22 Мая 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 799

24 April 2017


Yet another journalist dies in St. Petersburg

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

St. Petersburg journalist, former City Parliament deputy Nikolai Andrushchenko, critically injured by unidentified attackers, died in hospital on 19 April 2017 after spending a month in a medically induced coma.

On 9 March evening, Andrushchenko went for a meeting which had to do with his professional duties: at the age of 73 he was an active investigative journalist exposing corruption and ties between former city administration officials and the criminal underworld and handling other dangerous topics. Journalism became the prime occupation of this versatile personality. He had co-founded the newspaper Novyi Peterburg and took his new business seriously. You could hardly expect anything less from a holder of top academic degree in physics and mathematics, a deputy of Lensovet (later renamed to Petrosovet), the First Democratic Parliament of the City on the Neva.

Novyi Peterburg's reputation is somewhat tainted by its nationalistic tilt. When newspaper publication was suspended following the intervention of law-enforcement bodies in 2007 because of Adrushchenko's unpublished (!) article, and he was detained on suspicion of involvement in extremism and slander, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was the only organisation which stood up for the editorial office (see Digest No 360). Back then, we described the shamefaced silence of the journalistic community together with the authorities' ongoing campaign as “selective justice” (see Digest No 367). The case was later reclassified; no evidence of extremism was found in his activity and in 2009, Andrushchenko was cleared of the charges of slander. There remained “inarguable” offences imputed to the journalist: insulting government representatives and inciting social strife against law enforcers. A court sentenced him to a fine and one-year suspended sentence which had expired by then due to the statute of limitations (see details in Digest No 438-439). In actual fact however, Andrushchenko had spent a long time in a pre-trial detention centre where he went blind in one eye.

In 2005, when the door of his apartment was set on fire and he was threatened, journalists were silent, too.

The circumstances of the fatal attack on the journalist remain unclear: he suffered a cranial injury at the meeting or right after, and was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. He underwent emergency surgery and was put into a medically induced coma. Novyi Peterburg staff immediately voiced their suspicions that the battery was the revenge for Andrushchenko's investigations or an attempt to silence him. And again, journalists, with rare exceptions, ignored the deadly attack on their colleague.

The story has a bad ending: Nikolai Andrushchenko died in hospital on 19 April 2017 after the medics brought him out of the coma. No headway has been made in the investigation into the beating. Andrushcheko was a severe critic of law-enforcement bodies, so they are obviously not keen to solve his case.


District newspaper office raided in Sakhalin Region

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Uglegorsk town was in turmoil on 20 April as Uglegorskiye Novosti subscribers who came to collect the fresh issue at the editorial office were turned away. They weren't even allowed to enter. Right at that moment, law-enforcement personnel were searching the newspaper office. All the staffers were assembled in one room. The police prohibited them to use their phones. Office computers were thoroughly examined during the six-hour search.

The police raid was the talk of the town and made news on social networks and messengers. In comments, the prevailing version was revenge for the criticism of the authorities in a recent editor-in-chief's article.

The official comment that finally came from the police described the incident as “measures to ascertain the fact of state secrets disclosure”.

Details later emerged that police had simultaneously searched the offices of the Uglegorsky and Tomarinsky district administrations. It turned out that an employee of the Uglegorsk military enlistment office which is in the same building as the editorial office, used the latter's e-mail address to send an important document to his colleagues in Tomari. His actions could allegedly have resulted in the divulging of a state secret.

The show of force involving the Federal Security Service and armed special task force police in bullet-proof vests is bewildering. Aren't two or three plainclothes police officers enough to conduct a search? And why isn't the military using dedicated communications channels? What crucial secrets can a rank-and-file enlistment office employee possibly have? “Perhaps the information that half of Uglegorsk conscripts are unfit for military service and the other half just barely qualify being physically weak long-term smokers tapping on smartphones, the only thing they can do well?” said sarcastic comments were posted by Sakhaliners on the Internet. “Of all the stupid things! E-mailing sensitive information, why not use WhatsApp then?” These documents, such as conscription dates, can be found lying around on tables at all conscription offices. Or was the sender disclosing some secret spawning season dates?

Many said it was another show-off of anti-terror fight which conveniently happened at the time when Sakhalin Region governor Oleg Kozhemyaka was visiting the district.

Editor Zinaida Makarova wrote a soothing post on the newspaper website telling that the law enforcers had behaved properly; no arrests had been made and no documents had been seized. The incident was not a big problem in the long run, but for the fact that the editorial office's work was practically paralysed for a whole day.

Disgraceful conscription in St. Petersburg

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

St. Petersburg journalist Sergei Kagermazov received a conscription notice on 19 April 2017. Legislative Assembly Speaker Vyacheslav Makarov carried out his public threat against the unwelcome MR7.ru journalist (working for the newspaper Moy Rayon's Internet project).

Makarov was mad at MR7.ru correspondent Sergei Kagermazov for the article published in February 2017 about the procurement of wristwatches for military college students with budget money. He advised the journalist to serve in the army hinting that the latter knew little about life, and noting his own 32-year military career which however, largely had to do with researching and teaching Scientific Communism rather than field experience. Interestingly, Makarov, a Scientific Communism adept and Soviet Communist Party member, became a very religious person after the breakup of the USSR. Nearly all his speeches reference Orthodoxy and traditional spirituality.

Sergei Kagermazov who will soon turn 27 [age ceiling for conscription] had conscription deferment owing to postgraduate studies. He had applied for alternative civil service before his tiff with Makarov. The speaker didn't like that: “Alternative service? Not for you!”

The Colonel (even if retired) delivered on his promises, having arranged a special operation to hand in a draft notice to Kagermazov. At first, they delegated that task to the district police officer who unsuccessfully tried to force his way into the journalist's apartment together with enlistment office representatives. On 19 April, head of the St. Petersburg branch of the United Russia Party's Young Guard wing, municipal deputy Dmitry Baranov gave him a chase round the Mariinsky Palace (housing the Legislative Assembly), and when the correspondent came out into the street, pointed at him to show the Primorskiy district enlistment officer and two policemen (one of them was making a video recording of the scene) that Kagermazov was the man they wanted. They never checked Kagermazov's passport which was not consistent with the standard procedure for serving of a draft notice. When the journalist asked directly if they acted on Makarov's orders the enlistment officer nodded in affirmation.

The speaker's revengeful ploy could evoke nothing but shock from the journalist's colleagues. Although the politician denied issuing threats, he promptly contradicted himself by wishing Kagremazov to grow up and suggesting that he land a job with the parliamentary press office after serving a stint in the army. That Kagermazov's conscription was initiated by the authorities is also proven by Baranov's involvement in it and the happy reaction expressed in social media by other Young Guard members. Amusingly, the larger part of the United Russia Party's younger generation, including Baranov, has never served in the army and is not going to. Nor will they do the alternative service.

The journalistic community's mistrust of the colonel's good character is logical because it is mutual: the colonel dislikes journalists (except a handful of trusted ones who do his bidding). He also let it slip that United Russia used to have a special programme to bring the mass media to reason for purported slander. United Russia made haste to disown Makarov's anti-journalistic statements.

Incidentally, it was Makarov who introduced drastic changes to the regulations for the journalists working at the Petersburg Legislative Assembly; they are becoming increasingly complex as regards accreditation and access to events. He personally ordered to deny access to unwelcome reporters and used boorish language when journalists asked him awkward questions. In 2015, he tried to introduce restrictions on the journalists' movement around the Mariinsky Palace and ordered press service personnel to accompany them all the time. That measure certainly went over the top sparking a protest, with journalists wearing T-shirts with the inscription “No to Censorship” while St. Petersburg's Union of Journalists and city media editorial offices denounced the move. Surprisingly, the colonel backed off, cancelling “tighter control” over journalists in the parliament.

Fair Russia Party newspaper Nam Vsyo Yasno editor-in-chief detained in Karelia

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

Investigators have charged Fair Russia Party newspaper Nam Vsyo Yasno editor-in-chief Alexei Gavrilov with vandalism. He was detained last week; the investigator asked the court to put him in a pre-trial detention centre, but the judge said the measure was too harsh and released Gavrilov on recognizance.

Alexei Gavrilov was a deputy of the previous Karelian parliament. He lost the regional parliamentary election last year and his campaign seemed to have bad aftereffects. In September 2016, police detained two young men in Gavrilov's election district suspected of painting offensive words on house walls to defame parliamentary candidates. The investigators said he might have been a mastermind behind the graffiti attack on his opponents. It seems police have gathered enough evidence over the past six months that allows them to detain the former deputy and editor-in-chief of a political party's newspaper. Gavrilov and Fair Russia's regional office claim that the party and its activist are on the wrong end of a smear campaign ahead of Karelia's gubernatorial polls in September 2017. Gavrilov was allegedly considered as an alternative candidate for the post of Karelia leader. However, it's a far-fetched pretext to explain Gavrilov's detention because nobody seriously views him as an election campaign hopeful.

A. Gavrilov, accused of vandalism under Criminal Code Article 214 together with two other persons, might face up to three years in prison. The young men who wrote foul words on the walls have confessed to mercenary involvement in a smear campaign against deputies. However, there is no evidence to prove that Gavrilov was the mastermind, because five other candidates in the Petrozavodsk election district were vying for a seat on Karelia parliament.

Head of Fair Russia's Karelia branch, regional parliament deputy I. Petelyayeva says Gavrilov is a defamation victim; he could not have done anything wrong during the election campaign because Party Election Headquarters lawyers had consulted him on all his election moves.

Chief editor in Magadan sacked because of commenting on Safronkov's UN speech

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Andrei Grishin, chief editor of the newspaper Vecherniy Magadan (founded by Magadan Town Hall Culture Department), has been fired for speaking out on his Facebook page.

This is what he said: “I reposted the news that the Kremlin supported its UN representative, and suggested in my comments that Safronkov use streetwise methods next time. I also said the Russian Foreign Ministry might want to buy new outfit for its diplomats, such as sport suits and pointed shoes [a hint at gangsters' habitual dress style - Translator.]. On Friday, I received a phone call and was asked to come for a talk. During the meeting, Magadan Town Hall (the newspaper founder) representatives told me that I had to resign my position. As I understood, it was not Town Hall's decision; simply it was ordered to do so. My post was the “last straw” for somebody, but I could not find out who had given the order”.

The former chief editor said he would not file a legal action to challenge his dismissal: “I don't want a conflict which will certainly harm the newspaper, nor do I want to blame Town Hall officials who merely did what they were told to. Nevertheless, what has happened is another sign that our country and society are turning into a wild mix of censorship, prohibition, barefaced hate propaganda, shows-off of patriotism and officials' ridiculous pretense of work amidst the general apathy. I don't regret the loss of my editor's job or my monthly pay of 54,000 roubles. But it's hard for me to say good-bye to my colleagues who trusted me and were inspired by the idea that even if censored, they could still speak out, draw attention to people and their problems and write thought-provoking articles. I very much hope that the newspaper will continue its publications in this vein. I also regret that this happened here in Kolyma, which used to be a place of exile for free-thinking people. Perhaps, history is repeating itself”.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on Andrei Grishin's dismissal: “I would like to look into this story. Posts are one thing (they are just different viewpoints; personally, I believe the editor-in-chief of that Magadan newspaper could have written a better comment), but threats of dismissal coming from officials are something else entirely, a very bad prospect”.

Tikhiy Don TV company director sacked in Rostov: Why?

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Don-Media holding Director General Anatoly Maksak has fired well-known television journalist Sergei Sineok under redundancy plan, according to the official version. In actual fact however, the holding never cut jobs; the television studio continues to operate, and by now it has a new director who is also editor-in-chief.

Such are the local specifics; Sineok held concurrently two positions as well, but he worked in two organisations, not one as is often the case. He was Don24 Channel chief editor and TRK Tikhiy Don television company director. Both organisations employed him part-time, and he only had one workplace, as Don24 television channel has no dedicated editorial office.

TRK Tikhiy Don television studio happens to be Don24's editorial office. This clever scheme enabled the holding to defend itself from Seniok's legal claims against his dismissal. The Kirov district court judge took into account the fact that the plaintiff had worked part-time at Don-media. In such cases, the Labour Code permits relieving an employee of his duties through a simplified procedure.

It is hardly surprising that the experienced journalist who was a staff writer of the Vesti mainstream channel, and later headed state television and radio company offices in Sochi, Norilks and Voronezh did not pay attention to his vulnerable position. Journalists tend to give priority to defending other people's rights rather than their own.

Still, why was he fired? Don-Media Director General Anatoly Maksak, when asked this question, gave a rather vague reply: “The holding carried out some restructuring”. Sineok was offered another job which he declined. This oral statement by the holding's executive is at variance with the written notification issued to the dismissed employee, which clearly stated that “there are no open vacancies for him on staff register”.

Sergei Seneok believes he was fired for expressing his independent opinion on certain corporate issues at staff meetings. This seems to be the only reasonable explanation. Don-media state unitary enterprise incorporates the newspaper Molot, a television company and an advertising agency. It is the only large media holding enjoying considerable financial and administrative support of the Rostov Region government. It has had no financial problems having received 57 million roubles in subsidies at the so-called auction last year. Unsurprisingly, the redundancy plan was only implemented for one journalist who had fallen out of favour with his bosses.

The Rostov Regional Court dismissed these details as it upheld the dismissal case ruling by the court of original jurisdiction in favour of Don-media.

Caucasian Knot correspondent Jalaudi Geriyev's case: Sixth complaint filed in Chechen Republic

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Lawyers of Caucasian Knot correspondent Jalaudi Geriyev, convicted for illegal drug possession, demanded for the sixth time that the Investigative Committee Department for Chechnya overturn the decision not to open criminal proceedings against Geriyev's abductors. The petition was lodged after the lawyer's meeting with Chechnya Investigative Committee head General Sokolov.

The GDF reported several times on the case against an independent media outlet journalist who had been sentenced to three years for marihuana possession (see digest 784).

Geriyev denied the investigator's version at a district court hearing and at Chechnya's Supreme Court saying he had given evidence under pressure. He also told the courts how police had kidnapped him and planted drugs on him. The Investigative Department refused to open a case over his abduction but later cancelled its own decision. This happened five times under formal pretexts. Investigators call it “the intermediate resolution” which is used when the persons responsible for checking a complaint cannot complete it on time, and issue a formal refusal which they later overturn. On 19 April, the journalist's lawyers met with Sokolov to complain that the investigator had unlawfully refused to open a criminal case, and asked him to overturn that resolution.

According to lawyer Alaudi Musayev, Sokolov promised “to follow up on the case in accordance with the effective procedural legislation”.

Caucasian Knot and Russian and international rights organisations believe that the case against Jalaudi had been doctored. He was wrongly accused of drug abuse and he is a political prisoner, they said.

Picketing action in Omsk in defence of journalist Natalya Yakovleva and her minor daughter

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

An unprecedented protest action took place in the square opposite Omsk Town Hall, at least nothing of the kind is found in city records. Dozens of residents stood up for a small family, journalist Natalya Yakovleva and her daughter.

GDF previously reported (see digest 798) that the staff writer of the newspaper Uchitelskaya Gazeta and Radio Liberty's svoboda.org website had been persecuted by the authorities. It started after she published several articles on corruption in the regional education system and district media censorship, as well as other critical materials.

In February, 11 federal mass media outlets published a story signed by teacher Viktor Vlasov, who warned about what might happen to the child having such a mother as Natalia Yakovleva: suicide, bullying by his peers, physical or sexual violence, drug or alcohol addiction etc.

Aside from these purported threats, the “teacher,” citing an anonymous psychologist, claimed that the girl liked to watch porn anime. The slanderous text identifying her by her real name was posted on social media where her photo was available.

Omsk rights activist Dmitry Shchekotov and lawyer Izabella Zolina are confident that the moral terror against Natalya Yakovleva and her daughter was unleashed by a criminal group having powers of authority.

The picket participants lined up in a file holding slogans “Our Children Aren't Hostages”, “Security of Family is Security of State”, “If You Can't Break Down a Reporter, Hit Her Child Then” and “Omsk-Style Freedom of Expression?” City residents who learnt about the picket from social media joined the protest. The action was not reported by the Omsk mass media. More than 60 picket participants signed the petition to the president and the State Duma demanding protection of the journalist and her daughter.

However, persecution of Yakovleva is continuing. On 20 April, representatives of the child custody and guardianship service came to her home. Natalya wrote in Facebook: “They failed to name the reasons justifying their inspection on which I insisted in a telephone conversation with the service yesterday. They also refused to identify themselves. They called me via house intercom and now they're ringing my door bell. I'm not opening the door. They keep on ringing”.

At first, the guardians alleged they were paying a visit after talking with the girl's father, Yakovleva's ex-husband. When she exposed their lie, they said they were concerned about the child's health and her absence from school. The girl had a breakdown because of this disgusting story, and is now undergoing treatment and counselling.

Natalya Yakovleva reported the unidentified persons' entering attempts to regional prosecutors.

Omsk opposition leader claims 6 million roubles from TV company calling him a “foreign agent”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Omsk Public Council chairman, head of the Parnas Party regional branch Igor Basov has filed a six-million-rouble suit against Omsk State Television/Radio Company and its Director General Alexander Malkevich.

In the course of debates on the programme “Candidate” devoted to the upcoming election to municipal self-rule bodies, Omsk's chief anchor told Basov the following: “Igor Gennadyevich, let's talk straight: you're a foreign agent anyway, do you still wish to defend the city interests?”

The GDF said local television ran the clip three times - on 14, 15 and 16 April. Also, it was posted on YouTube. “On those days, my telephone kept ringing, with people asking me why I had been called so. That this was broadcast by state television is no laughing matter. If an organisation is recognized as a foreign agent, the consequences are bearable, but if this term is applied to a person, he is unequivocally viewed as a foreign secret service agent. Of course, my friends and acquaintances were concerned”.

Igor Basov believes that the broadcast might have influenced the 20 April discussion of his initiative to carry out a referendum on reinstating direct mayoral election in Omsk, which was rejected by the Legislative Assembly.

Basov wonders why law-enforcement bodies did not immediately question him after he was named a foreign agent on state television.

Considering the above circumstances and GTRK Omsk popularity (its administration claims it is one of the most popular and influential media outlets in Siberia), Basov estimated his moral damage caused by dissemination of unauthentic information at six million rubles. He demands that five million be paid by the television and radio company and one million by Alexander Malkevich. The plaintiff's other demand is that Malkevich disavow this information.

Regional deputy health minister in Krasnodar fined for non-provision of information to journalists

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Last October, Narodnaya Gazeta Serverskogo Rayona newspaper editor-in-chief Alexander Kharchenko asked the regional Healthcare Ministry to provide information on the number of participants in the Zemskiy (County) Doctor federal programme in each municipality.

Instead, the ministry sent him general data with the overall number of participants in the region. In short, he got the runaround. The editor complained to regional prosecutors, who confirmed that the officials had not supplied the requested information. A case was opened over administrative offence and referred to court.

Krasnodar District No 63 magistrate E. Solovyova reviewed the case against Krasnodar Region Deputy Healthcare Minister Larisa Kadzayeva and ruled that the latter had acted late on the journalist's request in violation of the law. The editor-in-chief was informed about the prosecutor's findings following his complaint about the authorities' inaction.

The judge found Kadzayeva guilty of administrative offence and fined her 2,000 roubles.

It is the first case of administrative penalty in the Krasnodar Region for failure to provide the information requested by journalists. Regional journalists hope that getting requested information henceforth will be much easier thanks to the precedent.

Regional court in Khabarovsk upholds district court decision and requires bank to disclose allegedly “confidential” information to the press

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The GDF reported in the 21 November 2016 digest that the Debri-DV editorial office, writing a story about bank loans and consumer rights violations, was denied information by the commercial bank “Vostochny” citing confidentiality (see Digest No. 778). A Khabarovsk district court supported the editorial office and ruled that the bank had violated Article 40 of the Media Law (refusal or delay in information provision).

The court's ruling became effective on October 9 2016. This, however, did not help the editorial office to obtain the requested information. The bank did not meet the deadline for lodging an appeal, but reinstated its right to challenge the ruling six months later. The regional court did not grant the appeal and ordered the bank to provide the information which earlier was called confidential. The ruling came into effect on 21 April 2017.

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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