13 Июня 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 801

10 May 2017


Criminal charges brought against district newspaper editor in Karelia

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

Sergei Kononov, chief editor of the newspaper Kondopozhskiy Krai, Republic of Karelia, has been charged under Criminal Code Article 128.1.2 with “spreading a priori false information smearing another person or undermining his reputation”. During last year's parliamentary elections, Kononov and his newspaper published presumably libellous data about one of the candidates for a parliamentary seat. Since Kononov was also the author of the publication, he will be held liable both as the owner and editor of the media outlet and a reporter about the candidate's meeting with electors.

A statement of claim was filed against him by Dmitry Znamensky, director of KarelLesTrans Co., who ran for the republic's parliament in 2016 but lost the race. The ex-candidate is insisting Kononov “belied” him in his publication by citing an excerpt from Znamensky's conversation with electors in his constituency.

On the whole, the journalist kept to the point quoting the KarelLesTrans director, but a number of his own judgments regarding the latter's personality will have to be clarified in court, if it goes as far as that. Specifically, the author characterised Znamensky as a “hysterical and unruly” person whose dialogue with electors could occasionally be called “boorish”. That is how Kononov in person perceived some of the candidate's statements and will keep insisting that was his personal judgment based on what he heard and saw during the meeting.

Also, in his publication Kononov wrote that the pool of Znamensky's electors mainly consisted of KarelLesTrans employees brought to the meeting in company buses, which fact, too, will have to be proven in court since it raises suspicions about the director's likely abuse of his official position.

The probe into the case has continued since 28 December 2016, with no indictment available so far.

Attack on Committee for Prevention of Torture crew remains unnoticed in Ingushetia

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The defence of the journalists and human rights activists beaten in Ingushetia has drawn public attention to the republican Investigative Committee's inaction.

Digest 746 (www.gdf.ru) reported details of the March 2016 attack by unidentified villains on a minibus carrying a group of Russian, Norwegian and Swedish journalists, along with rights defenders accompanying them. The bandits burned the bus, seized the reporting apparatus, and beat up the passengers and driver. Four persons were taken to hospital with traumas. According to the victims, the attackers had arrived in cars with Chechen licence plates and had spoken Russian with an accent.

Back then, we noted that cases of these kinds were rarely and poorly investigated, and cited Committee for the Prevention of Torture chairman Igor Kalyapin's drawing a parallel between that attack and the previous raid on his office in Grozny: “The same kinds of shouts, and the style of the attack is exactly the same. The same cases opened under the very same Criminal Code articles. No probes have followed there, and I think, regrettably, that the fate of this new criminal case will be the same”.

The GDF promised to closely watch the developments, and here are the deplorable results: the attack on journalists and rights activists at the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia has been investigated for more than 18 months, with no findings available. At first, the probe was conducted on two charges - “breach of public order by a group of persons” and “deliberate destruction of others' property”; with the charges of “group armed attack aimed at stealing others' property” and “obstruction of journalists' lawful work” added later. But neither the number of charges nor the Russian Interior Ministry's taking the case under its special control has been able to invigorate the investigation. Finally, defence lawyer Andrei Sabinin filed a complaint about the investigator's inaction.

According to the lawyer, they would not give him access to the case files for a long time, then they claimed being “too busy”, and then they invited him to Ingushetia's Investigative Department promising to give him the files to read in exchange for a written pledge of confidentiality. Sabinin, however, refused to, asking to be told exactly which information and in what volume he was not to disclose. “Actually, no probe into the attack… is being carried out. Sooner or later, the investigators may be brought before the European Court of Human Rights,” he said.

Tyumen blogger Alexei Kunrugov not transferred from pre-trial centre to penal colony despite Supreme Court ruling

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The administration of the regional Penal Department in Tyumen has procrastinated about executing the sentence passed in the case of blogger Alexei Kungurov on 28 March this year by the RF Supreme Court which upheld the decision earlier taken by the Volga District Military Court - two years in a settlement colony (see digest 796).

More than a month has passed since Kungurov's appeal was reviewed and rejected; the blogger continues to be kept in a pre-trial detention centre, and it looks like no one is in a hurry to transport him to the place where his term is to be served. “He managed to get through on the phone to me a few days ago; typically, he is out of coverage for weeks,” his wife Asiya Baishikhina told the GDF. “He said detention centre officials had warned him he would spend the rest of his term under their supervision, rather than be transported anywhere else. He is isolated from the whole world there - nothing more than listening in to the radio at prescribed time”.

“I know for sure,” she went on to say, “that many people are writing letters telling him the news and waiting for his comments in LiveJournal, but he gets one in every ten letters at best”.

“I see the fact of Alexei's still staying in the pre-trial centre as a gross violation of the Rules of Penal Procedure,” defence lawyer Alexander Zyryanov told the GDF. “He was to be transferred to a colony within 10 days of the sentence's taking full legal force. It isn't clear where it's got lost: the first-instance court says they still haven't received the document. On 30 April, I filed a complaint with the Tyumen Region prosecutor about non-compliance with the Supreme Court ruling; I haven't received any reply so far. Evidently, some high-ranking officials fear that Alexei might start actively writing in colony, where the regime is much more lenient than in the pre-trial centre and where he might be more difficult to control”.

As is known, blogger Kungurov has been found guilty under Criminal Code Article 205 (“Public justification of terrorism”) in the wake of his LiveJournal publication “Who Are Putin's Falcons Bombing in Reality?” criticizing the performance of Russia's aerospace forces in Syria. The article is still publicly available in his blog. Last year, the Memorial Human Rights Centre recognized Kungurov's status as a political prisoner.


Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in April 2017

Death of journalists - 1 (Nikolai Andrushchenko, journalist, Novyi Peterburg weekly, St. Petersburg)

Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 5 (Konstantin Mikhailov, anchorman, Radio Maximum, Moscow; Alexander Vinogradov, anchorman, Radio Baltika, Leningrad Region; Ilya Varlamov, blogger, attacked in Stavropol Region, twice; Galina Sidorova, Investigative Journalism School, attacked in Yoshkar-Ola)

Instances of censorship - 3 (Ekran-TV, Chelyabinsk Region; ASTV information/entertainment channel, Sakhalin Region; lentachel.ru news website, Chelyabinsk)

Legal charges against journalists, media and bloggers - 3 Eduard Shmonin, chief editor, OTV-Yugra, Khanty-Mansiysk; Yevgeny Domozhirov, blogger, Vologda; Alexei Gavrilov, chief editor, newspaper Nam Vsyo Yasno, Petrozavodsk)

Editor/journalist sacked illegally - 3 (Andrei Grishin, editor-in-chief, Vecherniy Magadan newspaper, Magadan; Sergei Sineok, TV journalist, Don-Media holding, Rostov-on-Don; Yelena Lavetkina, editor, culture unit, Zlatoustovskiy Rabochiy newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region)

Detention by police (FSB, etc.) - 16 (Sofiko Arifjanova, correspondent, Open Russia public movement, Moscow; Vlad Dokshin and Dmitry Rebrov, Novaya Gazeta reporters, both detained in Dagestan; Eduard Shmonin, chief editor, OTV-Yugra channel, Khanty-Mansiysk; Taras Ibragimov, Article20 journalist, Simferopol; Denis Styazhkin, freelancer, Moscow; Valeria Altaryova, freelance reporter for Dozhd TV channel, Irkutsk; Valery Perevozchikov, correspondent, newspaper Sochinskiye Novosti, Krasnodar Region; Tatyana Pylypiva, RosDerzhava journalist, Bryansk; Alexei Gavrilov, chief editor, newspaper Nam Vsyo Yasno, Petrozavodsk; Nikolai Danilov, blogger, Moscow; Gleb Yarovoy, 7x7 correspondent, Petrozavodsk; Darya Kulakova, Otkrytaya Rossiya correspondent, detained in Kazan; Sergei Nikolayev, photographer, Fontanka.ru, St. Petersburg; Sergei Yermokhin, Delovoy Peterburg photographer, St. Petersburg; Mr Tumashevich, Proved journalist, St. Petersburg; Vitaly Bespalov, Sankt-peterburg.ru correspondent, St. Petersburg)

Threats against journalists, bloggers and media - 5 (Yelena Milashina and Irina Gordiyenko, journalists, Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow; Natalia Yakovleva, Uchitelskaya Gazeta correspondent, Omsk; Alexander Plyushchev, Ekho Moskvy journalist, Moscow; Artyuom Izgagin, blogger, Sverdlovsk Region; Maxim Danilov, journalist, My Life after Orphanage project, St. Petersburg)

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) - 34

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video or audio apparatus and computers - 4 (computer of Konstantin Mikhailov, anchorman, Radio Maximum, Moscow; telephone of Svetlana Gerasimova, Vesti-Kursk correspondent, Kursk; computers of OTV-Yugra channel, Khanty-Mansiysk; computer of Valeria Altaryova, Dozhd TV channel stringer, Irkutsk)

Other forms of pressure and infringement of journalists' rights - 40


“Et tu, Brute!”: Federal Antimonopoly Service stays cool about Rostov Region government subsidizing media through “open tenders” with predictable results

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

I came to a news conference of the Rostov Region Antimonopoly Service heads to ask a question that worries many journalists. The regional administration and parliament have long paid to newspapers, magazines, TV and radio companies, and Internet publications for publishing stories about achievements scored by the Don River Area authorities. Significantly, the amount of such financial injections depends on preferences of officials from the Information Policy Department, rather than on the circulation or popularity of the media outlet.

The latest “open tender” to distribute 18 million roubles of budgetary funds among print media vividly illustrated the above point. In the tender's technical requirements, Lot 1 was for publishing 16.5 pages of “socially significant information”, and was a priori destined to land at the newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets na Donu, released in 2,000 copies. At the same time, Argumenty I Fakty na Donu, with a 46,000 circulation, succeeded in winning an order to print only 5.5 authorities-promoting pages. Yet the fattest pieces of cake - orders for printing 24 and 22 pages respectively - were grabbed by two periodicals about which the general public had hardly ever heard at all: the quarterlies Donskoy Zhurnal and Donskoy Semeinyi Zhurnal with circulations of 10,000 and 29,000, respectively. They were allotted the job by special orders, because neither magazine met the technical requirements of the tender: one journal is for distribution in trains and on airliners, the other “among Rostov Region residents applying for marriage, as well as for parents of newborns in the region”.

As usual, the lion's share of financing went to the Rostov Region administration's newspaper Molot - 38.5 pages.

Easy to guess, although the tender had been announced on the state procurements website, it was anything but an open competition. Simply, no “outsider” media outlet would ever have been admitted. All the 23 publications earmarked to win - and win they did - were from the outset encrypted in the technical requirements (in terms of circulation, number of pages, colour, format, distribution specifics, and periodicity) in a way that all those characteristics, taken together, would point to only one specific outlet as the winner. The question, however, is why the biggest number of the pages to be published landed at the two Don Area magazines. Because the founder of both publications is the North Caucasian Information Analysis Agency (NCIAA), which is now free to distribute part of the allotted funding while pocketing the rest.

The point is that in accordance with Rostov practices, the trading is divided into two stages. At first, some firm “wins” the right to divide the money, and then it divides funds as prescribed in advance by the publishing volumes specified in the requirements specification for each media outlet. At the first stage, another application to participate in the trading is filed by yet another prospective player (the way it is usually done during elections: someone plays the role of the main candidate's sparring partner). This time, OOO Media Guide took this function upon itself. Its draft proposal as an “open competition” participant repeats word for word that of NCIAA, mentioning the same 23 media outlets with focus on each outlet's specifics distinguishing it from others - and this despite the law's prohibiting communication among tender participants, the less so with the organisers. Quite predictably, Media Guide offered a contract price that was slightly - only 20,000 roubles - higher than the winning bidder's.

The Yabloko Party's Anti-corruption Policy Centre sees these orders for covering the performance of the Rostov Region governor, parliament and other authorities as an illegal scheme. It has submitted all the gathered evidence to the Federal Security Service for scrutiny. Yet as it turns out, the Antimonopoly Service, for its part, looks at the matter from a different angle. Its deputy head in charge of the Rostov Region, Natalya Kozhemyako, replied at an Interfax news conference to my question about how legal that trading was very tersely: her agency “will be able to look into the problem only given an official complaint from a tender participant”.

So I sat down to write a complaint which almost instantly produced a “no” reply that, however, was not supported by any serious arguments. On the contrary, it cited Article 33.1 of Federal Law No. 44 “On contractual system in the sphere of procuring goods, jobs and services to meet governmental needs”, which says that the description of an object of procurement “shall not include requirements or directions regarding trademarks, service marks, firm-names, patents, useful models, industrial designs, names where a product is made or the name of the producer, as well as requirements to goods, information, jobs and services, provided such requirements restrict the number of trading participants”. Yet in the text of my complaint, I highlighted the fact that all of the above-mentioned technical requirements were ones that did restrict the number of trading participants; still worse, they brought that number to only one - single! - participant in the trading on each particular lot, because that single participant simply had to rivals to compete with.

That's annoying, really. The Antimonopoly Service has the reputation of “the last of the Mohicans” - of the selfless fighter against corruption in one of its most appalling forms such as collusion by participants in tenders. Still more vexing is that all talk about the intent of the state as a whole and local authorities to help all the media, in the first place independent (not formally but actually independent) ones has so far remained wishful thinking. I remember President Putin's talking, too, a few years ago about a need for supporting all the media, not only those showing invariable loyalty to those at the helm…

Meanwhile, the Don River Area government has continued paying its “own” media nice round sums - e.g., 1 million roubles for half an hour of air time to a none-too-popular television channel for showing “information materials contributing to the ethno-cultural development of Rostov Region residents”. There've been really anecdotic occurrences as well. For example, the Information Policy Department is currently busy procuring “services guaranteeing access to information for physically handicapped citizens and other members of population groups with decreased mobility”. Lot No.7 offers for sale 73 minutes of air time to television channels in Rostov Region municipalities. There is a note: “The channel is to broadcast to the town of Belaya Kalitva”. Yet in that small town there is only one municipal TV channel, Belokalitvinskaya Panorama, which comes up with tri-weekly 20-minute news shows, without forgetting in each of them to praise to the skies district head Olga Melnikova for her “tireless care for residents' wellbeing”.

“Open competitions”, my foot! But then, why not continue sticking to the current pattern if the Antimonopoly Service itself doesn't see anything wrong with it? In its reply to my complaint, the “anti-monopolists” wrote: “The ordering party requested in good faith from the tender's technical requirements the documents regarding the provision of services meeting the ordering party's needs”.

The regional government's needs are known all too well: to give the North Caucasian Information Agency as much money as possible, whatever documentation might be needed to help attain that goal…


My sincerest congratulations to the GDF and its entire team on Press Freedom Day! I wish you health, tenacity and more victories in the fight for the triumph of truth and clear conscience!

Truly yours,

Valery Pashkov,

Krasnoarmeisk, Moscow Region, newspaper Po Sushchestvu

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.


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