26 Марта 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 701

23 March 2015


Omsk police foot-dragging in journalists assault probe

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Police delay the probe into an atrocious assault on journalists in the Omsk Region.

Police at the Bolsherechensky district department of internal affairs had a nagging doubt for six months about whether they should open criminal proceedings over the fact of beating of human right activists Ruslan Alyokhin and Aleksandr Sedelnikov. Digest 692 reported that two members of the Obshchestvenny Kontrol (Public Scrutiny) civil society group, Human Rights Committee press service employees, had been attacked and beaten simultaneously in different parts of the district centre on their way home from court hearings.

Recounting the assault, Sedelinkov, who has a life-long disability, said the masked attacker wielded a black baton similar to a bailiff’s standard equipment: he dealt three or four blows on the activist’s head. The attacker then snatched the briefcase from Sedelnikov and, apparently knowing its contents, hit it several times with his baton, damaging the camcorder’s hard drive with many-hour recordings of court hearings.

Approximately at the same time, another masked man attacked Alyokhin, breaking his skull with a metal rod. Both activists were taken to the A&E ward of the district hospital. The police officers who visited them on the same day offered assurances that they would open a criminal case over the attack. Meanwhile, the district police told the GDF that “all leads will be checked out” but that they could not be disclosed at the moment “in the interests of the investigation.”

Six weeks later, when Alyokhin and Sedelnikov were discharged from hospital, they were surprised to find that police were not investigating, as no probe had been opened. Alyokhin told the GDF that police had explained their inaction by “waiting for the journalists to be discharged from hospital in order to know their precise diagnoses.” Aloykhin had “closed craniocerebral injury, severe cerebral contusion, and depressed fracture of parietal bone.” He was a lucky survivor, medics said. “Police should have opened criminal proceedings over attempted murder in connection with the performance of public activity,” Human Rights Committee Chairman Valentin Kuznetsov said. However, they apparently assumed that Article 111 of the Criminal Code (“Infliction of severe bodily harm motivated by hooliganism”) made a more fitting legal framework of the case.

The investigators believe that the same motive [hooliganism] was behind the malicious assault, though with less severe consequences, on Sedelnikov, who suffers from a childhood trauma. According to the law-enforcers’ version, two unidentified hooligans decided to misbehave at the same time, and one of them, “for lack of anything better to do,” hit the activist’s briefcase with his baton having guessed correctly that a camera with the recordings of court hearings was inside, and so destroyed the videos.

The GDF earlier reported that the videos posted on the website of the Human Rights Committee and on YouTube were a major irritant to judges and bailiffs. Sedelnikov alone had been charged with dozens of administrative offences over seven months of his work, facing a total of 38,000 roubles’ worth of fines. The activists’ resounding investigations sometimes had a dramatic impact on the whole judicial system, such as the resignation of the Bolsherechensky district court chairman.

Rights activists believe that the police could have found the “hooligans” easily, zeroing in on suspects within the district court. At a recent rally in downtown Omsk, the Human Rights Committee demanded from the regional prosecutor and head of the regional department of the Investigative Committee “urgent measures toward establishing the identity of the persons who brutally beat A. Sedelnikov and R. Alyokhin.”

Money-raising action helps Regional Press Institute in St. Petersburg pay fine

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

In an inspiring albeit rare display of generosity, Russian journalists and concerned citizens launched an initiative to support the Regional Press Institute (RPI) in St. Petersburg, ordered to pay a fine for refusing to voluntarily register as a “foreign agent.”

It was a grassroots initiative. Anna Baidakova from The New Times was of the first to voice it. In a post on social networks she urged her colleagues to collect 400,000 roubles for the Institute to pay the fine. The idea was supported by many enthusiastic contributors.

“I felt uncomfortable when the journalists offered me their help,” RPI head Anna Sharogradskaya told a GDF reporter. “I know that many are pressed for money. They were persuading me for a long time to accept this money in our support, but I had misgivings that the collected sum of the fine might not be spent properly,” she said.

No miracle happened though: they raised 229,199 roubles, which was slightly more than half of the required amount. Among the contributors named on the organisation’s website were not only journalists, but also public figures, lawyers, college teachers and concerned citizens.

The remaining sum was contributed by Anna Sharogradskaya, who earlier said she would give her own money to pay the fine which she regarded as unfair and unlawful. The RPI director decided to tap her family budget because the Institute uses sponsors’ money only for special-purpose programmes, such as investigative reporting contests.

Surprisingly, the bank account details for the remittance, as designated by Justice Ministry officials, looked as odd as the whole story about the Institute’s having to pay a fine. RPI personnel started to transfer the money from March 23, but have not completed it yet. While Anna Sharogradskaya believes that the transfer might have been delayed because of a minor glitch (which would be a major characteristic of officials’ performance), the RPI accounting officer suspects possible provocation. An organisation’s failure to pay a fine on time makes it a law-breaker, she said.

Chelyabinsk court disallows furniture firm’s damages claim against media

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Mnogo Mebeli [Much Furniture], a Chelyabinsk-based firm, has lost a 1.3-million-rouble damages lawsuit against journalist Igor Makarov and his web resource.

The arbitration court of the Chelyabinsk Region has dismissed the legal claim of the Mnogo Mebeli furniture-selling network to AlyansMediaUral Ltd. and the editor-in-chief of the news agency ChelNovosti.Ru, Igor Makarov.

Earlier reports said the plaintiff had demanded that the information in the article titled “’Much Furniture’ Causes Many Troubles to Chelyabinsk Residents” be recognized as contrary to facts and as defamation. Before the final ruling, the arbitration court pointed to the flaws in the plaintiff’s body of evidence, asking him to correct them. Specifically, the court found out that the ChelNovosti.Ru news agency was not registered in Makarov’s name. AlyansMediaUral is not the publisher of the information agency and never was. Consequently, AlyansMediaUral cannot be the defendant in the case. If the plaintiff has evidence to the contrary, it has to place it at the court’s disposal. (see Digest 700).

On top of that, Mnogo Mebeli did not comply with the court’s order to submit a written assessment of reputational damage. In its ruling, the arbitration court fully disallowed the firm’s damages claim.

Maritime Region migration services off limits to journalists

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

PrimaMedia photographer Aleksandr Khitrov, on assignment to prepare a report on the operation of the Migratsionny Tsentr [Migration Centre] non-profit partnership in Vladivostok has said “unidentified persons” stopped him from carrying on his legitimate activity. A man in camouflage uniform using a handheld radio to consult with someone blocked the entrance citing no reasons, whereas migrants were allowed to come in unhindered.

Experts consider such actions as “interference with a journalist’s professional activity”. Oversight agencies are expected to issue a statement on the incident following PrimaMedia’s complaint. Meanwhile, the recent moves taken by regional branches of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) attracted media’s attention. Reports said last week that the Passport and Visa Service federal unitary enterprise, an FMS subsidiary, shut down its branch in the Maritime Region which had been charging migrants and Ukrainian refugees outrageous prices of up to 85,000 roubles for preparing a package of required documents.

Apparently the FMS personnel in the Maritime Region have switched to the mode of work closed to the press. When Khitrov proceeded to take some photos in the room accommodating the terminals issuing appointment slips, a man clad in fatigues and wearing no identifying marks used physical force to walk the journalist out of the room without justifying his actions.

FMS spokesman for the Maritime Region Alexei Shchetinin was unable to answer an oral inquiry by PrimaMedia about the uniformed men on the premises of the migration centre or explain on what grounds they foiled the journalist’s professional activity.

The Maritime branch of the Union of Russian Journalists is indignant at a state-run organisation’s turning into a restricted-access facility in a flash. Union Secretary Andrei Ostrovsky believes however that “the incident fits into the general trend of the events around the Maritime Region’s branch of the FMS which is probably made off-limits because of the exposed breaches of law”. The officials’ irritation with the public focus on their activity is understandable. “The question is how it can be explained from viewpoint of the law and media’s professional duty, because the FMS is not a secret facility while information support of the population is our primary duty,” Ostrovsky said. “Hopefully, law-enforcement bodies will respond to this fact with a statement.”

An interesting comment came from Galina Antonets, representative of the Voronezh-based Media Defence Centre and copyright and related rights expert. She said that it was illegal to ban photography, either by “corporate or owner’s instruction, or by ‘no cameras/video’ signs. Railway stations, airports, shops, government bodies, and organisations are public places. Persons imposing such bans may face administrative penalties. Journalists’ professional activity vests them with broader powers than ordinary citizens,” Antonets said.

Newspaper owner accused of extortion points at shaky evidence

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The owner and editor-in-chief of the regional newspaper Kazak Prikamya, Alexei Maltsev, accused of four counts of extortion and two fraud schemes that allegedly brought him a total of 2.3 million roubles began to testify at the Leninsky district court in Perm on 20 March.

The trial was reported in the GDF’s digest 692. Witnesses for the prosecution and representatives of all the three injured parties, Priroda-Perm (Perm’s Nature), OOO Merkuriy (Mercury Ltd.) and OOO Voyennaya Ekologiya (Military Ecology Ltd.) mostly confirmed the version of the journalist’s involvement in several serious and very serious crimes against property.

Since 2010, Kazak Prikamya’s articles have highlighted violations of environmental protection law that occurred during the placement and processing of oily waste. Being also a co-founder and director of the charity foundation “Cossack Perm: Orthodoxy, Law Observance, Environmental Safety”, he asked business people to transfer money to his foundation’s bank account in exchange for his not publishing information compromising them, Perm police said.

The defendant denied wrongdoing. During the 20 March hearing, Maltsev read an affidavit on a 100,000-rouble fraud and extortion from Priroda-Perm. Maltsev, 57, reminded that the company had lost a defamation suit against him back in 2011. The lower and high courts of arbitration successively ruled that the article titled “A Test Field to Recycle Conscience” contained hard facts (see Kazak Prikamya, No 6). In an earlier lawsuit, the Krasnovishersky district court on 10 December 2010 banned the dumping of oily waste at the Ozyornaya site near Nizhnyaya Yazva village.

The editor-in-chief claimed that the 100,000 roubles transferred by Priroda-Perm to his foundation’s bank account were intended for repairs of the water supply system in Nizhnyaya Yazva, hence the funding he received could not be viewed as obtained through fraud. In a statement on the episode of the alleged extortion of 100,000 roubles from chairman of the company’s board, Vladimir Fuss, the defendant challenged the plaintiff’s allegations that “an unidentified person, at unknown time, phoned Fuss demanding 100,000 roubles and warning that otherwise Maltsev would again publish unauthentic information about Priroda-Perm’s operation. I cannot comment on this episode, especially because Mr Fuss has not produced any evidence,” he said. “Who phoned him? Where did the call came from and when? Or did it all happen in Mr Fuss’s dream?”

Maltsev told Judge Irina Zhitnikova that he would bring a video of a meeting of Nizhnyaya Yazva residents for the next hearing. He told the GDF that the video was a crucial piece of evidence proving his innocence.


Radio Liberty correspondent briefly detained in Minsk

Radio Liberty correspondent Galina Abakunchik was detained near the Expobel shopping centre which Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko visited on 17 March.

Abakunchik was put in a police van for “identity check” and then driven to a police station on the Expobel premises, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported. Police released her an hour later.

The journalist was on assignment to question business people about their current problems and the questions they would like to put to the head of state.

[Naviny.by report, 17 March]


Perm House of Journalists launches Po Gamburgskomy Shchyotu [Unbiased Evaluation] project

OTV, Perm Region Public Television, and the regional branch of the Union of Russian Journalists are implementing a joint independent project “Po Gamburgskomy Shchyotu” (which means “unbiased evaluation” in Russian) featuring a series of television programmes about local journalism. The print versions are carried by the online magazine Zvezda.

The Perm House of Journalists created an open platform for professional discourse on pressing media events. Journalists, media activists, academic community representatives working with mass media, rights activists, political scientists, and philosophers are invited to take part in the discussion held every Tuesday from 16:00 till 17:00 at 8, Sibirskaya St., Perm.

Following is the list of topics proposed for discussion:

  • Ethics in Unbiased Evaluation
  • Charity and Media’s Mission
  • Facebook Political Journalism
  • Media and Authorities: Owners and Editorial Office
  • The Art of Interview: Personal Outlooks or Two Actors’ Theatre?
  • Instagram Report: New Technologies for Journalists
  • Spin Doctors vs. Reporters
  • Investigative Reporting: a Dangerous Genre?

In all, eight parts of the television programme have been released. Their recordings are available to viewers in the special section of the Perm Region’s OTV blog. Below are the links to the text versions of the programmes:

Yelena Veselkova is director of the regional public organisation Perm Region Public Television.


100 Friends: study visit to Estonia for budding journalists

Are you a young journalist? Would you like to spend one week in August in Estonia learning more about Estonia, Estonian society and the Estonian lifestyle?

In 2018 the Republic of Estonia will celebrate its centenary. Preparations for celebrating the centenary are already under way. This year, the Estonian Foreign Ministry and the Government Office would like to invite 25 young journalists or students in their final year of journalism to the study visit “100 Friends” from August 2nd to 9th.

(For more details see vm.ee)

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