Дайджест
13 Ноября 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 730

9 November 2015


RUSSIA

Attack-on-journalists case goes all the way to court in Chelyabinsk

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Sovetsky district prosecutor’s office in Chelyabinsk has submitted to court a criminal case started in the wake of an attack on a film crew with the television channel Vostochnyi Ekspress. The incident occurred on 8 August near the burning building of an abandoned grain elevator in the city centre. As a reporter and a cameraman for the news show Telefakt were quietly doing their job, two young men approached them and, without identifying themselves, started aggressively insisting that the camera be switched off, because “no one is allowed to film private property here”.

The journalists, though, continued working, which caused one of the men to strike the lady reporter, grab the cell phone out of her hand, and smash it on the pavement (see digest 718).

As established by investigators, one of the assailants was a certain Mr Solyayev; in a state of intoxication, he insisted on stopping the shooting, pushed the camera, closed the lens with his hand, hit the reporter on the shoulder, and attempted to shoo the cameraman away into his car. A video of the attack, posted on the TV channel’s website and other web resources, was the main evidence in the case.

Now Mr Solyayev is to answer for actions that the Criminal Code identifies as “obstruction of a journalist’s professional work involving the use of violence”, an offence punishable by up to 6 years in jail.

The GDF will closely follow the developments, the more so because trials on such charges are extremely rare in Russia.

Assailants on film crew convicted in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The Kochubeyevsky district court has passed convictive sentences in the case of Lavrenty Turshiyev and Viktor Molchanov, two gravel quarry workers who attacked a film crew with the Stavropolye State TV/Radio Company on 21 August. The hearings were held in a special mode, since both defendants had pleaded guilty.

The crew, tasked by the editor to shoot a TV report about the illegal extraction of gravel from a local quarry, came under attack by Turshiyev and Molchanov, who demanded that the journalists stop the shooting; they attempted to tear the camera off from the videographer, pelted him with stones, and held the lady reporter by the hand against her will to prevent her from running away. By pressure and threats, they coerced the journalists into giving up the recorded cassette (see digest 719).

Each of the assailants received a suspended 3-year imprisonment sentence.

The regional prosecutor, Yuri Turygin, has ordered a check-up of how KubanAgroService Ltd. complies with the land and nature protection law while developing gravel quarries in the Kochubeyevsky district. As it turned out, the company has worked illegally.

That mineral resource poaching flourishes in the Stavropol Region is a fact known to all except those who earn money by being in the illegal business. Of the 76 mineral prospecting firms operating in the region, 51 are unlicensed, Stavropolye Director Ilya Kanavkin told the GDF, adding that the police and prosecutor’s office turn a blind eye to this. “It’s all about very big money and semi-criminal or criminal connections,” he said. “Not only we have been subject to intimidation. There’ve been repeated attacks on inspectors from the Ministry of Mineral Resources, and even ministerial-rank officials have been threatened, and seriously.”

Murmansk border guards prohibit photography of refugees seeking to emigrate to Norway

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

Nikel village in the Murmansk Region is turning into a terminal for refugees seeking political asylum in Norway. The majority of these people are not from Syria but mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even Mongolia. Their road to the dreamland Northern Kingdom starts from the airport or railway station, where they club together to pay for a taxi to Nikel, making the first stopover at the checkpoint near Titovka. Here is where problems start piling up also for journalists reporting on the amassment of migrants.

Border guards prohibit using cameras at the checkpoint and even talking to taxi drivers or guests from Southern countries, as witnessed by Novaya Gazeta, Arctic TV, and Reuters reporters who have been there.

The chief of the FSB Border Guard Department for the Republic of Karelia, who is in charge of that stretch of the frontier, has simply left all journalistic inquiries unanswered. Border guards have been threatening reporters attempting to do their professional job with detention or arrest. This may be because they extort money from refugees crossing the Russian-Norwegian border, Novaya Gazeta alleged.

Petrozavodsk-based blogger fined for posting Nazi symbols online

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

After Karelia’s Centre for Combating Extremism found Nazi symbols and symbols of the Ukrainian Pravy Sektor nationalist group (outlawed in Russia) on a social network page of Petrozavodsk-based blogger Vadim Shtepa, they urged him to remove the “unlawful information and illustrations” from the site, which Shtepa refused to do claiming that it was not a swastika but the Finnish sign hakaristi that he had posted. Indeed, the two signs are outwardly alike, but hakaristi has nothing to do with Nazi Germany; as an ancient symbol of good luck for the Finno-Ugric peoples, it was adopted as part of the Finnish Air Force official insignia in 1918, he said.

Regarding his note about Pravy Sektor, Shtepa said he was in Ukraine during the latest elections, reporting about his impressions of the course of the campaign, including Pravy Sektor performance, in the VKontakte social network. Though, he could not explain why he had posted the group leader’s visiting card on his web page, and finally acknowledged this as a mistake on his part, while stressing that his purpose was not propaganda but only a desire to keep his readers informed about what was going on in Ukraine.

The city court in Petrozavodsk found Shtepa guilty of “public demonstration of Nazi symbols or paraphernalia” (as defined in RF Administrative Code Article 20.3) and fined him 1,000 roubles, which decision the blogger will not challenge, according to his words.

Perm-based provincial politician claims hurt by being called “loser”

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm has ordered a philological study of half a dozen phrases that were aired and posted on its website by the local broadcaster UralInform TV on 8 August under the heading “Political Loser”, which local MP Dmitry Skrivanov took as an insult and lodged a legal claim against the TV and radio company in a bid to protect his honour and dignity.

A United Russia party (URP) Legislative Assembly deputy from a provincial town in the Perm Region, Skrivanov claimed offended by what struck him as “untrue and smearing” information about his alleged setbacks as a public activist and MP, and during his brief tenure as a member of the Monotown Development Fund (FRM) established under the Russian government’s auspices.

Skrivanov did not attend the first hearing held on 2 November; his lawyer Pyotr Tsekhmister requested on his behalf that the court order a study of the disputed phrases to be made by philology experts. The defendant’s representative, UralInform Legal Department head Dmitry Kazhin, had no objections but asked to insert the word “critical” between the last two words in the question to be answered by the experts: “Do the disputed publications feature any negative information?”

In a comment, Kazhin reminded the court that the plaintiff had abandoned leading posts in both the URP and the pro-government FRM in the past few months. Earlier, he was a deputy speaker, but now he is a rank-and-file member of the Legislative Assembly. The disputed publications include a link to the article “Dmitry Skrivanov’s New Fiasco” (newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets v Permi, 5 June 2015), which highlights those events. “The broadcaster published a critical opinion based on a newspaper article, not a statement of fact,” Kazhin pointed out.

Judge Yelena Kotelnikova entrusted the expert study to Yelena Vassilyeva, an assistant professor at Perm State University, setting 16 December as the deadline.

Skrivanov wants the “compromising” video to be removed from www.uitv.ru; the operative part of the would-be court decision to be posted instead, hanging there for the full next year; and 100,000 roubles to be paid to him in moral damages.

Taxi firm in Omsk sues OmskPravo news portal, demands disclaimer and judicial cost compensation

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Sovetsky district court in Omsk has started reviewing a rather uncommon legal claim lodged by the Avtodor fixed-run taxi company and its head Nikolai Artemyev against Aleksandr Grass, chief editor of the OmskPravo judicial news website. The claimants want seven stories about their company’s performance to be removed from the site, with no moral damages payable but with only their judicial costs and expenses on a linguistic study of the texts, to be carried out by Justice Ministry experts, to be reimbursed by the defendant.

Over the years of its operation, this taxi firm has earned such a bad reputation in Omsk that could hardly ever be changed for the worse, it seems. As can be gathered from numerous publications in different local media, the company has been a party to many conflicts – both before and after this judicial dispute – and has behaved as a kind of militant group. Suffice it to read the headings of news reports about those conflicts: “Fixed-run Taxi Drivers Exchange Fire in an Omsk Suburb”; “Fixed-run Taxi Drivers in Omsk Settle Mutual Scores: Four Taken to Hospital”; “Omsk Taxi Drivers’ Work Brings Back Memories of the ‘Wild’ 90s”; “Conflicts between GAZelle Drivers in Omsk Give Rise to 8 Criminal Cases”, etc.

Up until now, the taxi company and its head never once filed any legal claim against the media, and it is difficult to see why they are feeling so hurt by OmskPravo and A. Grass. According to the chief editor, all he did while preparing the disputed publications was “put together all the scattered information received from police, the mayor’s and prosecutor’s offices and the courts, and compare the names of individuals and legal entities involved”.

As it turned out during the preliminary hearing, shortly before going to law, Avtodor had renamed itself as The Association of West Siberian Carriers. In the view of defence lawyer Valentin Kuznetsov, the defendant’s representative, this renaming was caused by the fact that many Omsk residents had “mixed feelings”, to put it mildly, about Avtodor. “Rivalry on the taxi market in Omsk has long turned into smaller companies being stifled by bigger ones – as a rule, by criminal means and with official connivance,” Kuznetsov told the GDF. The trial which has begun in the Sovetsky district court will show how the local judiciary feels about such a situation.

Raiders who seized Soyuzpechat press-distributing company convicted in Khabarovsk

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

A fraud scheme resulting in real property losses for the press-distributing company Soyuzpechat has been fully exposed.

The Central district court in Khabarovsk has sentenced two Soyuzpechat shareholders, A. Silnichenko and A. Mironov, to five and a half and 6 years of imprisonment, respectively, for embezzling more than 139 million roubles in a major fraud scheme falling under Criminal Code Article 159.

As established in court, as owners of part of Soyuzpechat’s stock, Silnichenko and Mironov deceived the company’s bona fide shareholders by organising an extraordinary general meeting in 2012 that resolved to change the general director and form a fictitious board of directors from the number of individuals under their control. Exercising their property-disposal powers, the fraudsters concluded a series of illegal and unprofitable deals harming the company, while transferring the rights of real property ownership to some firms they controlled.

In addition to serving their terms in a general-regime penal colony, the convicts will be fined 800,000 roubles each.

The passing of the convictive sentence, which has now entered into full legal force, was facilitated by collective efforts of a number of public groups within Soyuzpechat, the Association of Print Media Distributors, several publishing firms based in Khabarovsk, and media industry colleagues who drew broad public attention to the scandalous story.

The staffers of Alyans Media Group, of which Soyuzpechat is a part, thank everyone who extended a helping hand, provided support and showed understanding in connection with the difficulties their colleagues had to go through.

The tedious, laborious has begun to recover the company assets.


GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

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

Attacks on journalists and bloggers – 6 (Dmitry Lebed, freelance journalist, Orenburg; film crew with 360 Podmoskovye TV channel, Moscow; Roman Romanov, blogger, Krasnoyarsk; Maksim Sukhanov, correspondent for Vesti TV show, Moscow; Anna Mamayenko, journalist, newspaper Tainoye I Yavnoye, Krasnodar; another film crew with 360 Podmoskovye TV channel, Moscow)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers – 4 (Anna Mamayenko, journalist, newspaper Tainoye I Yavnoye, Krasnodar; Robert Zagreyev, freelance journalist, Ufa; Ayrat Dilmukhametov, blogger, Ufa; Eskender Nebiyev, videographer with ATR channel, Simferopol)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 1 (Yelena Zaitseva, chief editor, OTV-Serpukhov TV channel, Moscow Region)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 7 (Gafiulla Gazizov, RFE/RL correspondent, Tatarstan; film crew with STB TV channel (Ukraine), thrice detained in Rostov Region; Natalya Umyarova, blogger, Samara; Oleg Ivanets, blogger, Samara; Dmitry Begun, blogger, Samara).

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.) – 29

Threats against journalists and media – 1 (film crew with 360 Podmoskovye TV channel, Moscow)

Disruption of TV and radio broadcasts – 1 (Radio Bolid, Perm)

Closure of media – 3 (Svobodnoye Slovo Adygeyi website and newspaper Svezhaya Gazeta, both based in Adygei Republic; newspaper Rodnoy Gorod, Saratov)

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run – 2 (newspaper Elistinskiy Courier, Elista; newspaper Nedelya Borovskogo Rayona, Kaluga Region – in August)

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video and audio apparatus and computers – 5 (camcorder of Armyansk.info news website, Crimea; camcorder of film crew with 360 Podmoskovye TV channel, Moscow; camcorder of blogger Roman Romanov, Krasnoyarsk; photo camera of Gafiulla Gazizov, RFE/RL correspondent, Tatarstan; camcorder of TVSAR film crew, Saratov)

Letter from Penza

Dear colleagues:

This is to inform you of a flagrant violation of journalist rights – an attempt at obstructing the work of a PenzaNews reporter performing his professional duty.

Early on 3 November, security guards with the energy sales company TNC Energo Penza detained PenzaNews journalist Maksim Kostyushin while fulfilling an editorial assignment – taking photo pictures of the company headquarters to illustrate a news report about a fine of 650,000 levied on TNS Energo. He was escorted to an office where a lady official told him he “could not” photograph the building from the outside without authorisation from the company management. Kostyushin was then released but forced to leave the company grounds without the opportunity to do the photo job he had planned.

TNS Energo managing director Roman Chernov, who was Penza mayor in 2005–2014, fully approved the guards’ actions, while failing to cite the particular legal norm requiring a journalist to coordinate photography of an office building from the side of the street it stands on.

For the full details, see penzanews.ru

Colleagues from other media have expressed solidarity with us because they, too, believe that a city street is a public place where anyone is free to take photo pictures.

We ask you to draw public attention to the fact that situations like the one described above are inadmissible!Sincerely,
Pavel Polosin, chief editor, PenzaNews


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