5 Марта 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 698

2 March 2015


Inquest finds Stavropol Region editor was killed by an organized criminal group

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Media continue to highlight the trial at the regional court over the killers of rights activist, environmentalist and editor of the newspaper Sel-sovet Nikolai Potapov. In previous digests, we wrote that there were gaps in the indictment, that the mastermind behind the crime had never been identified and that the defendants who had hired expensive lawyers had family ties with officials. In a new twist, Judge Alexander Dukhin found the case materials convincing enough to believe that an organized criminal group was involved in the murder, and ordered to return the case to the regional prosecutor’s office to reclassify the crime as a graver offence.

The slain journalist, Nikolai Potapov, was a right activist, environmentalist, founder, editor and author of the newspaper Sel-sovet, who reported on abuses by local authorities and his efforts to fight corruption. In May 2013, assailants fired six shots at Potapov at point-blank range near his house, fatally wounding him. Four suspects are in the prisoners’ dock: three Vinogradov brothers from the Budennovsky district (one of them is a former policeman) and Mustafayev, an intermediary from the Predgorny district. They were charged with assassination, illegal acquisition and keeping of firearms and ammunition, and abetting murder and illegal acquisition and keeping of firearms (see digest 688).

The judge’s decision to reclassify the case proves that the independent observers were correct in their suspicions from the very beginning, as the murder could be clearly traced to an organized group, where each participant had a specific role assigned to him. It appears Nikolai Potapov stood in the way of one of the mobsters who was “a very important person.”

Murmansk journalists claim official censorship

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Murmansky Vestnik is a daily newspaper covering pressing issues in public life, politics and culture. The Murmansk Region government and regional legislature have been founders of the publication since 13 July 2006.

Galina Shedchenko stepped in as acting editor-in-chief of Murmansky Vestnik on 15 December 2014. On 20 January 2015 she told a staff meeting that print frequency of the newspaper would be reduced because of a 25-percent cut in budget funding. The announcement certainly did not add to the staffers’ optimism, but they were particularly unhappy with censorship, which became “obvious and undisguised” with the appointment of the new editor-in-chief and is alleged to have been ordered by officials. Having decided to confront injustice using legal instruments, the press tribe wrote an open letter to the founders at the regional parliament, citing the facts that had caused resentment at the editorial office.

“Journalists’ stories are sent for approval to the regional administration and Deputy Governor A.Vekshin in person. It is Vekshin again the acting editor-in-chief refers to when giving some suspicious assignments to journalists… Articles are taken off newspaper pages in last-minute edits without the author’s approval, and journalists are told that some stories need to be coordinated with the regional administration’s Internal Policy Department; these practices violate all norms of effective legislation. As a result, the newspaper is becoming a tool for lobbying personal interests of certain officials” – these are quotes from the open letter to the Murmansk Region parliament, signed by nearly 30 staff members.

(link to letter)

The petition has been reviewed. As of now, local legislators have given preliminary consent to keep the newspaper’s frequency of publication unchanged, and promised that the cut in funding will not exceed 10 percent. As for approval of Mrs Shevchenko as full-fledged editor-in-chief, it is a prerogative of the local parliament which has not discussed the issue yet.

Personal Data Law abused, Karelia journalists say

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

Late last year, journalists took interest in the source of bonus payments for the deputies on the payroll at Karelia’s parliament. The story caused a scandal while remuneration of deputies with budget money got broader scrutiny from journalists.

For example, journalist A. Kramskikh forwarded a request to the republic’s parliament to provide information on the budget’s renting expenses on deputies. The point is that many deputies are elected to the regional parliament from different parts of Karelia and have no housing of their own in Petrozavodsk. The republic’s law guarantees allocation of service apartments to them within three months since the beginning of their professional activity. It is an important reservation. All the 50 legislators elected to the parliament have the right to work there on a permanent basis, but not everybody wishes to. Many directors of commercial companies prefer to work as deputies on a voluntary basis. At present, 36 Karelia legislators are salaried. The parliament rents apartments in Petrozavodsk for those among them who came from elsewhere. It is absolutely legal.

However, Kramskikh’s request for information on the use of budget money in renting housing for deputies was denied. She was told that divulging the rental to which a deputy was entitled was not possible as it would violate the law on personal data.

It follows that the journalist was unable to find out the amount of rent compensation paid to deputies. The editorial office of the Gazeta Petrozavodsk news portal asked a supervisory body to clarify the situation, arguing that budget expenditure on MPs could not be confidential information.

However, Karelia prosecutors backed the stance of the republic’s parliament leaders saying in a statement to journalists that they could find no grounds to take measures against the parliament speaker’s refusal to provide information on budget expenditure per each Karelia legislator.

It is known that several local MPs do not deny the fact that they received budget money to rent service housing after selling apartments of their own in Petrozavodsk. Every transaction seemed to be an objective necessity but it was precisely this oddity that prompted the journalists’ investigation. In the latest development, the editorial office of Gazeta Petrozavodsk sent a similar information request to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Kursk heating network company sues TV channel founder

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Kursk Region Arbitration Court has held a defamation case hearing. The plaintiff is Kurskaya Teplosetevaya Kompaniya, the local heating network which initially sued the TV Kursk channel and later refiled the suit against the channel’s founder, Sirius Ltd.

The dispute broke out after Anna Shidlovskaya’s programme went on the air on 2 July 2014. In a statement of claim, the plaintiff said that the “author gave a biased and very subjective presentation of the conflict between the Kurskaya TSK utility and the Upravdom management company, and made insulting remarks about the plaintiff.” The information released on the programme “is at odds with the facts as it contains undocumented and incompetent opinions by interested persons. It misleads the consumers of heat and Kursk residents, tarnishes the plaintiff’s business reputation and damages its relationships with partners.”

The plaintiff asked the court to order the defendant to disavow the information inconsistent with reality in a form as requested by the plaintiff, delete the video of the programme from YouTube, and pay one million roubles in damages.

The defendant challenged the claims and the demands. Defence lawyers argued that the information on the programme was presented not as a fact but as an opinion with judgment which could not fully qualify as defamation. Also, not all disputed information had to do with the plaintiff.

The next hearing is due on 30 March. The defendant’s interests will be represented by lawyer Olga Voronova of the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defence Centre.

Moscow police stand idle as attackers try to smash journalist’s camera during opposition rally

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Journalist Dmitry Florin was taking video of an anti-war protest staged by the Solidarnost movement near the Tretyakovskaya underground station in Moscow on 21 February.

Several persons, aged 20 to 40, approached rally participants and began to insult them for their stance on events in Ukraine. During the argument, “the critics” of the action, shouting “Do not shoot! You are a provocateur!” hit the camera lens twice, trying to knock the equipment out of Florin’s hands. The journalist kept his grip on the camera and managed to capture the attackers’ faces. There was no reaction to the incident from the police officers who were standing by.

When the journalist told a policeman that it was a breach of the Media Law, the officer said, “The camera still isn’t broken, is it?”

Murmansk Region newspaper accuses township head of ignoring requests for information

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

On 27 February, the Tersky Bereg newspaper staff sent a statement to Kola polar zone journalists, the Murmansk Region governor and the regional parliament, reporting interaction problems between media personnel and head of the Umba township A. Khmelentsov.

“The head of the township administration regularly refuses to comment on citizens’ complaints directed to him through the newspaper or answer reporters’ questions regarding the performance of his duties. Subsequently, the newspaper’s editorial office sent to Mr Khmelentsov a formal request to answer the listed questions, and renewed the invitation to launch interaction with media and speak from pages of the newspaper. This request was left unanswered in violation of the law,” the journalists said in the open letter.

Defamation lawsuit filed against Volgograd Region newspaper Ekonomika I Zhizn-Chernozemye and its jounrnalist

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

On 25 October 2014, the Ekonomika I Zhizn–Chernozemye business weekly published an article by Svyatoslav Ivanov, titled “From a Field of Rye to a Sea of Lie-2.” The article gave a dramatic overview of the situation at the Karl Marx state farm and blamed its director Boris Yakovenko for ruining the business.

Boris Yakovenko and his son Yuri, a co-founder of the company, sued not only the author of the article and the editorial staff, but also the information source: district council deputy Pyotr Sakhnyuk. The plaintiffs insisted that the article disseminated information that was inconsistent with the facts and defamed them. They demanded that the newspaper disavow the article, pay one million roubles to each injured party in damages and compensate the legal expenses worth some 12,000 roubles.

The defendants denied the allegations. The defence believes that the information disseminated by the newspaper is trustworthy. The hearing of the case was postponed four times between December 2014 and 24 February 2015. The next hearing is due on 16 March. The Glasnost Defence Foundation will monitor the lawsuit.


Media watchdog Adil Soz’ freedom-of-speech report for January 2015

Adil Soz, a Kazakhstan-based foundation to protect international watchdog of freedom of expression, conducted a study in Kazakhstan in January 2015 into violations of the right to freedom of speech and to obtaining and disseminating information.

Following are the highlights:

  • An indefinite hunger strike announced by Gulzhan Yergaliyeva, editor-in-chief of the shut-down magazine Adam Bol;
  • The organizers of the “Meetings with Readers” action in support of the Adam Bol magazine were unable to attend because they had been detained by police;
  • All divisions of state-run bodies or companies with government stakes must have their staff committed to uniform procedure for web browsing and working with social networks or blogging platforms.

In January, four new hearings in defamation lawsuits against media and citizens were reported, and courts passed seven rulings in earlier cases. Also in January, media and citizens faced one defamation charge in connection with exercising the right to freedom of speech and to obtaining and disseminating information, and three pre-trial claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation. Nine defamation cases were reviewed in the designated period.

(For details, see www.adilsoz.kz)

Legal consulting

GDF has received two documents from Tomsk. The first, signed by director of the Krupnym Planom studio (TV 2 company) Victoria Muchnik, was forwarded to chief of staff of the Tomsk Region administration Anatoly Ivanov:

Dear Sir,

Fonar, a city information bulletin, carried a joke saying that “The Tomsk Region governor has made a brief working visit to the Tomsk Region.” As we feel indignant at the rumours defaming Tomsk Region Governor Sergei Zhvachkin, we ask you to provide truthful official information about how many days the governor spent in Tomsk and Tomsk Region in 2014.”

Following is Mr Ivanov’s answer:

“Dear Victoria Sergeyevna,

“Having considered your request regarding the provision of information on how many days in 2014 the Tomsk Region governor stayed in Tomsk and Tomsk Region, I hereby inform you that under Parts 1, 2, and 9 of Federal Law No.149-FZ of 27 July, 2014 “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection” and Articles 3, 6 and 7 of the federal law “On Personal Data,” the requested information is restricted and hence cannot be provided in order to prevent personal data disclosure.”

GDF comment:

Interesting. At which tier of authority does the time-sheet become personal data? Or is it a privilege of the Tomsk governor? Pity that mind-blowing humour is still called “Stalin’s humour” in this country, because the administration’s reply is not just a mockery of the law and common sense: insolent bureaucrats have made a howler that gives one a belly laugh, though there is nobody to laugh: Tomsk’s TV 2 has been muzzled, and now they can write or sign stupid things without fear of dying of shame.

A comment from GDF lawyer:

The reply by chief of staff of Tomsk Region administration A. Ivanov alleging that the information on the governor’s activity is restricted is illegal. Article 29.4 of the Russian Constitution grants citizens the right to freely seek and obtain information by any legal means. Over and above this general norm, journalists enjoy the right to request necessary information from government and commercial organisations, while government bodies are to provide the requested information within seven days. These norms are related in the first place to the opportunity given to citizens to obtain trustworthy information through media.

In Russian legislation, transparency of the performance of government bodies and citizens’ opportunity to obtain trustworthy information about their operation is viewed as a guarantee of the citizens’ opportunity to exercise control over the activity of government bodies and to participate in affairs of the state. Therefore, openness in the operation of government bodies is an integral part of the right to participate in managing state affairs (Article 32 of the RF Constitution).


Novorossiysk journalists set up branch of Russian Union of Journalists

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The documents for registration of a new branch of the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) are now under review at the Russian Justice Ministry’s department for the Krasnodar Region.

There are some 60 RUJ members in the city of Novorossiysk. Part of them wished to set up a branch of their own and work with Moscow directly, bypassing the regional Union of Journalists. Novorossiysk journalists voiced this wish as far back as three years ago. However, it was only in late 2014 that their autonomy was granted. It is possible that the infamous attempt by the regional Union of Journalists to dissociate itself from the national Union played a certain role. Through it failed, the bad taste still lingers, as they say.

The new branch held a conference on 12 December 2014. Valery Volkov, chairman of the Novorossiysk branch of the RUJ, says that it has 17 members. In the future, the branch plans to expand and become the Black Sea branch of the RUJ spanning the territory from Sochi to Crimea.

RUJ Secretary Nadezhda Azhgikhina confirmed to a GDF correspondent by telephone the establishment of a new branch in Novorossiysk on the strength of an RUJ Board resolution. “The Krasnodar Region is not the only territory where several RUJ branches co-exist; the same practice is found in other Russian regions, too,” Azhgikhina said.


Dear colleagues:

We report new, as yet unceasing attempts to disrupt the operation of the PenzaNews agency (based in the city of Penza) which is an independent private media outlet pursuing an information policy of its own.

In the period from Friday, 13 February, through Saturday, 28 February, there were persistent attempts by unidentified hackers to hinder the legitimate activity of PenzaNews journalists by attacking the server to block access to the website which had been online since 2007. As a result of illegal actions by unidentified persons, www.penzanews.ru has been under heavy pressure for the past few weeks, lapsing periodically into reduced functionality mode. Some users were unable to access it for several hours for days on end. The work of PenzaNews’ other project, Penza-Sport, the first sport portal in the region, is completely paralyzed.

Despite unceasing DDoS attacks, the creative team of the PenzaNews agency continues to take a responsible approach to the mission it has undertaken, providing honest, accurate and latest information about events occurring in the Penza Region.

In October 2014, www.penzanews.ru and www.penza-sport.com came under large hacker attacks. Other websites later reported hacker attacks, too, for example, www.tzp58.com (Tochka Zreniya Penza) and www.penzalife.info. In the autumn of 2014, these websites covered a massive DDoS attack on PenzaNews.

PenzaNews editorial office

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