14 Мая 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 754-755



conference in Helsinki: Dialogue must go on

By GDF Monitoring Service

Helsinki on 2-4 May hosted an international conference organised by UNESCO to mark World Press Freedom Day. The programme included an IREX Europe-sponsored discussion involving representatives of journalistic organisations from Ukraine and Russia; the event was of major interest to delegates from all post-Soviet countries and many other conferees.

Getting a number of journalists out of prison was recognised as the most important result of the Russo-Ukrainian dialogue that has continued for two years now. Yet many colleagues still stay in detention, so getting them out by concerted effort remains an urgent task. Dialogue participants also devote considerable attention to the safety of journalists in war zones and to countering propaganda and hate speech in the media.

"Not everything is perfect as regards our contacts, but the dialogue must go on," Boris Timoshenko of the Glasnost Defence Foundation said. "Major conditions for our further cooperation include refraining from applying double standards and not getting involved in `information wars'. We all may view ongoing events from different angles, but we also should look for what unites, rather than disunites, us - namely, we should defend journalists' rights and the principles of freedom of expression regardless of whether or not we share the views of some colleague or other. We should not politicize our cooperation. We have common goals - mutual support and professional solidarity".

"I can't imagine how with tensions between your countries running as high as now you've managed to find a common language," Natalya Radina, director of the Khartiya'97 Belarusian media project, said. "Yet where there's danger, and where human lives are under threat, people must unite, as confirmed by this ongoing dialogue".

Frane Maroevic, director of the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said his organisation was ready to further support the cooperation of Ukrainian and Russian media representatives, a process that he described as "useful".


Editor Mikhail Afanasyev receives threats after visiting Kiev

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Mikhail Afanasyev, chief editor of the web publication Novyi Fokus (based in Abakan, Khakassia), has reported getting threats from individuals who have promised to condemn him, a laureate of the Andrei Sakharov Award "For Journalism as an Act of Conscience", to death as "a traitor" and "to bury" him.

The harassment campaign against him began at the end of April, after he returned from a reporting trip to Kiev and posted in the Odnoklassniki social network a photo picture with the caption: "Ukraine. Kiev. See this with your own eyes".

First, Afanasyev received a message from a certain Andrei Kolesnikov that read: "An info war is being waged against Russia, and you as a journalist are a soldier in that war: your Fokus is financed by western media, and the West pays you for destroying your own country. Tell the people the truth about the sources of your funding! You publish information that destroys my country and my home, to please western businessmen. Like Judas, you seek to work off your thirty pieces of silver, which in time of war is tantamount to treachery - and yet you sit here twittering!"

As a continuation, Afanasyev got a message from some local guy, obviously a bandit, who wrote: "Hey you, are you a foreign spy or what? You know what my job is? I catch bastards like you… You want me to break your jaw and then break your nose? I won't threaten you anymore - I'll just break your nose and jaw, and I'll wrench your arms and legs off. What are you, generally? Yellow-and-blue scum, that's what you are! I will bury you! I'll break each part of your body that can be broken, see? You sell-out bastard! Yes, I am accusing you! And I personally will condemn you! Just you wait! You'll be praying and begging me not to take your life!" And so on, and so forth…

It is not for the first time that Mikhail Afanasyev comes across such a situation. He has been threatened before, has gone through detentions and beatings, and has won about a dozen criminal cases in court. Yet in this particular case, the threatening messages sound quite serious while their authors are pretty easy to find. So it would really be a shame for the prosecutors to let the bad guys go unpunished.

The GDF will closely follow the developments.


Tomsk-based blogger Vadim Tyumentsev sentenced to five years in penal colony without right to post anything online

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Tomsk Region Court on 4 May upheld the sentence passed by the Kirovsky district court on 30 December last year in the case of blogger Vadim Tyumentsev, while mitigating the additional sanctions imposed on the defendant by the first-instance court.

As we reported earlier in our digests, the Kirovsky court found the blogger guilty of "two deliberate medium-gravity offences against national security and the constitutional system's foundations" and sentenced him to 5 years in a general-regime penal colony with a 3-year ban on the use of the Internet.

Tyumentsev got that sentence for two 3-minute videos he had posted in his VKontakte blog and on YouTube. In the first one, titled "A day of public protests against the lawless outrage of officials and fixed-route taxi owners", he urged Tomsk residents to hold a rally in the city centre in protest against increased rates charged by taxi drivers and the low level of safety they guaranteed; unless the local authorities started acting, and promptly, he suggested "cordoning off the city streets at four locations" (the subtitles said a strictly peaceful action was being planned). On the following day, though, Tyumentsev cancelled his own plan because it had "left the majority of residents uninterested", the TV2 news agency reported.

In the second video, he proposed "expelling Donetsk and Lugansk refugees from Tomsk" because, in his view, it was they who were to blame for "the armed conflict in their two regions" and for "betraying Ukraine". That was his appeal to the Tomsk authorities that the author substantiated, among other considerations, by the fact that the social and economic situation in the region was "too bad as it is" for the indigenous population (see digest 753 ).

The regional court reviewed Tyumentsev's petition of appeal in the mode of a video conference. The blogger said he resolutely disagreed with the sentence passed in his case and that he saw it as a political order because the district court's conclusions "contradict the facts presented in court and are not confirmed by sufficient evidence". The sentence was based on a linguistic expert study that in his view was "unprofessional and biased", and on his own confession made under pressure from FSB officers who had told him, "Either you write a confession here and now, or we immediately place you in a pre-trial prison".

The regional court rejected all of the motions made by the defence - to question an expert, have a new expert study ordered, or have more of Tyumentsev's witnesses testify in court.

During the pleadings, the state prosecutor expressed the view that the district court sentence was "fair" (although the prosecution had asked for four years of imprisonment; Judge Galyautdinova added a fifth one at her own discretion). At that, the state prosecutor asked the court to give the blogger the right to go online without posting any information there. This request was satisfied.

Photojournalist Igor Markelov attacked in Kurgan

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Igor Markelov, a photo correspondent with the Ura.ru news agency, was attacked in Kurgan on 4 May while taking pictures of the notorious beauty salon "Laura" which had caused so many local women customers to feel angry and desperate.

"After I took a few pictures of the façade of the beauty salon at 155, Sovetskaya Street, a man got out of a car parked outside the building and started walking in my direction," Markelov told the GDF. "On seeing my press card, he attacked me with his fists. After the incident, I was compelled to file a report with the police".

The attacker turned out to be someone named Andrei Golynin, evidently a "Laura" staffer. Notably, 28 women residents of Kurgan, on whom the salon had foisted off, on credit, cosmetics worth a total of 2-odd million roubles, filed complaints with the regional deputy prosecutor at the end of March. Journalists plan a probe into "Laura" activities. The GDF will watch closely.

Township administration head in Murmansk Region bars journalist from attending conference with deputy governor

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

Visits by high-ranking Murmansk Region officials to regional cities and villages are rather common, but local reporters are by far not always admitted to cover them. For example, journalists from the city of Kandalaksha were recently barred from attending a conference with regional Deputy Governor Yevgeny Nikora during his working trip to the township of Zelenoborskiy to discuss reconstruction of the local central heating system.

"Our reporter Valery Galkin was not admitted either to the meeting [with the vice-governor] or to the conference where the launch of a new boiler house was discussed," the news portal SeverPost cited Olga Meshcheryakova, chief editor of the newspaper Vyberi Luchsheye, as saying. "Will the boiler house be commissioned, ever, and who is to blame that it is still inoperative? The public must know the answers to these important questions. It was Irina Samarina, head of the Zelenoborskiy administration, who ordered not to let our correspondent through, allegedly because he was not on the list of those invited".

In the future, Vyberi Luchsheye journalists will report to law enforcement each instance of their non-admittance to public events, because these practices can be qualified as violations of Criminal Code Article 144 which prohibits obstruction of journalists' professional work, SeverPost reported.

U.S. Department of State joins campaign to free Rostov-based journalist and blogger Sergey Reznik

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby, in a 2 May statement, urged the Russian authorities to release Rostov journalist and blogger Sergey Reznik who is serving a prison term in Penal Colony No. 12 in Kamensk-Shakhtinsk.

"We finish our Free the Press Campaign today, and for that campaign, in honour of World Press Freedom Day, […] we're going to highlight today a man named Sergei Reznik, a journalist and blogger from the city of Rostov-on-Don who… has been imprisoned since November of 2013," Kirby said.

Back in January 2014, the human rights watchdog Memorial designated Reznik as a prisoner of conscience. In February 2016, the Kamensky district court rejected his parole plea, and the regional court in Rostov upheld that decision, leaving the complaint filed by Reznik's lawyers unsatisfied.

Sergey Reznik, on sentences passed by two district courts, Pervomaisky and Leninsky, is to stay in custody until 25 October 2016.

Presidential deputy envoy fails again to appear in court as victim in libel case

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Oleg Melnichenko, President Putin's deputy ambassador plenipotentiary to the Volga Federal District, neither appeared in person nor sent his lawyer on 10 May to the Sverdlovsky district court in Perm where a libel lawsuit in which Melnichenko poses as a victim was under review. This was the third instance of his non-appearance in court to attend hearings of the lawsuit which he had lodged against journalist Konstantin Dukhonin, accusing him of libel. Earlier the defence asked the court to return the case files to the prosecutors in view of their failure to specify the exact places at which each of the two criminal episodes imputed to Melnichenko had allegedly occurred.

The other victim, Irina Yermakova, head of the public organisation "Perm Region's Mothers of Large Families", did not attend the 10 May hearing, either.

Police have charged Dukhonin, 42, with committing an offence falling under Criminal Code Article 128.1.1 ("Libel"). According to Perm police department investigators, at 7:39 on 19 November 2015, journalist K. Dukhonin, "with a view to improving his public image", called Yermakova on the cell phone presumably on behalf of public official Melnichenko, to later (on 9 December) post an audio recording of that conversation in the social networks Facebook and Twitter, where he was registered as a user.

A phonographic study was ordered which did not rule out it might be Dukhonin's voice on the recording. A criminal offence of this kind is punishable by up to 500,000 roubles in fine or by up to 160 hours of correctional labour. Yet no sentence has been passed in this scandalous case so far.

"I have prepared a solicitation asking the court to return the case files to the prosecutor's office to eliminate discrepancies in the indictment," Dukhonin's defence lawyer Irina Fadeyeva said presenting a complaint to an appellate court. "The indictment fails to indicate from where the phone call was made on 19 November. Nor has the number of the phone Dukhonin allegedly used has been established. There are two telephones, one of them in the Moscow Region, with which Dukhonin has nothing to do at all. Also, Dukhonin is alleged to have made a video with a caption; this involves another place and another date. The crime scene remains unknown. A court of law is not empowered to designate it at its own discretion".

"Cases are known where the crime scene cannot be identified with all certainty," Perm Deputy Prosecutor Ivan Loskutov said for his part. "In the case under review, the criminal offence was committed with the use of high technology. We have attempted [but failed] to locate the place at which the phone call and the video were made". The deputy prosecutor described the first-instance magistrate court's decision as "well-substantiated".

Judge Sergey Karpov agreed with the prosecutorial argumentation. Now the case is to be reviewed in Magistracy No. 2 of the Sverdlovsky district of Perm. Apart from Dukhonin, subpoenas will be sent to Melnichenko and Yermakova (who, by the way, was expelled from the All-Russia Popular Front (ONF) - for "discrediting war veterans" - after the recording of her phone conversation with the "sham" official was posted online).


Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in April 2016

Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 6 (Eduard Mochalov, chief editor, newspapers Vzyatka and Samana, Chuvash Republic; Leila Agirbova, freelancer, Moscow; Alexander Nikishin, freelancer, Saratov; Gleb Limansky, Novaya Gazeta journalist, Moscow; Daniil Turovsky, Meduza correspondent, Moscow; Yan Katelevsky, blogger, Moscow Region)

Instances of censorship - 3 (website of newspaper Vecherniy Chelyabinsk, Chelyabinsk; TASS news agency, Moscow; Russia Today news agency, Moscow)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers - 4 (Olga Li, editor, newspaper Narodnyi Zhurnalist, Kursk; Erik Kituashvili, blogger and founder of Smotra.ru, Moscow, two charges; Nikolai Semena, Ru.krymr.com journalist, Simferopol)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. - 6 (Idris Yusupov, Novoye Delo journalist, Makhachkala; Andrei Gorelikov, newspaper Domovoy Sovet correspondent, St. Petersburg; Alla Dongur-ool, journalist, newspaper Risk, Kyzyl; Arthur House, deputy editor-in-chief, The Calvert Journal (Britain), detained in Nizhny Novgorod; Vadim Shchurenkov, correspondent, newspaper Dzerzhinskoye Vremya, Nizhny Novgorod Region; Yan Katelevsky, blogger, Moscow Region)

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.) - 35

Threats against journalists, bloggers and media - 7 (Olga Li, editor, and Konstantin Berezin, correspondent, newspaper Narodnyi Zhurnalist, Kursk; Yelena Dorovskikh, chief editor, news portal 1rnd.ru, Rostov-on-Don; Alexander Golovachev, chief editor, newspaper Volskaya Zhizn, Saratov Region; film crew with Orbita television company, Maritime Region; film crew with news portal Park72.ru, Tyumen; Mikhail Afanasyev, chief editor, web publication Novyi Fokus, Abakan)

Closure of media - 1 (television channel SibTV, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region)

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run - 1 (newspaper Domovoy Sovet, Yekaterinburg)

Interference with internet publications - 3 (news websites Pervyi Ulyanovskiy, Rupor 73, Ulnovosti - all three based in Ulyanovsk)

Seizure of, or damage to photo, audio and video apparatus and computers - 5 (phone of Anton Seliverstov, Mezhdu Strok news agency correspondent, Sverdlovsk Region; office photo camera of newspaper Vzyatka, Chuvash Republic; computer of Umar Butayev, columnist, newspaper Chernovik, Dagestan; computer of Nikolai Semena, journalist, Ru.krymr.com, Simferopol; photo camera of Gleb Limansky, Novaya Gazeta journalist, Moscow)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists' rights - 44


London seminar on journalist security: one goal, different views

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

A roundtable discussion, The Safety of Journalists in the Digital Age, organised by the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Russian Union of Journalists, and European Union, was held at Europe House in London on 26 April. The agenda of the event was of interest to the media of all countries and continents: as one of the speakers said, with the beginning of the Internet age, journalism and journalists "turned from a closed caste into an open territory". Increasingly often, they have been targeted for attacks, both physical and virtual. Life shows that digital instruments used for intimidating print and online media workers require new approaches to safeguarding journalist safety, and special training programmes to protect reporters from those attacks.

Poland's ex-Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, a former war correspondent, devoted a sizeable part of his emotional speech to what he described as "real warfare waged by the Polish media against trolls". He expressed regret over the fact that xenophobic sentiments are pretty strong among many audiences, and it is these base feelings that the trolls play on while posting comments that insult people's national feelings. Fighting these evil practices in Poland is even more difficult than in Russia, where serious criminal liability is envisaged for instigation of hate or enmity, as well as disparagement of human dignity, Sikorski noted. There are moderators on popular Polish websites too, but they often display this "troll art" presenting it as readers' comments, which some web portal owners see as a way to increase their numbers of visitors, and hence, their pools of advertisers.

Not infrequently, those claquers, like packs of wolves, attack journalists who feel free to express views that the organisers of harassment campaigns do not like. Online attacks often lead to real violent attacks on correspondents. In his opening address to the roundtable participants, AEJ Vice-President William Horsley said that the OSCE recommends that all of its member states adopt special laws to defend journalists from criminal encroachments. Yet lawmakers in most of those countries refuse to do so because they believe journalists "should not enjoy any privileges" and that "all should be equal before the law". OSCE leaders hold a different view: journalists should be given special rights like those that diplomats, military officials and representatives of other specialties involving increased professional risks have. According to Horsley, liability for crimes against journalists should be toughened, but not through introducing graver criminal punishment (such as longer imprisonment, etc.) but through making sure that punishment is inevitable.

Of course, "complications" in Russia's current relations with the West found their reflection in roundtable discussions of issues facing the media today. Also, the conferees discussed freedom-of-expression peculiarities in different countries, in the first place, in Russia. Speakers expressed different, sometimes diametrically opposite, views, and it was evident that journalists of Novaya Gazeta, The Guardian, and the broadcaster Russia Today were still far from consensus. Other participants' views differed too, but they may become closer as more meetings of this kind were decided to be held as part of the EU project the goal of which is to provide an international pad for discussions of "burning" problems facing journalists worldwide, and opportunities for their further cooperation.


Freedom House annual report on press freedom worldwide published

Freedom House on 27 April published the latest edition of its annual Freedom of the Press report stating that press freedom around the world declined in 2015 to its lowest point in the last 12 years under the negative impact of politics, crime and terrorism.

A large number of former Soviet republics, including Russia, are ranked as "not free"; Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova as "partly free"; and only Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as "free".

During the past year, the press was under the hardest pressure - from governments and terrorist groups - in the Middle East and Turkey, the report says, specially pointing at the situation in Syria, where at least 14 journalists were killed last year making it the deadliest country for journalists to report from, according to Freedom House.

For the full text of the report, see freedomhouse.org

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

Все новости

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