27 Октября 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 679-680

20 October 2014


A delayed death: reporter dies of pneumonia he caught when taken prisoner in Donbas

Journalist Valery Donskoy died of a complicated double pneumonia in Lyubertsy near Moscow on 10 October, and was buried at Novoye cemetery in Abinsk, Krasnodar Region.

He earlier worked in Krymsk as a correspondent for Electron-FM, the very radio station that reported about the disastrous high flood in 2012. Donskoy was the first to break the news about the scale of the tragedy and the problems of people who had despaired of ever getting relief from the authorities. Later he moved to Moscow. In March, he covered Maidan developments as a freelance reporter for a French news agency. Then he went to Donbas, also as a freelancer.

On 29 September the Yabloko Party published on its website an SMS message from Donskoy that read as follows: “Five days ago we were taken prisoner near the border. They kept us in an awfully cold metal barrack. I froze like a dog for three days and prayed to God to survive. When they released us, we rushed to Moscow, where I was taken to hospital with double pneumonia and spent 24 hours in a resuscitation ward. That’s what it looks like, a reporter’s work.”

No more messages came from Valery Donskoy after that, and on 14 October, his body lay in state at the morgue of the Lyubertsy district hospital for people to pay him the last tribute.

A colleague who knew Donskoy from Krymsk, told the GDF: “So far, no details have been available about who held him prisoner. Valery was brought to hospital in a very bad condition. Friends and colleagues were reluctant to approach him with questions at the time. ‘You’ll get better and write a cool report about your time in captivity,’ they smiled. He never got better.”


Moscow police watch reporter being attacked

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Men from a mysterious organisation calling itself “FSRB” got busy on 15 October driving people from a Moscow area were a fence was rapidly being erected to clear a piece of land for a would-be “point construction” site. Locals invited the press to report on the matter. As freelance journalist Dmitry Florin was approaching the site, some men in black uniform, wearing riot-police jackets or army all-weather raincoats on top of it, stopped him and refused to let him through into the fenced-off area.

They did not identify themselves or present any documents. Florin showed his press card and told them that in line with the Media Law, he could engage in his professional work inside the area because he did not see a single reason why he couldn’t. He attempted to pass round the uniformed men, but they started grabbing him by his clothes and trying to knock the camera out of his hands, swearing badly and threatening him with violence all the while. “You won’t leave this place with your camera,” they warned him.

Florin started shouting to attract the attention of a group of police officers standing at a distance. Several of them walked up to the FSRB men, checked the journalist’s documents and told the men to “leave the press alone”. That order, however, remained effective just for a few minutes, until about a dozen more FSRB thugs approached Florin again, surrounded him, and proceeded to insult him, strike away at his camera, and try to twist his arms. When the reporter offered resistance, one of the men gave him a blow into the ribs under the right armpit in a bid to knock out the camera which the journalist was holding in his right hand over his head. The FSRB then pushed him into a puddle and continued pressing him out of the construction-site area.

Yabloko Party leader Sergei Mitrokhin, who had arrived at the site in response to local people’s calls and was trying to sort things out there and then, came to Florin’s rescue. He rushed into the crowd, yelling “Leave the journalist alone!”, and attempted to tear Florin off from the FSRB hands. Seconds later, the police officers finally decided to interfere, since what was happening started looking like a mass fistfight. Police dragged the men in black away from the reporter but refrained from taking any further action against them.

Florin had to leave the place in Mitrokhin’s car and under the protection of his bodyguards, since he had reasons to believe the FSRB men might try destroying the images he had made. He is preparing to report the incident to the city police department.

Sakhalin authorities’ attempts to impose new spelling rules tantamount to censorship

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The City Duma in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk has circulated among the regional media an instruction letter telling them to capitalize both words in this legislative body’s name [contrary to the established norms of Russian spelling – Translator.]

This is not the first attempt by Sakhalin authorities to teach journalists how to write in Russian. In March 2010, Governor Aleksandr Khoroshavin’s press service, currently renamed Information Policy Department, already tried to dictate to them “new” grammar rules by demanding that the words “governor” and “government” be capitalized, too. Media editors were even invited to special conferences on the issue (see digest 468).

Over the four years since then, the “teaching process” has deepened and broadened, embracing lower-standing authorities as well. The way officials look at it, once they’ve decided so and written it into a formal decree, the journalists must obey their “linguistic instructions” forgetting all about the established Russian-language rules and existing practices, and must do so in defiance of the fact that even the Kremlin’s official mouthpiece, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, writes “governor” and “government” in lowercase letters.

“They [the authorities] feel free to issue official orders on whatever subject they like,” the newspaper Sovetsky Sakhalin wrote, suggesting that the regional authorities may see this as a way to “gain additional importance” in the eyes of the people and make them believe the two capital letters in the City Duma’s name reflect the “special” role this legislative body plays in their lives.

Also, the newspaper cited prominent linguists as saying that, on the contrary, too many capital letters in words tend to blur the meanings these words carry; and that modern Russian in general, and its version used in modern Russian media in particular, show a trend toward simplification, thus making the choice in favour of lowercase letters a natural and logical one.

Spelling is by far not a trifling matter in government-media relations. Attempts by half-educated individuals with no philological background to change spelling rules at their discretion are tantamount to censorship – a censorship of form. And in journalism, form and content are known to be inseparable.

Reporter attacked, his camera damaged in Krasnodar Region

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The city police department in Krasnodar has refused to start legal proceedings in the wake of an attack in Druzhba (Friendship) Square on Dmitry Shevchenko, press secretary and deputy coordinator with the North Caucasian Ecological Watch (Ekovakhta). The attack was recorded by Shevchenko’s video camera before it was knocked out from his hand by Anatoly Dymov, supervisor with EcoClean Ltd., who was in charge of the work in progress in the square at the time.

EcoClean is a company that regularly contracts for pruning and felling trees in Krasnodar parks and squares, while green activists see it as their public duty to oversee the way the company carries out its work. This time, Shevchenko asked Dymov to show the documents authorising the tree-felling in Druzhba Square. The supervisor reacted aggressively, threatening to “break the camera and not only it” (see www.youtube.com).

Dymov, who knocked the camera out of Shevchenko’s hand, wrote in his explanations to the police that he “only waved a hand”. Evidently, Police Lt. Babich, who was assigned to investigate the circumstances, found that explanation sufficient for refusing to start a criminal case against the attacker. “A check-up has shown that even if Dymov did utter some threats, he never tried to carry those out in reality – those were mere words,” Babich’s official report says.

Indeed, Dymov did not threaten Shevchenko in writing. The refusal to start legal proceedings was approved and signed by Police Lt.-Col. Kazakhov. No one bothered to at least question the victim or eyewitnesses. Ekovakhta intends to protest the refusal.

Regional administration in Omsk grows ever less transparent

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Journalists are constantly getting in the way; barring the press from government meetings time and again should help make the Omsk Region administration’s work “more efficient”, officials at the regional Information Policy Department told media representatives recently.

They walked the talk by asking the press out of the conference room after just two of a total of 13 items of the agenda had been discussed – on the pretext that the rest of the latest meeting would be devoted to “security issues”. Yet as the newspapers Kommercheskiye Vesti and Biznes-Kurs have found out, what the conferees discussed behind closed doors that day were totally different matters, like cuts in budgetary spending on physical culture and sports by more than 1 billion roubles; on employment by 217 million roubles; and quite significantly on voluntary resettlement of compatriots, energy saving, and reorganisation of medical institutions.

Right after his inauguration in May 2011, Omsk Region Governor Viktor Nazarov made this pretty bold statement: “We must bridge the gap between power and the population: people must understand they are the ones who rule, not the ones who are governed.” And later, as he was getting accustomed to his new official position, he made similarly impressive statements to the same effect, like “Officials should remember they are no more than the people’s hired hands”. Obviously, his message was that the power system should be made as open and transparent as possible.

In the two-odd years of Nazarov’s stay at the helm, it looks like life has made a few corrections to the course he laid out. Local political analysts predicted, back at the start, that the governor would grow “more regular” with time. Unfortunately for the press and the local population, their predictions have come true.

Dispute over a government award’s authenticity finally resolved in Orel

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Zavodskoy district court in Orel on 9 October passed a decision on Albert Aliyev’s legal claim against ZAO Argumenty I Fakty (AIF), finding that the latter’s report on an event of major public interest was not defamatory.

The history of the conflict is rather intricate. A court of law some time ago found Aliyev guilty of beating another person and sentenced him to a probationary term of imprisonment. Real imprisonment was mitigated to probation in recognition of the fact that Aliyev was a holder of an Order of Valour, according to an AIF-Chernozemye report. Yet when the victim’s lawyer decided to check the relevant presidential decree’s number cited by Aliyev in court, he found out that the said decree had nothing at all to do with awards. The victim and his lawyer appealed, doubting the authenticity of the award held by Aliyev, which action AIF-Orel reported early in February this year.

Aliyev lodged a counterclaim in defence of honour and dignity against the victim and lawyer, which later led to the involvement of AIF-Orel, and the mother company AIF as its founder and publisher, in the case as co-defendants. The claimant demanded a disclaimer of the report on a “fake” award, along with two statements he saw as “smearing” – on his “involvement in extortion and theft schemes” and on his service in Chechnya in the capacity of “a prison servant”.

It should be noted that Albert Aliyev asked AIF-Orel at one time to publish his reply statement as part of a pre-trial settlement. Yet, according to the editor, the text of the statement did not comply with existing legal requirements. The newspaper invited the author to rewrite his reply, but he refused to and lodged a legal claim demanding half a million roubles in moral damages.

In the course of the judicial proceedings, the court filed an inquiry with the presidential administration to find out if Aliyev had ever been honoured with an Order of Valour. It turned out he had, but in line with a presidential decree the number of which differed from the one written into Aliyev’s military card (see digest 672). The defence insisted that most of the statements being challenged did not relate to the claimant or were not defamatory. The sole “smearing” phrase in the publication (that Aliyev had beaten another person) was essentially truthful, as confirmed by the relevant court decision in full legal force.

The Zavodskoy court turned down Aliyev’s legal claim in full.


Freelance reporter in Krasnodar Region accused of disclosing private data

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Timashevsky inter-district department of the Krasnodar Region Investigative Committee is conducting an investigation in response to a complaint by a retiree from the city of Timashevsk about a freelance reporter for the local newspaper Antisprut’s allegedly disclosing his private data.

It all began with a quarrel between two neighbours that led to one of them hitting the other with a stick and leaving him without a tooth. The victim went to a clinic to have the beating officially certified. The expert conclusions issued by the medics listed, in line with existing regulations, all the health problems the man had as of the date of his medical examination, among them the fact of his suffering from paradenitis.

The journalist who reported on the quarrel, with reference to those medical conclusions, alleged that the tooth might have fallen out not as a result of the stick strike but as a natural consequence of the dental disease. The beaten retiree asked the investigative authority to start proceedings against the reporter for his making public private details that did not directly pertain to the subject matter of his report on the incident.

An investigator with the Timashevsky inter-district department agreed that the journalist’s actions constituted an offence substantiating the start of criminal proceedings against him, and said the case likely would end up in court.


2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” drawing to a close

The 2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is drawing to a close. The deadline for submitting works for this year’s contest 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.

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