13 Октября 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 772

10 October 2016


Journalists detained after videoing oil spill in Komi Republic

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

Late on October 1, police on the outskirts of Usinsk in the Komi Republic stopped a car carrying Vladimir Prokushev and Maksim Polyakov, reporters with the 7x7 regional web channel, who were returning home after completing an editorial assignment - to film an oil spill from a pipeline owned by LUKoil-Komi Co.

The police officials said they had received orders to stop the car and escort the journalists to the police station, where the vehicle was searched in the presence of eyewitnesses and a piece of reporting equipment, a video drone, was found. At first, the law enforcers wanted to seize the drone along with Prokushev's cell phone, but after the journalists reminded them of the Media Law provisions and the rules of drone handling (such apparatus needs to be officially registered only if weighing over 30 kg, whereas the reporters' drone weighed less than 5 kg), they agreed there was no reason for confiscating anything.

Two hours later the two correspondents left the police station with copies of all protocols that had been made, and even with the duty officer's apologies on behalf of the city police department.

Staffers at 7х7 believe the policemen were sent to stop the car on a tip from LUKoil-Komi officials, which fact was actually confirmed by police officers themselves in a conversation with journalists.

Generally, LUKoil-Komi feels pretty sensitive as regards oil spills: it has forbidden the oil-cleaning personnel to talk to newsmen; security guards demanded Prokushev and Polyakov's IDs and attempted to prevent them from shooting by screening their camera lens. A carful of security guards escorted the journalists' vehicle all the 100 km from the oil-spill site to Usinsk. This notwithstanding, 7x7 is preparing to show the TV report about the spill that they shot with the help of their video drone.

One editor attacks another in Khanty-Mansi parliament

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The work of the newly-elected body of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District (otherwise known as Yugra) Duma started with a forehead-to-forehead collision of the editors of two local media outlets, the SurgutInform-TV broadcaster and the web news portal Chinovnik.ru. The incident occurred after the very first parliament sitting in the presence of numerous local media reporters.

As described by one of the conflict participants, Vitaly Shcherbakov, the SurgutInform-TV office was visited last spring by clients of a dealer of the Chelyabinsk-based furniture company Linda, who they said had received an advance payment from them but had not rushed to fulfil the order, while refusing to return the money. When Sherbakov arrived at the dealer company's office with the angry Linda clients, he met there Eduard Shmonin of Chinovnik.ru, who in the TV journalist's view was representing that company's interests, either as a voluntary helper or for pay, which was what "sparked mutual dislike" between them.

During the break after the first Yugra Duma sitting, as Shcherbakov was preparing to start reporting live from the conference room, Shmonin approached him, spelled out his claims, and urged the journalist to "go out for a talk", which Shcherbakov refused to do suggesting that they speak publicly, there and then. Shmonin then made yet another step forward and fiercely struck Shcherbakov on the forehead with his own head, the journalist told the GDF.

Duma spokesman Sergei Tabakov had to promptly interfere to pull the men apart. As he was escorting the attacker out of the conference room, Shmonin was shouting out threats and swearing badly at his opponent, the victim said.

The SurgutInform-TV editor reported the attack to the Khanty-Mansiysk police department asking to bring the Chinovnik.ru editor to justice in line with Criminal Code Article 144 ("Interference with a journalist's lawful professional work").

Sakhalin's oldest newspaper faces closure prospect

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The newspaper Sovetskiy Sakhalin, established 1 May 1925, has for the first time ever decided not to hold a subscription campaign in 2017 - and this despite the fact that 95% of its print run used to be distributed by subscription. Evidently, this signals the beginning of the end.

Chief editor Vladimir Sorochan has acknowledged that his newspaper is in dire financial straits, because the ongoing crisis has reduced the placement of commercial ads as the chief source of funding almost to naught. Other regional publications are in a similar position: bankruptcy notices have come from them, one after another, on a daily basis (for example, Chelyabinskiy Rabochiy, a famous newspaper established in Chelyabinsk in 1908, was shut down recently). "To survive, one has to go to the authorities asking for help - a thing I won't do, ever," Sorochan said.

Readers found the news about their favourite newspaper's likely closure very saddening. For decades, Sovetskiy Sakhalin was the region's single publication that preserved independence, an impeccable reputation and a high degree of popularity; in "fat years", its circulation would go up to 100,000. At different times, the authorities would lay "information sieges" to it by forbidding the sole regional printing house to provide its services for the newspaper, or by filing heaps of lawsuits against it. People would even stage protest rallies in support of their favourite paper.

Since those at the helm would evidently rejoice at the closure of the last non-conformist media outlet beyond their control, readers are recommending that Sovetskiy Sakhalin should go online: "A whole new generation has grown up without ever holding a newspaper in hand! You need to think something up, see through some changes, and try some new approaches… Losing a legendary publication altogether would really be a shame!"


Belarusian human rights defenders designate detained editor Eduard Palchis as a political prisoner

Members of the Belarusian human rights community have identified as politically motivated the prosecution of Eduard Palchis, editor of the news website 1863х.com, detained on suspicion of fanning social hostility and distributing pornographic stuff.

"We believe that the criminal prosecution of E. Palchis is politically underpinned because the authorities are seeking to terminate his public activity or make him change its nature," Belarusian human rights defenders said in a statement. "We say: keeping E. Palchis under arrest and his politically-motivated prosecution by the Belarusian government allows us to designate the blogger as a prisoner of conscience".

As follows from the statement, human rights activists, with the help of specialists in various areas of science, have analysed the content of the articles imputed to Palchis. "The analysis shows that none of the nine published articles contains any calls for warfare, violence, or racial, inter-ethnic or religious strife; nor threatens national security, public order, or the people's health or morals," the statement says.

Those publications, in the activists' view, only express the author's opinions about different social events or facts, while criticising the geopolitical concepts and foreign policies of some countries. "The author did not mean to disparage the dignity of representatives of any specific nationality, ethnicity, or race," the statement says.

"In this connection, we believe that E. Palchis' writings posted in nine articles on the 1863х.com website are an acceptable form of expressing one's opinion, and therefore, they cannot be subject to criminal prosecution," the statement says.

Palchis has been charged with committing offences under Belarusian Criminal Code Articles 130.1 ("Instigation of racial, inter-ethnic, or religious hatred or discord") and 343.2 ("Dissemination of pornographic materials").

In November 2015, KGB detained Palchis as part of the criminal proceedings started against him, and later released him with a written pledge not to leave town, but he nevertheless moved to Ukraine. In January 2016, the editor was detained in the Russian Federation and in late May, was extradited to Belarus, where he was placed under arrest. On 25 August 2016, the Central district court in Minsk held a closed sitting at which it declared that nine articles posted by Palchis on the 1863х.com website were "extremist" in terms of their content.

The statement designating Eduard Palchis as a political prisoner has been signed by the Vesna (Spring) Human Rights Centre (not registered in Belarus), the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Legal Transformation Centre, the Boris Zvozskov Human Rights House, the Belarusian Documentation Centre, and the Solidarnost (Solidarity) Committee to Protect Repressed Individuals.

[Interfax.by report, 5 October]


GDF correspondent litigating with media holding in Perm watches court connive at his opponent's resorting to forgery within "reasonable" limits

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm-based publication Business Class on 6 October broke the well-predictable news: the AktivMedia holding controlled by Dmitry Skrivanov, who was elected a State Duma deputy on September 18, is cutting down expenditure. Skrivanov, a dollar millionaire, will continue providing guaranteed funding for the television channel Ural-Inform TV, the radio station Ekho Moskvy v Permi (Moscow Echo in Perm), and the newspapers Zvezda and Komsomolskaya Pravda v Permi. The other media under his control, including the newspapers VKurse-Perm, VKurse-Verkhnekamye, Mestnoye Vremya and Permskaya Tribuna, as well as the news web portal VKurse.ru, will have to rely only on their own ability to earn a living. The AktivMedia losses exceeded 110.3 million roubles in 2015, Business Class cited SPARK-Interfax as reporting.

The just-started "optimisation campaign" is bound to affect many journalists' lives. Some may have to seek protection in court. My own experience of litigating with AktivMedia may come in handy in that respect. I worked for that media holding for less than eight months, but our litigation has continued for nearly 18 months now. I lodged a legal claim with the Sverdlovsky district court in Perm when AktivMedia ceased fulfilling its obligations under an agreement on my providing journalistic contributions to it for pay. In my statement of claim dated 8 May 2015, I asked the court to award me the 51,700 roubles due to me from the media holding for February and March that year.

Upon receiving my claim, AktivMedia manager Timur Marder on 29 May 2015 e-mailed me a notice of his company's early termination of the work agreement with me as of June 8, and suggested I sign "an appropriate addendum to the agreement". I refused to sign anything post factum. Actually, I had from the outset seen that agreement of 1 October 2014 as one that did not suit me too well, because my pay was supposed to be halved, with one portion payable to me in advance, the other after the work fully done - depending on whether or not the media holding (represented by T. Marder in person) found my services acceptable. In my statement of claim, I noted that the defendant had deliberately shirked signing work-acceptance acts in order not to pay me my earnings in full, while not expressing any dissatisfaction with my work in due time.

When my lawsuit came under review in May, AktivMedia did try to find some fault with my texts written in February and March. As I learned in court, the media holding sent me its critical comments by ordinary mail on 11 June and 7 July 2015, respectively - i.e., much later than the 5 days' deadlines established by our work agreement. Despite these and other violations by the defendant, Judge Tatyana Rakutina on 8 October 2015 satisfied my claim only partially, noting in her decision that AktivMedia voluntarily transferred 30,000 roubles to my bank account on 11 August 2015 - a fact that I learned in court as late as September 3, when additionally claiming my underpaid wages for April, May and June as an increased total of 120,600 roubles.

The district court awarded me only 15,000 roubles from the defendant. When challenging that decision before the regional court's appellate panel on 15 February 2016, I brought a copy of a decision passed by the 17th Appellate Court of Arbitration on 9 February 2016 in a similar lawsuit filed against AktivMedia by OOO Sotrudnik; the court awarded the latter 100,500 roubles owed to it by the defendant under a similar agreement on the provision of information services for pay. The decision noted that since AktivMedia, upon accepting Sotrudnik's services, had not come up with any critical comments thereon before the mutually-agreed 5 days' deadline, it was obliged to pay Sotrudnik what was due to it. Yet Perm regional court Judges Tatyana Opalyova, Yekaterina Voronina and Venera Khasanova, upon hearing that, never even mentioned in their appellate decision of 15 February the fact of their adding the decision copy to my case files, and totally ignored my references to existing law-application practices. True, they increased to 1,100 roubles (sic!) the state duty amount to be reimbursed to me by my opponent.

On 21 June 2016, AktivMedia demanded that I reimburse its judicial costs in the amount of 35,000 roubles. At that, the media holding did not present any disbursement voucher, cash order or other primary document required by existing rules of cash operation accounting. Instead, it attached handwritten receipts by lawyers Svetlana Dolishnyaya and Dmitry Berezin about their receiving 20,000 roubles on 17 February 2016 from an unidentified person for the provision of unidentified services under an unspecified agreement. Also, two agreements of 1 July 2015 with the two lawyers were presented, on their representing AktivMedia's interests as regards "relationships with M. D. Lobanov" regarding my 120,600-rouble claim. The acts of acceptance of Dolishnyaya and Berezin's services say both lawyers participated in the court hearings of 18 June and 8 December 2015.

I drew the court's attention to that point as an abuse of law by the media holding. No court hearing was appointed for or held on 8 December 2015 because a decision regarding my legal claim had been passed two months before, on 8 October. The preliminary hearing on 18 June 2015 did take place, but that was before the agreements with the two lawyers were signed on 1 July - that is, before those agreements took effect. Also, on July 1 the court reviewed my initial claim of the 51,700 roubles underpaid to me. It was not until two months later that I demanded back pay in the amount of 120,600 roubles. Documents with untrue dates of signing are deemed forged and non-acceptable for purposes of judicial cost reimbursement. And the most important thing: there is no cash order in the case files to show that AktivMedia incurred at least some costs paying for legal services. In line with effective legislation, such a document must be registered in a special book of accounting and be kept for 5 years in the archives. The absence of primary cash documents entails liability under RF Tax Code Article 120 ("Gross violation of the rules of accounting regarding incomes, expenditures, and subjects of taxation").

Yet Sverdlovsky district court Judge T. Rakutina turned a deaf ear to my arguments. "Guided by the principle of reasonableness and fairness," as she wrote in her October 7 decision, she required me to pay AktivMedia 10,509.60 roubles, which actually means I must pay to the media holding owned by MP Skrivanov for two forged agreements, the absence of two lawyers at a non-existent court sitting, plus part of what was presumably paid to those lawyers by no one knows who for no one knows what kind of services they had allegedly provided.

I have been allowed 15 days to challenge this decision, if I wish to. Several former AktivMedia workers have already contacted me over their own potential filing of lawsuits against their former employer. If they do, their would-be litigations may shed additional light on many of the other interesting developments occurring within the Perm-based media holding.


2016 Andrei Sakharov competition "Journalism as an Act of Conscience" continues

The jury of the 2016 Andrei Sakharov Competition "Journalism as an Act of Conscience" continues accepting works submitted for this year's contest. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award "For Journalism as an Act of Conscience" is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors' active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between 15 October 2015 and 15 October 2016 in Russian print or online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard (gate of Journalists' Union of Russia), Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: "Andrei Sakharov Competition `Journalism as an Act of Conscience'".

For further details, see www.gdf.ru or call: (+7 495) 637 4947.

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