1 Декабря 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 732

23 November 2015


Justice Ministry’s “foreign agent” list extended

After an unplanned inspection, carried out in response to a complaint by a reader who “prohibited the disclosure of his personal data”, two Justice Ministry experts have designated the Glasnost Defence Foundation as “a non-profit organisation performing the functions of a foreign agent”. The objections we filed were ignored, and on 19 November the GDF was put on the “foreign agent” list.

As it turned out, the goal stated in our charter – “Contributing to the preservation and expansion of the legal environment in which the domestic print and online media operate” – was interpreted by the ministry experts as “engagement in political activity”.

Specifically, the GDF was “charged” with the holding of a school for investigative journalists and bloggers jointly with Foundation 19/29, a group blacklisted as a “foreign agent” earlier. The school, though, focused on journalist security issues, including warnings to journalists against the circulation of texts that might be identified as extremist. Another imputed “guilt” was our reporting in GDF digests about law violations against journalists and media committed by government officials (the very facts of such violations were not denied).

GDF President Alexei Simonov, in a comment on our Foundation’s listing as a “foreign agent”, said: “I don’t know the true reasons, but formally, this is all complete nonsense, because the protocol they presented as a justification is legally null and void, and I do wish that the Justice Ministry were more meticulous about selecting its staff specialists.”


Film crew nearly taken hostage in Murmansk Region

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

A film crew with the Murmansk-based broadcaster TV 21 narrowly escaped getting taken hostage on a fishing vessel on 16 November. Journalist Sergei Shiryayev and cameraman Boris Savelyev were assigned to go to Tri Ruchya village to shoot a report about default on wage payments to the fishermen working on the trawler Trepang, who said the management’s total debt to the 8-man crew amounted to 1.5 million roubles.

Upon getting aboard the vessel, the reporters were surrounded by a group of unknown men. “As we waited for the other fishermen to come out, some individuals came aboard, whom others introduced to us as co-owners,” Shiryayev recalled. “A few minutes later, those ‘co-owners’ decided to use force. We interpreted their orders to ‘hold these guys’, that is, our film crew, as an open attempt to hold us by force, so we called the police.”

The men calling themselves “co-owners” attempted to seize the videographer’s camera. When police finally appeared, the attackers instantly got out of sight. As it turned out later, one of Trepang’s crew members was beaten up.

Seeing the incident on the fishing vessel as an instance of obstructing journalists’ work, the TV 21 staff reported it as such to the city police department.

Reporters ousted from open court sitting in Perm

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Judge Vladimir Nevolin of the Perm district court on 19 November banned two reporters for the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda v Permi (KPP) from attending an open hearing of the criminal case of Denis Volkov and Anton Yudin, the alleged killers of Aleksandr Andreyev, a former police officer and a father of five.

The tragedy occurred on the Yekaterinburg-Perm federal highway on 17 May, when Andreyev was driving home from his country cottage. Stuck in a traffic jam, he happened to have a conflict with two men in a neighbouring car, who cracked down on him with a baseball bat and a length of rubber hose in hand. He died of a coronary heart disease an hour and a half after he was brought to an A&E hospital. Volkov and Yudin were arrested and have been held in detention on charges of “deliberate infliction on a person of medium-gravity bodily harm by a group of persons using [non-lethal] objects as arms”.

Judge Nevolin, acting at his own initiative, ordered the KPP reporters to stand up and identify themselves, defence lawyer Anatoly Ryabov, who represents the interests of the victim’s family, told the GDF. Asking them what media outlet they represented, the judge said the defendants’ personal data and health conditions would be aired during the hearing, so they should leave and only come back to hear the final ruling. Neither the prosecution nor the victim’s representatives, though, had any objections to the presence of the press in the courtroom.

The proceedings had not been closed to the public in line with Article 241 of the RF Code of Criminal Procedure, defence lawyer Ryabov said in reply to a question from the GDF, and added that “glasnost thus turned out unwanted even at an open court sitting”.

Media regulator in Rostov Region fines media outlets for publishing Culture channel’s TV guide

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Rostov Region department of [media regulator] Roskomnadzor has twice fined Victoria Nikitchenko, chief editor of the district newspaper Krestyanin, over a short period of time. The first fine of 500 roubles was levied on her for signing the newspaper only with her first name and surname, as had been done for years before Roskomnadzor’s recent introduction of a new practice: a newspaper must be signed either with the editor’s surname and initials, or with his/her first name, patronymic and surname.

For the second time, Nikitchenko was fined 5,000 roubles under Administrative Code Article 13.21.2 for Krestyanin’s publishing the TV guides of several federal channels, including the Culture channel which never puts any age restriction marks on its programmes and films, presuming them to be appropriate for anyone to see. If the media regulator disagrees with this presumption, it should address its claims to the Culture channel itself.

This also logically follows from the very wording of the above-mentioned article: “Violations of the established order of circulating among children media products containing information that may harm their health and/or development, except in cases mentioned in Article 13.15.3 of this Code, shall be punishable by an administrative fine of 2,000 to 3,000 roubles with the confiscation of the subject of administrative offence, for individuals; and by a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 roubles with the confiscation of the subject of administrative offence, for legal entities.” Evidently, though, litigating with a provincial newspaper is much easier than with a federal TV channel, if only because in the latter case, Roskomnadzor would have to prove in Moscow courts that programs shown on that channel did feature information harming kids’ health or development.

The Oktyabrsky magistrate court in Rostov-on-Don, without bothering much, simply turned a deaf ear to the arguments of Krestyanin, which had neither made nor shown any TV programmes that might or might not have harmed children’s health or minds. By contrast, the magistrate court in the town of Morozovsk, 250 km away from the Don River area’s capital, turned down Roskomnadzor’s similar legal claim against Sergei Babenko, editor of the district newspaper Morozovskiy Vestnik, and so did the higher-standing federal court in Morozovsk, where the media regulator went to challenge the first court’s decision. It may well be that the Culture TV case will go all the way to the regional court in Rostov.

Meanwhile, the district prosecutor has issued an official warning to Babenko for his failure to write “Commercial Ad” under an invitation to subscribe to his newspaper, published in the very same newspaper. The editor has corrected his mistake and now marks his subscription announcements as required, while Morozovsky Vestnik is awaiting visitors from the tax-collecting service: if it’s all about commercial advertising, then it has to be paid for – from and into one and the same newspaper’s budget! Evidently, provincial media look so “tamed and quiet” today that prosecutors simply have nothing to seriously reprimand them for. In the meantime, local Roskomnadzor departments may be receiving instructions from Moscow as to how many fines they should levy on the media, and which Administrative Code articles they should apply. All that is left for journalists to do is rejoice at the fact that “humane” officials aren’t at least confiscating their print runs…

Two journalists involved as co-defendants in a libel case in Karelia

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

The Arbitration Court of Karelia is reviewing a civil case in which the Kizhskoye Ozherelye transportation company and TourHolding Karelia are defending their business reputation, claiming that the broadcasters NKM and Nika-Plus and the news website Gubernia Daily have spread “libellous” information about them.

It all began with journalists showing a TV report about people voicing dissatisfaction with the low-quality services of companies carrying passengers on inland waterways. One lady passenger who dared to speak before a camera criticised the work of the crew of a Kometa hovercraft. The vessel was “steered by a crew of intoxicated men”, and it reached the port of destination behind time because of a breakage en route, she said. The report was shown in summer, and its content was retold on a number of news websites.

Originally, the group of defendants included the owners of NKM, Nika-Press Ltd. and Karelskaya Guberniya Ltd., but now the two reporters and the lady interviewee have been involved in the case as co-defendants.

The situation is queer inasmuch as the journalists did not report any untrue information: they only gave the woman the opportunity to describe her impressions of the boat trip. Yet the claimants insist that the reporters spread “discrediting” information, which portrayed them as providers of low-quality services that might even endanger passengers’ lives.

The GDF will closely follow the judicial proceedings in Karelia.


Media in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District ordered to economize

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Administrative proceedings are just over in Nadym, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, against the local newspaper Rabochiy Nadyma and its chief editor Andrei Onokhov. A prosecutorial inspection has established that at the end of last year, the newspaper signed a contract for the purchase of printing equipment worth 5,573 million roubles – a good move in itself but, according to the prosecutor’s office, one made “without holding an open online auction” in violation of Federal Law “On the system of contracts for purchasing goods, jobs and services to satisfy state and municipal needs”.

The newspaper as a legal entity and its chief editor have been found guilty under Administrative Code Article and fined a total of 70,000 roubles, the Nadym prosecutor’s press office reported, adding that the oversight agency will see to it that the ruling is duly executed.

The very fact of a fine levied on a newspaper owned by a district administration is evidently indicative of the fact that the local media are no longer free to expend budgetary funds which, in view of a general trend toward “cutting down expenses on the media coverage of regional and municipal authorities’ performance”, are bound to shrink. It is that particular district’s leaders who were recently harshly criticised by the All-Russia Popular Front (ONF) for “record spending on their PR”: the maintenance of the district media cost the budget 1.25 billion roubles, and this year’s allocations, notwithstanding the crisis, have further increased 50% to an unheard-of 1.8 billion. Yet in the wake of the ONF statement, Governor Dmitry Kobylkin urged the officials under his command to “stop showing off in the media”.

In the neighbouring Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, as we reported earlier (see digest 727), Governor Natalya Komarova solved this problem radically – by dismissing the entire gubernatorial press office. That was followed by further cuts in government media resources: the authorities decided to liquidate the Yugra-Inform news agency, Start magazine, and Yugorskoye Vremya newspaper in a bid to annually save 30 million roubles, Kommersant-Yekaterinburg reported. Besides, they plan to significantly cut spending on the TV channel Yugra, reducing the number of its programmes from 20 to 7; currently, it consumes more than 80% of this year’s 600-million budget allocations for the regional media’s maintenance.

Deputies in Sverdlovsk Region against PR attacks during election year

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Opposition deputies of the Sverdlovsk Region Legislative Assembly have very negatively assessed the fact that spending on the media in the regional draft budget for next year has exceeded 500 million roubles and, moreover, gone far beyond last year’s amount. Some are linking this to the several important election campaigns scheduled for 2016, during which allocated funds are unlikely to go to “disloyal” media.

“Who needs this feast amid the plague?” communist MP Aleksandr Novokreshchenov asked. “You remember Putin’s warning to governors about cutting down PR costs? That was in the Komi Republic, where Governor Gaizer, too, loved spending big money on PR, but he ended up badly.”

MP Yevgeny Kasimov, who is a writer and member of the Journalists’ Union of Russia, even compared the Sverdlovsk Region with the Roman Empire before the coming of barbarians. “We don’t need terrorists; we ourselves are destroying our education, health and culture,” he said. “In ancient Rome, people demanded bread and circuses, and the rulers gave them bread and organised gladiator fights. You know all too well how all that ended up. What will our media report about if they are given 500 million roubles?” Kasimov asked rhetorically.

Most of the debates being closely followed by Urals journalists, in the first place by those from “disloyal” media, are still ahead. As for the size of future allocations, media experts may as well discuss this issue at a meeting at the regional House of Journalists.

Formal reasons for bans on use of cameras in Sverdlovsk Region courts to become fewer

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Middle Urals media community is welcoming the decision of the RF Government’s Legislation Committee to approve draft amendments to legislation, to be considered by the cabinet, introducing mandatory video recording of all sittings in the arbitration, magistrate and common-law courts, and establishing a single online archive of the recordings.

Also, it has been proposed adding the words “…and mandatory video recording” to Code of Administrative Procedure Article 155 (on the making of protocols). In its current wording, this article allows video recording of court sessions, with the videos added to the case files, with the consent of the presiding judge. This, however, is optional and depends on a court’s technological potential, and also is left for the judge to decide at his/her discretion. Media reporters have many times been prohibited to videotape court sessions, sometimes on absurd pretexts, such as “My make-up today leaves much to be desired,” if the presiding judge happens to be a woman.

Common-law courts are to be equipped with audio- and video-recording devices in line with the federal programme of Russia’s justice system development in 2013-2020. Not only will this require installing cameras in 10,660 courtrooms, but also establishing federal video archives with an estimated volume of 17.5 terabytes a year.

The bills regarding federal courts are to take effect as of 1 January 2018, and magistrate courts a year later.


Seminar co-sponsored by Journalists’ Union of Russia and Mass Media Defence Centre announced

Dear colleagues:

The Journalists’ Union of Russia, jointly with the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defence Centre, is holding a one-day seminar at Moscow’s Central House of Journalists on 1 December, to highlight “Legal risks associated with information posting on NGO websites”.

This is a formal invitation to attend to all interested parties.

For details, please contact Nadezhda N. Mosina: phone (+ 7) 916 927 9593, email mosinann@mail.ru

Letter from Khakassia

Readers of the Khakassia-based public and political newspaper Karatosh congratulate the editors and staffers of the popular publication on yet another – third – victory they have won in court! The main character of a story featured in the newspaper filed against it a legal claim worth half a million roubles that a local court partially satisfied, but the Supreme Court of Khakassia fully rejected, drawing a line under the dispute. Supreme Court judges, with reference to the European Court of Human Rights, stated that the dissemination of information and ideas regarding issues of everyone’s concern “is a key duty of the press, and society has the right to receive relevant information”.

For Karatosh, this was the third trial in the last 18 months involving million-rouble claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation lodged against it. Yet each time, the newspaper management succeeded in effectively defending journalists’ right to freely report on anything without concealing the truth.

I may as well add that creative staffers of Karatosh, whose group includes two winners of the JUR Award “For the Best Journalistic Report” and a nominee for the Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, have proven able to lead all the cases to the logical victory independently, without resorting to professional lawyers’ assistance.

The latest victory is a kind of birthday present for the newspaper’s chief editor, Grigory Nazarenko, who is celebrating his jubilee (50 years). Congratulations, Grigory! Well done! Keep up the good work at your truly popular newspaper!


Erik Chernyshov, city of Sayanogorsk

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