Дайджест
12 Июня 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 712

8 June 2015


RUSSIA

Taiga.info editor’s attacker amnestied in Novosibirsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A magistrate court in the Zheleznodorozhny district of Novosibirsk has given it to be understood to anyone interested in beating a journalist that they may hope to get away with impunity for this kind of offence.

A local resident, Alexei Anikin, who conspired with a group of others to beat Yevgeny Mezdrikov, chief editor of the news website Taiga.info, was released from detention right after the sentence was read out to him: 12 months of restricted freedom for “beating as an act of hooliganism” (in the judge’s view, unrelated to the victim’s work). However, since Criminal Code Article 116 under which he was convicted was among those subject to amnesty in honour of the 70th anniversary of the USSR’s victory in World War II, he was released there and then.

As we reported earlier (see digest 688), the attack on the editor had been planned in advance, as was confirmed during the trial. Anikin with a friend, taxi driver Rustem Akipov, entered the Taiga.info office presenting themselves to security as “couriers”. While the first was dealing blows to Mezdrikov seated behind the editor’s desk, the second was holding journalist Yaroslav Vlasov, who was trying to help his boss. If other colleagues hadn’t rushed to his rescue, Mezdrikov would have certainly received graver traumas, Taiga.info project manager Aleksandr Bayanov told the GDF.

During the trial, the accused claimed he had cracked down on the editor because of an “insult” he had earlier received at a restaurant from a man who “looked like Mezdrikov”. Journalists are sure this as a lie. “If it were all about revenge,” the victim said, “the conflict would have ended [in a fistfight] somewhere in a dark lane of which there are plenty around our office, rather than in the newsroom at a time when it was crammed with people.”

The Novosibirsk media community has no doubt that the attack was linked to Mezdrikov’s professional work. The local branch of the Journalists’ Union of Russia insisted that the assailant be charged under Criminal Code Article 144 (“Interference with a journalist’s lawful professional activities”) which envisages up to 6 years of imprisonment – much stricter punishment than that for “beating”. But neither the police nor the Investigative Committee, in the journalists’ view, gave due attention to that version.

As established in the course of investigation, a traffic police officer, an acquaintance of the attackers, helped them find the editor’s whereabouts by checking with his agency’s private cars database; he later warned them that their vehicle was searched for by police, and advised them to find a hideout. The officer was then fired from service for helping the assailants but was never held liable as a criminal offender.

The court decision is yet to come into full legal force, and Taiga.info intends to challenge it before a higher-standing judicial authority within the 10-day period established by law.

Journalist Viktor Korb detained in Omsk in connection with a 4-year-old publication

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Interior Ministry (MVD) and FSB officials in Omsk on 7 June detained prominent blogger, journalist and civil activist Viktor Korb as he and his wife Tatyana Ilyina, editor of the Kommercheskiye Vesti newspaper’s website, were on their way to an “ecological picnic” [to tidy up the city], Ilyina wrote in her LiveJournal blog.

Korb was detained after secret services discovered on his website PolitOmsk.ru a 4-year-old report about convicted journalist Boris Stomakhin, which they suspected to be an “extremist” publication. They took the blogger to the police station and brought administrative charges against him, immediately submitting the case to a district court that reviewed it on the same day but returned it to the MVD for additional investigation in view of no convincing proofs of Korb’s guilt.

The law enforcers have adopted a “no comment” stance and have not explained the motives for their acting as hastily as they did.

District court in Vladivostok opposed to glasnost

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Judges generally feel apprehensive about the press. At one time, they used to invent various pretexts for not letting reporters into the courtroom; to be admitted, a journalist had to obtain a judge’s authorisation. Today, the situation looks better inasmuch as no such authorisation is required anymore. But then, there are other ways to restrict glasnost. Journalists have more than once reported about judges forbidding them to make audio recordings of judicial proceedings. Specifically, such reports came from Yuri Shadrin, editor of the newspaper Vestnik Terneya issued in a remote taiga village, and from Natalya Ostrovskaya, a correspondent for the Moscow-based Komsomolskaya Pravda. According to Marina Zavadskaya of Arsenyevskiye Vesti, restricting press access to a court hearing is simple: you only have to select as small a courtroom as possible as the venue.

Vladivostok-based Novaya Gazeta recently published a bright and detailed account of how judges act to keep the press at arm’s length. On two separate occasions, it sent its reporter Marina Chernykh to cover judicial proceedings, and each time the journalist was left behind closed doors. Judge Natalya Verkhoturova, who chaired a 7 May sitting, appointed the hearing to be held in a room with just a few chairs, where Chernykh, among others, was not admitted – although it is known for certain that originally, another, much more spacious, room had been selected. At the same hearing, Judge Verkhoturova also banned the use of voice recorders in the courtroom.

The same thing happened a week later, on 14 May, when Chernykh was again denied access – this time by a secretary, who said she could only attend with the judge’s authorisation. And again, audio recordings were prohibited.

Back in 2010, a plenary meeting of the RF Supreme Court passed a resolution entitled “On the practice of applying the RF Media Law by the judiciary”, which unambiguously stated, “A court (judge) shall not block media professionals’ access to the courtroom… or their coverage of a particular judicial case, except in situations specifically determined by law (e.g., if a case is reviewed in camera, or if reporters have been removed from the courtroom for violating the rules of procedure).”

The resolutions of Supreme Court plenary meetings are absolutely mandatory for all to comply with. Yet it seems the Leninsky district court in Vladivostok is unaware of the existing official instructions.

Editor in Adygea dies labelled as an “extremist”

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

As we have reported in several GDF digests, Vassily Purdenko, editor of the blog Svobodnoye Slovo Adygeyi, on 5 September 2012 posted A. Ivanov’s article “Being Russian in Adygea: Possible but Hopeless”. Nine months after, the publication caught the eye of law enforcers, who started criminal proceedings, and the city court in Maikop convicted Purdenko of extremism under Criminal Code Article 282, sentencing him to a fine of 100,000 roubles. The journalist appealed to the Adygei Republic’s Supreme Court, but the latter left the ruling unchanged.

Purdenko later appealed to the same Maikop city court, asking to declare his record of crime expunged, which request was granted. But the Maikop prosecutor’s office protested against what it saw as “premature” expunction, and appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the prosecutorial motion and cancelled the first-instance court’s ruling. In May, Vassily Purdenko passed away.

Vassily’s close friends maintain that he did not die but he perished defending his good name. The 100,000-rouble fine for Purdenko, a retiree and a disabled person, was enormously difficult – but still not lethal – to pay. What he really couldn’t stand was the stigma of an “extremist”, which he tried to get rid of until his last hour. That is why he borrowed the money and paid off the fine, in order to have his record of crime expunged as early as possible. Owing to the broad public repercussions caused by the media over the case, the prosecutors went back on their original plan of having Purdenko, a man with Group 1 disability, serve 300 hours of forced labour. Yet even the payment of the fine didn’t help: it turned out his crime record would be expunged only after a year.

Vassily dreamed to live to see the convictive sentence cancelled and himself fully exonerated, but he died labelled as an extremist. His 80-year-old disabled mother had to borrow money for her son’s funeral, since their bank accounts were still under arrest.

Purdenko was a graduate of Moscow State University’s Special Group for Social Problem Studies, a professor of political economy, a demographer, author of 40 science works, and a member of the Writers’ and Journalists’ Unions of Russia. Also, he was a poet and a political writer, and a nominee for the 2011 and 2014 Poet of the Year, and the 2012 Writer of the Year Awards.


GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in May 2015

Journalists’ deaths – 1 (Lyudmila Matsenko, executive secretary and reporter, Chernogorsk newspaper, Khakassia).

Attacks on journalists – 10 (Denis Bazankov, TV journalist, TNT-Onego channel, Petrozavodsk; REN TV film crew, Moscow; Filipp Kireyev, Otkrytaya Rossiya journalist, Moscow; Aleksandr Yermakov, Fontanka.ru news agency correspondent, St. Petersburg; Aleksandr Kondratyev, photocorrespondent, Vperyod newspaper, Rostov Region; Yevgeny Borisov, Zapad 24 news agency director, Krasnodar Region; Mikhail Zubkov, chief editor, Pushkinskiy Vestnik newspaper, Moscow Region; Andrei Danilov, U74.ru news agency correspondent, Sverdlovsk Region; U74.ru film crew, Sverdlovsk Region; Darya Kostromina, Grani.ru journalist, Moscow)

Instances of censorship – 2 (Media in Tolyatti, Samara Region; Pokrov Smotrit v Budushcheye newspaper, Vladimir Region)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers – 1 (Rashit Akhmetov, chief editor, Zvezda Povolzhya newspaper, Kazan)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 2 (Alexei Nikulin, editor, Barabinskiy Vestnik newspaper, Novosibirsk Region; Sergei Zabelin, chief editor, Zabaikalskiy Rabochiy newspaper, Chita)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 15 (Nikolai Sosnov, editor, Netreforme.org news site editor, Vladivostok; REN TV film crew, Moscow; Filipp Kireyev, Otkrytaya Rossiya journalist, and Andrei Novichkov, Grani.ru correspondent, both of Moscow; Anastasia Ringis, Ukrainskaya Pravda correspondent, Moscow; Ilya Varlamov, freelance journalist, Moscow; Maksim Yedryshov, anchorman, Ekho Moskvy v Yekaterinburge radio station, Yekaterinburg; Alexei Russkikh and Yekaterina Lysenko, Za Prava Cheloveka correspondents, Simferopol; Ruslan Novikov, freelance journalist, Moscow; Yulia Kryuchkova and Vitaly Zyatkovsky, Crimea correspondents for Inter TV channel (Ukraine); Timur Olevsky, Dozhd TV channel correspondent, Vitaly Kovalenko and Daniil Rusakov, members of film crew with Inter TV channel (Ukraine), and French documentary director Aleksandra Sologub – all four detained in Samara Region; Stevan Dojcinovic, Serbian journalist with Centre for Investigating Organised Crime and Corruption in East European and Central Asian Countries, detained at Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow; Vitaly Kosenko, journalist, Dorozhny Kontrol publication, Crimea)

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 38

Threats against journalists and media – 5 (Aleksandr Yermakov, Fontanka.ru news agency correspondent, St. Petersburg; Yevgeny Borisov, Zapad 24 news agency director, Krasnodar Region; Mikhail Zubkov, chief editor, Pushkinskiy Vestnik newspaper, Moscow Region; Natalya Rudenko, journalist, Sut’ publication, Saratov Region; Mustafa Nayem, journalist, Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper).

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run – 1 (Pokrov Smotrit v Budushcheye newspaper, Vladimir Region)

Interference with internet publications – 4 (Russia Today website, Moscow; website of St. Petersburg branch of RPR-ParNaS Party, St. Petersburg; Putin-itogi.ru website, Moscow; Kasparov.ru web newspaper, Moscow)

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video and audio apparatus and computers – 1 (video camera of REN TV film crew, Moscow)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 26


OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Aram Gabrelyanov and “Zimbabwean Tutsi”: St. Petersburg’s sole non-governmental TV network being reformed into LifeNews branch

By Boris Vishnevsky, Legislative Assembly deputy representing Yabloko Party

St. Petersburg’s sole non-governmental television network, 100TV, has barred Marina Shishkina, a Legislative Assembly deputy, professor and former dean of the school of journalism at St. Petersburg University, from running a personal analytical programme, Tochka Zreniya (Point of View).

It is not because she was a poor anchorwoman or her opinion was of no interest to viewers (to me, her speeches on the air always looked accurately and clearly formulated and intelligent), but solely because she has taken the liberty of commenting on the ongoing reform of 100TV, which may leave the channel fully devastated.

In retaliation, she was immediately fired.

As is known, after 100TV’s former head Oleg Rudnov died in spring, the Baltic Media Group (of which the TV network is part) found itself under Aram Gabrelyanov as its head manager, and has since been vigorously reformed into a branch of LifeNews. The new format excludes analytical stuff or socio-political journalism (which to a large extent contributed to the channel’s high popularity); there will be nothing but news reports. Also, it leaves no room for many of the channel’s journalists, and more than 50 staffers resigned at the end of May. And naturally, this “new format” has caused concerns within the professional community.

At the 29 May congress of the Journalists’ Union of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, speakers pointed out that, while 100TV’s reorganisation is fully compliant with existing legal and business regulations, everybody can understand that the city is losing a good municipal TV channel. In MPs’ view, neither the city government nor viewers should watch indifferently what is being done to 100TV.

Marina Shishkina was among those speakers – paying for that dearly, as described above. Gabrelyanov also immediately reacted in an interview posted on the Zhurdom web portal. Commenting on the media community’s concerns over the ongoing reorganisation of the TV network, he said he “couldn’t care less” for the Journalists’ Union’s “or anyone else’s” concerns in St. Petersburg, since those “amount to nothing more than, say, Tutsi’s feeling unhappy about something in Zimbabwe”.

We may upset Mr Gabrelyanov by noting that Tutsi don’t live in Zimbabwe – they live in Rwanda, the Congo and Burundi, in central Africa, whereas Zimbabwe is in southern Africa. Evidently, this is not the kind of “hot news” which LifeNews so often brags its journalists “are the first to report”.

Well, live and learn, Mr Gabrelyanov: One, Zimbabwean Tutsi cannot ever be “unhappy” about anything, if only because they are non-existent. Two, boorishness and rudeness, boisterous style and demonstrative contempt for public opinion constitute a model of communication that is not accepted in St. Petersburg – at least people claiming to belong to the journalistic community are quick to react adequately to these kinds of statements. And three, not only is it deplorable that 100TV is being reorganised in a manner causing many brilliant journalists, of whom I personally know quite a few, to quit work with only a vague prospect of finding an alternative job in the same sphere in their native city.

What is really deplorable is that the new channel (which is bound to be renamed, too) will practise the notorious method of “hot” and “exclusive” news reporting which has led many politicians I am personally acquainted with to deny interviews to LifeNews if they care for their good reputation, and to turn away with disgust from the microphones bearing that agency’s logo. LifeNews will pop up one of the first when one is searching in the internet for “examples of Russian media lies about Ukraine”. Being in the vanguard of Russia’s “information army”, LifeNews can well compete with Channel One which has reported about a “crucified boy” and with Rossiya’s reported “slaughter of the town of Shchastye’s population by [Ukrainian] punitive squads”.

There are other, well-known, examples, starting with LifeNews “reporters” – I must use inverted commas here – creeping last year under the guise of MVD investigators into the hospital ward where my friend and colleague Lev Schlosberg was recovering after a crippling assault, only to post the resulting video in the internet; and finishing with the request by the ill-starred Yulia from LifeNews for “being tipped off earlier than the others for a good reward” about [famous movie director] Eldar Ryazanov’s death [when he passes away].

One cannot but feel concerned that this style of reporting may spread to St. Petersburg. Moreover, this feeling goes well beyond the media community: during last weekend’s picketing action outside the Gostiny Dvor shopping arcades against the destruction of 100TV, I talked to picketers and found out they were ordinary viewers, not journalists.

They can well understand what they are losing and what lies in store for them.

Sakhalin authorities actively suppress glasnost

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The weekly newspaper Argumenty Nedeli-Sakhalin recently attempted to analyse the results of policies aimed at stifling glasnost on Sakhalin Island.

Argumenty staffers recall that only 10 to 12 years back, listening in to the local radio was very exciting, and local TV programmes would make you go hot and cold due to the striking frankness of debates over controversial issues. There even was a satirical review on Alternative Sakhalin TV (ASTV).

All those programmes have now been shut down, and the air is filled with propaganda news stories strongly mixed with persuasive advertising. The print media have been reduced to the official newspaper Gubernskiye Novosti which is generously financed from the regional budget. But few readers fall today for reports colouring the truth, which is confirmed by the modest circulation of the regional government’s main mouthpiece. Formerly popular newspapers Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Region, DSK and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk – Tvoya Gazeta have been closed. The authorities reanimate Nashi Ostrova only during election campaigns, while never hesitating to allocate nearly 700 million roubles in three-year support for their “pocket” media that play in concert the propaganda tune their patrons call.

Argumenty directly links the crackdown on glasnost with the systemic failures in politics, the economy, and the social sphere. A lack of public discussions and total pro-government orientation has resulted in government-subsidised prices soaring to unseen highs (e.g., tomatoes grown at the state farm Teplichny cost more than 300 roubles a kilo); it is cheaper to buy fish and caviar not on Sakhalin but in Moscow; and air tickets remain as expensive as ever for the islanders.

Sakhalin has become notorious throughout Russia for its widespread corruption, bribe-taking and nepotism. The latest vivid example was the scandalous arrest of the incumbent governor, Aleksandr Khoroshavin.

Addressing the recent media forum in St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin indicated that he is opposed to the independent media’s gagging, and he even favours financial support for them: “Society at large is interested in developing the independent media segment. Of course, we need to work out a system of support embracing all.”

Unfortunately, the Sakhalin department of the All-Russia People’s Front (ONF) has kept a low profile on the island, causing the public to establish an alternative group of the same name. Even after the governor’s arrest, the regional ONF leaders never moved to resign, which would be logical (as I noted before, all criticism of the Sakhalin authorities came from the ONF headquarters in Moscow). The regional MPs, too, have retained their seats, although it would be logical to elect new ones, along with a new governor, this autumn. That would be more honest – and less expensive for the budget.

So far, the island region has been turning a deaf ear to presidential calls.


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