19 Августа 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 764


Candidate for State Duma from Chelyabinsk wants Ura.ru news agency to be checked for potential contacts with gangsters

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Chelyabinsk Region Union of Journalists has called on candidates running for the RF State Duma in September to treat the press in a civilized manner and avoid making high-resonance, intimidating statements.

The reason was a report filed with the police by Fair Russia Party nominee Valery Gartung, who asked that the Ura.ru news agency be checked in terms of potential involvement with organised crime (an offence punishable under Criminal Code Article 210). To support his suspicions, he cited two news stories published on the agency website that in his view were damaging to his business reputation and undermined his public prestige - reputation, honour and dignity tend to be valued especially highly during election campaigns.

According to Gartung, the publications have been reposted on eight websites, including accounts in social media such as LiveJournal, and in the online publication Pravda UrFO. He requested that all of those websites be checked for "possible criminal connections" with Ura.ru.

The candidate MP described the news agency itself as a "likely structural subunit" of an organised crime ring involving government and municipal officials, as well as his political rivals, who paid for the "sponsored" articles. He requested that the "gang members" be identified and the agency's financial and economic performance be audited to establish "facts of commercial bribery and participation in thefts of budgetary funds and off-budget and Reserve Fund monies".

Ura.ru immediately reacted by appealing to the regional Union of Journalists which stood up for the agency. "It is for the first time in the Chelyabinsk Region that such serious criminal charges have been brought against journalists, while the way the claimant sees the news agency actions is indicative of his potential desire to put pressure on the media outlet," the UJ said in a statement.

As per the date this report was published, no preliminary results of a police check-up of Gartung's legal claim were known, so one is left to guess whether or not law enforcement uncovers any ramified "gang" and shuts the bank accounts of the media outlets alleged to be involved.


RosBalt journalist Dmitry Remizov beaten by police investigators in Rostov

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Dmitry Remizov, a Rostov-based correspondent with the RosBalt news agency, has reported too the Investigative Committee that a police officer at the "E" (counter-extremism) Centre of the regional Interior Ministry Department struck him thrice on the head in the course of questioning him. According to the journalist, he was summoned to the Centre on 10 August for interrogation in connection with a probe into alleged preparations of a terror act in Rostov.

Speaking live on the Govorit Moskva radio, Remizov said they asked him who of the oppositionists he personally was acquainted with in Rostov. "They named two persons I knew," he said. "I told them I knew both and had seen them during various political actions. They [the police officials] asked if I knew a man named Smyshlyayev, and I said I couldn't remember. One of the officials happened to dislike that and he struck me three times on the head with his palm. They he threatened me with a potential lawsuit - he showed me a dagger with a fascist swastika and said they'd seized it from some Nazis whom he might set against me to have it out with me. I kept insisting I could not remember the man they'd named. When the interrogation was over, the second police official drove me in his car to the regional Investigative Department of the RF Investigative Committee".

Galina Gagalayeva, the department's spokeswoman, has confirmed that Dmitry Remizov did file a report that was currently being checked. The investigators also sent him to undergo a medical examination in view of the strong headaches he was suffering from. He went there on the next day after the interrogation and told the RBK news agency he had not received any serious traumas and had no traces of beating on his body.

"I will press for an investigation to be held and for those guilty to be brought to justice," Remizov told journalists. "I am ready to undergo a lie detector test, and I asked in my report to the Investigative Committee that those two police officials, too, be tested on the polygraph by independent specialists".

District administration head unlawfully sacks newspaper editor in Karelia

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

Nadezhda Gongeleva, chief editor of the district newspaper Prizyv, has received a dismissal notice quite unexpectedly: V. Vokhmin, head of the Lahndenpohja District of Karelia, fired her citing a Labour Code clause (Article 278.2) that allows an employer's early termination of his work agreement with an employee without explaining the reason why - a provision making workers totally defenceless before employers.

Yet Gongeleva decided to defend her rights, and one may predict with a fair degree of certainty that the court may take her side. The point is the district leader dismissed her as head of the state unitary newspaper Prizyv (such is the legal status of most local newspapers in Karelia) while disregarding her status as chief editor. In the event of terminating a work contract earlier than scheduled, an employer must also look to the provisions of the federal law "On the Media", and consider the existence of another contract - between the co-founders and the municipal media outlet. Consequently, he had no right to sack Gongeleva only at his own desire as a local official but should have consulted the two other co-founders whose number includes the autonomous enterprise Respublika Karelia Publishers' and the Council of Lahndenpohja District Deputies. The co-founders' agreement with Prizyv envisages a collegial form of personnel decision-making, meaning that all of the founders have equal rights as regards the chief editor's appointment or dismissal. Therefore, his single-handed decision cannot be recognized as lawful.

Besides, too ready to dish it out, Vokhmin went beyond the scope of his authority by breaching a number of other legal requirements regulating a worker's dismissal. He had failed to notify Gongeleva of the early termination of her contract at least three days before it actually took place; nor did he fully settle the financial scores with her on the day of the dismissal, including by paying her three average monthly salaries for the early termination. There were other Labour Code violations as well, so Vokhmin's unlawful sacking of Prizyv's director/chief editor must be cancelled.

One should perhaps add here that the pressure campaign against Nadezhda Gongeleva started soon after her newspaper published an article criticising the work of a local businessman who, too, was a District Council member. As to the content of that story, it was accurate inasmuch as it was based on a check-up carried out by controlling bodies. But even before it appeared, the main character came to Prizyv's office to warn the editor that she would face the consequences of her making the check-up results known to the public. It seems he must have found leverage to put pressure on the disagreeable editor, although this circumstance is unlikely to be considered in court.

Unhealthy competition among utility companies: Ryadom s Domom newspaper's print run seized in Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Urals media have reported about an incident in Yekaterinburg, where distributors of the newspaper Ryadom s Domom claimed on 8 August they had been attacked by representatives of the Orjonikidzevskaya public utilities company - allegedly by its chief security officer Alexander Orlov with an accomplice.

The attackers seized the newspaper's entire print run (600 copies) presumably because of the publications featured, including articles prepared with the participation of other utilities deemed to have been in rivalry with the scandalous Orjonikidzevskaya. The distributors have reported the incident to the police, although journalists say the case may not go all the way to court as it already happened several times in the past, when complaints about the utility's negligence were filed by residents of the Uralmash residential area and by potential competitors.

Last spring, Orjonikidzevskaya lost its right to service its former housing fund in the area because of its failure to extend its licence or acquire a new one. Other utilities came into the market, only to start complaining about Orjonikidzevskaya's stubborn unwillingness to leave, and its attempts to meddle in their work.

Police major case hearings closed to the press in Voronezh

By Roman Zhulud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Voronezh on 9 August upheld a lawyer-voiced request by the plaintiff, police major Yevgeny Mladov, that his legal claim against the regional web news portal 36on.ru be reviewed behind closed doors.

The major was dissatisfied with a series of publications about his alleged beating of a regional resident who had cut in front of his father's car on the M-4 federal highway. This is the first defamation case to be closed to the press in the 20 years of her centre's work, Media Rights Centre representative Svetlana Kuzevanova told the GDF.

The court hearings of the legal claim for the protection of honour, dignity and business reputation (which Mladov filed in March) started on 21 July. During the first sitting, Judge Andrei Botvinnikov explained to the parties that they might request closed proceedings if they thought that the presence of outsiders, "especially media reporters", would be undesirable. The defendants refused to, unlike Mladov, a regional police department official, whose lawyer Nina Chernykh said her client would exercise such a right.

"When reading out his determination about closing the proceedings to the public, the judge said that the disclosure of Mladov's personal data (his full name, position in the police, his family status, his video images, and the type and licence-plate number of his car) might lead to an infringement of his privacy," Kuzevanova said. "That's absurd because all this information is already known, is being challenged in court, and any media outlet may refresh it in public memory, if needed. The disputed publication contains no information about Mladov's private life, while the [judge's] presumably well-motivated desire to `protect' the claimant's privacy looks more like an attempt to close the courtroom door to the press".

Now that the court sittings are to be held in the closed mode, no details of the case will be available apart from the fact that during the first hearing the court was asked to officially request some evidence items and stated that a number of points in the statement of claim needed to be additionally clarified. The next sitting is scheduled for 25 August.

Journalists barred from government-business meeting in Trans-Baikal Region

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Alexander Kulakov, deputy head of the Trans-Baikal Region administration, has met behind closed doors with entrepreneurs who intend to implement, or are already implementing, investment projects in the region.

A ZabTV (online television channel broadcasting in Chita and throughout the region) film crew had to interview conference participants at the exit. A group of farmers told them that the meeting, on the one hand, had discussed very important regional issues, such as the restoration of the regional Consumers' Union, construction of food-processing plants, etc., while on the other, it had attracted fewer than ten businessmen.

In a live TV report from the lobby, the journalists wondered why the conference was closed to the public and pointed out that Kulakov's predecessor, Alexei Shemetov, used to hold similar business meetings in the presence of the press.

Barring or ousting reporters from administration-sponsored events has been turning into a tradition in the Trans-Baikal Region. In April, for example, the same film crew was not admitted to a sitting of the Ministry of Tourism, with the following simple explanation: "You are not into the details and may see things in the wrong light…"

City council in Kondopoga, Karelia, prohibits Chernika reporter from using photo or video camera

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

At a city council sitting in Kondopoga on 11 August, several MPs attempted to interfere with journalist Alexei Vladimirov's professional work. As the Chernika news website reporter was preparing an account of the regular session of people's deputies, Viktor Demidov, the council chairman, suggested prohibiting the use of video cameras in the conference room, and the decision was approved by a majority vote.

Demidov then demanded that Vladimirov erase all the images from his camera's memory card. The journalist said he had not been videoing the proceedings but had been taking photo pictures of deputies during an open council sitting, which practice was in full compliance with the effective Media Law. Inviting the chairman to sue him if he wished to, Vladimirov continued taking photo pictures, and later reported about the incident on the Chernika site.

Kommersant media manager in Perm sacked for undetermined damage

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Perm on 12 August started reviewing a legal claim lodged by Lyudmila Kroshechkina, former director of OOO Kommersant v Permi, against the company she led until recently. There may be a socially significant story behind this seemingly private litigation. Currently, Kroshechkina is head of a new company she has established, OOO Delovaya Zhurnalistika, which has obtained the right to publish the regional supplement to the federal newspaper Kommersant. That is where the entire local staff of the former publication has gone after their sacked director.

In the claimant's absence, her lawyer Inna Rayushkina asked the court to uphold her client's demand that her 20 June dismissal in line with Labour Code Article 278.3 ("in view of material damage detected in the course of an audit") be cancelled as unlawful, because she knows nothing about the "damage" mentioned by her former company's new owner in his decision dated 9 June. Kroshechkina wants the motivation to be changed to "voluntary termination as of 30 June". Also, she wants her June salary to be paid to her in full (84,200 roubles), plus a penalty for the salary payment delay, plus backpay for the period between 20 and 30 June, plus 50,000 roubles in moral damages.

Since neither the defendant nor his lawyers appeared in court, Judge Olga Buzmakova adjourned case hearings in essence until 24 August, of which date the new Kommersant v Permi owner, Andrei Medvedev of Moscow, and the newly-appointed company director Yelena Sosnina of Perm, will be duly notified.

Formerly, the regional supplement to the federal newspaper was controlled by business circles reputed to be close to Perm Region Governor Viktor Basargin. Earlier this summer, OOO Kommersant v Permi was purchased by those close to Dmitry Skrivanov, a regional MP representing the ruling United Russia Party. According to the State Register of Legal Entities, the company since 12 July has been trust-managed by the media holding AktivMedia under Skrivanov's control. Yet Kommersant's franchise right has already gone to OOO Delovaya Zhurnalistika registered on 9 June in the name of Lyudmila Kroshechkina. On the very same day, the new owner decided to fire the former director, Kroshechkina, under the above-mentioned code labour article which is subject to very loose interpretation.

Meanwhile, readers have hardly ever noticed any content changes in the regional supplement to Kommersant. All of the journalists and the chief editor, Vyacheslav Sukhanov, have moved to OOO Delovaya Zhurnalistika as staff workers. The new publisher's financial future does not look cloudless though, an informed source has told the GDF on anonymity terms. Dmitry Skrivanov, a dollar millionaire and a regional MP representing the ruling party, is likely to use administrative leverage, and the journalists loyal to Kroshechkina may well share the ill fate of their disfavoured lady boss, the GDF source alleged.


Russia's first monument to war-killed journalist unveiled in Tyumen Region

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The first-ever monument to journalists murdered in Russia has been unveiled in Tobolsk, embodied by a statue of Alexander Yefremov, newspaper Nashe Vremya (in Soviet times, Tyumenskiy Komsomolets) photographer killed on 12 May 2000, on the second day of his work as a photo correspondent covering the second war in Chechnya.

During the first Chechen war, in 1995, he was there with a unit of Tyumen anti-riot police, taking numerous photos that were published in local media and the federal Soldat Udachi (Soldier of Fortune) magazine. He later submitted those pictures for the competition "Russian Journalists in Hot Spots", which aimed to help regional media reporters to see that war with their own eyes and "give residents of Russian provinces, who often know about the second Chechen war only as shown on federal TV channels, to get additional information about it". The Expert Council (jury) included Veronica Marchenko, head of the Mother's Right public group; Anna Politkovskaya, Novaya Gazeta columnist; GDF President Alexei Simonov, and other journalists and human rights defenders.

Thirty-six contestants were awarded grants, and all of them except Yefremov had returned home safely. Alexander was killed during the first of a total of three missions to Chechnya he had originally planned. One of his friends, police lieutenant-colonel (ret.) Vitaly Lazarev, recalled that trip in an article he posted on the Vslukh.ru news website: "He [Yefremov] saw it as his main goal to take pictures of refrigerator railcars abandoned at dead-end sidings, all filled with skeleton-like corpses of Russian soldiers killed back during the first Chechen war and never delivered to the Rostov morgue for identification".

Arriving at the temporary police headquarters (VOVD), Yefremov persuaded Sergei Sergeyev, the VOVD chief of staff, and Police Lt.-Col. Ludwig Poperechny from Nizhnyaya Tavda, to take him along on a military-jeep (UAZ) trip around "the entrusted area", Lazarev wrote. The journalist wanted to take pictures of Grozny from the heights of the Karpinskaya Hill. Panji Zhurayev, a captain from the Leninsky police department in Tyumen, was appointed to accompany him on the trip.

"Based on the testimony given by eyewitnesses, the authorities managed to reconstruct the picture of what had happened," Lazarev wrote. With the fire-support unit's vehicle lagging behind for some reason, the UAZ jeep carrying the journalist and the police officers exploded on a hidden landmine before the eyes of the support-group members. As established by experts, the bomb blasted under the rear axle, killing Yefremov, Poperechny and Zhurayev. "Sergei Sergeyev was seriously wounded and crippled, too, but military physicians and his wife did their best for him to survive and return to normal life".

A year after Yefremov's death, [incumbent Moscow Mayor] Sergei Sobyanin, the-then Tyumen Region governor, handed the Valour Medal posthumously awarded to the journalist, to his mother Antonina who previously received the same medal as a Karelia Front fighter in 1944. She did not live long enough to see a monument put up to her son (she passed away six years ago), but the monument-unveiling ceremony was attended by her granddaughter (Alexander's daughter), Anna.

Yefremov's colleagues in Tyumen recall him as being "an honest and open guy", and a "news-thirsty reporter" who nevertheless preferred war-related topics and photographed "soldiers in kersey boots, rather than generals". At 42, he looked much younger than his age, they say.

A note on the Journalists' Union of Russia website says the idea to put up the monument was first voiced last year and was wholeheartedly supported by the general public. The organising committee (which involved media representatives, regional MPs, and members of the regional and Tobolsk administrations) thought a monument in memory of the Tyumen photo correspondent killed in warfare would "become the greatest and most important monument to all journalists murdered not only in Russia but worldwide as well".

The opening ceremony took place on 8 August, attracting thousands of Tobolsk and Tyumen residents, including army officers, veterans, law enforcement officials, journalists, and ordinary citizens with children, whose number, according to the Ura.ru news agency, was "really unprecedented".

The presence of State Duma Vice-Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak, Journalists' Union of Russia President Vsevolod Bogdanov, Tyumen Region leader Vladimir Yakushev and other high-ranking guests imparted a special degree of importance to the event. Governor Yakushev said: "We are paying tribute to all journalists who died in the line of duty. There's no similar monument either in Russia or elsewhere in the world. Now we have it in Tobolsk," the city where Alexander Yefremov was born.

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
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