Дайджест
9 Сентября 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 672

1 September 2014


STORY OF THE WEEK

Journalists in Pskov Region obstructed while covering secret burial of Russian paratroopers rumoured to have been killed in Ukraine

Unidentified “men in black” sought to prevent journalists on 26 August from throwing light on what had been reported as a “secret burial” near Vybuty village, Pskov Region, of Russian paratroopers whose deaths had occurred “under vague circumstances”. One version is that they were killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine; another is that they died in the course of military exercises in the Rostov Region.

A group of journalists came to the Pskov Region to check the accuracy of reports about the “secret” burial. The group included Vladimir Romensky (Dozhd TV channel); Ilya Vasyunin (Russian Planet news portal); Nina Petlyanova (newspaper Novaya Gazeta); Irina Tumakova (Fontanka.ru news website); and Sergey Kovalchenko and Sergey Zorin (Telegraf news agency).

Petlyanova and Tumakova were the first to arrive at the Vybuty cemetery at about 1 p.m. “There were quite a few newly-dug graves there; I saw five different funeral processions taking place simultaneously,” Petlyanova said. “After I took picture of a grave, two men jumped at me and my colleague Irina Tumakova of Fontanka.ru, pushed us into a minibus, grabbed my camera and erased all the images. They warned us if they found any of those photos posted anywhere in the internet along with any information about them, they would instantly find and kill us. They took away our passports and press cards, photographed them, drove us to some forest area, and told us ‘to get lost’. We walked back to the cemetery, where Irina’s car was parked. We decided to leave and return in the evening, when there would be no people around, to look at the new graves and see who’s buried in them.”

Later that day, in the company of Romensky and Vasyunin, they drove to the cemetery again, Petlyanova said. Their car was stopped by some men in windbreakers with face-covering hoods, who started to pellet the car with stones, targeting the windows. “We tried to drive away but they caught up with us, one man throwing himself onto the bonnet, another running up from behind. They pierced our two tyres with something like a bradawl or corkscrew, and scratched the windshield. We made it on two wheels to the nearest filling station on Leningradskoye Highway and called a police patrol. Now we are writing a report to the police,” Petlyanova told colleagues over the phone.

Vasyunin, too, described the attackers as men in hooded tracksuits, their faces covered. “They didn’t look like military officers – I, at least, have never seen paratroopers looking like that. Rather, they looked like criminal elements,” he said. Romensky added that “two sturdy guys approached Vasyunin and me, to tell us we shouldn’t even attempt to find out any details, or come here again, ever”. They said “we were asking too many unnecessary questions” and advised us “to take the first train to Moscow”, unless we wanted “never to be found” if we ventured to disobey, Romensky said.

Telegraph news agency chief editor Sergey Kovalchenko and correspondent Sergey Zorin, too, had problems with the “men in black” at the cemetery, who detained the reporters as soon as they approached the newly-dug graves and took out their photo cameras. The unidentified plain-clothed men pulled over in a Nissan Qashqai with Pskov license plates, Kovalchenko said. They detained the journalists without explaining why, seized their cameras and deleted all the images. They didn’t introduce themselves, Kovalchenko noted. “Judging by everything, they watch the cemetery, not letting anyone to take pictures,” the chief editor said.

Each of the journalists filed a report with the police about the attacks they’d suffered; law enforcers are now busy investigating the circumstances. The journalists are receiving support from Presidential Council on Human Rights member Mikhail Fedotov, who asked Russia’s chief investigator Aleksandr Bastrykin to track down the individuals who attacked the journalists near Pskov. “The Council urges you to order a check-up of the reported facts and do everything you can to have those responsible found and brought to justice,” Fedotov wrote in his letter to Bastrykin.

The success of the investigation, though, is doubtful, since too many people seem to be interested in having no details about the paratroopers’ deaths to hit the media headlines.


EVENT OF THE WEEK

Assault on editor of Pskov-based newspaper which broke “secret burial” news

Three unidentified assailants attacked Lev Shlosberg, a deputy of the Pskov Region Assembly and chief editor and publisher of the newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya, late on 29 August.

The three men caught up with the journalist not far from his home, swept him off his feet by a strike on the head from behind, and proceeded to beat him. As a result, Shlosberg was taken to hospital with a scull trauma, a concussion, a broken nose, and partial loss of memory.

Coming to his senses later, the journalist told the Dozhd TV channel his attackers were “professionals”. “They had followed me before attacking from behind,” he said. “I didn’t see them; they had not talked to me prior to the attack, nor had threatened me or asked for anything. They knew for certain whom they were following. Evidently, they were well prepared. They knocked me out with the very first blow, and then took a few minutes to beat me before running away. I lay unconscious for some time, and then I was picked up and taken to hospital.”

Shlosberg’s newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya was the first to report on 25 August about the secret burial of military servicemen near Vybuty village, drawing other journalists’ attention to that topic. It is with that publication that colleagues are linking the assault on Shlosberg.

Pskov Region Acting Governor Andrei Turchak on 30 August instructed law enforcement to investigate the attack on Shlosberg and to assign bodyguards to ensure the journalist’s personal integrity. “Police must enforce order and security on our streets. I want the police to thoroughly investigate the assault… on MP Lev Shlosberg, and I will personally oversee the investigation process,” ITAR-TASS cited Turchak as saying. The acting governor also said he had asked the regional police chief, Boris Govorun, to assign officers to guard Shlosberg around the clock until the investigation was over.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic, too, has urged the Russian authorities to investigate all instances of violence against journalists and to prosecute those responsible for the attack on journalist Lev Shlosberg. “Those and other recent attacks show a worsening of the journalist security situation in Russia,” she said in a 30 August statement. “Violence against journalists is inadmissible, and its manifestations cannot be tolerated; the perpetrators must not be allowed to go unpunished. I urge the authorities to carry out a full-scale investigation without delay and bring the executors and masterminds of those attacks to justice.”

Criminal proceedings have already been started, but on “less serious” charges – under Criminal Code Article 115.2a (“Hooliganism involving the deliberate infliction of minor bodily harm on the victim”).


RUSSIA

Saratov-based investigative journalist Aleksandr Krutov suffers yet another attempt on his life

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Aleksandr Krutov, a prominent investigative journalist nominated for the Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” and an observer with Obshchestvennoye Mneniye magazine, survived an attempt on his life in Saratov early on 26 August. Two unidentified men ambushed the journalist as he was leaving his apartment house in Michurin Street. Attacking from behind, they hit Krutov several times on the head with an iron bar and a baseball bat; he narrowly escaped being killed due to the interference of neighbours, who scared the assailants away and called an ambulance.

He was taken to hospital with a concussion, numerous bruises, a cut eyebrow and a stab wound in his leg.

Colleagues link the assault with the journalist’s work. According to Alexei Kolobrodov, general director of the Obshchestvennoye Mneniye media group, Krutov recently has been busy investigating high-resonance cases, such as an attempt on the life of regional MP Sergey Kurikhin and the murder charges against Engels district ex-head Mikhail Lysenko, who is also accused of bribe-taking. “He handled some other cases, too – he shared his plans with me as his editor, but I don’t want to disclose them,” Kolobrodov told the web-based newspaper Chetvyortaya Vlast.

“Krutov has more than once suffered attacks, and we’ve always seen those as linked … to his professional work. He is a very good investigative journalist indeed – one of the few who are capable of digging up something important,” Saratov Region Journalists’ Union chairwoman Lydia Zlatogorskaya said.

Saratov police have pledged “not to let the attack go unnoticed”, and have started legal proceedings under Criminal Code Article 116.2 (“Hooliganism involving beating”). Yet neither the victim himself, nor his colleagues believe the assailants will ever be found.

The point is Krutov has survived a chain of similar attacks already. In November 1999, two unknown men beat him severely, inflicting serious traumas, which many local journalists saw as someone’s revenge for his publishing the first part of his investigative report on a series of scandals within Saratov’s political and business elite. Evidently, the goal was to prevent him from publishing any more revealing stories, colleagues said. Police at the time started criminal proceedings [that ended in nothing]. In March 2003, three thugs broke Krutov’s head. In August 2007, some villains set off a smoke bomb fixed to the door of the journalist’s apartment, and a year later someone attempted to set his home on fire. All those crimes were left unsolved.

This notwithstanding, the Glasnost Defence Foundation appealed to Saratov Region Prosecutor V. Stepanov and regional Investigative Committee Head N. Nikitin with a letter reading, in part, as follows:

“We hope your two agencies will not wave aside this assault as an ordinary act of hooliganism. Hooligans do not beat investigative journalists – they aim either to kill or to intimidate them. And since Aleksandr is not a person to be easily intimidated, we are left to suppose the worst. And we do hope that your agencies will handle the Krutov case the way Krutov himself works with his materials, never stopping at the first few findings but carrying through his investigations to the end. In this case, we want to know the names not only of those ‘hooligans’ but also of those who sent them.”


Moscow police prevents journalist from reporting on a candidate MP’s meeting with electors

Journalist Dmitry Florin went to Moscow’s Golyanovo Park on 25 August to cover a meeting of Alexei Krapukhin, a Yabloko Party nominee for a seat on the Moscow City Duma, with electors in a district where the authorities are planning to cut down part of the park to build an Orthodox church. From the very outset, the meeting took an aggressive turn because some “Orthodox activists” started insulting the organisers and asking them provocative questions, with their video cameras switched on all the while. For example, they told Florin he was “well known to the Moscow Orthodox community” because he was “shown on TV almost every day” as a man “opposed to the construction of Orthodox churches in Moscow”.

Attempts by local residents not belonging to the activist group to walk away thus getting rid of their importunate “opponents” were in vain: “activists” followed them, chanting prayers. Minutes later, a group of 10 police officers arrived, among them a colonel, a major, a captain, and a few lieutenants and sergeants. The officers behaved very nervously; one of them hit Florin’s camera lens, snapping, “Take this away! No cameras allowed!” Then a mayor from the Golyanovo police station took away the reporter’s passport, and ordered Florin to follow him. In the process, the major was claiming he’d just “politely asked” the reporter aside “for a talk”.

A plain-clothed man who had arrived together with the policemen fell upon Sergey Vinogradov, a member of the Moscow Electoral Committee, who was video-recording the proceedings. He ordered him to switch the camera off, and even attempted to snatch it from his hands – allegedly because he was a police operative who could not be taken pictures of. Vinogradov asked to see his ID, to make sure he was indeed a police officer. After Vinogradov refused to give up his camera to the plain-clothed man, other officers detained him on charges of resistance to the police and drove him to the Golyanovo police station.

They later brought Krapukhin and Florin there, too. They said the first was to sign a pledge “not to violate the law again”, and the second was to submit his photo images and video sequences for inspection. No one at the police station seemed to take any notice of Kraphukhin, while Florin’s camera was seized and its content was copied to a police computer. After that, both men were taken to the second floor, where Vinogradov was being kept, and a police captain told them, “Talk to your friend; persuade him to erase his video and we’ll let you all go.” The detainees sat there for half an hour or so more, apparently neglected, then asked the duty officer to open them the iron-bar entrance door and went home.

Two days later, on 27 August, as Krapukhin was again meeting with electors in Golyanovo Park, a police captain arrived, who demanded journalist Florin’s documents and told him to switch off his camera. Florin showed his press card and refused to stop shooting, with reference to the relevant Media Law provision. The captain, though, kept insisting that only the city police department’s press service was allowed to take pictures of him – and this despite his being on duty in a public place. The journalist suggested the police officer should take a closer look at the Media Law or discuss the matter with the GDF lawyer; after that Florin was left alone.

When the meeting was over, two athletic-looking young men approached the journalist at the park exit, telling him that “all those opposed to the church’s construction are American hirelings”. They held Florin for the following half-hour, persuading him how nice and good it would be to have a church built in the park, then released him, saying, “Let’s see what you’ll right in your report, and mind you, you’ll be held answerable for every word of yours!”


Military authorities in Karelia share significant information selectively

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

After word went around Petrozavodsk, Karelia, a few months ago that in view of the situation in Crimea, Russia had announced a mobilisation campaign and that reservists might be called up for active military service at any time, the newspaper Karelskaya Guberniya, unwilling to be caught spreading rumours, sent its correspondent Nadezhda Mekkiyeva to Karelia Military Commissar Andrei Artemyev for first-hand information. Since Col. Artemyev refused to comment on the phone, Mekkiyeva told him she would come over a few minutes later to meet with him personally.

She ran into him as he was leaving the military commissariat building, and asked him the same question, if mobilisation had been announced or not. “No comment,” the colonel said again, adding that he disliked Karelskaya Guberniya for “presenting the commissariat’s work in a distorted light”. Yet a short while later, Artemyev, besieged by a crowd of other reporters, did tell them that his agency was performing in the business-as-usual mode, and that work with reservists was proceeding according to plan, with no emergency elements to it.

Deciding that Artemyev’s refusal to provide socially significant information to her newspaper, unlike to other media, amounted to obstruction of a journalist’s work – an offence punishable by criminal law – Mekkiyeva reported the incident to the Journalists’ Union of Karelia (JUK), asking colleagues to protect her professional rights.

Having studied the details, the JUK chairman sent Commissar Artemyev a message urging him to answer the question of why he, a military official, had violated the federal law “On securing access to information on the performance of government bodies and local self-governments” by blocking a newspaper’s access to socially significant information.

Within the established time limit, the JUK received a reply that, however, gave rise to new questions. The reply was signed not by Col. Artemyev but by Col. Fenko acting in his stead, who wrote that the information requested by journalist Mekkiyeva was “categorised as a state secret”, which “ruled out its provision to a media outlet”. Mr Fenko’s reply is puzzling to say the least, because it means that Karelia’s military commissar, Col. Artemyev, disclosed a state secret to a crowd of those other media reporters!

Col. Fenko also gave it to be understood in his reply message that media outlets that are not accredited with the Russian Defence Ministry or the press service of the Western Military District HQ, cannot count on receiving any information at all about Russia’s military. Such an assertion by a military official, again, contradicts federal legislation.


Resident of Orel claims 500,000 roubles in moral damages from newspaper

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Zavodskoy district court in the city of Orel is reviewing an honour-and-dignity protection claim lodged by a local resident, Albert Aliyev, initially against the newspaper AiF-Orel, with Salve Publishers’ and ZAO Argumenty I Fakty subsequently involved as co-defendants.

Some time ago, Aliyev was found guilty of beating another person and received a probationary sentence. According to the newspaper AiF-Chernozemye, he did not go to jail but went on probation due to his prior merits, namely, to the Order of Valour awarded to him for his service in Chechnya. However, the victim’s lawyer decided to verify the relevant presidential decree’s number stated by Aliyev in court, and found out that the said decree had nothing at all to do with awards. That caused the victim and his lawyer to lodge a legal claim doubting the fact of Aliyev’s receipt of such a military decoration. Their motion was reported on by AiF-Orel in early February. After that, Aliyev lodged his counterclaim against the victim and lawyer, and later against AiF-Orel and its owner and publisher.

Besides accusing his opponents of document forgery, the plaintiff wants them to disclaim a few other passages in the publication that strikes him as “smearing” – specifically, suggestions about his likely implication in “extortion and theft schemes”, and that he “was a prison warden” during his contractual service in Chechnya. It should be noted that Aliyev had approached AiF-Orel asking to publish his reply statement as part of a pre-trial settlement, but the editors had found the text to be at odds with effective legislation. They had invited the author to rewrite his statement but he chose not to.

Albert Aliyev is also claiming half a million roubles in moral damages.

In the course of the proceedings, the court officially inquired the presidential administration about whether or not the plaintiff had been awarded the Order of Valour. It turned out he had, but in line with a presidential decree the number of which is different from the one written into Aliev’s military card. Now the court is deciding whether to order a linguistic study of the publication’s content. Since August, AiF-Orel’s interests have been represented in court by lawyer Yekaterina Zuban of the Voronezh-based Media Defence Centre.


OUR CONTRIBUTORS

National postal service treats local and regional press in Krasnodar inequitably

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

With the start of press subscriptions for the first half of 2015 on 1 September, [the monopoly-holding national postal service] Pochta Rossii slashed from 15,500 to 10,000 the threshold circulation for regional newspapers to be eligible for subscription discounts in the Krasnodar Region. “We are convinced this measure will support those regional socio-political publications which the population thinks to be important,” Pochta General Director Dmitry Strashnov commented on his agency’s website.

The regional postal service department in Krasnodar has offered the regional newspapers with circulations of 10,000 or more a subscription discount of 17% for the first half of next year – actually nothing, if divided among the region’s 1,200-odd registered media outlets, their editors said.

At the same time, all the district newspapers, most of which are owned by local administrations and used by them as their mouthpieces, with appropriate administrative resources allocated to maintain subscriptions at a decent level, will enjoy a 25% (sic!) subscription discount from Pochta Rossii.

The segment of regional public and political print media will hardly ever feel better with this kind of support. First, the vast majority of them have circulations below 10,000, and therefore are not eligible for such support. The past subscription campaign, held already after the state quit subsidising Pochta Rossii’s print media subscriptions, newspaper circulations in the Krasnodar Region fell 20%. Second, most regional newspapers (up to 80%) are distributed through retail networks, not by subscription.

But the most important thing is that the RF Media Law does not differentiate between district, regional and federal media. As it turns out, the apparently “noble” initiative by Pochta’s management exposes different-level print media to inequitable treatment, which is wrong, since intra-agency circulars must not run counter to federal legislation. It might make sense asking the Prosecutor General’s Office how it feels about the unlawful novelty introduced by the monopoly-holding postal service.


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