21 Декабря 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 688

15 December 2014


Russian and Ukrainian media group representatives meet in Vienna

A regular meeting of Russian and Ukrainian media group representatives has been held in the Vienna office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović. The conferees discussed problems facing reporters covering the situation in eastern Ukraine, specifically security issues.

Other topics included media self-regulation during the on-going conflict, and ways of preventing the development of confrontation between journalists in the two countries. The meeting participants urged the Ukrainian authorities to investigate each attack on media workers in Ukraine, and called on all parties to ensure journalists’ security and freedom of work, and on journalists themselves, not to participate in propaganda and to display professional solidarity.

A report on professional and ethical standards was delivered by Sarajevo Media Centre Director Boro Kontić, author of the documentary film “Years Eaten by Lions” about journalism and hate speech in former Yugoslavia in 1991-2010; he is a specialist whose experience is particularly valuable for our journalists today.

The conference involved representatives of the Russian Journalists’ Union, Glasnost Defence Foundation, National Journalists’ Union of Ukraine, the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine, experts in journalistic ethics, and representatives of international journalistic associations, such as the International Press Institute, International Federation of Journalists, European Federation of Journalists, and the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

“The agreements reached among the journalists’ unions today show the importance of this dialogue and commitment to overcoming the difficulties that have faced the media in and around Ukraine in the past months,” Mijatović said.

The conferees intend to further their co-operation. The next, fifth, meeting is scheduled for February.


2014 Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” handed to Igor Tsagoyev

A ceremony was held at Moscow’s Central House of Journalists on 15 December to honour the winner of, and nominees for, this year’s Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, which 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.

In different years, the award went to people thought to be the pride of Russian journalism, among them Elvira Goryukhina, Anna Politkovskaya, Galina Kovalskaya, Otto Latsis, Dmitry Furman, Boris Dubin, and others.

The 14th annual competition this year attracted journalists from dozens of Russian cities – from Stavropol to Vladivostok and from Pskov to Yakutsk. At the final stage, the jury selected the most impressive works by 12 participants, including:

  • Yelena Racheva, Novaya Gazeta, Moscow;
  • Lev Shlosberg, Pskovskaya Guberniya, Pskov;
  • Alexei Tarasov, Novaya Gazeta, Krasnoyarsk;
  • Yelena Florina, inter-kavkaz.com, Moscow;
  • Dmitry Florin, inter-kavkaz.com, Moscow;
  • Sergei Khazov-Kassia, The New Times, Moscow;
  • Oksana Trufanova, Osobaya Bukva web publication, Chelyabinsk;
  • Larisa Sheremet, Volgogradskaya Pravda, Volgograd;
  • Zakir Magomedov, daptar.ru, Dagestan;
  • Victoria Ivleva, Novaya Gazeta, Moscow;
  • Igor Tsagoyev, Nevolya magazine, Nalchik; and
  • Natalya Fonina, Arsenyevskiye Vesti, Vladivostok.

After yet another round of debating and voting, the 2014 Award winner was named – Igor Tsagoyev. The group of nominees includes Yelena Racheva, Dmitry Florin, Oksana Trufanova, and Victoria Ivleva.

The final session involved not only the Jury members present in Moscow, among them Alexei Simonov, GDF president and Jury chairman; Igor Naidyonov, Russky Reporter magazine special reporter and winner of the 2005 Andrei Sakharov Award; Gregory White, head of The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow office; Vladimir Voronov, Sovershenno Sekretno columnist and winner of the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Award; and Pilar Bonet, El Pais correspondent – but also Jury members in other cities and countries. Taking part in the voting by e-mail were Miyasat Muslimova, professor with the Russian Language and Literature Department, State University of Dagestan – in Makhachkala; Tatyana Sedykh, Moyo Poberezhye newspaper editor and winner of the 2009 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Vanino, Khabarovsk Region; Yuri Chernyshov, freelance journalist – in Saratov; Georgy Borodyansky, Novaya Gazeta correspondent and winner of the 2011 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Omsk, Siberia; Susanne Scholl, freelance journalist, in Vienna, Austria; Peter Vince, the Sakharov Award founder – in Kiev, Ukraine; and Anna Lebedeva, editor of Moy Kavkaz newspaper and winner of the 2006 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Rostov-on-Don.

All the finalists received honorary diplomas; the nominees and laureate – diplomas and monetary prizes. Also, diplomas were awarded to the media outlets that published the works of the winner and nominees – the web publication Osobaya Bukva (Moscow), the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (Moscow) and the web magazine Nevolya (Moscow).


Media representatives in Novosibirsk urge authorities to fully investigate attacks on journalists

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Journalists in Novosibirsk have decided to unite in order to show the authorities they deserve to be respected. Representatives of more than 20 regional and federal media and the regional branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union adopted a joint statement urging the regional prosecutor’s office and the city police department to duly react to attacks on journalists that have occurred increasingly often in the city lately.

The latest happened on 8 December, when two unidentified thugs beat Yevgeniy Mezdrikov, chief editor of the Taiga.info news website. Colleagues are convinced the attack was deliberate and pre-planned. “Before carrying out the assault, they’d thoroughly studied our office’s work schedule,” the website’s business manager Viktor Chistyakov told the GDF. “They knew we received large volumes of mail delivered by couriers every day. That’s why no one was surprised to see two ‘couriers’ appearing in the office with boxes in hand. One of them bent over the chief editor’s desk and asked him if he was Yevgeniy. Upon hearing yes, the other man hit the editor in the face.”

Correspondent Yaroslav Vlasov, who happened to be nearby, threw a chair at one of the attackers and dashed after him, but was knocked down by a professional blow in the face. Attracted by the noise, Chistyakov rushed into the office, followed by other staffers, causing the thugs to quickly retreat.

“If colleagues hadn’t come to Yevgeniy’s rescue, he likely would have received much graver traumas. It’s just that the criminals hadn’t the time to carry out their evil plan to the end,” Taiga.info project director Aleksandr Bayanov said.

Novosibirsk Governor Vladimir Gorodetsky sees this as a pre-ordered crime, and one politically motivated at that. Moreover, he suspects it was a provocation against him, the governor, in person, because just hours after the beating word went around in the internet that it was he who was the mastermind behind the attack. The governor promised to journalists he would personally oversee the course of investigation, which he said would be “seen through to the end, until we understand who’s interested in destabilising the situation”.

However, local law enforcers do not seem to share the governor’s concerns. They have started legal proceedings under Criminal Code Article 116 (“Beating motivated by hooliganism”) – and this despite the joint statement’s passage pointing to the fact that Mezdrikov was assaulted at his workplace, while doing his regular journalistic work. This means the attack falls under the effects of Article 144 (“Interference with a journalist’s lawful professional activity”) and is punishable by up to six-year imprisonment, which is a far more severe sanction than that for “ordinary beating”.

Yet local police have preferred not to apply the latter article at all: they see nothing wrong about violence being used against journalists, evidently thinking this doesn’t amount to anything more than ordinary hooliganism which, in their view, is “no deterrent” to reporters’ work. For example, on 10 September, as a TV crew with the Precedent television show was shooting a story about an employment company suspected of fraud, attackers smashed the videographer’s camera and hit him in the face. The city police ignored the latter circumstance altogether, deciding to start criminal proceedings only under Article 167 (“Deliberate destruction of, or damage to, another person’s property”) – and only a month later, after several insistent appeals by the TV channel’s management to the police department. Nor did they notice that the same persons on 11 September attempted to attack a Novosibirsk TV/Radio Company film crew, and threatened the journalists with violence. By the way, one of the attackers – a business company owner – was identified, but it was journalists, not law enforcers, who tracked him down. “After they were tipped by the journalists as to his whereabouts, the police questioned him and let him go,” the joint statement says. Naturally, he hastened to escape and was put on a police wanted list, as it often happens in these kinds of cases.

“We insistently urge you to check up all the facts mentioned above; also, we hope that under the oversight of the regional prosecutor and the city police chief those criminal offences will be re-qualified more accurately,” the journalists wrote.

Their message got through to the addressees, giving them some information to ponder over. “The criminal case opened after the attack on the Precedent film crew is being currently checked up by the prosecutor’s office in terms of its potential re-qualification as one falling under Criminal Code Article 144,” the Main Interior Ministry Department said in its 12 December official reply to the Novosibirsk Journalists’ Union.

Blanks in contract murder investigation in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The regional court in Stavropol has continued hearings of the contract murder case of Nikolai Potapov, a human rights defender, environmentalist, and editor of the newspaper SelSovet.

A former head of the Prigorodny district council, Potapov, 66, was the founder, editor and author of a newspaper that he used to print out on his PC printer and personally deliver in his car around the village, tossing it into residents’ mailboxes. He reported on power abuses and his personal efforts to fight corruption. He was lethally wounded near his home in Bykogorka village in May 2013. His killers were promptly apprehended. The four men in the dock today are three Vinogradov brothers (one of them a former police officer) from the Budennovsky district, and a go-between, Aleksandr Mustafayev, from the Predgorny district.

The indictment read out by the prosecutor has many blank points in it. As we have reported (see digest 666), the mastermind behind the editor’s murder remains unidentified. Now, in the course of the trial, it has also become clear that the investigators failed to find out many other details about the organisers and executors of the killing.

For example, Mustafayev received the orders to kill Potapov from an unknown man, whose name and motives are still unclear. Mustafayev purchased a gun to carry out his plot – but who sold it to him, or where, is still a mystery. Mustafayev happened to learn that one of the accused, Sergei Vinogradov, had come to Mineralniye Vody “needing money desperately”. But who told Mustafayev so and who advised him to approach the would-be hitman? Vinogradov the killer purchased the cartridges to the revolver himself – but again, who from?

“How could an investigator, a major of justice, possibly write such a [helpless] indictment, and how could it possibly be endorsed by the prosecution?” the regional newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta, which has closely followed the proceedings, wrote. It also wondered how it so happens that “four penniless bums needing money so badly they agreed to kill a man they did not know to get paid” have now hired very expensive lawyers to defend them in court.

The article carried by Otkrytaya is entitled “Expensive Defence Lawyers for Destitute Hitmen”. So who are these lawyers? One is Irina Zheleznyakova, wife of the Predgorny district court chairman, Vladimir Zheleznyakov. She is one of the Stavropol Region’s most expensive lawyers, and she is now defending Mustafayev, the killers’ intermediary. Two other lawyers, too, have served exclusively the bureaucratic elite. For example, a few years ago they defended the Federal Migration Service Pyatigorsk Department chief and his subordinates, who had unlawfully kept five Uzbek citizens in custody in a cellar. They charge a lot for their services. So who is paying them now?

Murderer in Karelia sues journalist for calling him murderer ahead of trial

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

A lethal incident with knifing that left one man killed and several others wounded occurred back in the spring of 2009. Having received the case files from law enforcement, a lady reporter for a local newspaper retold the story, allowing herself to use two emotionally coloured phrases. In her article “Yefrem’s Case Goes to Court”, she called the accused a “brutal bandit” and a “butcher”. As confirmed later by the investigators and the sentence passed in court – 23 years in jail – both assessments were relevant to the criminal story described.

After 16 months of investigation and the trial, the killer’s defence lawyer challenged the sentence before several higher-standing judicial authorities, including the RF Supreme Court, but the original decision was left in force and the killer has been serving his time in prison ever since.

So the article’s author was very much surprised to learn about a legal claim lodged against her by the convicted murderer, who charged her – five years after – with spreading “false” information about him; he demanded 1 million roubles in moral damages, claiming that the publication had “put pressure on the judges” to punish him as severely as they did.

The convict argues that since no court decision had been passed yet by the date of the publication, the author had no right to call him “brutal bandit” and “butcher”. Indeed, she should have “played safe” by mentioning the fact that a trial was still pending; without such a note, a murderer could not be called a murderer. It is because of this categoricity of the author’s assessments made at a time when the investigation was still not over that now allows the killer – who can be rightfully described as such today – to be trying to sue her many years after.

Strange as it may seem, the lady journalist is indeed in a predicament, since she did make a mistake. Her defence lawyer, however, hopes to persuade the court she was justified in acting as she did. First, she did not mention the convict’s real name and only called him by his underworld nickname, “Yefrem”. Second, she had officially received the underlying information from law enforcement and only outlined in her article what the criminal case was all about. Third, the investigation had already completed by the date of the publication, and the case files contained clear evidence of Yefrem’s guilt. He killed the victim and cut several other people so brutally that the story’s emotional language looked well justified.

The journalist denies that her publication might influence the judges in any way as they were deciding on the measure of punishment for the villain. In the process, they considered only the gravity of the offence he committed – hence the severe sentence they passed.

Earlier, the convicted murderer lodged similar civil claims against the Interior Ministry, Investigative Committee, and other authorities; over the time he has spent behind bars, he has filed with a district court a total of 9 such claims.

Crime reporters should know that there is no limitation period for civil claims on defamation, so they may expect to receive “greetings from the past” anytime – even when a crime story has long been forgotten and there is no evidence available to prove anything in court, if need be.

Web portal in Voronezh accused of violating advertising regulations

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Voronezh branch of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has received a complaint about an alleged violation of the advertising law: a poster fixed on a wall of the city market building features an animal against the background of the Ukrainian flag, with the text “How much is Ukrainian blue fox in Voronezh?” printed below [the deliberately misspelt Russian equivalent of “blue fox” is consonant with a Russian curse word – Translator.]. The claimant sees this ad as “unethical”, and notes that “The vaguely-formulated advertising slogan, and the choice of the graphic imagery, indicate that the advertiser may be willing to cause an inadequate reaction on the part of city residents – considering the high level of political tensions in the neighbouring country – and to sow the seeds of discord, mistrust, and aggression in people’s hearts”. The ad was posted by the management of the city news portal 36on.ru, the FAS department has established.

“In line with Article 5.3.8 of the Advertising Law, any advertisements abusing … official state symbols, such as national flags, emblems and anthems, as well as international organisations’ symbols, shall be banned as wrongful,” FAS explained to the GDF. “The rectangular structure featured in the 36on.ru advertisement, consisting of two horizontal straps of equal size – a blue strap over a yellow one – strongly resembles the national flag of Ukraine and, as part of the ad, is generally associated by viewers with the said state symbol.”

“Article 5.6 of the same law forbids the use for advertising purposes of curse words, obscene or insulting images, similes or expressions, including those related to a person’s gender, race, ethnicity, profession, social status, age or language, as well as to official state symbols (national flags, emblems and anthems), religious symbols, cultural heritage items (historical and cultural monuments) of the peoples of the Russian Federation, and cultural heritage items on the UNESCO World Heritage List,” FAS said.

The advertisement posted by 36on.ru does violate Article 5.6 of the Advertising Law, which is inadmissible, the agency concluded, adding that pursuant to Article 38.6 of the same law, the advertiser is subject to liability for the law violations it committed.


Dear Mr Simonov and Mr Timoshenko:

It is Vitaly A. Chelyshev who advised me to turn to you for help. I am not a professional journalist but an environmentalist who contributes reports to newspapers from time to time. I’ve worked as director of two natural parks (Daurian and Caucasian), and since 2004 I’ve been an environmental activist and public chairman of the Adygei Republic’s branch of the All-Russia Environmental Association.

For the third year running, I’ve been struggling against land and water pollution in Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District by waste from the Kievo-Zhuraki Pig Farm. I’ve written many articles on the subject (14 of them have been published by the republican newspaper Zakubanye alone), and sustained many attempts by the pig farm management to bring me to trial for “defamation” and “deliberately false reporting”. The republican prosecutor’s office has tried to find fault with me for my publication “The Silence of the Lambs”, which in their view contained several “extremist” statements.

Now they are putting full-scale pressure on me, judging by the numerous legal claims lodged against me by different parties that are clearly coordinated from a single centre – either personally by Vyacheslav Derev, the pig farm owner, who represents the Karachai-Cherkess Republic in the RF Federation Council, or by those Adygei authorities which are directly interested in seeing this particular business flourishing. Prior to that, they attempted to bribe me, then to intimidate me, and now they seem to be determined to get me convicted as an extremist – an outcome that likely would be hailed by the Adygei prosecutor’s office which I’ve repeatedly criticised for inaction or for direct collaboration with the unconscionable pig breeders.

The Teuchezhsky district administration has filed a legal claim in defence of its business reputation against me, and the republican prosecutor’s office is insisting that “The Silence of the Lambs” be recognized as an extremist publication (with my potential subsequent prosecution on criminal charges, to be sure). Please find attached copies of both claims. There’s been a third one, though – from V. Stash, a district MP from Gabukai village – but he withdrew it upon finding out that one of the administration’s lawyers had written it and furtively slipped it into a file of documents he was scheduled to sign.

I’ve read the case files and found out the pressure campaign against me was started by the chief of the Adygei Republic’s FSB Department, a long-time friend of our prime minister, who is reputed to be an ardent supporter of pig farming. Most likely, the FSB guys have long been gathering evidence to have me prosecuted on extremism charges as a tough oppositionist to the regional authorities and an active fighter against corruption, but they lacked a formal pretext to. Now they have it.

The prosecutor has picked a few phrases out of the context and is interpreting them as an “insult” to the Adyg people – although the article’s goal is the opposite: to protect the local people from arbitrary rulers and money-thirsty pig breeders, and to invigorate their protests against Kievo-Zhuraki’s ecologically harmful activities. Moreover, so-called “Interior Ministry experts” have even found some “calls for the overthrow of the government” in my publication. What matters, however, is not so much what they are charging me with, but that the local court will do as the prosecutor’s office says. I’m afraid it won’t listen at all to my arguments as the defendant.

I’ve already had a meeting with the judge about my article’s recognition as an extremist material, and a preliminary hearing has been appointed. The judge looks clearly biased; she is seeking to finish it all before the New Year – she evidently has instructions to that effect. Spreading information about this case as widely as possible would help much, since the Adygei media, with the exception of a couple of opposition newspapers with very modest circulations, praise the republican authorities to the skies. Maybe you could help me with that, please?

Valery Brinikh,
Chairman, Adygei Republic Division, All-Russia Environmental Protection Association

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