22 Августа 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 670

18 August 2014


Journalists accused of committing grave crimes in Chelyabinsk Region

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The closed trial over Valery Uskov and Vyacheslav Boidariko, reporters for the newspaper Pravda Goroda Zlatousta, is drawing to a close in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region. The journalists are accused of illegally keeping weapons (Criminal Code Article 222) and of threatening a man with murder (Article 119) (see digest 662).

The defendants are insisting both charges against them have been trumped up and the evidence has been concocted. Uskov, as a “dangerous special offender”, has been kept in a pre-trial prison in Zlatoust for more than 5 months.

The hearing of arguments is scheduled for 26-27 August, and a sentence is likely to be passed shortly afterward. Yet at the latest court sitting, which took place on 12 August, the judge ruled for Uskov to stay under arrest until 10 October.

According to official information, the court has questions to the victim, Mr Perlis, who has not attended court hearings. Perlis is rumoured to have said, back in January, that police had coerced him into file reports against Uskov and Boidariko, promising he would not have to appear in court.

Uskov’s defence lawyers say the proceedings are being dragged out because the prosecutor in on vacation. But since this is not a valid excuse in line with the Code of Criminal Procedure, the prosecution has been seeking other plausible explanations for the delay. […]

It looks like pessimists are right in alleging that Uskov “has been isolated so that the local authorities, business, and judiciary, which have merged together very closely, are sure the forthcoming gubernatorial elections will proceed smoothly and quietly”.

Journalist detained during picketing action outside RF Investigative Committee headquarters in Moscow

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

A group of activists staged a picketing action outside the RF Investigative Committee headquarters in Moscow on 13 August. Ten persons, standing 50 metres apart from each other, were holding slogans against corruption in courts and prosecutors’ offices. They had barely stayed there for 20 minutes when two paddy wagons arrived to pick up the protesters and drive them to the Basmanny district police department.

Natalya Fonina, a reporter for the Far Eastern newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti, who had come to cover the picketing action, was taken away along with the protesters.

“Yes, they detained us all as a team,” she told the GDF. “When they brought us to the police station, its deputy chief Vladimir Sechko said I’d been there holding a placard, just as the rest had. I told him I was an Arsenyevskiye Vesti reporter, I hadn’t held any placards and I’d only come to cover a public action, as a journalist is supposed to. Officers from the police crew which detained us confirmed my words, but the Basmanny police department’s deputy chief said we all, including me, had organised that picketing action for a reward, which he said was “a common practice nowadays”. All the detainees, including myself, started to protest, saying they’d taken to the streets of their own free will and for no pay. I added it was a shame for the police to think like that and to measure others by its own yardstick. I asked for a protocol of detention to be made, but the deputy said they wouldn’t make any protocol – they would have us all turn in written explanations and hear a lecture on crime prevention. The picketers filed a complaint with Interior Minister Kolokoltsev.”

Editor faces criminal charges in Chelyabinsk

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Legal proceedings have been started in Chelyabinsk against Igor Makarov, chief editor of the web news agency ChelNovosti.ru, under Criminal Code Article 204.3 (“Illegal receipt by a commercial entity manager of money, securities or other valuables, or illegal use of property-related services or property rights in exchange for action (inaction) in the paying party’s interests”).

Makarov was notified of that on 18 August, and told that his case was being handled by V. Aleksandrov, acting head of the Leninsky district investigative department. As we have reported, it all started with Ivan Bannykh, manager of the furniture firm Mnogo Mebeli, paying Makarov 30,000 roubles for removing compromising publications about the company from ChelNovosti.ru. After the money changed hands, the journalist was detained by officers of OBEP, special police force against economic crime. After turning in written explanations, Makarov was released. His own vision of the incident is as follows:

The furniture company management coerces journalists into removing compromising publications. For instance, a story posted on ChelNovosti.ru in December, entitled “Mnogo Mebeli Faces Gloomy Prospects”, reported that the company was artificially increasing its debts and establishing façade firms throughout Russia to evade taxation. After lengthy negotiations with Mnogo Mebeli unit head Dmitry Miroshnikov, the parties agreed the publication would be removed from the website for 15,000 roubles, which Miroshnikov transferred to the news agency from his personal account with AlphaBank. In late July, ChelNovosti published another article, “Mnogo Mebeli Gives Chelyabinsk Residents Much Trouble”. Instead of trying to improve his company’s image by other means, such as harder work, Miroshnikov again offered to pay for the story’s removal. That is when a report to the police was filed, accusing Makarov of extortion (see digest 668).

Makarov sees this as a fraudulent scheme: the company starts by intimidating journalists or offering pay to them, and then reports “extortion attempts” to the police. In the process, Mnogo Mebeli has never refuted reports about its poor performance, nor challenged them in court. It has stuck to the well-adjusted scheme: buy a media outlet’s loyalty – then go report “extortion”.

In their early comments on the incident, investigators said the fact of extortion would have to be proven in court; with no evidence available, the case would be likely to fall apart. Now things have taken a new turn: what happened is seen as an instance of one commercial manager illegally paying to another as part of a deal to sell/purchase certain services. In line with Russia’s criminal code, this is an offence punishable by up to 7 years in jail and a fine, with a ban on engagement in journalism, as in the notorious case of journalist and editor Aksana Panova.

TV/radio company in Krasnodar refuses to report on communication services it has not provided

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

One’s personal setbacks in journalism are known to sometimes turn into one’s professional successes.

A magistrate in Krasnodar has accepted a legal claim against the television/radio company Sintez-TV, a partner of REN-TV in the Krasnodar Region. The claim was lodged by the Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications] department for the Southern Federal District of Russia. The document said, in part: “Based on a review of materials submitted to the Federal Communications Agency (Rossvyaz) by […] the Krasnodar-based telecom company Sintez-TV, Roskomnadzor […] found the latter to be in breach of existing mandatory requirements to the telecom operators, as a result of its failure to submit to Rossvyaz, before the established deadline, the yardstick data for calculating the amount of mandatory deductions to the universal service reserve for Quarter 1 of 2014, which constitutes a violation of Paragraph 10 of the Licensing Terms and Conditions.”

Galina Chervenchuk, general director and chief editor of Sintez-TV, resolutely objects to the plaintiff’s claim. “While not providing any telecom services at all, our company used to regularly send out to Rossvyaz its zero reports on work in the relevant area,” she told the GDF. “Our legal consultants have found out federal legislation entitles us not to report on activities we do not engage in. That is why we quit turning in zero-zero spreadsheets as of this year. But a while ago we were surprised to learn that protocols had been made accusing Sintez-TV of an offence falling under Administrative Code Article 14.1.3, and that the case materials had been sent to court for review. The officials are citing some internal instruction, although federal legislation is known to have prevalence. I hope not only to persuade the court we are right – I want to make an interesting TV feature based on our experience, to teach the viewers a few elementary things about how to apply law correctly.”

Karelia’s Supreme Court upholds people’s right to think differently

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Many media in Karelia followed this judicial process closely, suspecting the authorities of an attempt to use political censorship as an instrument to keep the content of journalistic reporting under control. The conflict began after the newspaper TVR-Panorama published excerpts from correspondence between relatives living on different sides of the Russian-Ukrainian border, whose interpretation of ongoing events in Ukraine differed from the “official version” presented by the majority of the Russian media, which said Crimean residents actively supported the peninsula’s inclusion in the Russian Federation. In their private messages to relatives in Russia, the Ukrainian correspondents expressed notably different feelings and attitudes.

The prosecutor’s office in Karelia assessed the publication of that correspondence, done with the authors’ consent, as an action falling under the effects of the Law on Countering Extremism. Panorama’s Chief Editor Y. Belyanchikov, who received an official warning, challenged this in court and won the case. The prosecutors responded by starting to insist that the fact of his publishing the correspondence after the March 2014 referendum, in which the majority of Crimeans voted for merger with Russia, should be interpreted like this: “Any talk of Crimea’s inclusion into Russia being an unlawful action has an extremist nature” (see digest 664).

Karelia’s Supreme Court, however, decided that looking at national legislation from such an angle was wrong and pronounced TVR-Panorama not guilty of extremism.

By doing so, the court protected not only his own newspaper but all the media in general, Belyanchikov noted. “It thereby outlawed political censorship and confirmed the Russian citizens’ right to think differently,” he said.

Omsk-based journalist acquitted of “illegal spread of confidential information”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A magistrate in Omsk has ruled to terminate the administrative proceedings against freelance journalist Aleksandr Grass.

Roskomnadzor initiated those proceedings back in April, accusing Grass of “disclosing the personal data of four minors” in an article posted on the OmskPravo legal consulting website belonging to him. The article was about orphans whose uncle at the time was under investigation on suspicion of committing a grave offence. The children’s full names were disclosed with the consent of their relatives – their aunt and her mother. According to OmskPravo, there were no reasons at all for bringing criminal charges against the man, which argument was later confirmed by a court of law that found the uncle not guilty. The charges against him were based on the testimony of the children’s grandfather, who had been their guardian for the previous six years, all the while pocketing the government support money paid to the orphans.

In the meantime, the Leninsky district prosecutor’s office in Omsk started legal proceedings against the trusteeship officials who had inflicted real suffering on the children by transferring them from an allegedly “problem” family to a social rehabilitation centre. They had failed to duly sort things out because of gross neglect of their duties: they had never once visited the children at home to assess their living conditions, although such visits, to be made on a regular basis, were part of their work.

The regional department of Roskomnadzor, too, failed to go into the heart of the matter; hence its official warning to OmskPravo. The oversight agency was guided by Article 4.6 of the RF Media Law, which stipulates that “a media outlet shall not have the right to disclose personal information about minors who have suffered as a result of mistreatment, if such information makes possible their identification”. Yet they disregarded the exclusion clause right below: “… unless such information is disclosed with a view to protecting a minor’s rights and lawful interests”.

The court established that the OmskPravo publication pursued this particular goal – to return the children from an asylum, where they had got by mistake, into their family – and cancelled the decision giving rise to the administrative proceedings. Now OmskPravo’s legal experts intend to challenge the warning issued to their web portal by Roskomnadzor.

Construction company’s claim against media turned down in Kursk

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A company owned by the speaker of the City Duma in Rylsk, Kursk Region, claimed a total of 4 million roubles in reputational damages from a local newspaper and its editor.

The regional court of arbitration on 12 August completed the hearings of a legal claim lodged by OOO Rylskoye DRSU, a road construction and repair company owned by the Rylsk Duma Chairman Vladimir Klevtsov, against the newspaper Rayonnyye Budni.

After a series of critical publications about DRSU and its owner, two claims were lodged: one in March by Klevtsov in person, the other in April, by the company he leads. The construction firm wanted 1 million roubles in reputational damaged from the editor, and 3 million from the newspaper.

The defendants said in court that the disputed passages were not intended to smear the plaintiff; they did not cite any facts but only featured evaluative statements. Besides, the problems highlighted in the disputed publications were of major interest to the public, the defendants stressed.

As a result, the court upheld the journalists’ case, turning down the construction company’s legal claim in full.


Journalist fined for independent newspaper transportation

A district court in Mogilev has sentenced journalist Igor Borisov to a fine of 4.5 million Belarussian roubles for carrying in his car 11,800 copies of two independent publications – the newspaper Nash Mogilev and the news bulletin Sotsial-Demokrat. Judge Stanislav Levchenko on 12 August found Borisov guilty of independent media distribution, and ruled to confiscate the samizdat publications.

Finding Borisov to be in breach of Administrative Code Article 22.9.2, the judge imposed a fine of 30 “basic amounts”, which is an equivalent of 4.5 million roubles.

“The court ruling is politically motivated,” Borisov commented. “Judge Levchenko is involved in the political process, of which he as a former professor of the Belarussian Law Institute is very well aware.”

According to the journalist, after the defence made its pleas, the judge left the courtroom several times for consulting, and announced his decision without taking a break, which means “he already had a ready decision, and the defence lawyer’s arguments couldn’t ever make a difference – it’s the ‘telephone rule’, not law, that triumphed in this case.”

Borisov’s interests were defended in court by his wife Yelena, a lawyer. “The protocol of administrative offence had been made with gross mistakes; in non-politicised cases such protocols are typically sent for correction, which was not done in this case,” she said. “The police major who made the protocol called the newspapers and bulletins ‘leaflets’, and failed to specify which item of Media Law Article 17 was violated.”

“Also, the court disregarded the fact that traffic policemen obtained evidence of Igor Borisov’s carrying independent samizdat newspapers by deception: they said his car had been seen near the site of an act of hooliganism in the district centre of Belynichi and that Borisov had to go to the Mogilev district police station for questioning,” she said. “Judge Levchenko turned a blind eye to the fact that Belarus had ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and signed the Optional Protocol requiring it to guarantee freedom of thought and conscience, and freedom of information; it also acknowledged that no internal law can give it a reason for restricting those freedoms in any way.”

Borisov intends to challenge the district court ruling before the Mogilev Region Court, and if need be, to go all the way to the UN Human Rights Committee.

As we have reported, Borisov’s car was stopped by traffic police on the Minsk-Mogilev highway in a Mogilev suburb at 00:20 on 16 July. The police officers checked his documents and told him his car was on the wanted list on suspicion of having been driven by a hooligan. Once at the Mogilev district police station, the car was searched, and the print runs of two independent newspapers were seized, after which a protocol was made and Borisov was released.

[Spring96 report, 15 August]


Adil Soz Foundation’s press freedom situation report for July 2014

The international press freedom watchdog Adil Soz Foundation has published a report on the freedom-of-expression situation and violations of the right to gather and impart information in Kazakhstan in July 2014.

The reported instances include:

  • Galaxy Group staffers attacked Yuri Syedin, cameraman for a TengriNews film crew;
  • The libel case against Valery Surganov, editor of the news website INSIDERMAN, was settled amicably;
  • Andrei Tsukanov, correspondent for the 16/12 web news portal, was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest for resistance to the police while covering the “Sublessee” public action.

A total of 3 legal claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation were lodged against journalists and media in July. Since this year began, 13 persons have been charged with libel, and 55 honour, dignity and business reputation protection claims have been lodged in connection with exercising freedom of expression and the right to gather and impart information in Kazakhstan.

[For details, visit Adil Soz Foundation website]


Media in St. Petersburg may be sued for inaccurate reporting

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

Who would have thought that a report on a woman from St. Petersburg’s victory in an international beauty contest might result in threats against media? Yet the winner’s representatives have behaved rather aggressively towards the journalists who, unfortunately, turned out to be excessively credulous, which mistake on their part they have already acknowledged.

A number of Russian media on 9-10 August reported about St. Petersburg resident Yulia Ionina’s emerging as the winner in a “Mrs World” beauty contest in Ecuador. Yet as it turned out, this year’s real contest is to be held in Washington, D.C., this autumn. The organisers published an official disclaimer that alleged attempts by the media concerned to “misinform” the public and “discredit” contest-related events.

Some, though, came up with more cautious assessments of what had happened. For example, Alexei Kuznetsov, deputy chairman of the Russian organising committee, suggested that the media might simply have “circulated information posted in social networks”. Indeed, Ionina herself wrote in her blog she had won the beauty contest.

Although most media rushed to disclaim their inaccurate reports, they still may have to defend themselves in court against potential legal claims. This shows how important it is for all journalists to stringently observe their professional standards, as required both by the codes of journalistic ethics and by the federal Media Law.

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