28 Июля 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 761


Disney cartoon de-blacklisted by Kamchatka court

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Kamchatka Region Court has cancelled the 6-year-old decision of the city court in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky which put the "extremism" tag on the 1942 Walt Disney cartoon "Der Fuehrer's Face" (part of the Donald Duck series).

According to the human rights think tank Sova, the cartoon was added to the list of extremist materials among a hundred other videos that Kamchatka resident Stanislav Semyonov downloaded to his VKontakte social network account in 2010, a move that cost him a suspended 6-month term of imprisonment under Criminal Code Article 282 ("Instigation of hate or enmity").

Five years later, in September 2015, two residents of the closed city of Seversk, Tomsk Region, were held administratively liable for posting the same cartoon along with two other videos, likewise identified as extremist, and were fined 3,000 roubles each by the city court in line with Administrative Code Article 20.29.

It should be noted that both court decisions were passed during "jubilee" years - on the eve of the 65th and 70th anniversaries, respectively, of the Soviet Union's victory in the Great Patriotic War (WWII).

The cartoon about Donald Duck, who dreamt he was in Nazi Germany and thought it a nightmare, was made in 1942 as part of the anti-fascist propaganda campaign conducted at the time by the United States and other member states of the anti-Hitler coalition. The film's mission was to unite humanity against fascism, and that was why it was awarded Oscar. Yet the "specialists" who carried out a socio-psycholinguistic study of the cartoon in 2010 at the request of Petropavlovsk law enforcers turned a deaf ear to the opinion voiced decades earlier by members of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and only focused on the swastika and Hitler's face as "unambiguous" signs of extremism.

Upon watching the cartoon not so long ago, a group of regional prosecutors decided that their lower-standing colleagues had made a mistake mixing up black and white in the monochrome film. They stated that "There are no calls for extremism in the cartoon, while fascist ideology is shown in a ludicrous light". The regional prosecutor's office appealed to the presidium of the Kamchatka court, stressing that the blacklisting of the cartoon "infringes public right to watch it". The court upheld the prosecutorial appeal and ruled to exclude from Stanislav Semyonov's sentence the passage about the recognition of "Der Fuehrer's Face" as extremist material. The rest of the sentence was left intact, since neither the court nor the prosecutors had any doubts as to the "extremist" nature of other materials Semyonov posted on his VKontakte page 6 years ago.

Whether or not the Seversk residents will challenge the fine levied on them is unknown.

Hailing the Kamchatka court decision, the Sova think tank noted that "The incident with the cartoon about Donald Duck is by far not the sole example of legal absurdity shown as a video or a text is being added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Such examples testify to the fact that this list is unnecessary and even harmful, and scrapping it would be the best way out".


European Court finds Rostov-based journalist Alexander Tolmachev's 3-year detention illegal

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Alexander Tolmachev's defence lawyers started filing complaints with the European Court of Human Rights about unlawful actions by law enforcement and the judiciary in respect of their client back in 2012, yet one of the first such complaints was reviewed in Strarbourg only days ago - the one about Tolmachev's unlawful keeping under arrest from December 2011 through October 2014. Judges in Rostov, Kushchevskaya and Krasnodar extended the term of his stay in detention 15 times in a row.

Georgy Matyushkin, Russia's representative at the ECHR, has told the European Court that the Russian government agrees that those rulings were in violation of Article 5.3 of the Human Rights Convention stipulating that "Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial".

The Russian government said it was ready to pay Tolmachev 3,450 euro in moral damages and suggested that the ECHR terminate the case proceedings in view of the compensation payment. What Tolmachev himself decides or how his decision to accept or reject the compensation may tell upon the Court's review of his other complaints is still unclear.

Sergei Yemelyanov, who exited the Tolmachev case proceedings because of health problems, has written on the Alexander Tolmachev Information Analysis Centre's website that the most important thing is "to file a complaint with the Strasbourg Court after an appellate panel has passed its decision. The main thing is not to miss the 6-month deadline!" The reference is to complaining to the ECHR over the sentence passed in the journalist's case - 9 years in a tight-security penal colony. Alexandra Izucheyeva, Tolmachev's sister and public advocate, to whom this remark was addressed, complained in her turn about a "lack of money to hire a lawyer".

The Rostov Region Court on 5 August is to review Tolmachev's appeal against Judge Krivenkova's (of the Proletarsky district in Rostov-on-Don) rejection of his claim of moral damages from Investigator Urazova for her refusal to let him read all of the case files. Tolmachev himself will participate in that court sitting using Skype. Currently he is kept in the FKU T-2 tight-security prison in the Vladimir Region - the infamous Vladimirskiy Tsentral.

Regional court in Magadan slashes moral damage amount payable by blogger

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

As we reported (see digest 742), Oleg Dudnik, head of the Information Policy Department at the mayor's office in Magadan, has filed a legal claim against Twitter user Natalya Alekseyeva who participated in chatting about Dudnik's rumoured involvement in corrupt schemes during his tenure as director of the Magadan Institute of Economics.

Although the chatting involved several persons, Dudnik sued Alekseyeva alone because he knew she was a journalist. He demanded that the court defend his honour, dignity and business reputation, recognize the fact of his non-property rights violation, and require the defendant to disclaim and erase her Twitter posts and compensate him for the moral damage done. The city court in Magadan satisfied nearly all of his demands and fined Alekseyeva 50,000 roubles (see digest 746-747 ).

This fine is inordinately large, if only because Natalya Alekseyeva was fired from the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty-Magadan during the litigation and her attempts to find an alternative job have so far been fruitless. As per the date of the court decision, she was officially registered with the employment authorities as a jobless person.

She appealed to the regional court which cancelled the most absurd items in the first-instance court's ruling (which satisfied, for example, Dudnik's demand that she should communicate the disclaimer to all those with whom she had chatted in Twitter, and for some reason also publish it in a local newspaper), and reduced the amount of compensation payable.

Alekseyeva commented: "[The court] repeatedly gave Dudnik time to correct his demands or add new ones, which confirmed my suspicion that my `Twitter case' was anything but accidental. When my defence lawyer and I called the court's attention to the fact that the screenshots presented by the claimant were not authenticated by a notary public, Dudnik brought five witnesses who had participated in the twittering. The group of those `witnesses' (who had not even been confirmed as owners of their Twitter accounts) included my two colleagues from other media outlets. I was really shocked: I'd known them for many years; how mean it was of them to fawn on a government official the way they did! As a result, the court slashed the moral damages from 50,000 to 15,000 roubles and the cost of a linguistic study of those - unauthenticated! - screenshots from 21,000 to 10,000 roubles. That's 25,000 roubles in all. Now I am waiting for the writ of execution. My case is a clearly trumped-up one. They made a big mountain out of a molehill: reading the case files, I had to leaf through two volumes - one 250, the other 246 pages! I am sure the goal of such trials is to gag the journalists asking officials `awkward' questions. I will challenge each of the Magadan courts' decisions and go all the way up to the Supreme Court".

District court in Omsk passes decision hinting that kickbacks to officials "do not affect" public interests

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Kirovsky district court in Omsk has finished reviewing a legal claim lodged by local businessman Aramis Krjonyan against the rural newspaper Nasha Irtyshskaya Pravda. The case was special inasmuch as the claimant protested only over the publication of his photo portrait, while having no objections to the content of the article illustrated by that photo, although he could hardly have felt fine reading the text titled "Big Construction Projects for Big Bribes?" But then, he would have been unlikely to start challenging it, because the publication's accuracy had been fully proven during an earlier trial, when the Bolsherechensky district court confirmed that Krjonyan had given 219,000 roubles in a "kickback" to Yelena Kamenskaya, director of the Municipal Centre of Financial and Economic Support for Educational Projects, and sentenced him to a suspended 5-year term of imprisonment with 4-year probation, plus a fine of 13 million roubles.

The article was illustrated by a photo that featured, besides Krjonyan, two women of whom one, director of the Novologinovo village school, was shown handing him a letter of thanks. For some reason, the businessman got very disturbed by that picture: his statement of claim, cited by the weekly Biznes-Kurs, does not say what specific moral damage he suffered beyond "worries about my business reputation and dignity, and grievances over negative feelings that the public may potentially have toward me after that publication", which led to "health problems caused, among other factors, by a bad stress".

Why that particular photo caused him to "suffer" as badly as that, or how it could possibly contribute to a negative public opinion in respect of Krjonyan, is unclear: the entire "negative" content is in the text of the article, while the businessman himself can hardly be discerned on the photo. The newspaper, in the claimant's view, should have asked his permission for the publication; by not doing so it allegedly violated the federal law "On Personal Data", the Civil Code and a number of other legislative acts.

Yet the same Personal Data Law stipulates that journalists need not ask anyone's authorisation to publish a photo next to a feature defending public interests. Should a report about a businessman's giving a bribe to a public official be viewed as such? As can be deduced from the Kirovsky district court decision, the article under review did not affect public interests in any way, although the claimant clearly overestimated the costs of his "moral suffering". The court slashed the amount payable from 100,000 to 10,000 roubles but, in principle, took Krjonyan's side. This actually means that a bribe is a matter to be decided in strict privacy between the bribe-giver and bribe-taker, although the latter is paid for his work from taxpayers' money, i.e. he lives at public expense. The public also is supposed to be interested in school repairs, not only in improving the quality of officials' or businessmen's lives.

If other courts see this decision as a precedent, the consequences for all media categories may be bad indeed: if the media are required to ask for authorisation each time they publish a photo image or a video, human faces may vanish altogether from the pages of newspapers and magazines, and from TV screens and websites.

Unwilling to see that happen, Nasha Irtyshskaya Pravda will challenge the Kirovsky court decision before a higher-standing judicial authority.

Two highly popular opposition candidates for Duma in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region detained for "liking" or sharing social network video many months ago

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Police (including anti-riot police) officials in Surgut on 22 July came to search the homes of two candidates for the Khanty-Mansi Region Duma, Sergei Chichkanov and Andrei Kaloshin, and, according to the regional branch of the Russian Communist Party (KPRF), they confiscated the two men's computers and applications to run for seats on the Duma as nominees from single-member constituencies No. 11 and No. 12 in Surgut. The latter documents, as seen by the KPRF, were of particular interest to law enforcement and might be the single goal of that special operation.

"They took the two guys to the city police department and started questioning them about a video posted online a long time ago," Ivan Levchenko, second secretary of the regional party committee, told the GDF. "Significantly enough, neither Sergei nor Andrei posted anything - they only pressed "Like" buttons and probably shared the video with some acquaintances. But all that happened back in 2015, and law enforcement's sudden probe into the matter, as we see it, is just a pretext for taking the ruling party's most dangerous rivals off the race".

The underlying video is an address by Ruslan Ayupov, ex-head of the public group Sovest (Conscience), describing his own vision of a clash between local residents and a group of North Caucasians that had occurred earlier. In his address, the activist called Alexander Yerokhov, the city police chief, "a werewolf in shoulder straps fulfilling orders to remove those disfavoured [by the authorities]".

"The guys are well educated and well advanced intellectually - one is an engineer, the other a small business company director," said Levchenko referring to Chichkanov and Kaloshin. "They are a serious challenge to the authorities: our polls show they are far ahead of other candidates in their constituencies, with more than 40% potential votes, which means that two and a half thousand Surgut residents are ready to vote for them". Levchenko added that he was "amazed" at how well law enforcement was informed about the coming election. "Chichkanov and Kaloshin filed their applications with the election committee on 20 July but their names have not yet been published online, since the list of nominees is to be finally approved. Yet the law enforcers are acting pre-emptively - we believe they've known every detail from the outset".

As announced on the regional Investigative Committee's website, criminal proceedings have so far been started only against Sergei Chichkanov. "On 23 November 2015, the suspect posted in a social network a video file aimed at instigating hate and enmity toward persons belonging to a particular social group, which is an offence punishable under Criminal Code Article 282.1," the announcement says.

Local communists see this as a clear "political order". "If at least one of the guys is placed behind bars, one will be right in concluding that the authorities are prepared to subject unwanted candidates to political repression," Levchenko said.


Journalist Pavel Sheremet killed by car bomb explosion in Kiev

Journalist Pavel Sheremet died in a car bomb blast in Kiev on 25 July. Police have started criminal proceedings on homicide charges. According to local media reports, at 7:45 a.m. Sheremet stopped his car at the crossing of Bogdan Khmelnitsky and Ivan Franko streets; at that moment, the bomb exploded.

The hand-made explosive device planted in the journalist's car was equivalent in power to 400-600g TNT, Zoryan Shkiryak, assistant to Ukraine's minister of the interior, said. The device was placed under the driver's seat, leaving Sheremet no chance to survive, the newspaper Zhurnalistskaya Pravda reported. The police have qualified the incident as deliberate killing.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation got acquainted with Sheremet in 1997, when Pavel was arrested in Belarus for "illegal crossing of the border" - a charge trumped up against him by that country's government. The GDF was one of the centres of his defence, and in 1999 we released the book "Belarus: The Trial in Oshmyany" in the "Media Cases" series, giving details about one of Belarus' first trials over dissidents.

We cooperated with Sheremet at Internews seminars for many years and repeatedly had the opportunity to evaluate his calm dignity, sparkling irony, and incorruptible honesty in everything that concerned the journalist's profession.

For us, he was one of the team. We are mourning for him together with you.


"Media against Corruption" competition announced in Moscow

The Journalists' Union of Russia, the Committee to Counter Corruption and the Moscow-based International Journalism Centre are conducting an all-Russia competition, "The Media against Corruption", co-sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The main goals of the competition are to stir up intolerance against corruption within society; actively engage citizens, the media, and public groups and associations in the effort to systematically counter corrupt practices; and to rely on the media as active promoters of a constructive dialogue involving citizens, business, and the authorities.

Eligible to take part are journalists, public activists, bloggers, print media and TV/radio broadcaster staffs, news portals, and representatives of the press pools of federal and regional government bodies.

Please email your applications to: ruj@ruj.ru with the note "Media against Corruption Competition" or send them to the postal address: Journalists' Union of Russia, 4, Zubovsky Bulvar, Room 432, 119021 Moscow, Russia.

The deadline for submitting your applications is 1 September 2016.

For details about the competition, see www.ruj.ru

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.

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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