3 Декабря 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 733

30 November 2015


Newspaper editors in different Russian regions gather signatures under petition urging State Duma to protect print media from Roskomnadzor officials’ arbitrary actions

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Newspaper editors in the Sverdlovsk Region have prepared a petition drawing State Duma attention to “increasingly numerous instances where print media outlets are unduly held liable for not putting age-restriction marks… on programmes in TV guides they publish”. The document notes that “the absence of an age-restriction mark in the text of a TV guide mentioning only a film’s title cannot as such harm children’s health or development”. Meanwhile, reprimands made by [media regulator] Roskomnadzor officials contradict both the letter and spirit of the law “On protecting children from information harming their health or development” which they refer to when substantiating their claims.

The authors of the petition urge the Duma to amend existing regulations so as to specify the requirements concerning the marking of programmes in the TV guides published by the print media, to prevent their “broad” interpretation by local Roskomnadzor departments. Social networks are conducting a campaign to gather signatures under the petition, and Facebook has formed a special group that all newspaper editors are invited to join.

On that FB page, editors share information about victories and setbacks they have scored litigating with the media regulator, and discuss which judicial decision can be viewed as the best-justified and precedent-setting for colleagues struggling with Roskomnadzor officials elsewhere in Russia. For example, Igor Usoltsev, editor of Beryozovskiy Rabochiy based in the Sverdlovsk Region, tells how his newspaper won a lawsuit over the film “The Return of [Utility Dog] Mukhtar” which the broadcaster itself had erroneously marked 16+ instead of 12+. Yet two days later, Usoltev received a new “protocol-serving” subpoena signed by Urals Roskomnadzor head Marina Gvozdetskaya.

“I’m beginning to suspect that our active and successful help to colleagues in suing Roskomnadzor for its [questionable] TV guide policies has been monitored, and [the findings have been] fixed and reflected in yet another protocol they are about to serve me,” Usoltsev wrote in his blog. “Here’s a really brilliant phrase from that subpoena: ‘In the course of unplanned systematic monitoring of media outlets…’. It looks like Roskomnadzor plans to accompany us in an unplanned and systematic manner through life – that is, perpetually!”


Tomsk-based blogger Vadim Tyumentsev put on federal list of extremists and terrorists

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Blogger Vadim Tyumentsev, who has been held in a pre-trial detention centre for 7 months now, has been put on the list of extremists and terrorists posted on the website of the Federal Service for Financial Monitoring, along with nearly two dozen other bloggers living in and around Tomsk (half of them in rural areas – Seversk, Strezhevoy, and the Krivosheinsky, Molchanovsky, Asinovsky, Kolpashevsky and Tomsky districts).

Two weeks ago (see digest 731), the Memorial Human Rights Centre, having thoroughly studied his case, declared Tyumentsev a prisoner of conscience. As we reported, the regional FSB department and Investigative Committee accused him in February this year under Criminal Code Article 282 of “actions aimed at instigating hate or enmity” and under Article 280 of “public calls for acts of extremism”. Investigators 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, one calling for “Donetsk and Lugansk refugees to be ousted from Tomsk”, the other for “setting up roadblocks on city streets in protest against the lawless outrage of officials and fixed-run taxi company owners”.

According to Memorial lawyers, proceeding from effective legislation, one could apply criminal law – “at least in pure theory” – only to the first video: however controversial its content might be, it gave absolutely no ground for arresting its author, since it did not feature a single call for violence. Prosecuting him for the second video is outright unlawful, since his calls for staging an unauthorised protest action “are not on the list of extremist actions, while the limits of acceptable criticism regarding public officials and professional politicians are broader than those regarding other citizens,” human rights defenders said.

Memorial legal experts insist that the charges advanced in both cases are “artificially inflated”, and that the law enforcers justify the application of two Criminal Code articles “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 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 fully acquits him (which is very unlikely) or gives him a suspended imprisonment sentence. If the maximum punishment envisaged under the two above-mentioned “extremism” articles is applied, he may stay behind bars for political reasons for up to 5 years.

Molodoy Dalnevostochnik weekly closed in Khabarovsk

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The oldest regional weekly newspaper, Molodoy Dalnevostochnik (MD), failed to come off the press in Khabarovsk last Wednesday – for the first time in the past 95 years. In its last issue dated 18 November, the editors told the public about their financial difficulties: MD had been denied subsidizing in view of its failure to “confirm the fact of its distribution across the Khabarovsk Region”. For some unclear reason, the regional authorities claimed dissatisfied with the package of documentation with which MD had earned impressively high scores during many previous competitions.

Instead of news reports, the last, shortened (12 page) issue of the newspaper featured quotes from President Putin’s statements on “the need to provide support for the media”.

The first time Molodoy Dalnevostochnik came to face the threat of closure was in June, when its general director, Irina Sugak, warned the readers that the media outlet was suspending its work because of cuts in budgetary financing that had led to the first layoffs. “In view of the crisis, the volumes of commercial advertising have fallen, while the prices of printing services and newsprint have soared… The release of one newspaper copy costs 80 roubles, while the selling price is only 8 roubles, if someone wishes to subscribe at all,” Sugak explained. She directly linked the then situation with the establishment last year of a new (rival) publication – the pro-government newspaper Khabarovskiy Krai Segodnya.

In summer, MD escaped shutdown due to resumed government subsidizing, but this time the situation has turned out far more serious.

Molodoy Dalnevostochnik was issued in Khabarovsk starting from 1921.

Ura.ru photo correspondent prohibited to take pictures inside mayor’s office in Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Yekaterinburg administration security on 26 November prevented a photographer with the news agency Ura.ru from taking pictures inside the mayor’s office building. As photo correspondent Viktor Dorofeyev reported on his agency’s website, “Security deputy head Oleg Averin told me: ‘Photography is banned here – the administration spokesman, Denis Sukhorukov, has ordered so. You may phone him and request his authorisation. And now get out and take pictures anywhere outside.’” No documents confirming the fact of such orders having ever been issued were shown to the reporter, while Sukhorukov was not available on the cell phone. The Ura.ru journalist was puzzled: his agency had all the necessary accreditation certificates, but even without these, effective legislation allowed him to work unhindered!

Promptly replying to an inquiry filed by the GDF, the administration’s press office said that most likely, that had been a person-to-person conflict, because they had not issued any instructions restricting journalists’ freedom: “You come and work freely.” Most correspondents employed by other media, too, denied having ever faced any bans on photography, and suggested two versions that might explain the incident.

First, Ura.ru is known to be a vigorous critic of the administration, and what happened in the mayor’s office might be nothing more than an attempt to blow up a scandal over nothing. Second, the Urals capital at that moment was actively preparing for the opening of the Yeltsin Centre, and someone may have shown excessive zeal in preventing a potential terror act, the more so because the administration office is close to the place which was to be visited by many high-ranking Moscow officials and other VIPs.


Blogger texts often viewed as “instigating” in Krasnodar Region

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Discussing public and political issues in a social network has cost a 19-year-old Sochi resident not versed in Russian legislative novelties a full-fledged criminal case opened against him. Officials of the Krasnodar Region FSB department have checked his social network page and found posts (made from his cell phone) that they identified as “instigating hate and inter-ethnic enmity”.

After linguistic experts confirmed that the posts “instigated enmity toward the Russians and the Russian Orthodox Church”, the Central district department of the Sochi Investigative Committee started legal proceedings under Criminal Code Article 282 (“Instigation of hate and enmity based on ethnicity and religion”). The underlying texts, which formerly were accessible to all Internet users, have now been deleted from the blogger’s web page. Yet the investigation continues and the case is likely to go all the way to court even though the young man’s social network page does not have the “media outlet status” and has only a few readers, Krasnodar investigators told the GDF.


Journalists’ Union of Russia statement protesting GDF’s listing as “foreign agent”

The Glasnost Defence Foundation’s listing as a “foreign agent” once again shows, first, how imperfect and vulnerable the relevant law is if it can be interpreted to that effect, and second, how irresponsible the individuals are who are empowered to make the relevant kinds of decisions.

We are convinced that the key criterion in assessing the performance of any organisation, whether governmental or non-governmental, is if it harms or benefits Russia and its citizens; so the sources from which such organisation’s activities are funded cannot per se be the determining factor. The tremendous merits of the Glasnost Defence Foundation in the work to develop Russia’s civil society are beyond any doubt, even if the GDF has used grants from some or other foreign donors. Meanwhile, the officials who put the GDF on the notorious blacklist have received their salaries exclusively from the domestic budget, while the damage (as a minimum, reputational) they have done to this country’s national interests is clearly evident, too.

We insist that the Glasnost Defence Foundation is immediately crossed out from the “foreign agent” list (along with the Mass Media Defence Centre that was put on that list earlier), and that the names of the officials responsible for this abusive decision are publicly announced. The practice of applying the “foreign agent law” should be comprehensively revised, and the law itself should be duly amended or altogether abrogated.

Secretariat of Journalists’ Union of Russia

24 November 2015


Kachkanarsky Rabochiy editor’s statement about reporter not admitted to open trade union conference

ATTN: Alexei K. Simonov
President, Glasnost Defence Foundation

Dear Mr Simonov and all GDF colleagues:

I appeal to you for legal and moral support in overcoming a situation where media access to information is deliberately restricted. I refer to relationships between the primary trade union cell at the Kachkanar-Vanadiy ore-dressing and processing plant and the staff of the municipal public-and-political newspaper Kachkanarskiy Rabochiy (KR). The conflict is over the following:

At about 9 a.m. on 3 November 2015, KR correspondent Nadezhda Lesnikova, carrying her press card and tasked to fulfil an editorial assignment, arrived at 7b, Sverdlov St. in the city of Kachkanar to cover a trade union conference due to be held there. She was acting in line with Article 47 of the Federal Law “On the Media”, which stipulates that a journalist is entitled to search for, request, receive and disseminate information; visit government bodies, organisations, enterprises and institutions, public associations, or their press offices; be received by officials in connection with information requests; access documents and materials, except fragments thereof containing information that constitutes state, commercial or other secrets specially protected by law; make recordings using audio, video, cine and photo equipment, except in cases specially defined in effective legislation, etc.

The KR correspondent’s presence at the trade union conference was to ensure objective coverage of the Kachkanar-Vanadiy primary union cell in the interests of OAO EVRAZ KGOK workers, and contribute to building an info channel between the trade union committee and KR readers, many of whom are EVRAZ workers and union members. The citizens’ right to be timely informed through the media about the work of organisations, public associations and their officials is declared in Article 38 of the Media Law.

Yet union committee leader A. A. Pyankov barred correspondent N. Lesnikova from attending the conference, which fact was reported in KR issue No. 44 dated 4 November. On two previous occasions, 22 July and 30 September this year, Pyankov turned down my written requests on behalf of my newspaper to let a KR correspondent attend trade union conferences.

I think Pyankov’s actions are at odds with effective legislation (Articles 29.4 and 29.5 of the RF Constitution and Articles 3.1 and 9 of the Federal Law “On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection”). In line with the Federal Laws “On Trade Unions, Their Rights, and Guarantees of Their Performance”, “On State Secrets”, “On Commercial Secrets”, and “On Personal Data”, journalists shall have unrestricted access to information about the work of trade unions which are open public organisations. The presence of a KR correspondent at a conference of the Kachkanar-Vanadiy union cell would in no way violate the principle of the said union’s independence.

I would ask you to advise our newspaper how we should best act under the current circumstances, and to assess in legal terms the Kachkanar-Vanadiy union leader’s attempts to bar our journalists from union conferences and thereby deny information to the readers of our newspaper and workers of the enterprise around which the city of Kachkanar was originally built.

Margarita K. Konovalova
Editor-in-chief, newspaper Kachkanarskiy Rabochiy
Member of Journalists’ Union of Russia
25 November 2015

GDF lawyer Svetlana Zemskova has provided the requested legal consulting for the Kachkanarskiy Rabochiy staff.

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