15 Октября 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 726

12 October 2015


Attack on journalist case submitted to court in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

A deputy prosecutor of the Kochubeyevsky District in the region of Stavropol has upheld the convictive sentences passed in respect of Lavrenty Turshiyev and Victor Molchanov, accused under Criminal Code Article 144 of obstructing journalists’ lawful professional work.

As we have reported, a film crew with the Stavropolye State TV/Radio Company, while shooting a TV report about the illegal extraction of gravel from a local quarry, was attacked on 21 August by quarry workers Turshiyev and Molchanov, who demanded that the camera be switched off and attempted to snatch it away from the cameraman. They then seized the keys of the reporters’ car, held the videographer forcibly, and confiscated the recorded video cassette. The film crew called the police, and journalist Anastasia Ependiyeva and cameraman Sergei Tabala spent the following 6-odd hours at the police station answering investigators’ questions (see digest 719).

The criminal case has been submitted to the Kochubeyevsky district court for trial in essence, according to the regional prosecutor’s office.

Director of independent news agency in Murmansk foresees his possible arrest

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

Dmitry Vysotsky, general director of the Murmansk-based news agency SeverPost, has published a statement on his website severpost.ru/read/32871/ about a provocation being planned against him, aimed at getting him detained and arrested on a thought-up pretext.

“I have information from reliable sources that I may be arrested shortly – I even know under which particular article of the Criminal Code,” he wrote. “You know all too well who has been getting increasingly nervous because of a series of unmasking publications on severpost.ru. For starters, they summoned me for questioning in the wake of a false report to the police. They gave it to be understood they wouldn’t let me go next time.”

Vysotsky’s misgivings that he made known to the public are connected with his recent summons to the police for 90-minute questioning, during which he learned that Denis Pushin, deputy head of the regional administration’s internal policy department, had reported to law enforcement about SeverPost’s allegedly use of pirate software. For some reason, though, the resulting inspection is being conducted not by the “K” (“Computers”) department but by the unit for fighting corruption. The journalist sees this as a “real provocation” linked with his professional work; he, in turn, has accused Pushin of deliberate false reporting to the police.

Web news portal loses in court to head of Karelia’s State Control Committee

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

The city court in Petrozavodsk has satisfied a legal claim lodged by Vitaly Galkin, head of Karelia’s State Control Committee, against the news portal Guberniya Daily (gubdaily.ru) which the claimant accused of circulating untrue information about him.

The underlying article titled “Why Hudilainen Must Resign: A Matter of Personnel Policy”, posted on gubdaily.ru in April, retold an earlier Novaya Gazeta publication about V. Galkin, a former judge of the Slantsy district court in the Leningrad Region, who after resignation was invited by Karelia Governor Aleksandr Hudilainen to fill the vacancy of the republic’s deputy justice minister. As could be gathered from the text of the article, ex-Judge Galkin “unlawfully received a salary from the budget” in addition to a judge’s pension, which was wrong, since government service was prohibited to him under the law; also, he was stripped of his status of a former judge by the regional Qualifying Panel of Judges. The most “crushing” passage of the publication read as follows: “He [Galkin] was found guilty of committing a crime. For the following seven months, however, he received a judge’s impressive pension plus a Karelia government official’s salary – hardly less than 80,000 roubles in all.”

The defendant’s representatives failed to prove in court the accuracy of the information circulated by the newspaper. The court declared all the four challenged phrases untrue, and required Guberniya Daily to remove the publication from its website and publish the operative part of the court decision passed. Also, Vitaly Galkin was awarded 100,000 roubles in moral damages from the newspaper – a tenth of what he had originally claimed, though.

If Guberniya had simply reprinted the Novaya Gazeta article without changing any semantic accents, it likely would not have had to defend in court at all. Yet its attempt to stress several other points in the borrowed publication gave Galkin the grounds for lodging a legal claim.

The defendant does not consider the conflict settled and intends to challenge the court ruling before a higher-standing judicial authority.

English lord’s son claims offended by Perm-based newspaper Novyi Kompanyon

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region Arbitration Court on 9 October announced a 12-day break in the hearings of a dispute between OAO Port Perm and OOO Kompanyon Publishers’. On 9 November, the Leninsky district court in Perm is to review a similar claim in defence of business reputation, lodged against the same publishing house by British subject Charles Butler. Both litigations came in the wake of the February and March publications “Perm to Be Left without Its Port in Two Years” and “Nearly Run Ashore”, which appeared on the NewsKo website and in the newspaper Novyi Kompanyon.

The claims were submitted to court, respectively, on 29 and 30 July, each challenging five phrases published – about big money transfers from Russia to the Czech Republic, the sale of ships, the non-payment of wages and taxes, violations of the Foreign Investments Law, and working week reductions accompanied by a swelling of top managers’ earnings.

The court of arbitration and the district court involved Dmitry Fyodorov, general director of OOO EuroInvestGroup, as a co-defendant in the case. According to the claimants, that businessman has come up with “libellous and smearing” statements regarding them.

Charles Butler, referred to in the publications as “son of an English lord” and “the actual leader” of Port Perm, has not attended the hearings, sending three Russian lawyers to stand proxy for him in the arbitration court, and two others in the district court. One of them, Yevgeny Melnikov, told the GDF about his client’s intention to name the exact amount of claimed compensation which so far has been estimated at “about half a million roubles”.


Court in Omsk satisfies civil activist’s legal claim against special services

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Irina Zaitseva, a human rights activist and businesswoman, has won in court over an organisation fighting against “foreign agents” and “the fifth column” in the Omsk Region. That organisation was doubtlessly behind a publication posted nearly six months ago on the popular local website SuperOmsk, describing Zaitseva as “an agent of western influence” and a member of the Omsk branch of the For Human Rights movement which allegedly aims to “overthrow the state system” in Russia, etc.

The anonymous article, presented as an “editorial”, was written clearly not by SuperOmsk authors of whom none is known to have been hitherto involved in compromising info leaks or the search for “internal enemies”. Moreover, most of the website’s staff journalists are young people who due to their young age are unfamiliar with the said organisation’s unchanged-for-decades peculiar intonations which still echo in our ears with the “menacingly righteous” tonality of resolutions and court sentences that were not to be appealed against but were to be accepted as a priori “just” ones.

The authors of the “editorial” are right insofar as Irina Zaitseva is indeed in opposition to those government and law enforcement officials who put the squeeze on city residents while carefully protecting their own wellbeing from “trespassers”.

Following that publication’s logic, the “foreign agent and fifth column” lot should be deemed to include, among others, those residents of remote villages who complain to Zaitseva about machinations with their dilapidated housing, as well as convicts complaining about their arbitrary treatment by pre-trial prison and penal colony administrations. In the wake of her reports to law enforcement, criminal proceedings have been started against government officials who have laid their hands on apartments slated for re-settlers from shabby houses unfit for habitation, and inspections have been carried out to verify reported instances of prisoner humiliation and illegal business activity within the penal system, resulting in a significant shrinkage of the number of emergencies and money extortions from prisoners’ relatives in that system. As can be seen, “foreign secret service activity” in the Omsk Region has so far been clearly beneficial for its residents.

In her statement of claim, the civil activist estimated the damage done by that publication to her honour, dignity and business reputation at 1.5 million roubles. The court did acknowledge that the information posted on SuperOmsk was untrue, but reduced the amount of moral damages payable to 40,000 roubles. In the current political situation, this comes as an unexpected and extremely important decision which, on the one hand, means that “the fifth column”, “foreign agents”, etc. have the right to exist, while on the other, that those opposed to these communities must answer for what they do or say.

Kalmyk newspaper Elistinskiy Courier wards off Nazism propaganda charges

The GDF has been informed that the FSB department for the Kalmyk Republic and the republican Interior Ministry Centre for Countering Extremism have jointly discovered that the Elista-based newspaper Elistinskiy Courier on 26 March 2015 carried an article titled “Searching for Lost Kalmyk Self-identification”, with an attached image featuring elements of Nazi symbols, which the two agencies identified as a violation by Courier Chief Editor Vitaly Kadayev of effective anti-extremism legislation.

As it often happens in these kinds of cases, the city prosecutor initiated the start of administrative proceedings that he then forwarded for review to the Elista city court, which found the chief editor guilty of “promoting and publicly demonstrating Nazi symbols” and sentenced him to a fine and the seizure of the whole print run – 10,000 copies of the newspaper.

However, the underlying article, which was essentially anti-fascist, was never meant to propagandize Nazi paraphernalia or symbols. Its author, Semyon Ateyev, appealed to the Supreme Court of Kalmykia arguing that his article, on the contrary, condemned Nazism and expressed concerns over the growing popularity among part of Russia’s population of neo-Nazi ideas and theories of the alleged superiority of some races over others.

The Supreme Court upheld the author’s appeal, cancelled the city court’s ruling, and closed the administrative case against the chief editor.

[Elistinskiy Courier report, 8 October]

Russian and Polish journalists in St. Petersburg discuss ways of promoting dialogue

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

A Russo-Polish conference, “Throwing a Bridge for Journalists’ Dialogue” was held in St. Petersburg on 30 September-1 October, providing a venue for frank exchanges of opinions about the status of journalism in the two countries.

The main distinctive feature of the event was that it was a meeting of practitioners, not theoreticians. Conference participants discussed things they knew from their own experience and were concerned about, which was much more useful that hearing media-related data cited by academics and different sorts of consultants.

Many Russian conferees were surprised to hear guests speaking critically of the way things are in today’s journalism in Poland. Domestic speakers admitted that all too often the situation in the European – and generally, Western – media is presented “too optimistically” in this country.

One of the common problems identified by both countries’ representatives is that journalists are often compelled to indulge their audiences. The growth of online media and, generally, the diversity of supply at the media market have caused readers, viewers and listeners to choose the media with which they see eye to eye on the events covered. That is why media owners and editors (and journalists, too) have sought to play up to their audiences’ preferences and to satisfy their requirements by all available means, which practices have told negatively on the quality of reporting. Polish conferees admitted sadly that investigative journalism is far less popular today in their country than it used to be not so long ago.

And yet, revelations by Russian and Polish participants were quite different. The guests focused on problems inherent in society’s transformation, media development and information delivery to the customer, whereas Russians complained about poor working conditions, censorship and self-censorship, the complex political situation, and the economic crisis. Nor did the parties find any common ground when discussing journalistic ethics: what appeared to be “accepted practices” in Russia were characterised by Polish colleagues as “rare occurrences”, although the Poles were far from trying to idealise the situation in their own country.

Not all of the conferees from St. Petersburg were in a pessimistic mood: while pointing to difficulties, only a few of them spoke about the virtual end of journalism in Russia. Actually, Daniil Kotsyubinsky was the only speaker to honestly acknowledge that he had given up journalism years before, upon realizing how hopelessly it had decayed in our domestic environment. Time will show whether his assessment is correct, but the gap that has emerged between Polish and Russian journalism literally over the past couple of decades is evident.


2015 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The jury of the 2015 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues accepting works submitted for this year’s contest. The submission deadline is November 1.

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

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2014 and October 15, 2015 in Russian print or online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard (Journalists’ Union of Russia entrance), Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

For further details, please see www.gdf.ru

Master class for journalists and NGO activists on work with judicial information held in St. Petersburg

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

The fully-packed house at the seminar “Work with Judicial Information”, held in St. Petersburg by the news agency RF Judicial Decisions, showed that journalists sensitively react to public demand.

The number of media reports about ongoing judicial proceedings has notably increased in the past few years. Not only is society interested in high-resonance and politically-underpinned trials or crime reports; it also watches closely how the third branch of power operates, and how and what kinds of decisions are passed. This refers in the first place to people who are not indifferent to what is going on in this country – to those whom we call civil activists. They, too, came to attend the seminar in order to learn where to look for information about judicial decisions.

And yet the master class audience consisted for the most part of journalists and NGO representatives who perform as a link between the general public and courts by highlighting and covering specific trials and rulings, and criticising or praising the courts for their work on behalf of society.

RF Judicial Decisions presented an open database of court rulings and information cards that has already been in use for some time by many media workers and human rights defenders. Compared to the websites of separate courts, alternative databases are more convenient in terms of contextual search – and not only for a particular panel of judges but for many or all of those displayed in the database.

A novelty that caught the eye of many seminar participants was a new judicial statistics service in an easy-to-handle form, which brings together otherwise scattered data published by judicial authorities at different levels.

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