18 Ноября 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 731

16 November 2015


Censorship as an instrument of protecting a Khabarovsk official’s reputation?

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Vlaldimir Chernyshov, head of the Khabarovsk administration’s Press and Mass Communications Committee, remains in the focus of a scandal that we described in digest 716.

The online newspaper Debri-DV has got hold of a copy of regional prosecutor V. Kaplunov’s directive “On eliminating violations of anti-corruption legislation”, which shows that in his statements of income for 2013 and 2014, Chernyshov failed to mention four bank accounts and four bank cards to which more than 15 million roubles were credited during the two years. Also, when reporting on his and his wife’s earnings and expenses in 2014, he wrongfully stated the price of a sold Kia Mohave – 950,000 roubles instead of 200,000. The prosecutor demanded that the dishonest official be fired in a month’s time (before 23 October 2015) in line with Article of Federal Law No. 79-FZ (“Dismissal in view of mistrust”).

Yet today, after a month and a half, Chernyshov is still leading the Press Committee.

The editors of Debri-DV have filed an inquiry with Khabarovsk Region Governor Vyacheslav Shport, and posted its text for everyone to read, asking whether the prosecutorial directive has been considered, and if yes, what kind of decision has been taken thereon. They have not received any answer so far (although the law-established 30-day reply period is not over yet), while instantly detecting signs of censorship imposed on their newspaper’s website which has been made inaccessible to officials at the regional administration.

A similar situation occurred in the neighbouring Sakhalin Region a few years ago, where the regional government blocked access to the Sakh.com news portal on all government premises. Officials could read the news about themselves only when accessing the popular news site from their home computers. Notably, the “trolls” defending those at the helm round the clock did have access to the web resource. Sakh.com journalists saw that situation as funny; after the previous governor stepped down, the site was unblocked.

Their colleagues in Khabarovsk, though, are unwilling to put up with the current situation: they have reported the censorship attempt and the violation of the RF Constitution to the Journalists’ Union of Russia and the United Popular Front.

… As this report was being prepared for posting, the news came about Vladimir Chernyshov’s resigning as head of the Press and Mass Communications Committee of his own free will on 16 November.

Photo correspondent in Karelia fined for taking pictures in court lobby

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

The ongoing trial over Petrozavodsk Deputy Mayor Yevgenia Sukhorukova has been drawing close attention from the press, and nearly each court sitting has been a full-house event. The defendant and her lawyer asked from the outset to protect them from “excessive attention” of photo correspondents, and on one occasion, the reporters were disallowed at Sukhorukova’s request to use cameras in the courtroom. After that incident, which happened early this year, the Journalists’ and Media Rights Defence Centre sent A. Sudakov, chairman of the Petrozavodsk city court, a letter of protest against the ban on the photojournalist’s profession, but the court chairman upheld the decision of the judge who had prohibited photography in the courtroom as a perfectly legal one.

In a more recent episode, a photo correspondent with the news website Stolitsa na Onego was banned from taking pictures again – this time of people in the court lobby. A bailiff, seeing that the photographer had not put his camera away and continued working, showed him into an office where a protocol of administrative offence was made.

The journalist was tried for not obeying the bailiff’s orders (under Administrative Code Article 17.3) and fined 300 roubles for taking pictures inside the court building. When substantiating his decision, the judge cited “The rules of visitors’ behaviour in the Petrozavodsk city court”.

The media community disagrees with the ruling and is preparing an appeal, since federal legislation regulating judiciary-media relations does not impose any restrictions like those mentioned in “The rules…”

This conflict situation highlights the need for several paragraphs in those internal regulations to be revised, specifically Article 3 (“Internal security measures”) which bans the use of video and photo cameras without the chairperson’s authorisation “elsewhere in the court building”, i.e., anywhere outside the courtroom.

“The rules of visitors’ behaviour in the Petrozavodsk city court”, adopted in August 2013, will be challenged before the Supreme Court of Karelia.

Tomsk-based blogger Vadim Tyumentsev is a prisoner of conscience

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Having studied the case of Tomsk-based blogger Vadim Tyumentsev, who has been kept in a pre-trial detention prison for more than six months now, the Memorial Human Rights Centre has identified the man as a political prisoner.

Memorial made this conclusion despite the fact that it does not share some of the blogger’s views, a statement posted on the organisation’s website said. As the GDF reported earlier (see digest 722), the regional FSB department and Investigative Committee accused Tyumentsev under Criminal Code Article 282 of “actions aimed at instigating hate or enmity” and under Article 280 of “public calls for acts of extremism”.

The law enforcers imputed those two criminal offences to the blogger based on two videos he had posted in YouTube and on his personal page in the VKontakte social network. According to human rights defenders, if one complied with effective legislation, one could apply criminal law – “at least in pure theory” – only to the video calling for “Donetsk and Lugansk refugees to be ousted from Tomsk”, although Memorial sees that video’s content, too, as arguable and definitely not featuring any calls for the use of force.

Holding Tyumentsev criminally liable for his video about “setting up roadblocks on city streets in protest against the lawless outrage of officials and fixed-run taxi drivers” is completely unlawful, Memorial stated, noting that calls for an unauthorised peaceful action “are not on the list of extremist acts, while the limits of acceptable criticism regarding public officials and professional politicians are broader than those regarding other citizens”.

According to Memorial legal experts, the charges advanced in both cases are “artificially inflated”, and the application of two Criminal Code articles “is justified by exactly the same arguments, implying dual punishment for one and the same offence” that is “not commensurate” in terms of its danger to society with “the restrictive measure chosen”. This notwithstanding, Vadim Tyumentsev is to stay under arrest for three and a half more months as a minimum, since his term of detention has been extended until 28 February 2016, which means that the blogger will have spent about a year in prison even if a court of law acquits him or gives him a suspended imprisonment sentence.

“The blogger’s right to be defended is limited,” Memorial’s statement says. “His interests are represented by a court-appointed defence lawyer”, who has already rejected the services of two persons volunteering “to be Tyumentsev’s public advocates free of charge”. Meanwhile, the defence lawyer has been required to give a written pledge to keep all case-related information confidential – and this despite the absence of any reason at all, in Memorial’s view, to limit the openness of the trial going on in the Kirovsky district court in Tomsk.


House of Journalists hosts numerous news conferences in Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Since the House of Journalists opened in Yekaterinburg, colleagues have organised there many news briefings where anyone was free to ask regional leaders any questions.

For example, Sverdlovsk Region Governor Yevgeny Kuivashev met with district and municipal newspaper editors on 10 November to share the administration’s regional development plans until 2030. Colleagues from Serov were interested, specifically, in whether it would be possible to extend the existing high-speed commuter train route up to their city. Journalists from the city of Verkhnyaya Pyshma were concerned about progress in implementing the housing capital repairs programme. Representatives of Degtyarsk were worried by the proposed construction of a new industrial plant that some see as a potential hazard to the area’s environment. Journalists from Beryozovsky, a suburban town slated to merge with Greater Yekaterinburg, were concerned about having the transport infrastructure improved.

Unwilling to leave professional problems unattended, journalists asked the governor if he could establish some kind of a charity fund to support creative initiatives of press and TV reporters. Kuivashev instructed his aides to look at the issue at close quarters.

Not so long ago, the House of Journalists became the venue for a round-table conference titled “TV guide markings: How to stop [media regulator] Roskomnadzor’s repressive practices”. As reported on the website of the Sverdlovsk Creative Union of Journalists, the conference attracted chief newspaper editors from Kachkanar, Beryozovsky, Kamyshlov, Revda, Rezh and Verkhnyaya Pyshma, as well as a specially invited media lawyer from Revda, Mikhail Khokholkov.

The conferees discussed a matter of common concern, how to correctly mark films in TV guides; exchanged experiences of defending newspaper interests in court; and outlined plans of promoting constructive co-operation with oversight agencies. The round table was given real-time online coverage, and the organisers have already received the first comments and questions from colleagues in different Russian regions, for experts to answer.

Letter from Bashkortostan

The Glasnost Defence Foundation has received a message signed by seven media editors from Bashkortostan, reading as follows:

A media optimisation campaign is underway in Bashkortostan, with the republic’s Press and Media Agency performing as one of the main media owners.

Since the process has just begun, it is too early to draw final conclusions, but we would like to highlight a number of circumstances that negatively affect the media’s operation:

1.Authors’ fees in media outlets have shrunk almost by one half.

2.The print runs of newspapers and magazines have fallen to a fifth and less of what they used to be in previous years.

3. Journalists’ salaries have been reduced 20% to 30% because of cancelled bonus payments.

4.Journalists’ salaries have not been indexed upwards for several years now.

5.The average salary of local media reporters, by our estimates, is only 17,000 roubles, compared to an average 22,500 roubles nationwide.

5.Despite 20% to 25% layoffs throughout the media, no wage rises have followed.

6.Media staffs are transferred, in violation of the Labour Code and existing sanitary norms, to much less spacious premises, where there is not enough room for meetings with authors and readers to get live feedback and hear their notes, suggestions, etc. and hold readings and recitals.

7. All media are divided into branch offices with a single accounting office over them, which system makes individual outlets’ achievements untraceable.

We ask for your help in clearing this matter up, because the republic’s media play an important role in upholding local stability, inter-ethnic peace and harmony, and in consolidating society on the basis of patriotism and love of our motherland.

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
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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:
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