30 Сентября 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 769-770


International conference in Geneva on media role in countering propaganda of ethnic, racial or religious hatred

Geneva, Switzerland, on 19-20 September hosted an international conference to discuss the media's role in preventing and countering propaganda of inter-ethnic, racial or religious hatred that fuels discrimination, enmity, and violence. The conference attracted representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, OSCE, the International Federation of Journalists, and of journalistic associations in Russia and Ukraine.

The event was held in continuation of the dialogue between Russian and Ukrainian journalists that has been maintained since 2014 with a view to preserving and promoting professional contacts among colleagues in the two neighbouring countries.

The group of speakers included Andrei Richter, a senior advisor to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, with the report "Legal aspects and analysis of existing international legislation against hate speech"; Tanya Naidyonova, a specialist with the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Office's unit against racial discrimination, who described judicial and quasi-judicial practices aimed at preventing and countering hate speech; Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the Moscow-based think tank Sova, who analysed trends in resisting attempts to provoke discrimination, enmity and violence in Russia; Maksim Butkevich, a coordinator of the project Without Borders (Odessa), and Diana Dutsik, director of OO Detektor Media (Kiev), who gave a detailed account of the situation in the relevant sphere in Ukraine; and Jeremy Scott Diar, IFJ deputy general secretary, with the report "Ethical problems and challenges for the media at times of conflict".

The conferees also discussed the role of national and international media and other country-specific institutes in preventing and countering attempts to promote hate speech and enmity.

The participants agreed that such conferences involving Russian and Ukrainian colleagues should be furthered, although Ukrainian representatives have so far refrained from direct contact with Russians and opted for international mediation - out of fear they might be accused of collaborationism in their home country. This notwithstanding, one should not forget that it is by concerted effort that they have been able at times to secure the release of journalists detained by law enforcement on this or the other side of the Russo-Ukrainian border.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation was represented at the conference by Boris Timoshenko.


Chechen journalist convicted as part of clampdown on dissidents

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Caucasian Knot news agency correspondent Jalaudi Geriyev's case is yet another instance of independent journalists' and government critics' suppression in Chechnya, as many Russian and international human rights groups have stated, including the Journalists' Union of Russia, the Memorial human rights centre, Reporters Without Borders, Article 19, Civil Rights Defenders, Free Press Unlimited, Front Line Defenders, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

Earlier in September, the Shalinsky district court in Chechnya sentenced the prominent pro-democracy journalist to three years in jail on charges of illegal keeping of drugs. The court agreed with the prosecutors' version that in August 2015, Geriyev gathered some blossom clusters and leaves from wild-growing hemp and kept them for personal consumption; on 16 April 2016 he allegedly drove outside the village of Kurchaloi to smoke marijuana, and was detained by police near the village cemetery.

In court, Geriyev fully overturned the investigators' allegations and disclaimed his own earlier confession of guilt, saying he had been pressured into giving it. He said three unidentified men had abducted him from a minibus in which he was heading for Grozny to later fly to Moscow (indeed, he had an air ticket on him, booked for 16 April, the day he was due to take part in "The Media and Constitutional Court" seminar organised by the Institute of Law and Public Politics). "They hit me on the head, pushed me forcibly into a Lada Priora car, and seized my two cell phones and knapsack with my passport, notebook PC and other personal effects; they then drove me into some forest area," Geriyev said.

There, he went on to say, they "started asking me what my business was and whether I was planning to go to Syria". He said he was a journalist and wasn't going to Syria because he "condemned terrorism in all of its forms". Minutes later another Priora pulled over, from which a man got out to pull a plastic bag over Geriyev's head, taking it off only after the journalist started suffocating. All the while, Geriyev's arms were tied together with a length of wire. The man finally drove away, taking along the journalist's knapsack. The other captors then drove Geriyev to the outskirts of Kurchaloi, dropping him near the cemetery, which is mentioned in the case files as the location at which he was later detained with drugs and where he gave his original confession of guilt.

His family and friends, as well as the Caucasian Knot news agency, all see Geriyev's prosecution as linked with his professional work. In their view, the case was fabricated on trumped-up charges. The defence has pointed to "protocols made with numerous procedural violations", "witnesses who have been repeatedly hired for participation in similar fabricated cases" - in a word, to the fact that "the evidence presented as pertaining to the case is unacceptable".

The open civil platform Change.org has published a petition in Jalaudi Geriyev's support. Signatures are also being gathered in the social networks Facebook and VKontakte.

Editor's replacement in Chelyabinsk Region: Obedient dilettante better than professional journalist?

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The staffers of the newspaper Karabashskiy Rabochiy based in Karabash, Chalyabinsk Region, have appealed for support to their readers and the general public over the planned replacement of their chief editor, Irina Shabalina, whose work agreement with the paper's co-owners - the team of the autonomous non-profit organisation Karabashskiy Rabochiy, the regional state enterprise Guberniya Publishers', and the Karabash city administration - expires on 30 September.

Word has gone round that the authorities are unwilling to see Shabalina perform as chief editor any longer and are reserving her would-be vacancy for a woman, a former staff member, who once worked as an office cleaner and later as an advertising manager.

Resentment against Shabalina has been growing for nearly two years, since 2015, when her newspaper published a news report about an elderly woman who had died in a local hospital fully unattended and forgotten by the medical personnel. The publication caused broad public repercussions. Moreover, the editor took the liberty of citing the hospital's chief physician as saying she was satisfied with the progress of "healthcare optimisation" reform in the district, even in such forms as the closure of the sole maternity hospital in Karabash. The chief physician, I. Voronina, instantly reacted by filing a statement of claim in which she demanded that the newspaper declare local MPs' (and her own) comments cited in the article as not true to fact, publish a disclaimer, and pay her 100,000 roubles in moral damages. Fortunately, two courts - district and regional - rejected her claim in full.

Later Karabashskiy Rabochiy "did wrong again" by offering its page space for all nominees for seats on the State Duma to publish their campaigning materials on equal footing.

"One reason why the decision on the replacement of an editor-in-chief with a 20-year work record by a [simple] correspondent/editor has been made is the principled stand Irina Shabalina once took and has held ever since," the staffers' appeal says. "We, members of the newspaper team, do not want any such change because we know all too well: there is nothing good behind it. We are determined to defend our editor to the end - join us, and we will win together!"

Police in Perm challenges newspaper Za Cheloveka news report as untrue

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Perm on 22 September failed to pass a decision in litigation over the article "Police rejects reports on abuses and even intimidates persons filing them", published by what the regional Interior Ministry (MVD) department wrongfully identified as the [non-existing] "editorial board of the Perm Region Human Rights Centre".

Judge Alexander Alexeyev reproached police representative Tatyana Sokolova for neglecting to find out the defendant's correct name: "You act much like kindergarten kids!" After a preliminary sitting on 5 July, the court planned to review the case in essence on 22 September. Defence lawyer Ilya Shenkman explained that the newspaper Za Cheloveka, which carried the disputed article on 14 January 2016, is not registered as a media outlet and is actually part of the official website of the regional Human Rights Centre (PRPTs).

The claimant wants to publish a reply to the publication the author of which, PRPTs staffer Tatyana Krotova, has more than once stood up for low-income citizens, among them university students Eldar Amirov and Tatyana Putilova, who agreed for a 5,000-rouble reward to register as private entrepreneurs and open settlements accounts. The "bank-client" keys issued in their names were linked, however, to other persons' cell phone numbers, and multimillion sums have passed via those bank accounts with neither of the two "entrepreneurs" ever receiving any notice. As a result, the two students got indebted to the bank as non-payers of commission and taxes. Police refused to start legal proceedings against the unidentified fraudsters, which fact Za Cheloveka reported on the PRPTs website.

Police officials claimed offended by the following statements: "The police unit against economic crime did not even find time to question the student who had come asking for help"; "It took the police the full 10 days [allowed by law] to check the [student's] report. And what did they do over that time? Nothing!"; "During interrogation, [a police investigator] threatened the girl student with the gloomy prospect of her going to jail in line with a `new law' allegedly passed in 2015"; and "Today, police seek to put pressure on those at hand - that is, on Perm residents deceived by fraudsters - while covering the real evildoers".

Regional MVD spokesman Artur Gainanov on 23 March sent a message to the PRPTs attaching a pretty lengthy text of his agency's proposed reply to the publication. The reply said, in part: "The author negatively assesses actions by the Economic Security and Corruption Countering police force officials who checked up the alleged fraud scheme that affected [the two] Perm Region residents. Analysis of the published findings shows that some of that information is not true to fact. The article's author distorted the meaning of the information about the norms of law she had received, thereby misleading and misinforming her own readers".

Sergei Isayev, the PRPTs director, refused to publish that kind of reply which he called "a disclaimer of accurate information". The police department sued the rights defenders, writing in its statement of claim: "The posted article contains information leading to a distorted perception of an event, fact, or chain of events that happened in real terms, which means such a publication infringes the rights, liberties or lawful interests of the Perm Region MVD department".

The next court sitting is scheduled for 10 October, with the PRPTs, rather than the imaginary "editorial board", expected to pose as the defendant this time. An informed police insider has said he is appalled by his command's behaviour. "Evidently, they are eager to report to Moscow they have `saved the honour of the regiment'. Yet police are doomed to lose the case in court, whatever the judge's decision. The PRPTs already has reported on its website that the Perm prosecutor's office cancelled the refusals to start criminal proceedings as unlawful and unjustified, and no one can prevent the PRPTs from publishing our reply with an appropriate commentary attached," the police source told the GDF on anonymity terms.

Cossack newspaper editor in Khabarovsk Region resigns after getting dressing-down from ataman

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Vladimir Ivanov-Ardashev has resigned as editor of the Priamurskiy Kazachiy Vestnik because of a dressing-down he received from the newspaper's founder, Ataman Vladimir Stepanov.

The ataman was enraged by the editor's making public the fact of a split within the Cossack community by commenting on the situation on the pages and websites of other news media.

"I have expressed my personal opinion, and in other media at that," Ivanov-Ardashev, a veteran journalist, writer and regional historian, said explaining his resignation. "Even if I'd expressed it in my own newspaper, what of it? In my previous similar conversations with the ataman, I repeatedly noted that in line with the effective Media Law, a media outlet's founder is entitled to replace an editor but has no right to meddle in the editorial policy! That, of course, would cause him to feel sour, but never too much. Yet this time, he literally flew into a rage - I'd never seen him so angry before. But then, it's an internal Cossack affair and I won't go into further detail about it. I've just decided to quit as editor of Priamurskiy Kazachiy Vestnik. And I wish Ataman Stepanov would find, and fast enough, another experienced editor who would listen to his lectures with greater patience".

Sacked chief editor wins case in court, gets reinstated in Karelia

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

Vladislav Vokhmin, Lahdenpohja district head in the Republic of Karelia, fired Nadezhda Gongeleva, chief editor of the municipal newspaper Prizyv which had carried a publication about shady dealings by a local entrepreneur, V. Velikodvorsky. The editor instantly came under pressure from the district leader, and even before the article came off the press, Velikodvorsky had approached Gongeleva to persuade her to drop the publication altogether.

In court, Gongeleva managed to prove that Vokhmin should have looked not only to the Labour Code but also to the RF Media Law when sacking her, considering her dual professional status as director of the municipal media outlet Prizyv and editor-in-chief of the newspaper of the same name, which has the district administration as only one of its co-founders whose consent Vokhmin never asked. As a result, he lost the case in court and was required to reinstate Gongeleva in her former position.

Currently Prizyv, supported by many district MPs - and the District Council is one of the newspaper's other co-founders - is preparing a draft law stipulating in no uncertain terms that the chief editor's appointment and dismissal are matters to be decided collectively, not individually by the head of district administration.

Meanwhile, the latter has initiated an unscheduled financial audit of the critical newspaper…

North Caucasus Ecological Watch spokesman's apartment and house searched in Krasnodar Region

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

In Goryachiy Klyuch and Krasnodar on 23 September, regional Investigative Department officials searched the house and apartment of Dmitry Shevchenko, spokesman for and deputy coordinator of the North Caucasus Ecological Watch. Also, they attempted to search the house in which they had expected to find Ecological Watch coordinator Andrei Rudomakha himself, but there was nobody inside.

The special operation started at 6:30 a.m. The search of Shevchenko's apartment in Krasnodar resulted in the seizure of a PC, photo camera, memory cards, and some documents. As it turned out, the searches were carried out as part of a lawsuit brought against Rudomakha and Shevchenko under Criminal Code Article 128.1 ("Libel"). The two men are facing charges of "belying" State Duma MP Alexander Remezkov by reporting about his having dachas in the village of Bzhid in the Tuapse District and the village of Krasnoselskoye in the Dinskoy District.

"Our group has presented to investigators convincing proofs of Remezkov's actual ownership of the two dachas. What could the investigators possibly be looking for during those searches if our articles on the topic are still hanging on the Ecological Watch's website while neither Rudomakha nor I are denying our being the authors of those publications?" Shevchenko told the GDF.

Law enforcers' excessive zeal may perhaps be attributed to the fact that the main character of those publications is doubtlessly a VIP who declared an income of 331.37 million roubles in 2015, making him the richest parliamentarian in the regions of Rostov and Krasnodar. Before his election to the State Duma, he had been Krasnodar deputy governor in charge of finance, then first deputy governor, then head of the board of directors at OAO KraiInvestBank and deputy secretary of the regional branch of the ruling United Russia Party (URP) in charge of contact with financial circles and business groups in the region.

Yet shortly before the latest Duma elections, Remezkov quit his URP membership and was elected on 18 September 2016 to the 7th State Duma body as a nominee of the Fair Russia Party. Maybe when searching the apartment of the Ecological Watch spokesman the investigators were looking for documents showing what proofs of elite realty ownership by the Remezkov family on the Black Sea coast the authors had dug up.

Access to independent news websites in Dagestan blocked on voting day and for two days after

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

For three days running, access to the Dagestani news web portals On Kavkaz and Kavpolit, as well as the websites of the independent weeklies Novoye Delo and Chernovik, remained blocked or interrupted.

One could not access the websites of Dagestan's largest and most popular weeklies from Sunday afternoon (18 September) through 20 September - right at the time when the independent web resources started posting reports about a variety of electoral violations - the bussing of electors from one polling station to another, ballot papers thrown in with ruling party nominees' names checked out, fistfights, etc. - registered on the voting day. The violation-monitoring centre at Chernovik kept working until Sunday evening, receiving complaints from all across the republic about falsifications that made the electoral picture look gloomy indeed.

Internet service providers Ellco, Sabnet, Erline, Pautina 05 and Summa Telecom denied ever blocking access to those websites, but failed, however, to explain why the disruptions occurred particularly on the day of nationwide elections and during the following two days when the votes were being counted. The media regulator Roskomnadzor's department for Dagestan, in response to oral complaints, promised to clarify the situation within a day's time in the event of written complaints filed, and if these turned out true to fact, the violators would be subject to sanctions - from warnings to administrative fines of up to 30,000-40,000 roubles.

"If no real violations are confirmed, we will not go beyond prophylactic conversations," Roskomnadzor officials added.


Newspaper stalls torn down one after another in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Sakhalin-based news web portal Sakh.com has posted an article analysing the reasons why press kiosks are being erased from existence on the Far Eastern island.

It all began with staffers of the city and regional libraries in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk refusing to provide a file of one weekly newspaper at a journalist's request. In the city library, they said they lacked the money to subscribe to all local publications, and in the regional library, that they only had an "incomplete" file. What was the reporter to do - fly to Moscow (or Washington) to search for that weekly in the national libraries which are more responsible about newspaper files, and hence, about history in general? How can a person at all get a fresh newspaper if he doesn't use the Internet and habitually reads print versions? Delivery by subscription is nearly out of practice, because getting a fresh newspaper number from [monopolistic press distributor] Pochta Rossii by breakfast time is almost as realistic as contacting a Martian, unless you are a mental clinic patient. Therefore, buying a newspaper from a street vendor remains the sole option. Where are the press stalls located in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk? A journalist went around the city in search of them.

To begin with, he found two press kiosks near the Chekhov Centre torn down - and this despite the square in front of the theatre being a popular place where residents like to take a stroll on a nice sunny day or sit on a bench leafing through a newspaper. Today, the best pastime they are offered is to "vacantly stare at the smart crows and stupid doves".

At the crossing of Prospekt Mira and Pogranichnaya Street, where there were three or four newspaper kiosks, there is none today. Kommunisticheskiy Prospekt, too, has been cleared of the press stalls, including the very last one near the cinema Oktyabr. A whole chain of press pavilions has long been pulled down in Lenin St., with the municipal authorities pledging to put up new, modern ones, but never walking the talk so far. There is not a single kiosk in the Yuri Gagarin Culture and Recreation Park, either.

Are those press stalls old-fashioned or damaging to the city's image? Has someone's refined taste been offended by the provincial iridescence of magazine covers? Then how about those numerous pavilions and tents on sidewalks - or right on lawns - where vendors sell half-rotten and ill-smelling vegetables and fruit? For some reason Mr Bandyukov, head of the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk food products and consumer market department, is in no hurry to tear them down!

At the request of print media editors and readers, this sensitive topic - how to buy a newspaper at the "usual and accessible" spot - has even been discussed at the latest session of the presidium of the Sakhalin branch of the Journalists' Union of Russia. Semyon Vyalkin, head of the regional architecture and urban development department, promised that journalists would see press kiosks - modern, of two or three new designs - return to the city's Prospekt Mira, and soon. The only question Vyalkin found hard to answer was why put the cart before the horse and not wait until the new press stalls arrived - instead of hastening to pull down the old ones.

It took police 30 months to start criminal proceedings and 2 months to stall them in Khabarovsk Region

By Tatyana Sedykh

Editor, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye

"Criminal case No. 631114, started in the wake of someone's posting a priori false information online, has been suspended in view of no suspect identified," said an official reply I received from the investigative division of the MVD department in the Vanino District, Khabarovsk Region, two months after the legal proceedings were started.

We reported about the start of the proceedings in the GDF digest note "Investigators get a move on", which said that after President Vladimir Putin's press conference at which read out to the national leader several "burning" questions from Vanino residents, I became the target of a pressure campaign during which the initiators deliberately spread malicious information about me as a physically handicapped person. After I complained to law enforcement, they sent me five consecutive refusals to carry out an operative check-up or start criminal proceedings against those humiliating me. What is going on in the Khabarovsk Region is a vivid example of how a journalist may be harassed with impunity for years, with his physical disability mocked at. I am not the only one affected - discrimination against invalids appears to be a general trend in Russia.

On the day of State Duma elections, 18 September, I went out to hold a one-person picketing action outside the Vanino district administration building in protest against discrimination and the arbitrary behaviour of police, prosecutors and government officials. I as a journalist have for many years defended the rights of the disabled, so I wanted my action to also draw public attention to a distressed Vanino resident for whom the authorities had not found the money to buy him a wheelchair. In response to my request to allocate the required sum, the regional administration officially notified me that they lacked the money for that purpose; at the very same time, they did find 150 million roubles to finance repairs of the regional government headquarters.

My picketing action was a step forward toward better protection of people with disabilities, for whom each new day is yet another day in their struggle for normal life.


Mass Media Centre Director Galina Arapova honoured with prestigious IBA award in Washington

On 23 September, one of the world's most authoritative legal organisations, the International Bar Association (IBA), handed its award "For a legal practitioner's outstanding contribution to human rights defence", to Galina Arapova, director of the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defence Centre (MMDC). The award is conferred annually, and this year it went to a Russian lawyer, for the first time ever.

It is a token of recognition of a person's tireless efforts to defend human rights and basic civil liberties in Russia. The award-handing ceremony was part of an international legal conference that is held every year in different cities of the world; this year's event took place in Washington, D.C., United States.

As he was honouring the winner, IBA President David Rivkin said: "Galina Arapova has dedicated her professional life to defending Russian journalists' fundamental rights. She has scored many achievements and been able to demonstrate her firm commitment to media defence and to restoring justice for those whose rights have been infringed".

In her reply speech, Arapova stressed that she saw the award as an acknowledgement not only of her personal professional merits but also of the work of "all MMDC lawyers and barristers who carry out huge volumes of work on a daily basis, handling complicated cases in defence of freedom of expression and journalists' rights. They do this with high professionalism and work really hard, sincerely believing in the importance of our work and the high value of the rights we defend".

Galina Arapova is a prominent Russian media lawyer and director of the Media Rights Centre which has operated in Voronezh since 1996. She is a member of the GDF Board of Guardians, an expert and staff member of many international and Russian organisations and author of reference books and teaching aids on media law for journalists and media outlets. She is a media law professor with several Russian and European universities, and conductor of seminars and training sessions for journalists and lawyers.

The International Bar Association, founded 1947, has its headquarters in London and its regional branches in Sao Paulo, Seoul, Washington, and the Hague.

IBA conferences, the largest and most prestigious in the legal community, annually bring together thousand of legal experts. This year's event was attended by more than 6,000 delegates representing governments, parliaments, bar associations and legal firms from more than a hundred countries of the world. The Jury of the award contest involves renowned lawyers: legal practitioners, retired judges of supreme and constitutional courts, and professors from prestigious universities in different countries.

We congratulate Galina Arapova and wish her new successes in the difficult work of defending media 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:
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