31 Декабря 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 737

28 December 2015


New Year’s greetings from GDF

Dear friends, readers, and all users of our information:

The outgoing year has turned out by far not the best for us. As the author of a poem dedicated to the GDF wrote,

     “In reward for your efforts, so noble and good,
      Our homeland’s trampling you guys under foot.”

But our struggle is not yet over – first, because the witnesses of our work include such significant figures as [President Vladimir] Putin, [Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev, [Human Rights Ombudswoman Ella] Pamfilova, [Human Rights Council Chairman Mikhail] Fedotov and others, and second, because we’ve lived in this country long enough to know what is what and how much it costs. So let’s continue acting, to then see where we are!

We wish everybody health and wellbeing, and new victories to be scored in our struggle! Happy New Year to all!

GDF Team


Prosecution requests 4 years in penal colony for Tomsk-based blogger Vadim Tyumentsev

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Court hearings of the case of Tomsk-based blogger Vadim Tyumentsev are drawing to a close. As we have repeatedly reported in GDF digests, the man is charged with “public calls for acts of extremism” (Criminal Code Article 282) and “instigation of hate or enmity, as well as disparagement of human dignity” (Article 280). Investigators from the regional departments of the FSB and Investigative Committee imputed the two offences to him in the wake of 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 ejected from Tomsk”, the other for “setting up roadblocks on city streets in protest against the lawless outrage of fixed-run taxi owners”. Tyumentsev has been held in custody for more than 7 months. In November, the Memorial human rights centre designated him as a prisoner of conscience (see digest 731).

During the hearing of arguments in the Kirovsky district court on 24 December, public prosecutor Yevgeny Trushin said the investigators had gathered sufficient evidence proving the blogger’s guilt, because “his calls cannot be identified as any other than extremist”; he asked the court to sentence the defendant to four and a half years in a penal colony, with a 2-year ban on his work as a blogger.

Defence lawyer Roman Vlasov, for his part, drew the court’s attention to discrepancies in the indictment, which says, on the one hand, that Tyumentsev’s criminal offences were motivated by his “enmity toward residents of the Lugansk and Donetsk Regions of Ukraine”, while on the other, that his goal was to “publicly instigate hate or enmity toward people who received refugee status in Russia”. Inasmuch as Ukrainian residents and refugees are different categories of citizens, the charges are too far-fetched, since the goal does not agree with the motives, Vlasov stated. As regards the second posted video, he said, calls for an unauthorised peaceful action are not on the list of extremist acts, while the mayor and the governor, who were harshly criticised by the author, “are not a social group but individual public officials and professional politicians”, who in line with effective legislation are supposed to be more open to criticism than ordinary individuals.

Vadim Tyumentsev is to make his last plea at the next court sitting, scheduled for 29 December.

Newspaper Priamurskiye Vedomosti on verge of bankruptcy in Khabarovsk Region

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The newspaper Priamurskiye Vesti (PV), the oldest in the Khabarovsk Region, is finding itself on the verge of bankruptcy now that one of its co-founders, the regional administration, has refused to further subsidise its operation.

The management has no money to pay salaries to the staff or release new issues of the newspaper. Wage arrears to workers are close to 2 million roubles, not counting the debts to the printing house and state funds. Financial difficulties started piling up last year, after the rules of providing budgetary assistance to the regional media were revised. Advance payments changed to post factum cost reimbursements, and the situation was further aggravated by a fall of the advertising market due to the crisis, and by soaring prices of newsprint and printing services. The subsidy the newspaper awaited would have pulled Priamurskiye Vesti fully out of the crisis, but the results of a cost-reimbursement tender announced by the Khabarovsk Region government turned out too bad for PV – for the first time in recent years – to get the much-needed money.

The PV management received a document signed by Viktor Martsenko, deputy head of the regional government in charge of internal policy, with an instruction to “Develop a set of measures to help OOO Priamurskiye Vesti overcome the difficult economic situation. Hang a bulletin board upon an office wall to pin up, under the oversight of a specially-appointed official, notices about the company’s main activities. Consider the prospect of dividing the powers of the general director and chief editor.”

As we reported in digest 733, also facing bankruptcy is the popular regional newspaper Molodoy Dalnevostochnik (MD), which, too, could not receive a Press Committee subsidy on the pretext that it had failed 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. Regional journalists had questions to the Press Committee earlier, too. One is why the region’s oldest newspapers had been receiving reduced financing while a new publication, Khabarovskiy Krai Segodnya, distributed free of charge and devoting much page space to descriptions of Governor Vyacheslav Shport’s alleged “achievements”, received as much as it wanted. In summer, police searched the Committee offices in view of several criminal cases opened against its chairman, Vladimir Chernyshov. The prosecutors later found undeclared 15 million roubles credited to the official’s bank accounts. Chernyshov resigned as head of the Press Committee, which is currently led by Acting Chairman Konstantin Yaniyev.

Karelian businessman offers 100,000-rouble reward for disclosure of critical author’s pen name

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

Vassily Popov, owner of the Lentorg retail trade network, has posted an ad online, offering 100,000 roubles to anyone who will disclose to him the real name of the journalist contributing news reports to the KarelInform news website under the pen name “Viktor Kuzmin”. The author’s latest publication was about criminal proceedings started against Popov, his wife Anastasia Kravchuk, and two other persons, all suspected of involvement in a major fraud scheme to purchase a municipal building in Petrozavodsk.

The investigation is now over, and the case has been submitted to court, “Kuzmin” reported. Popov himself is now wanted by the police and reportedly staying in Finland, claiming that his criminal case has political underpinnings. He intends to seek political asylum in Finland, while Russian law enforcement is demanding his extradition to the home country. Popov also has been added to Interpol’s wanted list.

Krasnodar-based blogger Darya Polyudova convicted of “separatism” and “extremism”

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The trial has just completed in Krasnodar over blogger Darya Polyudova, whom the Okryabrsky district court sentenced to two years in a penal colony on charges of extremism and separatism.

Polyuda became Russia’s first citizen convicted under Criminal Code Article 280.1 (“Calls for violating the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity”). The relevant charges were brought against her in the wake of her calling in the summer of 2014 for organising a “march for the Kuban River Region’s federalization” – similar to the-then calls from high rostra “to federalize Ukraine”. Polyudova posted her appeal in the VKontakte social network, where she had earlier posted calls “for a socialist revolution”, along with critical assessments of President Vladimir Putin’s performance. In June 2015, she spent 10 days under arrest for “publicly demonstrating Nazi symbols” in VKontakte. Also in summer, the authorities started new legal proceedings against her under Article 319 (“Insult to a public official”) in the wake of her reposting a video that showed Ukrainian activists singing a vulgar song about Putin.

The prosecutor insisted on three and a half years in a penal colony for her. The defendant, though, claimed not guilty and called her case a political one. In her last plea, Polyudova acknowledged having staged a one-person picket in Novorossiysk and having posted texts and photos in social networks, but she noted that she had never called for any acts of violence. “When posting a photo picture online, I had no intent to overthrow the existing constitutional system,” the Interfax news agency cited her as saying.

Polyudova’s defence lawyers will challenge the sentence passed in her case. The court released her from prison until her appeal has been reviewed. Considering the six months she spent in pre-trial detention, there are reasons to believe she is yet to serve 18 months at the most in penal colony.

The law envisaging punishment for separatist calls was enacted in December 2013, entering into full legal force on 9 May 2014, at the initiative of the Communist Party faction in parliament, specifically MP Sergei Obukhov representing the Krasnodar Region. It is symbolic that a person of leftist views, who called for a “socialist revolution”, will go to jail in accordance with a law initiated by communists. Also symbolic is the fact that Polyudova will be the first political prisoner in the Kuban River Region – earlier people like her used to be convicted on such charges as “hooliganism” or “breach of public order”.

Former regional MP in Perm refused 14-million-rouble compensation for reposting of his Facebook photo portrait

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region court on 23 December finally rejected a14-million-rouble legal claim lodged by Konstantin Okunev, an ex-deputy of the regional Legislative Assembly, against the broadcaster UralInform TV for, among other things, the “unauthorised” reposting of his photo portrait from his personal page in Facebook.

We reported about Okunev’s litigations with journalists in digests 716 и 724. The Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm on 22 September turned down his claim in full, including the demands for a disclaimer and the payment of moral damages. Judge Tatyana Oprya, in a 14-page justification of her decision, referred to a novel practice defined in Supreme Court Plenum Resolution No. 25 of 23 June 2015.

See below a few meaningful excerpts from the court decision which entered into force on 23 December:

“The publication of an image should be understood as an act that makes such image accessible to any viewer for the first time. The fact that a person has posted his photo image online for everyone to see does not in itself allow other persons to freely use it without the photographed person’s consent.

“Publishing and using an image without the owner’s consent is possible in accordance with RF Civil Code Article, when there is the factor of ‘public interest’, i.e., when the [image owner] is a public figure holding an official post and playing a visible role in public life; and when such person’s image is published in connection with a political or other discussion, and society is interested in watching [the image owner’s behaviour].”

In line with the Facebook User Agreement, the court decision further said, publishing material and information using the “Accessible to All” setting means that you “allow everyone, including people outside Facebook, to access your information and use it”. As he was creating his social network page, K. Okunev knew that all posted information, including his photo portrait, might be used by others. Therefore, no unauthorised use of the claimant’s photo picture occurred [during the making of] the video being challenged, the court concluded.

Speaking in the regional court on 23 December, lawyer Victoria Butorina, who was representing Okunev’s interests, described the journalists’ actions as “info vendetta”. Dmitry Kazhin, head of the legal department at UralInform Media Group, noted, for his part, that “no one prevented the claimant to personally appear on TV to voice his opinion”.

The appellate panel chaired by Judge Vladimir Lavrentyev left the district court’s decision unchanged, thus putting it into legal force. Now the claimant may appeal to the regional court presidium.


Yet another freelance journalist detained

Freelance journalist Konstantin Zhukovsky and his assistant Arkady Malysh were detained in the town of Korma, Gomel Region, on 22 December while interviewing local residents about reported disruptions of hot-water supply. According to Zhukovsky, the head of the District Executive Committee’s ideology department arrived in the company of a police major at the place where the journalists were working to take them both to the police station for questioning. The ideologist accused Zhukovsky of working without accreditation.

As we have reported, the Gomel-based freelancer has repeatedly been held liable for “illegal” reporting and sentenced to large fines.

[Vyasna report, 22 December]


Freedom of expression cannot be banned

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The GDF symbol, the turtle, stubbornly crawls over all barriers toward its goal – freedom of expression and respect for the journalists’ rights – while teaching bloggers and investigative journalists how to present accurate and objective information to our main and sole customer, the public. In this context, I cannot ignore the fact that the Glasnost Defence Foundation – my colleagues and I – has been blacklisted as an organisation “performing the functions of a foreign agent”.

Alexei Simonov, in the gentlemanly manner peculiar to him, has mildly rebuked the Justice Ministry “specialists” for this decision. My comment would be different, I guess. Yet if you open any edition of the GDF digest, you will still see reports about appalling rights violations and pressure put on our colleagues; sometimes making those facts public saves their lives. Our Foundation’s work continues actually unchanged, due to professional lawyers’ support and to Simonov’s personal indisputable authority. In Russia, this is tremendously important, in the first place for district and municipal media reporters, who are the closest to our audiences and who, unlike federal broadcasters’ correspondents, defend ordinary people’s rights in real terms. They see the Glasnost Defence Foundation as their farthest outpost.

I am personally acquainted with all of the GDF’s regional correspondents, and I know for certain that they will not keep silent about official arbitrariness, that they will speak in courts and report in their media about violations of journalists’ rights. They are my good friends. I am proud to be a Glasnost Defence Foundation correspondent. We are agents of Russian honest journalism. It has always been so and it will be so forever.

Happy New Year to all of you, guys!

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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Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни