomaisky district court in Rostov last November sentenced Sergei Reznik to 18 months in a general-regime penal colony, finding him guilty of three criminal offences at once – a priori false reporting about a crime, bribe-giving, and publicly insulting a government official. The journalist pleaded not guilty on all the three charges and challenged the district court’s decision before the higher-standing regional court (see digest 654).

A panel of regional court judges chaired by Sergei Kozhevnikov reviewed Reznik’s complaint in full, with the defence raising questions on the validity of evidence pertaining to all the three criminal cases.

The most serious doubts concerned “proofs” of the defendant’s guilt under Criminal Code Article 306, i.e., a priori false reporting. The prosecution built its charges entirely on the testimony of Andrei Solodovnikov, a man with two previous convictions, one of them for false reporting (sic!). It was this crime-prone man who had called Reznik on the phone to threaten him and his family with violence. And when the journalist reported the threats to law enforcement, Solodovnikov thought up nothing better than to say Reznik himself had asked him to make such a call – allegedly for purposes of “gaining more publicity”.

Solodovnikov indicated the day and hour when Reznik had presumably handed him the SIM cards of the cell phones from which to call, along with pay for his “services”, and named the street in downtown Rostov, where they had supposedly met. Yet Reznik insists he was staying at that time with his relatives in a city 100 km away from Rostov. His defence lawyers asked the court to request from the cellular operator a printout of Reznik’s telephone communications indicating the dates and times of the calls made – a procedure routinely used by investigators to detect a person’s whereabouts at a particular time by tracing down his cell phone’s signal. Yet the regional court turned down the defence lawyers’ motion, thereby depriving Reznik of the chance to prove his innocence.

“I ask you to remember about the presumption of innocence; there is no evidence convincingly proving my involvement in those crimes,” Reznik told the court in his last plea.

Brushing aside all of the arguments presented by the defence, the regional court confirmed the sentence passed by the Pervomaisky district court. Reznik’s lawyers are now preparing to challenge this ruling, too – first, before the presidium of the regional court, and then, if need be, before the RF Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Omskaya Pravda staffers affected by layoffs

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The face-off between the staffers and managers of the Omskaya Pravda (OP) media holding seems to have ended in favour of the latter. Dmitry Pominov, the holding’s director, has ordered scrapping the positions of the same-name newspaper’s editor-in-chief and of the editor/coordinator of the OmskRegion news website, thus giving the sack to prominent journalist Igor Barinov, who has devoted many years of his life to work for the city’s best media, and to Yevgenia Karasyova, a young journalistic celebrity whose texts have stood out visibly in the flow of regional news reports.

According to Pominov, his decision was prompted by the need “to optimise the manning table and eliminate duplication of functions”: each of the two media outlets used to have two editors, now they will have one editor each.

“That’s pure casuistry,” Barinov told the GDF. “In reality, I was deputy editor and received a deputy editor’s salary; the position-name confusion results from the fact that the media holding has sustained several reorganisations in the past few years.” Nor did Karasyova duplicate anyone’s functions: she not so much acted as an editor as searched for information and wrote news reports for the website, he added. It’s not functions that Pominov eliminated by his order – he got rid of the people who performed those functions while not supporting his policies, Barinov summed up.

As we have reported, about two months ago OP staffers openly expressed their dissatisfaction with some of the management’s recent moves – wage cuts for the personnel and an expansion of the managerial staff: with Pominov’s coming to the company, many new positions appeared on the payroll, such as “content manager”, “general division head”, “contract manager”, “information support service head”, “information support service specialist”, “PR director”, etc. While performing rather vague functions, all those managers receive much higher pay than writing journalists do, we cited OP staffers as saying to the GDF (see digest 647).

According to the media holding director, the goal of his “tough reform” is to cut costs and, on that basis, to create a “repaying information product” that would contribute “to forming a civil society”, i.e., “to bridging the gap between power and the people”, which Omsk Region Governor Viktor Nazarov has been calling for ever since his taking over the helm. Evidently, the OP staffers are not among those people, since the governor doesn’t care much for their opinion: he forwarded their appeal to his first deputy, from whom it was redirected to the Chief Administration for the Press, to eventually land on the desk of Dmitry Pominov, charged with taking a final decision.

Meanwhile, the accounting office has exposed some financial abuses on the part of the holding management, including two contracts worth a total of 200,000 roubles, concluded between OP and a company co-owned by Pavel Pominov, Dmitry’s brother; and the director’s “borrowing” 27,000 roubles from the company budget to pay for his visits to a private sports club during four months. Fourteen members of the OP trade union committee signed a complaint to the prosecutor’s office about those abuses. The results of investigation, if any, are still unknown. The regional administration has no claims against Pominov. The three lady accountants who detected the machinations have, too, been fired. Pominov seems to feel pretty secure and unwilling to rest on his laurels. “We are analysing work efficiency to further optimise our performance,” he told the SuperOmsk news website. Barinov is certain that the OP director, with time, will get rid of all the “dissenters” without ever thinking of reductions to the staff of his “efficient managers”.

Journalists say Pominov never deals with staffers personally – only through his numerous deputies and assistants; it was they who brought Barinov’s dismissal notice without bothering to explain anything. The abyss between the director and the staff is hopelessly wide to be bridged, ever, staffers say. So is the gap between OP and the regional residents: admittance to the media holding building is at the show of passes, and the entrance is guided by an armed security guy – a thing unseen even in Soviet times.

One may as well remind the OP management that the media holding is a budget-financed organisation, which means OP and Pominov operate at the expense of taxpayers, those very Omsk Region residents who are held at arm’s length and who pay rather dearly – 40 million roubles from the regional budget – for Omskaya Pravda to thrive on.

Politically-underpinned split-up within Novy Region news agency

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Conflicts within Novy Region (NR), a news agency that was originally launched as a regional project based in Yekaterinburg, have finally led to the emergence of two separate editorial offices – one pro-Russian, the other pro-Ukrainian, as acknowledged in an official statement posted on the agency’s website and signed by NR head managers Polina Rumyantseva and Tatyana Pakulova, and by members of the NR-Yekaterinburg team.

The statement says the split-up was caused by antagonisms in the foreign policies of the two neighbouring countries: “The agency established and existing in Russia is opposed to the editorial policy which has been pursued and dominant on the NR2.ru news site with encouragement from the Ukrainian and Baltic editors and from Aleksandr Shchetinin, chairman of the NR Supervisory Board, since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea’s incorporation into Russia. However controversial the actions of the sides to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict may be, covering the crisis from only one standpoint – ‘Occupants are seizing an independent country’ – strikes us as wrong.”

“We think that in such a situation,” the statement says, “it would make sense to offer Ukraine and the Baltic Region the opportunity to freely express their views from a different pad. Novy Region, which is a very important information resource in Russia, will continue operating with its base remaining in Yekaterinburg. The staffs of the Russian offices within NR have been invited to remain part of the news agency to continue working as we did before – in an atmosphere of cooperation, co-authorship, and mutual readiness to help.”

It may as well be noted that the Supervisory Board chairman has not turned up in Russia for a long time and only learned about the NR statement from an Ura.ru correspondent. “I know nothing about that,” Shchetinin said. “Back in February, I declared I would cover Kiev and Ukraine only. Actually, I haven’t been following the developments in Russia closely.”

The Ukrainian office’s news reports can be accessed from the Russian NR’s website. And NR-Yekaterinburg got a new domain name a few weeks ago: urfo.org/ekb/ . Well, everyone is free to make one’s own choice.

Newspaper editor in Perm stripped of driver’s license

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Vyacheslav Sukhanov, chief editor of the Perm-based newspaper Kommersant v Permi, has been stripped of his driver’s license for one month for driving his personal car without the license plates. Although he drove accurately and prudently on a frosty winter day on his way to a heated garage to install those very plates, he was sentenced to the strictest punishment that exists for this kind of administrative offence.

The journalist bought a new Hyundai IX35 on 19 December and registered it with the Inter-District Driver Registration and Examination Board of the regional traffic police department at 107, Speshilov St. in Perm. Minutes later, his car was stopped at a traffic police post down the same street. The officers on duty made a protocol of administrative offence in line with Administrative Code Article 12.2.2. The front license plate, indeed, was not fixed “on the frontal side of the vehicle”, as required, but was lying inside the car near the windshield. Sukhanov made a note in the protocol that fixing the plate was technically impossible: it had snowed all day, the temperature fell to -24oC toward the evening, and the windshield became covered with ice, prompting the journalist to drive to a heated garage to fix the plates.

He told the whole story again on 16 April in the Leninsky district court in Perm which was hearing his complaint about the decision passed by Magistrate Irina Rozhkova of Magistracy No. 20, who found him guilty in absentia on 21 February and sentenced him not to a fine but to a one-month freeze on his right to drive.

The district court established that Sukhanov had not known about the magistracy hearing: a secretary had erroneously sent an SMS notice to someone else, and a postal notice was delivered to him as late as in March. Despite positive references from Sukhanov’s company management, saying that the chief editor uses his car in his daily work; a detailed list of incoming SMS messages (showing that he was not duly notified about the February court hearing); a weather report for 19 December 2013; and a receipt showing he had duly paid the fine for another traffic violation earlier, Judge Oleg Poroshin confirmed the first-instance court’s decision.

Vyacheslav Sukhanov does not intend to complain to a higher-standing judicial authority but says he does not feel guilty.

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Police crackdown on journalists

As reporters for KTK, Channel 31, Interfax-Kazakhstan, Radio Azattyk and Channel 16/12 were covering a 15 April action in Astana, during which women with children chained themselves to the fence around the Prosecutor General’s Office in protest against their eviction from homes, police cracked down on the journalists and cameramen, twisting their arms and otherwise preventing them from covering the proceedings, Radio Azattyk’s Svetlana Glushkova reported. Victor Gudz, videographer for Channel 16/12, received a scull trauma as policemen attempted to break his camera.

The police officers knew they were dealing with journalists, since they had checked each reporter’s ID beforehand and written down the journalists’ personal data, Channel 16/12 correspondent Sanat Urnaliyev said.

The journalists intend to report the incident as an instance of interference with their lawful professional work – an offence punishable under Kazakhstani Criminal Code Article 155.

[Adil Soz Foundation report, 15 April]

 

SOUTH OSSETIA

Georgian reporters detained by Russian border guards

The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists has condemned the detention of Georgian media workers near the border with South Ossetia, and called for all the necessary steps to be taken to secure their release.

Russian border guards on 15 April detained three Georgian citizens near the border village of Adzvi in the Gori district of Georgia on suspicion of illegal crossing of the South Ossetian border. Bela Zakaidze, Vakho Lekiashvili and Mikhail Mikhoyev – members of a film crew with the TV3 television company – were preparing a report on Russian border guards’ relocation of barbed wire entanglements in the direction of Georgia, the company’s chief producer, Maya Chuchashvili, said.

They were to start reporting live on the air at 5 p.m., but by that time contact with the film crew had been lost, she said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry has charged the Georgian journalists with illegally crossing into South Ossetia and described their actions as “a provocation”. “According to our information, the trespassers deliberately and demonstratively crossed from the Georgian border village of Adzvi into a nearby village on South Ossetian soil and started to video the border infrastructure,” the ministry said in a statement. The detained journalists were transferred to the border service of South Ossetia’s KGB and transported to Tskhinval.

On the following day, they were transferred back to the Georgian side.

[Caucasian Knot news agency and BBC Russian Service reports, 16 April]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

Radio Liberty: Censorship against freedom of expression

Rzeczpospolita: Rosja odbiera głos blogerom

Kommersant – Rostov-on-Don: Sergei Reznik to count the steps of justice-system ladder

Civitas.Ru: Rally in support of freedom of expression ends without incidents

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Radio Liberty suspends journalist for a month for his political convictions

Andrei Babitsky, chief editor of the radio station Ekho Kavkaza (Echo of the Caucasus), was suspended in the wake of a publication he posted on the station’s website, expressing support for Russia’s actions in Crimea. Ekho Kavkaza is part of America’s Radio Liberty, an organisation for which Babitsky had worked for 25 years prior to this conflict.

His controversial article, which has now been removed from the radio station’s website, was about the situation in Crimea and President Vladimir Putin’s latest public statements. Babitsky noted that he fully supports the Russian leader’s Crimea policy and underlined that the Russian Federation had every right to protect the safety of the peninsula’s Russian-speaking population.

As regards recent presidential statements, Babitsky expressed the view that Russia seems to be resuming suppression of dissent, since Putin has given it to be understood that anyone protesting against Russia’s actions in Crimea will automatically be categorised as a “betrayer of the nation”. This actually sets a model of “correct” behaviour that should not be deviated from, and brings the notion of “mental crime” into common political – and potentially, judicial – use. In this connection, the former editor called attention to the fact that the 10% of those voting “contra” [versus the 90% of those voting “pro”] are not necessarily betrayers; they are citizens like the rest, and their rights and views need to be protected.

The decision to suspend Babitsky was taken at the Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague. It says he will be suspended from work for a month without remuneration, pending a decision on whether or not to continue using his services in the future.

[Kurs.ru report, 17 April]

For A. Babitsky’s article, see mir-politika.ru

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” announced

We hereby announce the start of the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”. Journalists are invited to submit their works for this year’s contest before November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2013 and October 15, 2014 in Russian print and online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

For further details about the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, click on www.gdf.ru.

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637-4947.

 

Letters

Dear Mr Simonov:

Sorry for taking your time by sending you a request that is definitely not of universal importance and may not be of any interest at all to the Glasnost Defence Foundation. Nevertheless, I would risk asking.

Although not a journalist by training, I have spent more than 30 years contributing reports to district and regional media in Yaroslavl Region. Also, I was a staff reporter at one time.

Now, to the subject matter of my request. Last July, the head of administration in our village of Petrovskoye in the Rostovsky district, Yaroslavl Region, lodged against me a legal claim in defence of honour and dignity in connection with two articles I had published in a local newspaper. After I appealed against that claim, I had to go through six district court hearings and one regional court hearing, confronted with the village head, who is a holder of two degrees in law, and with his two defence lawyers. I fought all on my own, since I couldn’t – and cannot – afford hiring a lawyer for myself.

The village head brought six charges against me, claiming 50,000 roubles in moral damages. I succeeded in warding off four of those charges, and the court slashed the claimed compensation amount to 10,000 roubles.

Taking a pause to think things over, I filed a protest against that decision, and so did the village head. A panel of regional court judges decided in my favour, further reducing the damages payable to 2,000 roubles (for only one phrase that struck them as “disrespectful”). My opponent’s counter-appeal – for 50,000-rouble compensation again – was turned down.

Now the head of village administration has lodged a new claim against me under Civil Code Article 100, claiming reimbursement of his costs of hiring the two lawyers. Yet he did so not to protect his honour and dignity but to revenge himself on me by shaking money out of a woman in dire financial straits. He makes no secret of his intentions; addressing the regional court, he said, “If you don’t award me moral damages, I will not be guaranteed against her writing something nasty about me again.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking whether or not to appeal to the Supreme Court. It’s not about the 2,000 roubles or any new compensation amount that the court may award to the village head on 6 May. It’s about the phrase that prevented me from winning the case in the regional court: the phrase is controversial and may be interpreted in different ways. I don’t know how to go about it the right way. But the main point is that everybody in my neighbourhood knows I told the truth about the village leader – yet people are afraid to tell him more than he wants to know, particularly because he is a former district police chief.

Actually, I am writing to you to ask if there’s a GDF office in Yaroslavl where I could turn for consulting. It’s indeed difficult for me to live under hard psychological pressure from the village leader; I’m 59 and have certain health problems, but my soul revolts against injustice, and I am unable and unwilling to bow and scrape before those at the helm.

Sincerely, Irina N. Chulkova, editor

GDF editor’s comment: Unfortunately, there is no GDF office in Yaroslavl, but Ms Chulkova’s appeal has been assigned for a closer study to our legal experts in Moscow.

 

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