28 Августа 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 671

25 August 2014


Dagestani journalist suffers fourth beating in five years

Unidentified thugs in Derbent, Dagestan, on 20 August beat up Magomed Khanmagomedov, chief editor of the newspaper Derbentskiye Izvestia. This is already the fourth assault the journalist has survived in the past few years.

The incident occurred at about noon in the editor’s office: two young men in tracksuits dealt several blows to the chief editor and ran away. “I was walking out of my office to see a client to the door as two sturdy guys came in and asked for Khanmagomedov. I told them it’s me and asked them to wait in the office for a while. When I came back, they started beating me without saying a word,” the Kavkazsky Uzel news agency cited the victim as saying. The editor said he hadn’t seen the assailants before and thought they were attempting to intimidate him. He received minor injuries – a few scratches and bruises, he said.

Khanmagomedov reported the beating to the police. “We are conducting a preliminary check-up,” a Dagestani Interior Ministry spokesman told the news agency Interfax.

Before his appointment to Derbentskiye Izvestia, Khanmagomedov had contributed reports to the republican newspaper Chernovik, and had issued a newspaper of his own, Ploshchad Svobody.

He sees the latest assault, just as the previous ones, as connected with his journalistic work. In July 2010, after Chernovik published his article “No One to Be Taken Alive”, the journalist started receiving threatening phone calls and SMS messages from unknown numbers. In November 2010, he was beaten up at the administration headquarters in the city of Dagestanskiye Ogni. In May 2011, two unidentified men assaulted him in Derbent (see digest 568). And in September 2012, he narrowly escaped abduction (see digest 581).

No police successes in investigating those attacks have ever been reported. One may wonder how the authorities and law enforcers will react to the latest incident. Will they refuse to start criminal proceedings the way they did after the 2011 attack? Or will the whole thing end in the attackers simply apologising to him as in November 2010?

Anyway, it would be wise to remember that impunity encourages perpetrators to commit further crimes.


Ekho Moskvy reporter beaten up while fulfilling editorial assignment in St. Petersburg

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Arseniy Vesnin, a reporter for the radio station Ekho Moskvy v Peterburge, was beaten up on 25 August in St. Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospekt, where he had arrived to fulfil an editorial assignment – cover a picketing action in support of Ukraine.

An unknown man, seeing the Ekho Moskvy logo on the microphone the reporter was holding, kicked at Vesnin’s hand and the mike. The police turned a blind eye to the incident. “I met that guy again half an hour later, and he again started kicking away at me, targeting my head this time; he had knocked off my glasses and caused me to drop my iPad and mike before he was detained,” said Vesnin, who was taken to the police station along with the attacker.

At the station, the journalist filed a report about the beating. From there, he had to drive to the Janelidze A&E Hospital, where he was diagnosed as having a concussion and a scull trauma.

Acting St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko instructed the regional police department to investigate the incident. “The man suspected of beating Vesnin was brought to the police station, where an investigation into the circumstances of the attack is under way,” police officials reported.

As became known after a while, they made a protocol charging the assailant with nothing worse than “disorderly conduct”.

Alexei Venediktov, the chief editor of Ekho Moskvy, has said he will press for criminal proceedings to be started against the man who attacked one of his radio reporters.

[Based on reports by Ekho Moskvy v Peterburge radio station]

Authorities habitually obstruct reporters’ work in Moscow

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

As a Yabloko Party press service film crew arrived at the Moscow administration headquarters on 20 August to cover a roundtable conference of the commission on civil society development, self-government, and the Moscow Public Chamber’s volunteer programmes, Moscow government officials and security guards refused to let them through.

The journalists had been told on the phone the day before they might expect to be treated so; and hours before the conference a Yabloko press service official had another phone call saying, “You’ve been refused accreditation.” No reasons were explained. Anastasia Dunayeva, an administration clerk, just said, “It’s not my decision; I do as I was told to.” She did not specify whose orders she was carrying out.

Arriving at the administration HQ, the journalists made sure their names were not on the list of those invited. They showed their press cards and asked to see the official who had issued the non-admittance orders. A security man at the entrance said that one crew member (reporter) might go in, while the other (cameraman Igor Matrosov) would stay behind because of some dress code that his knee breeches evidently did not comply with.

The correspondent was seen to the conference room door and warned not to go in but watch the proceedings on the monitor in the lobby, since the room “was packed”. Taking the camera from Matrosov, the reporter nevertheless ventured into the conference room, having made certain there were plenty of vacant seats there. He quietly walked in, took a seat, and got busy working.

During a break, the journalists started recording a video interview with Yabloko Party leader Sergey Mitrokhin at the entrance to the administration HQ, but a security guard came up to tell them to switch the camera off, allegedly because shooting video sequences required some special authorisation. The journalists managed to talk him out of meddling in their work, but a couple of minutes later two sturdy men in black uniform jumped at them, demanding to see their documents and telling them again to turn off the camera. They refused to introduce themselves. Having studied the reporters’ passports, press cards and invitations to attend the roundtable, they said the invitations were “to be endorsed” – but they did not say by whom or why. The film crew members, who had already done their job, preferred not to go into detail and to withdraw from the Moscow administration headquarters as fast as possible.

Opposition newspaper’s print run purchased wholesale on eve of elections in Altai Republic

Some shady characters in the Turochaksky, Chemalsky and Ust-Kansky districts of the Altai Republic have been purchasing the independent newspaper Listok wholesale, its publisher Sergey Mikhailov told the GDF.

“It still isn’t clear which particular publications in the fresh issue caused this kind of reaction –the two pages of campaigning materials, or the multicoloured insert advertising a special website with leaflets against the ‘rogue team’, entitled ‘NO to Rogues!’,” Mikhailov said.

The Altai Republic is to elect a new governor on 14 September. If none of the candidates collects 50% of the votes, run-off elections will be held two weeks later.

Forbes Russia accuses independent Omsk-based newspaper of “unlawfully” reprinting a publication

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Omsk-based weekly newspaper Biznes-Kurs, which has more than once had to defend itself against legal claims lodged by government and law enforcement officials (for details, see digests 536, 641, 648, et al.), has suddenly come to face a claim from another independent media outlet, Forbes magazine, whose publisher, Axel Springer Russia, asked the regional arbitration court to “require Biznes-Kurs to stop using the article ‘What 20 Eastern Cities Important to Ukraine Are Fighting For’.” The plaintiff sees this as an instance of its copyright violation, because the “exclusive rights to the publication belong to only one legal entity,” i.e., Forbes Russia.

The publisher wants 100,000 roubles in damages and to see the would-be court decision posted on Biznes-Kurs’s website.

Forbes posted the disputed publication on its website on 8 May, and Biznes-Kurs reprinted it on the same day, without ever attempting to pass it for its own product and therefore posting a highly visible (printed in blue) acknowledgment of the source at the end of the text. Yet Axel Springer Russia considered its copyright violated.

A date for the first hearing has not been appointed yet.


Independent newspaper pressured by Stavropol Region authorities

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal Distirct

“We read ‘arbitrariness’, and there’s a big run on hangmen’s roles…” This line from a recent poem by Dmitry Bykov headlined a whole page in the latest issue of the newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta, whose chief editor, Lyudmila Leontyeva, told the readers how government and law enforcement officials, in defiance of the law, have pressured her independent media outlet day after day.

On orders from the Stavropol Region Chief Bailiff Nikolai Konovalov, the full repressive weight of the agency he is in charge of has been thrown on a tiny newspaper’s staff. Bailiffs from the Special Cases Unit have been coming to Otkrytaya, individually or in teams, as if they were reporting for work every morning, thus bringing the publishing process to a grinding halt. They have come brandishing one “threatening” resolution after another – on posting, within two days’ time, yet another disclaimer demanded by Tatyana Panfilova, head of the secretariat at the Office of the Presidential Representative (PRO) in the North Caucasian Federal District.

Two years ago, Otkrytaya stepped in to defend a retiree from the city of Mineralniye Vody, who had received a boorish reply message from the PRO, printed out on an official letterhead, stamped by the relevant post office, and signed by Panfilova. The lady official later disclaimed her authorship and lodged a legal claim against the newspaper. The court, though, refrained from trying to find out who the real author was by refusing to order a study of the message, which was marked by apparently authentic incoming and outgoing numbers, by graphology experts. Panfilova, who never once appeared in court during the hearings, did manage to wrest out a court ruling requiring Otkrytaya to publish a disclaimer (see digest 612), which the newspaper duly obeyed. But both the course of the judicial proceedings and the resulting decision were marred by so many procedural blunders and discrepancies that the newspaper management thought it necessary to comment on those, while conducting an independent probe into whether that was a single instance of the PRO’s negligent work with citizens’ complaints, and why the presidential representative’s office had hired the most powerful law enforcement agencies to protect its employee.

Why did Chief Bailiff Konovalov assign a seemingly trifling conflict over a private complaint to the Special Cases Unit for investigation – a unit that is supposed, in line with the law, to handle debts exceeding 1 billion roubles?

Otkrytaya’s management is facing a difficult task – to fight corruption in the ruling elite, including within Konovalov’s agency. The newspaper has continued to make public, issue after issue, the names and positions of officials who, in the journalists’ view, “act contrary to the interests of the state and society”. Nikolai Konovalov is also on the blacklist: Otkrytaya has obtained written evidence against him in the form of his personal reports on how the bailiffs “have been working” with the independent newspaper.

More details about Ekho Moskvy reporter’s beating in St. Petersburg

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

In St. Peterburg’s Nevsky Prospect on 25 August, Ekho Moskvy radio reporter Arseniy Vesnin was attacked and beaten while covering a picketing action in support of Ukraine. His assailant, a 49-year-old fitter, was apparently dissatisfied with the editorial policy of the media outlet Vesnin works for.

Not only did the journalist report how Russian nationalists wearing St. George’s Cross ribbons on their jackets attempted to attack picketers – he also described the attack on himself, which left him “only” with a concussion.

What is amazing about this story is not even the very fact of an attack on a media reporter but the behaviour of three categories of citizens. First, of the police officers, who, far from trying to prevent the assault, were not even in a hurry to detain the attacker. They had to do it, though, after the news spread around the city, causing the municipal authorities to take a closer look at the incident. Second, of St. Petersburg Acting Governor Poltavchenko, whose reaction to the attack was indeed puzzling. Although his press secretary tried to appease the public by saying, okay, the city head would instruct the police to investigate the circumstances, many expressed doubts as to Poltavchenko’s sincere wish, or at least his professional duty impulse, to have the perpetrator duly punished. Evidently, many said, the acting governor was posing before the cameras to gain more popularity on the eve of next month’s elections. And the third category are all those who wrote nasty comments in social media and on web chat forums about Arseniy Vesnin, such as “I wish he’d suffered more”, “What did he expect to get, working for a radio station like that?”, etc. Well, these kinds of attitudes per se are tantamount to “a diagnosis”.

Though, they are hardly surprising nowadays, when “all those responsible” have already been identified and labelled “traitors”, “the fifth column”, etc. Journalists have been classified as such, too – especially those working for independent media like Ekho Moskvy. The vast majority of Russians are so sure they are right that they may start any moment now, encouraging one another by “halloo” shouts, to drive the dissenters into the central square to hold a demonstrative trial over them – that’s as a minimum, or just to begin with.

Some hotheads from that “vast majority” are actually ready to decide the matter right now, and once and for all. You’re dissatisfied? You’re protesting? Now, get this toother to stop your mouth, and beat it, man!

Yet there’s a “but”: journalism is not a state of mind, it’s a profession. Those engaged in this work perform a noble mission – to be a mirror for the whole of society and for each individual citizen to be able to look into and see their reflection. When this reflection is not particularly pleasant, one may put the blame for this on whoever one chooses, but not on the mirror.

And yet, many do blame the mirror! In times of social confrontations and in happy times of stout stability alike – they always blame the mirror for everything! So you don’t like hearing the truth? You don’t like falsehoods either – they don’t inspire you with optimism? Outright lies nause you out? You’re fed up with at-your-service attitudes, too? Come on then, speak your mind: what do you want of us journalists? You never know – maybe we’ll find a way to treat you the way you like…


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

The jury of the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues accepting works submitted for this year’s contest. The deadline is 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 or 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.

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

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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