10 Июня 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 759


GDF marks 25th anniversary

Dear readers and friends, we congratulate you - and ourselves, too - on the 25th anniversary of the Glasnost Defence Foundation!

It all began long ago, in what we refer to as our "past life". Since then, we have lived under two presidents and are living under a third one, not to mention a score of prime ministers we've seen. Some press ministers, who we used to be proud of calling our "enemies", have gone to a better world. We, in contrast, are still alive and hope (to your applause, even if from afar) to raise a glass to the jubilee of our common brainchild, the GDF.

Crawl on, you GDF turtle, toward freedom of expression which is still so distant; crawl on and remember that yours is the most important mission of moving only forwards, never backwards!

Our warmest congratulations to you once again, dear all!


Killers of Malik Akhmedilov, chief editor of newspaper Sogratl, finally convicted in Dagestan

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

After Dagestani residents Murad Shuaibov and Isa Abdurakhmanov appealed to the republic's Supreme Court over the 10.5- and 8-year prison sentences passed against them in March 2015, and their defence lawyers asked for Criminal Code Article 109 ("Reckless homicide") to be applied instead of Article 105 ("Homicide"), the court returned their case to the Leninsky district court in Makhachkala for reconsideration. Having reviewed the case in every detail, the district court again sentenced the defendants to the same terms in a tight-security prison, finding Shuaibov guilty of murder and illegal handling of weapons and Abdurakhmanov of having played the role of an accomplice in the killing of Malik Akhmedilov, chief editor of the newspaper Sogratl and a human rights activist opposed to the targeting of dissidents in Dagestan.

A highly-educated man who knew several foreign languages and a winner of the presidential scholarship for studies in Germany, Akhmedilov was shot and killed near his home in the dacha village of Palmira on 11 August 2009. Shuaibov fired the gunshots from a passing car driven by his acquaintance, Abdurakhmanov. The investigators pointed to Shuaibov's "personal hostility toward the victim" as the likely motive.

ECHR upholds Rostov-based Chastnaya Lavochka newspaper editor Yelena Nadtoka's lawsuit in defence of freedom of expression

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

In the autumn of 2004, Magistrate Court No.1 in Novocherkassk, Rostov Region, passed a convictive sentence against newspaper Chastnaya Lavochka editor Yelena Nadtoka and journalist Natalya Andreyevskaya, charging both under Criminal Code Article 130.2 ("Insult") in a case brought by Novocherkassk Mayor Volkov who had recognized himself as a character of a critical publication carried by the newspaper Vecherniy Novocherkassk which was earlier led by Nadtoka. The mayor claimed particularly offended by being described as a "thievish Altai guy who was lucky to get appointed to a conveniently high official post". Although the article mentioned no names, Volkov took that as a personal insult and asked for the editor and author to be held criminally liable.

The experts carrying out a linguistic study of the text unambiguously concluded that the characteristic "thievish Altai guy" did not contain any obscene words and hence was non-offensive. Yet Ms Politko, the magistrate, rejected the forensic study conclusions and passed her sentence "proceeding from my own knowledge of philology" and based on the fact that Mayor Volkov had never been officially charged with embezzling state property, which meant that describing him as a "thievish" person was irrelevant.

Finding Andreyevskaya, the article's author, guilty of a criminal offence, the judge sentenced her to a fine of 10,000 roubles, and she also fined Nadtoka 50,000 roubles as an "accomplice" in a case involving insult to a government official. The two women appealed and, having gone to no avail through all available judicial panels in Russia, they filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.

The ECHR acknowledged that the Russian authorities had violated the European Convention guaranteeing everyone's freedom to express one's opinion in the media, and required Russia to pay Yelena Nadtoka 6,000 euro in compensation and judicial cost reimbursement. The decision was posted on the ECHR website on 31 May. Mass Media Defence Centre Director Galina Arapova represented Nadtoka's interests in the European Court.

"The European Court stated that the very fact of a person's never standing trial on criminal charges does not mean that allegations about his potential wrongdoings are necessarily libellous. In other words, the absence of prior convictions does not exclude such allegations altogether, especially at a time when they were not yet part of an official investigation," Arapova told the GDF commenting on the ECHR decision. In her view, the ECHR's rejection of criminal liability for evaluative judgments is very timely, since journalists often have been held legally liable for things they say or write.

Novosibirsk Region resident, 21, sentenced to 15 months in penal colony for copying picture from VKontakte social network

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The city court in Berdsk, Novosibirsk Region, has sentenced local resident Maxim Kormelitsky, 21, to 15 months in penal colony under Criminal Code Article 282.1 ("Actions aimed to instigate hate and hostility toward religious individuals"). The relevant case was brought against him by the Coordinating Council to Defend Public Morality, a group uniting people who call themselves Orthodox believers. All Kormelitsky did was post in a social network a picture of "people bathing in an ice hole", which image, in the view of investigators, "negatively characterized Christians".

The text of the photo caption remains unknown, since it was never cited by the judges or investigators because it evidently contained foul language. The defendant himself said in court that he had "simply assessed the mental condition of people sacrificing their health to religion". The caption did not contain any calls for violence, he said, adding that he had "copied the picture from another social network" and that he was not the only one to do so: the photo had been reposted by nearly 70 other persons. "I think it odd that I alone am standing trial and that Orthodox activists paid attention only to my blog," Kormelitsky said.

The activists, though, themselves explained the reasons in an interview for Sib.fm: "Kormelitsky is a member of Parnas [Party of the People's Freedom], which means his actions are politically underpinned. People like him need to be stopped".

Actually, Maxim has never been a member of that party, although he lists himself among its followers, Novosibirk Parnas leader Yegor Savin told the same web publication, adding that it was at his own initiative that he had stayed in touch with that guy, seeing him as a representative of a generation having a fair chance to become a "lost generation" in Russia since "no one here ever cares about it".

Like many of his peers, Kormelitsky wants to pave his own way through life and seeks "his own truth", in which process he sometimes commits "outrage against public morality" (which seems today to be one of the "loosest" concepts ever). According to a Kuryer-Sreda-Berdsk report, Maxim happened to have his first problems with law three years ago as an organiser of a rally against the Russian March which, in his view, is a movement secretly sponsored by the authorities. Since the rally was an unauthorised one, the youth stood trial on administrative charges.

A year later, he was sentenced to two years of restricted freedom on criminal charges - for planting a dummy bomb into the building of the City Council on Youth Affairs (with an attached note: "NO to cooperation with Nazis! The next bomb will be a real one".) Meanwhile, Kormelitsky has participated in many "good" projects; for example, according to local Yabloko party activist Svetlana Kaverzina, he helped her clean up snow in an asylum for stray dogs in Berdsk and organised a motor race in defence of animals. "He is a very good but unruly sort," she said about him. "He wants to shake up society, but sometimes he goes beyond the limit".

A historically verified way to deal with such people is squealing. Public morality "champions" never hesitate to write reports to the mayor, governor and law enforcement about different events, such as rock music concerts, Halloween celebrations, the scandal around Wagner's "Tannhäuser" staged in Novosibirsk, "Monstration" merrymaking in the same city with marchers carrying absurd slogans in hand, etc.) The latest such info was sent to the prosecutor's and mayor's offices on 30 May along with a demand that the Leningrad rock group should be forbidden to play some of its songs, such as "St. Petersburg is a Drinking Place", during its concert in Novosibirsk on 3 June. Among other things, Orthodox activists claimed hurt by the rock musicians' jeering at police and thus "forming a negative attitude to law enforcement".

At one time, Judas' squealing led to the arrest of Jesus Christ who used to teach his disciples to love their enemies [the Gospel according to St. Matthew, 5:43-48]. What Christ's attitude to the work of his ardent followers from Novosibirsk would have been is not so important; the main thing is that this work has been acclaimed by the Metropolitan Tikhon of Novosibirsk and Berdsk, and by the Holy Patriarch Kirill of All Russia.

Maxim Kormelitsky has told journalists he will appeal to a higher-standing judicial authority.

Photographers awarded compensation for pirate use of their pictures in a Lipetsk travel guide

The Meshchansky district court in Moscow last week partially satisfied Voronezh-based photographer Andrei Kirnov's legal claim by acknowledging his copyright to six photos illegally used by the publishers of a Lipetsk travel guide.

Earlier, on 4 May, the same court partially satisfied a similar lawsuit brought by photographer Anna Zagitova against the same publishers.

The disputed photo pictures were used without the authors' consent in a travel guide to the Lipetsk Region released in 10,000 copies in August 2014. OAO Scientific Research Centre of Innovative Technologies posed as the publisher, and OBU Lipetsk Region Tourism Development Centre as the ordering party. The court found both organisations in breach of Kirnov and Sagitova's exclusive rights to the photos they had made. The state contract for the guide publication involving crude copyright violations was worth 8 million roubles.

The court awarded 95,000 and 60,000 roubles in compensation to Zagitova and Kirnov, respectively.

Typically, the threshold amount of compensation per illegally used photo is never less than 10,000 roubles, although the law stipulates that this sum may sometimes be halved. In Zagitova's case, the minimum compensation payable was 190,000 roubles.

"We see a really absurd situation: in two absolutely similar cases involving the same defendants and one and the same travel guide, one and the same judge showed two strikingly different approaches to calculating the compensation amounts. I wonder how he will explain this when motivating his decision," Mass Media Defence Centre lawyer Svetlana Kuzevanova told the GDF.

[Mass Media Defence Centre report]


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

Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 5 (Igor Markelov, photojournalist, Ura.ru news agency, Kurgan; Oleg Kunitsyn, deputy chief editor, newspaper Minuta Istiny, Vologda; Artyom Torchinsky, anchorman, Dozhd channel, attacked in Krasnodar Region; Yevgeny Domozhirov, blogger, Vologda; Denis Kuchmenko, journalist, head of Gorod media holding, Bratsk, Irkutsk Region)

Instances of censorship - 3 (RBK channel, Moscow; newspaper Tridevyatyi Region, Kaliningrad; Ekho Moskvy radio station, Moscow)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers - 3 (Yevgeny Pirogov, blogger, Republic of Mariy El; Konstantin Dukhonin, blogger, Perm; Kirill Formanchuk, blogger, Yekaterinburg)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist - 2 (Maxim Solyus, chief editor, newspaper RBK, Moscow; Andrei Mikheyev, chief editor, Life channel, Moscow)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. - 9 (Yevgeny Pirogov, blogger, Republic of Mariy El; Graham Philips, freelancer, detained in Crimea; Sergey Gorodishenin, blogger, Vologda; Yan Katelevsky, blogger, Moscow Region; Pavel Kotlyar, journalist, Gazeta.ru, Moscow; Ilya Azar, special reporter, Meduza web publication, detained in Chechen Republic; Igor Burdyga, freelance reporter, Ukrainian office of Deutsche Welle, detained in Crimea; Yelena Sidorenkova correspondent, Rabochaya Demokratiya, Moscow; Zair Akadyrov, journalist, Krym.Realii web publication, Crimea)

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.) - 23

Threats against journalists, bloggers and media - 5 (Victoria Kosoglyadenko, Zvezda channel correspondent, threatened in Crimea; Yelena Sarkisova, journalist, newspaper Georgiyevskaya TV NEDELYA, Stavropol Region; Roman Tsimbalyuk, UNIAN correspondent in Russia, Moscow; Andrei Koretsky, chief editor, UralDaily.ru, Chelyabinsk; Mikhail Mayorov, columnist, RIA Federal Press news agency, Perm)

Ejection of publication etc. from its premises - 1 (newspaper Guberniya, Petrozavodsk)

Refusal to print (or distribute) media - 2 (newspaper Vmeste, Vologda; newspaper Tridevyatyi Region, Kaliningrad)

Disruption of TV and radio broadcasts - 1 (Ural-Inform TV company, Perm)

Closure of media - 1 (print version of newspaper Novyye Izvestiya, Moscow)

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run - 2 (newspaper Vmeste, Vologda; newspaper Krymskiy Telegraf, Simferopol)

Interference with internet publications - 5 (website of Krasnoye Znamya publication, Komi Republic; website Krym.Realii, Crimea; website of Dvizheniye Vmeste movement, Vologda; web news portal Shakhty.su, Rostov Region; website GolosIslama.ru)

Seizure of, or damage to photo, audio and video apparatus and computers - 2 (PC of Alexander Rubtsov, editor of National News Service, Moscow; computers of newspaper Listok, Gorno-Altaisk)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists' rights - 37


Website GolosIslama.ru goes to law to challenge its blocking by oversight agencies

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Tagansky district court in Moscow on 30 May held preliminary hearings of an administrative case brought by the owner of the GolosIslama.ru web resource against the Office of the RF Prosecutor General and the media regulator Roskomnadzor.

Access to GolosIslama.ru (www.golosislama.com) was blocked on the territory of the Russian Federation in February this year, with no notice sent either to him or to the website's hosting service provider, domain owner Dmitry Chernomorchenko told the GDF.

He found his domain name on Roskomnadzor's list of websites calling for public unrest or acts of extremism, or organising public actions in violation of effective legislation. Also, he learned that the GolosIslama.ru web resource had been blocked on the Prosecutor General's Office's demand.

To find out the specific reason why his site was inaccessible, Chernomorchenko requested explanations from both agencies. The replies they sent cleared up nothing: the prosecutor's office informed Dmitry that it had forwarded his inquiry to Roskomnadzor. The latter explained that the site had been blocked at the prosecutors' initiative as one "featuring calls for acts of extremism". The circle closed, leaving zero chance to get the web resource crossed out from the regulator's blacklist.

According to Chernomorchenko, GolosIslama.ru never featured any illegal information. Unable to get at least some official explanations, the website owner decided to sue. Lawyer Svetlana Kuzevanova of the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defence Centre, who is representing the claimant's interests, maintains that both the prosecutor's office and Roskomnadzor are in breach of Russian and international laws. In line with RF Federal Law "On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection", the prosecutor's office was required in its directive to Roskomnadzor to provide a link to the web page featuring the alleged "unlawful calls". The media regulator, in its turn, should have included that link in its notice to the domain owner.

Dmitry Chernomorchenko did not receive any such information either before the blocking of his website or in the two agencies' replies. Meanwhile, it is Roskomnadzor which is required under the same law "On Information…" to remove forbidden content from websites. How could it possibly do so without knowing what in particular the Office of the Prosecutor General has identified as "illegal" content? It turns out that the prosecutors' and the media regulator' actions not only violate citizens' rights and freedoms; they directly deter people from complying with the norms of Russian legislation!

The claimant has noted that the defendants' actions also infringe his right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the RF Constitution and international laws. The ECHR and U.N. Human Rights Committee have repeatedly stated that restrictions on the dissemination of information should always be very well-grounded and well-justified. The arbitrary blocking of websites without explanation is a flagrant violation of a person's right to freely share his or her views with others.

It should be noted that the opposition website Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal (Daily Journal) was killed in accordance with actually the same scheme. Roskomnadzor blocked access to the web resource on the Prosecutor General's Office's demand - allegedly for its featuring extremist calls. Yet neither agency's representatives participating in the numerous court sittings to review the closed website's complaints have ever mentioned a single link to a web page showing illegal content. Very regrettably, all of Russia's courts have rejected Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal's legal actions, causing the claimant to seek redress from the European Court of Human Rights.

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