Дайджест
12 Сентября 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 721

7 September 2015


EVENT OF THE WEEK

Editor dies in Sevastopol four months after suffering crippling attack

By Boris Timoshenko, GDF Monitoring Service head

Irina Ostashchenko, editor of the local news portal RuInformer.com, died in Sevastopol on 31 August.

After an attack by an unidentified assailant near her flat in an apartment house on 9 April this year, she was taken to the city hospital’s neurosurgery department with a “chopped scalp laceration on the forehead and top of the head” and was operated on.

She is known to have earlier received threats in the wake of two publications about suspected rigging of the results of public hearings on planned housing construction on Cape Fiolent in the Black Sea between Sevastopol and Yalta. Yet law enforcement focused on the “home accident” version as the main one at the time.

After a check-up was completed on 12 May, no criminal proceedings were started, because “no event of crime” was found in the attack on the journalist, as the Sevastopol Investigative Committee officially reported to the Public Council under the city police department. The victim, however, was convinced the assault had not been accidental. “I’ve repeatedly stated and continue stressing that I’m sure what happened to me was directly related to my work as a journalist,” Ostashchenko said. “Let the fact which escaped the Investigative Committee’s attention – namely, that I was attacked on the following day after I published my article ‘Che Guevara Flies Away Forever’ – lie heavy on [the investigators’] conscience.” Significantly enough, the article criticised ill-performing Crimean officials.

And on 1 September, a note appeared on RuInformer.com, reading, “Irina Aleksandrovna Ostashchenko passed away at 5:35 p.m. yesterday. To all of us – her colleagues, friends, readers, and many, many Sevastopol residents – this is an irreparable loss…”


RUSSIA

Omsk Region health ministry attempts to whitewash negligent physicians by filing legal claim against journalists

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Svetlana Gaura, an adviser to the head of the Omsk Region health ministry, bears a serious grudge against the city’s judicial news portal Omsk-pravo.ru and its editor Aleksandr Grass for their covering the hearings of a legal claim lodged against the Odessa District Hospital (in the Omsk Region) by the parents of a 3-year-old girl, Arina Ostroushko, who died as a result of medical procrastination. That the doctors were indeed “too late to carry out a series of necessary and urgent manipulations” is a fact established by two courts of law and confirmed by the relevant decisions in full legal force.

Yet the health ministry, it seems, has decided to launch a “counterattack” and try to “defend its reputation” by filing a reciprocal legal claim against the journalist – and actually, against the late girl’s family to whom neither the district hospital’s medics nor the ministry apologized, either immediately after the tragedy or after the return of verdicts identifying them as the guilty party. Gaura demanded 100,000 roubles in moral damages from the “discrediting” publications’ author.

This claim shows health ministry officials in Omsk have […] problems understanding whom they serve in real terms – the people or the wellbeing and ambitions of the handful of those at the helm, Nina and Vyacheslav Ostroushko, Arina’s parents, commented. “Everything journalist Grass said about the trial and associated events was true to fact, which we two and others who attended the hearings can confirm,” they wrote in an open letter to Regional Health Minister Andrei Storozhenko. “Moreover, the journalist described Adviser Gaura’s behaviour and manner of speaking to people, including to us, in as decent tones and expressions as possible… Actually, the lady official dealt shortly with us as parents of a lost child.”

They believe Gaura “would not have allowed herself to behave the way she does”, unless with her bosses’ approval which she evidently received also for filing her reputation-protecting claim. Nina and Vyacheslav Ostroushko and witnesses of their face-off with the regional health ministry said they are ready to testify in court.

Novaya Gazeta in Ryazan, Central Russia, ignores litigation with regional election committee as “sheer waste of time”

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

Elections to the Ryazan Region Duma are scheduled to be held on 13 September, but the media covering pre-election campaigning, regardless of the angle, are already finding themselves in the focus of increased “public attention”. The regional election committee on 4 September considered a complaint filed against Novaya Gazeta v Ryazani by an angry local activist, Ms Andronova, who accused the newspaper of “repeatedly breaching electoral legislation” by urging people not to vote for the United Russia party in view of its using unfair campaigning methods. The committee asked the media regulator, Roskomnadzor, to curb “unlawful media activity” and bring “those responsible” to account.

Novaya representatives chose not to attend the committee sitting: “Why waste time on senseless bickering?” the newspaper cited Roman Sivtsov, its acting chief editor, as saying in an interview posted on the official website.

“During any election, the regional election committee receives complaints in which certain persons describe absolutely any election-related news reported by Ryazan editions of Novaya Gazeta as ‘unlawful campaigning’,” he said. “To begin with, a committee working group reviews complaints and hands them over to the regional electoral commission which then forwards them to the local department of Roskomnadzor. Life shows it’s useless to get involved in polemics at these stages – it’s a sheer waste of breath. Only when Roskomnadzor submits a complaint to a magistrate court can you hope for a meaningful review of the case, during which you will be able to have it out with both the complaining party and officials as prescribed by law, not as they see fit. Most often, courts turn such complaints down. Therefore, we think taking part in electoral committee meetings to discuss these kinds of issues is absolutely inappropriate.”

FSB officials obstruct reporter’s work in Kostroma

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

As opposition activist Ilya Yashin was meeting with potential electors in Kostroma on 26 August, a group of police and FSB officials arrived, disrupting the meeting and detaining Yashin, which act journalist Aleksandra Ageyeva attempted to film with her camcorder. Upon seeing this, two plain-clothes men accompanied by policemen approached her and ordered switching the camera off – allegedly because a reporter had to have their “personal special consent” to having their faces videoed.

Taking a few steps aside, Ageyeva continued recording the proceedings. A group of men presenting themselves as FSB agents then threatened to sue her – though they could not formulate for what in particular.

All the while, those sturdy men took pains to get in the reporter’s way to prevent her from shooting sequences of what was going on.


GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

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

Journalists’ deaths2 (Roman Khakhalin, journalist, Parkgagarina.info, Samara; Alexei Yermolin, correspondent, Krymskaya Pravda newspaper, Simferopol).

Attacks on journalists9 (REN TV film crew, Moscow; Volga TV channel film crew, Nizhny Novgorod; Mikhail Zelenchukov, journalist, Nk-tv.com, Kemerovo Region; Revizorro TV show film crew, attacked in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region; Nikolai Kirillov, chief editor, Ryazanskaya Oblastnaya Gazeta newspaper, Ryazan; Telefact TV show film crew, Chelyabinsk; Grigory Oganezov, Novaya Gazeta journalist, Samara; Yuri Boikov, cameraman, Dzerzhinsk TV company, Nizhny Novgorod Region; Stavropolye State TV/Radio Company film crew, Stavropol Region)

Attacks on media offices, TV stations 1 (newspaper Yañi Dünya, Simferopol)

Instances of censorship 5 (newspaper Murmanskiy Vestnik, Murmansk; web publication M24.ru, Moscow; newspaper Voronezhskiy Kuryer, Voronezh; newspaper Zakubanye, Adygei Republic; Lenta.ru, Moscow)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers2 (Vladimir Samanyuk, anchorman, Kareliya TV/Radio Company, and editor, Leninskaya Pravda newspaper, Petrozavodsk; Revizorro TV show film crew, charged in Murmansk)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist1 (Fayil Akhmetshin, journalist, newspaper Sharanskiye Prostory, Bashkortostan)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. 4 (Graham Philips, Russia Today journalist from Britain, detained in Moscow; Grigory Oganezov, Novaya Gazeta journalists, Samara; Yevgeny Shirmanov, blogger from Saratov, detained in Penza; Ukrainian Inter TV channel film crew, detained in Simferopol)

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.) – 31

Threats against journalists and media4 (Yelena Letuchaya, anchorwoman, Revizorro TV show, threatened in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region; Stavropolye TV/Radio Company, Stavropol; Vassily Grishin, Ura.ru photojournalist, Yekaterinburg; Sergey Tomashevsky, FC SKA spokesman, threatened in Rostov-on-Don)

Refusal to print (or distribute) media – 3 (Smolenskaya Narodnaya Gazeta, Smolensk, twice; newspaper Navigator, Samara Region)

Disruption of TV and radio broadcasts2 (Novosti-Kuzbass TV show, Kemerovo, twice)

Closure of media – 2 (BaltInfo news agency, St. Petersburg; Telegraf news agency, St. Petersburg)

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run 2 (newspaper Spravedlivaya Rossiya, Magadan; newspaper Zakubanye, Adygei Republic)

Interference with internet publications2 (website of newspaper Kopeiskiy Rabochiy, Chelyabinsk Region, twice)

Release of duplicate (i.e., rival) publications – 1 (newspaper LDPR, in Ryazan Region)

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video and audio apparatus and computers 5 (camcorder of REN TV, Moscow; camcorder of Revizorro film crew in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region; computers of newspaper Listok, Gorno-Altaisk; video cassette of Stavropolye TV/Radio Company film crew, Stavropol Region; computer of Aleksandr Byvshev, blogger from Oryol Region)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights36


OUR CONTRIBUTORS

More about fact-juggling arbitration courts in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

With yet another journalistic investigation account it published on 2 September, Stavropol-based Otkrytaya Gazeta followed up on a standing topic it discusses – judges’ readiness to defy the law by passing decisions in the interests of wealthy claimants.

The GDF has more than once reported on the face-off between Svetlana Fomina, director of the Stavropol Settlements Centre (SSC), and Otkrytaya, which has consistently exposed SSC machinations with residents’ utility service bills (see digest 693). The protracted conflict and the astronomic amounts of money spent on it by officials have confirmed the newspaper’s suspicions that the SSC head in only a pawn in the hands of those standing behind – a well-organised group of tricksters led by Stavropol Mayor Aleksandr Jatdoyev. These people have used a variety of instruments in an effort to gag the independent regional newspaper – legal claims lodged with common law courts and courts of arbitration; expensive “expert studies” made by shady “expert firms”; gearing Roskomnadzor’s backing; and filing libellous complaints with different government authorities. Chief Editor Lyudmila Leontyeva has been compelled to spend more time in court than in the newsroom. But Otkrytaya readers have stood by, coming to court one after another to show their utility bills and payment vouchers, and to share their heart-rending stories.

Finally, after a 9-month litigation during which Judge Natalya Kuznetsova meticulously verified the authenticity of each of the numerous facts and phrases cited in the statement of claim, the Oktyabrsky district court rejected Fomina’s claim in full, thereby providing documentary confirmation of the fraud schemes in the utility services area (described in every detail in Otkrytaya publications) carried out by a commercial firm operating under Jatdoyev’s wing.

Yet it turns out it was too early for the journalists and their readers to celebrate a victory: they had a hand slipped into their pocket from another side – with the help of an arbitration court where Fomina’s another “reputation-protecting” claim on behalf of the SSC had been lying without consideration in anticipation of the district court trial’s outcome, to prevent “complications” that had more than once occurred in the past, when similar previous claims were reviewed. Evidently upset by the district court’s finding in favour of Otkrytaya again this time, arbitration court Judge Aleksandr Churilov, acting ahead of the higher-standing regional appellate court’s likely approval of the first-instance ruling (which meant the arbitration court would have had to acknowledge the accuracy of all the facts cited in the hateful newspaper’s publications), quickly considered the case in the absence of Leontyeva the defendant and her lawyer. Taking just an hour (sic!) to review about a hundred documents that the district court had taken a whole 9 months to study, he passed a ruling upon hearing the arguments of only one side again!

Neglecting the “unity of law enforcement” and “uniformity of judicial practices” requirements established and explained in detail by the European Court of Human Rights, whose principles are deemed to guide Russia’s justice system among others, Stavropol Region courts have shown that what one court may call “white”, another feels free to call “black”!

Arbitration courts in the region – and this is a fact that Otkrytaya has many times highlighted – have long been “at war” with common law courts, turning a blind eye to the latter’s decisions. Judge Churilov, specifically, declared 10 (of a total of 39) phrases in the publications challenged by the SSC to be “damaging” to the Centre’s reputation; those are the very same phrases that the regional court had pronounced neither libellous nor defaming. Acting as hastily as he did, the judge went as far as requiring the newspaper to disclaim an evaluative statement, several interrogative sentences, and even some references to other publications!

Arbitration court Judge Nadezhda Gladskikh then got busy reviewing the SSC and Fomina’s claim of 1 million roubles in reputational damages from Otkrytaya Gazeta. The lawyers representing SSC interests attempted to “substantiate” this claim by presenting different inquiries and appeals to the Settlements Centre, including those from angry citizens who had already proven in previous trials the falseness of the multi-thousand “debts” ascribed to them by the SSC. Accepting those inquiries as “valid evidence”, Gladskikh invited the defendants to present their “bill of particulars with references to existing legal norms”.

To be sure, the whole thing ended in SSC suffering no financial loss at all. Judging by its official performance reports in the public domain, the firm has been rapidly getting wealthier, with its incomes running far ahead of the growth of utility rates. For law enforcement to take a closer look at the sources of the company’s excessive profits seems long overdue.

Judge Gladskikh (whom Otkrytaya repeatedly criticised in previous years for passing dubious decisions in other cases) actually stopped the newspaper’s defence lawyer Vadim Pankov – a renowned professional with a qualifications certificate from the European Court of Human Rights – from presenting the defence’s arguments, which caused him to state right in the courtroom that the judge was deliberately preventing him from exercising his right to defence and the presentation of evidence, while not requiring the other side to present any evidence at all. Yet the major sensation still lay in store for the journalists in the decision passed in the case: the court awarded the SSC nearly 300,000 roubles in reputational damages in view a “lost profit estimate” allegedly presented by the claimant – 6 million roubles! But no such estimate could ever be presented in principle, since not a word was said about it during the trial! Otkrytaya’s lawyers rushed to court to check the case files – and found ten forged documents secretly added to the files already after the trial was over.

“What kind of papers are those?” Raisa Abramova, a prominent fighter against the “communal Mafia” and head of the People’s Inspection public group, wondered before sitting down to closely study the newly-discovered “documents”. She shared her findings with the readers in the same issue of Otkrytaya:

“I attended one of the hearings where Judge Gladskikh was ‘administering justice’, and I could suspect some nasty things might be expected,” Abramova wrote. “But for a judge to throw in [fake] documents as ‘proofs’ of ‘financial losses’ incurred by ‘SSC the poor lamb’ is a full-fledged crime without inverted commas! Of course, I wanted to look at the documents to trace down the sources of all these losses. Who decided to break off with the SSC, evidently unable to put up with its blemished reputation anymore? Well, if those weren’t familiar names and entities – the affiliate municipal property management companies and settlement centres the SSC itself had at one time established!”

Abramova supplied a list of management companies many of which had been stripped of their housing management licenses, while others were registered as having their offices at the location of private apartments somewhere in Cherkessk and engaging in, say, cargo carriage as their main line of activity.

“Is the ‘reward’ offered by the client is indeed so large that Gladskikh no longer fears to give up the judge’s black gown?” Otkrytaya editor Lyudmila Leontyeva wondered, putting a question also to the heads of the arbitration court and members of the Judges’ Qualifying Board: “Don’t you think, ladies and gentlemen, that you bear joint and several liability for your colleagues’ ‘heroic’ behaviour?”

The newspaper intends to get comments on this story from Russia’s Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev.


LETTERS

Appeal for support by Moyo Poberezhye editor Tatyana Sedykh (Vanino, Far East)

Journalists’ Union of Russia

Glasnost Defence Foundation

Truth & Justice Foundation in Support of Independent Regional and Local Media

Together, we will be able to do more!

Dear colleagues:

On the eve of International Journalists’ Solidarity Day, I hereby appeal to everyone who can provide any kind of support you can afford.

We need financial assistance to continue releasing the newspaper Moyo Poberezhye and keeping its office operational. Over the eleven years of our newspaper’s existence, we have never received any subsidy from the state. For all these years, we have lived modestly, spending nearly all the money we have earned on financing the numerous costs that are associated with the release of any newspaper.

Ours is not a commercial publishing project. Our goals are to provide information support for, and defend the rights and freedoms of, ordinary people turning to us for help. Besides, for the past ten years, we ourselves have provided charity support for those in need of it, since we know what compassion, empathy and understanding are all about. But today, as the economic situation is growing worse, we find it increasingly difficult to bear the burden of publishing costs which we finance through selling our newspaper at small-business sales outlets and through using money paid by advertisers who, too, are finding themselves crisis-stricken.

As a result, we are compelled to appeal to audiences from the pages of our newspaper with this message, “We have sustained severe attacks while working in our readers’ interests, and we hope we will be able – together – to overcome temporary financial difficulties as well!”

We address this appeal to all of you, too, and will be grateful for any assistance you may wish to provide.

Best regards,

Tatyana Sedykh, founder and editor of newspaper Moyo Poberezhye (based in Vanino, Khabarovsk Region)

Winner of Artyom Borovik Award “Honour, Courage & Mastery”

Winner of Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”

Laureate of Journalists’ Union of Russia’s highest decoration, “Honour, Dignity, Professionalism”

We will be able to achieve more together!

Below are the bank requisites for transferring any financial support for the release of Moyo Poberezhye you may wish to donate: ИП Седых Татьяна Александровна р/с40802810770100110284 к/с30101810600000000608 Дальневосточный банк ОАО «Сбербанк РФ» г.Хабаровск БИК 040813608 ИНН 270902907164 КПП 270402001

[Private entrepreneur Sedykh, Tatyana Aleksandrovna; Settlements Acc. 40802810770100110284; Corr. Acc. 30101810600000000608 with Far Eastern branch of OAO Sberbank, City of Khabarovsk; Bank Identification Number: 040813608; Taxpayer Identification Number: 270902907164; Registration Number: 270402001]

Thanks in advance for your support!


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