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28 Ноября 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 685

24 November 2014


EVENT OF THE WEEK

Journalist dies in road accident in Kamchatka

Igor Kravchuk, a GDF correspondent and reporter for the newspaper Kamchatskoye Vremya, died in a car crash on 20 November.

A group of journalists in a minibus was en route to the opening of a new bridge over the Kamchatka River in the village of Klyuchi when the bus suddenly slipped on the icy road, turned over and fell into the ditch, cutting down several trees. The crash ended lethally for Kravchuk, 50, and for Vladimir Zhukovsky, 38, a deputy head of the TV/Radio Company “Kamchatka”. Four other reporters and the driver received injuries of different gravity.

Kamchatka Region Governor Vladimir Ilyukhin has expressed condolences to the victims’ families and friends. “It’s a horrific tragedy that took the lives of talented people. Sudden death caught them in the process of work – on the way to fulfil their duty in the Ust-Kamchatsky district. This is a great loss for our region,” the governor said. Local authorities have promised to help the late journalists’ families.

Zhukovsky left a widow expecting a baby and Kravchuk a widow with four children.

Igor Kravchuk was well known – and not only on the peninsula – as an investigative journalist. His last story, “Atomic Submarine ‘St. George the Victory-bearer’ Racketed” was posted on the debri-dv.ru web portal on 11 November, and a continuation was due shortly.

In 2005, Kravchuk’s publications in the newspaper Ekspress-Kamchatka caught the eye of the jury panel of the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”. The panellists spoke highly of his stories “The Worse the Affairs, the More Secrecy There Is”, “The Fewer the Ships, the More Admirals There Are”, “A Family of Judges Returns Jail Verdicts by the Score”, “Werewolves Get Away from Chase”, “Glory to Sailors! Shame to the Navy?” and “Russia’s Saviour”, and nominated him, among others, for the grand prize.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation expresses its sincerest condolences to the late journalists’ families.


RUSSIA

Governor’s legal claim against Biznes-Kurs weekly turned down in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Kuibyshevsky district court in Omsk has turned down a legal claim filed by Sergei Mizya, a former secret service officer turned adviser to the regional governor, against the Biznes-Kurs (BK) magazine. The latter posted on its website an open statement by Vladimir Schneider, general director of the Omsk-based Popov Radio Factory, urging the regional FSB department to check Mizya’s statements for potential signs of “libel, high treason, subversion and abuse of authority”.

An ordinary person might find it strange how Schneider could possibly see such a bunch of serious criminal offences in an interview in which the governor’s adviser negatively assessed the situation at the radio factory, leading the claimant to conclude that his opponent’s assessments were aimed at “discrediting a military-industrial complex facility and thus directly undermining the defence and external security systems of Russia and a number of other sovereign states”.

However, no less strange are Mizya’s own claims to the BK website which only reprinted Schneider’s statement originally published on the radio factory’s official website and then reposted by interomsk.ru and several other news websites. Yet Mizya decided that only Biznes-Kurs undermined his reputation, and claimed 100,000 roubles in moral damages.

While his legal claim was under consideration in court, the FSB department officially explained to Schneider that it had not found anything criminal or threatening national security in his opponent’s statements. Nor did the court find anything wrong with BK’s posting the general director’s statement on its website, because in line with the Media Law a media outlet “shall not be liable for publishing information reproducing official press service or news agency publications”.

The gubernatorial adviser’s legal claim was rejected in full, although this decision has not yet come into full legal force and may be challenged before a higher-standing judicial authority.

Media holding Periodika Kubani auctioned off in Krasnodar Region

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Krasnodar Region State Property Fund on 12 November held an auction to sell 100% of the authorised capital of Periodika Kubani Newspaper Publishers’, setting the initial price at 2,199,000 roubles. The region’s best-known publishing company went through the privatisation process in 2012–2013 and was assessed at 2,195,000 roubles. At one time, it had established 45 regional newspapers, but after changing its status to a limited-liability company’s, it launched several commercial projects of its own, such as the release of supplements to district newspapers with updates on the work of the regional Legislative Assembly and administration, as well as engagement in advertising and publishing activities.

Although Periodika Kubani does not own any real estate, its assets looked impressive enough until recently and included 5 GAZel trucks, a luxury Toyota, a garage, office equipment, a large printing machine and many other valuables. Of the 45 district and city newspapers it founded, about a dozen are quite profitable. The company has always had a stable pool of customers, and state orders amounted to 38% of the total in the first half of this year, as reported on the media holding’s website. Therefore, the news about such a rich company’s assessment at slightly more than 2 million roubles caused bewilderment among regional journalists and politicians.

The auction involved two Moscow-based legal entities, OOO Anteis and ZAO Vektor Nedvizhimosti, and one individual, Igor Tarasov, who won the bid by offering 2,299,000 for Periodika Kubani. On the same day, he also purchased the region’s oldest and most profitable newspaper, Novorossiyskiy Rabochiy. Mr Tarasov, the media holding’s new owner, is based and registered in Moscow.

Local analysts do not expect any major changes to Periodika’s staff list or editorial policy; they say the content of the constituent newspapers will be determined by the local administrations, as before. The company’s managers, too, will stay in their offices, as the regional administration’s Media Policy Department assured the sold media holding’s staffers one day after the auction.

Court in Moscow Region rejects local resident’s legal claim against journalist and bailiffs

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The city court in Klin, Moscow Region, has completed the hearings of a legal claim in defence of honour and dignity lodged against Klinskaya Nedelya reporter Olga Rozhkova and the city bailiffs by local resident Viktor Boyko, who happened to dislike the story “After Industrial Dispute, Bailiffs Came”, published by the newspaper back in June 2010.

Boyko, the main character of the publication, was enraged by a bailiff’s phrase about him allegedly “shouting that he had a rifle and threatening to shoot down all of us”. The plaintiff demanded that the defendants disclaim that statement, which he called “untrue and smearing”, and pay him 300,000 roubles in moral damages.

The defence statement prepared by lawyers from the Voronezh-based Media Defence Centre, boiled down to the presumption that neither the author of the article nor the media outlet that carried it must be held liable for a disputed statement. The words cited in the story were uttered by a government official, a bailiff, which was clearly indicated in the text. Besides, the defendant’s representatives called attention to the fact that the plaintiff did not justify the large amount of compensation he was claiming.

The court turned down Boyko’s legal claim in full.


BELARUS

Journalists in Vitebsk to be tried for posing against graffiti background

On 5 November, marked as an international day to “Stand Up for Journalism”, members of the Belarussian Association of Journalists (BAJ) posed for a photo in front of a building with graffiti featuring cages and little paper cranes flying out of them. Now the participants in that photo session are being summoned to Vitebsk police, where protocols are being made, charging them with involvement in “an unauthorised action”.

Journalist Dmitry Kazakevich was ordered on 18 November to report to the Zheleznodorozhny district law enforcement and crime prevention police unit head, Aleksandr Rybakov. “A police officer called me on the phone and told me to come over and explain my participation in an unauthorised action,” Kazakevich told the GDF. “I was surprised to hear that, since I hadn’t taken part in any such actions. As it turned out, he referred to the taking of group photo pictures that were later posted in Facebook. The police officer also showed me screenshots of the websites where those pictures were posted, and noted that the captions said it was ‘an action’, although I didn’t see that word written there – the captions only said journalists had held a photo session. If you look at those photos, you’ll see we are not holding any placards, not shouting, and not demanding anything. So I see the charges against me as absolutely ungrounded, and I wrote in the protocol that I disagreed with that police officer’s wording.”

Yet the protocol exists, and Kazakevich is to stand trial on 28 November.

Several other persons have received similar phone summons. BAJ member Konstantin Mordvintsev recalls his visit to the police: “Aleksandr Rybakov made a protocol of an alleged violation of Administrative Code Article 23.34, describing me as a participant of an unauthorised action. He said I’d expressed my public interests, views, etc. by posing for a photo in front of an abandoned House of Culture. I tried to explain things to him and said the building features very nice graffiti that many Vitebsk residents, including journalists, like so much. Are those images ‘seditious’ too, or do they, too, ‘express some public attitudes’? Will the artist who drew those images be held liable along with us?”

Rybakov said the artist would be left alone because the graffiti were “drawn a long time ago”. Mordvintsev refused to provide any written explanations, citing Article 27 of the Belarussian Constitution which relieves a person of the need to bear witness against him- or herself.

[Belarussian Asociation of Journalists report, 19 November]


OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Vladivostok journalists advised to say “Kirov gang” instead of “Maritime guerrillas”

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Police in Vladivostok have discovered in a local bookshop a book entitled “Strike Units against Putin”, written by Ilya Falkovsky and Aleksandr Litoy. This political analysis, released by the Moscow-based Algorithm Publishers’, consists of two parts: biographies of Russian nationalists, among them the “Maritime guerrillas”, the killer of lawyer Stanislav Markelov, and others; and articles by journalist Litoy, including those about the anti-extremism police unit (E Centre), inter-ethnic conflicts, etc., first published by Novaya Gazeta vo Vladivostoke (NGV) and other media.

“The book is written from an anti-fascist standpoint and does not justify terrorism – on the contrary, it condemns terrorism,” the authors told NGV journalists.

This notwithstanding, the Maritime prosecutor’s office has decided that the book calls for acts of aggression and contains statements justifying terrorism. The regional prosecutor, Sergei Besschastny, asked the Frunzensky district court in Vladivostok to declare the book extremist based on a psycholinguistic study carried out by Nadezhda Oleshkovich, an expert with the Vladivostok State University of Economics and Services.

Defence lawyer Pavel Marakulin, who represents the interests of one of the authors, asked the same court, in his turn, to order a new, independent study at Nizhny Novgorod University, to be carried out in line with Article 79 of the RF Code of Administrative Procedure. He maintains that the study made in Vladivostok was unsatisfactory because Oleshkovich “is not a legal expert and not competent enough to carry out such a study all by herself”. The district court agreed to order a new study of the text, but ruled to get it done by the Justice Ministry’s Maritime Forensic Studies Laboratory in Vladivostok at the authors’ expense. Dissatisfied with this decision, Marakulin complained to the higher-standing regional court and filed a second request for the new study not to be carried out in Vladivostok because the forensic laboratory is an institution controlled by the Maritime Justice Ministry Department which is involved in the judicial proceedings on the plaintiff’s side, and is therefore potentially able to exert pressure on local forensic experts.

Novaya journalists are wondering if it was by chance that Vladivostok police came across the “seditious” book in a local bookshop and decided to have the case considered locally, far away from the capital and the Moscow press.

Marakulin suspects this is a way the E Centre may be attempting to improve its efficiency indicators: “Chasing ‘guerrillas’ in the mountains of Manchuria is expensive and dangerous; at that, it’s a long time since they left the Maritime Region, thank God. So [the E Centre] may have decided to have its crime solution plan fulfilled by labelling this book ‘extremist’ – absolutely groundlessly, as we’ll do our best to prove in court.”

The way Falkovsky looks at it, the “Vladivostok trial was initiated because the book contains a chapter on Maritime guerrillas and features a cover picture of them. With the absolutely loose interpretation of ‘extremist activity’ in Russia, the authorities may identify as ‘extremist’ any artistic expression at all, be it a book or a painting.”

The “Maritime guerrillas” have been found guilty and convicted. The popular video “The Maritime guerrillas’ last interview” has been put on the list of extremist materials. The journalists have been unofficially advised to call the extremist group the “Kirov gang” instead, according to Vassily Avchenko, author of the article “Prosecutor’s Office against Strike Units” (newspaper Novaya Gazeta vo Vladivostoke, No. 29). “Does this mean one should not even think about the “guerrillas” or analyse the reasons for their appearance in the Far East?” journalists are wondering. Following this logic, the authorities may go as far as declaring “extremist” Dostoyevsky’s writings and removing these from the school curricula someday, or Konstantin Simonov’s WWII verse, or the diaries of Boris Savinkov, a terrorist and Social-Revolutionary Party leader of the early 20th century…

Journalists in Urals barred from attending high-resonance trials

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Urals journalists have been barred on several occasions recently from attending trials causing broad public repercussions. On 21 November, for example, Judge Tatyana Denega of the Verkh-Isetsky district court in Yekaterinburg asked the press out of the courtroom as she was deciding on which measure of restraint to take against Oktyabrsky district head Aleksandr Miroshnik, charged with office abuse during his previous tenure as general director of a municipal public transport company.

Judge Eduard Izmailov of the Oktyabrsky district court has repeatedly closed the doors to the press when considering the high-resonance case of photographer Dmitry Loshagin, accused of murdering his wife Yulia Prokopyeva-Loshagina, a fashion model. The court proceedings have lasted for nearly a year.

Denega and Izmailov may as well remember the recent precedent with their colleague Klavdiya Sutyagina, a judge of the Serov district court, who seriously hampered the media coverage of a celebrated case in which a high-ranking official was charged with unlawfully acquiring an apartment. The Serov city prosecutor at the time lodged a legal claim against the local administration and Andrei Tsaregorodtsev, head of the City Utility Services Committee, in the wake of the latter’s illegally receiving from the mayor’s office an apartment of 71.2 sq. m in area. The prosecutor demanded cancelling the deal and ejecting the corrupt official from the apartment.

On 16 April, the Regional Council of Judges received three complaints at once from Olga Malinova, publisher of the local newspaper Rabota i Otdykh, about Sutyagina’s barring Malinova and other reporters from an open court hearing because of their profession, and moreover, denying them access to information. Specifically, at one of the final court sittings on 6 March, the judge ordered Malinova out and did not allow her back into the courtroom even on the next day, when the verdict was announced. The final decision, by the way, was partial: while depriving the official of the illegally acquired apartment, the court did not insist on his ejection.

Another complaint was about the way Judge Sutyagina explained to Malinova the reasons for her keeping the press at arm’s length. She said reporters could only be admitted to the courtroom “in the event of their complying with special court procedures”. Yet as established by a commission appointed by the Council of Judges to check the facts, Sutyagina acted in violation of Paragraphs 4, 5, 6, 12 and 23 of Supreme Court Resolution No.35 of 13 December 2012, “On the openness and transparency of justice administration and on journalists’ access to information about court performance”, which stipulates that hampering reporters’ work is prohibited, and the deliberate creation of conditions complicating or preventing journalists’ coverage of judicial proceedings constitutes a breach of judicial ethics. At that, no special authorisation to make audio recordings is required, while the use of other journalistic equipment in the courtroom shall be authorised by the judge. The commission also found that Sutyagina breached the Code of Judicial Ethics (Article 13.1-3) by failing to co-operate with the media in order to strengthen public trust in the judiciary.

The Regional Council of Judges convened a meeting of its Qualifying Board to officially reprimand Sutyagina. While some may find this punishment too lenient, other judicial officials likely will take it into consideration in their future work.


NEWS FROM PARTNERS

St. Petersburg Human Rights Council’s statement protesting against press freedom violations

We are sad and indignant to state that attacks on what remains of Russia’s more or less independent media – the last isles of free thought in an ocean of falsehoods and brazen lies broadcast on the radio and TV in evident attempts to whip up the atmosphere of hatred and obscurantism – have been growing worse day by day.

We all know the history of the Dozhd TV channel, which the authorities attempted to shut down on a thought-up pretext, although everybody understood that the underlying reason was the channel’s relative independence and desire to provide unbiased coverage. Now the clouds are gathering over the Ekho Moskvy radio station, and again on an utterly hollow pretext – a Twitter posting made by one of the station’s staffers.

Echo has a reputation for giving the floor to both people respected for their liberal views and to the most odious oppressors of freedom and democracy in this country; the radio station has always sought to be “above the fight” and to enable its listeners to themselves decide on whose side the truth is. Ekho, a radio station with millions-strong audiences in and beyond Russia, does not believe its listeners are easy to fool, and it provides the authorities with essential feedback from the intelligent part of the population without which the ruling elite would go blind and deaf.

We won’t even attempt to guess where to a blind-and-deaf government might lead the people...

The Ekho Moskvy radio station remains for the international community the last fragment of the broken showcase of Russian democracy...

We hereby urge all responsible citizens to stand up for Ekho Moskvy!

19 November 2014


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