Дайджест
2 Декабря 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 501

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Kushchevskaya case, Maritime-style

By Anna Seleznyova,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The GDF correspondent in Vladivostok had a phone call from journalist Larissa Layd, the long-time editor of the district newspaper Vzmorye, who said some gangsters had attacked her family, leaving her with a broken arm, her son with a broken leg and her husband with severe injuries.

On November 21, the Llayds were returning home from the taiga village of Anuchino, the administrative centre of the Anuchinsky District, Maritime Region. As they pulled over to a roadside café, two armed thugs walked up. Identifying themselves as “very important persons”, they started beating the family. None of the eyewitnesses ventured to interfere. Larissa made it to the nearest police station to report the outrage. Returning to her car, she found her husband and son beaten up to half-death and in need of medical assistance. On the following day, the same attackers came to the hospital where the victims were staying, to say they had already read Larissa’s police report and that the family would now have to pay them RUR 200,000 for staying alive…

The very first day she was discharged from hospital, Larisa Layd received 12 threatening phone calls from anonymous callers.

Over the following week she completed an independent investigation. “Law-abiding villagers told me they are afraid to go out into the street in the evening,” Larissa said. “Gangsters torch the homes of those they dislike, and beat them – be it a man, a woman or a child. And the Anuchino police pretend nothing is happening, everything is all right. Still worse, victims of this gangster outrage themselves come to face criminal charges. The situation is much like that in the village of Kushchevskaya, Krasnodar Region, where gangsters do whatever they like under police protection.”

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will take steps to attract authorities’ attention to what is going on in the Maritime Region.

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Law enforcement: Unwilling or unable to protect journalists?

A bill was submitted for approval to the RF State Duma November 26 on toughening liability for attacks on media workers.

A group of members of the United Russia party suggested, among other things, amending Article 144 of the RF Criminal Code (“Interference with a journalist’s lawful professional activities”) so that violence not endangering the victim’s life be punished by up to 5 years, and violence committed by a group of persons using weapons – by up to 15 years of imprisonment.

The initiative looks interesting but impracticable, considering the fact that the said Criminal Code article has been applied, according to the GDF monitors, only a few times over the years – one of the latest cases dating back to November 2006, when a lumberman was sentenced to a suspended 1-year term of imprisonment for threatening with an axe a crew of TV reporters from Novosibirsk who were shooting a report on the unlawful felling of forests.

It is still unclear whether the bill will be passed into law, after all. But one has reasons to hope the initiative may have some positive effect – if not by imposing (theoretically) tougher sanctions, then by making the hitherto ineffective Article 144 more workable.

As regards longer prison terms for attacks on journalists, they can hardly be expected to deter criminals – rather, they may only raise the price of their “services”. Besides, potential organizers and executors of ordered attacks, as well as middlemen, may not know anything at all about those legislative amendments. What they do know at present is that chances are high they may get away with impunity. The crimes disclosed so far are an exception, rather than the rule, because police efforts to track down the perpetrators yield zero results more often than not.

“It’s hard to say whether tougher sanctions might be a deterrent to attackers,” GDF president Alexei Simonov said. “So far, they have felt quite comfortable with impunity triumphing. Clearly, it makes sense to push new bills – but we might as well get busy making existing legislation workable.”

There is a general feeling our law enforcement is either unwilling or unable to disclose those crimes, seldom going beyond sheer promises. Or has anyone stood in their way?

 

RUSSIA

Nizhny Novgorod. Journalist beaten up

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Dmitry Kaplin, correspondent for RIA Novosti’s Vremya N, was beaten up in downtown Nizhny Novgorod late on November 24. He says he was attacked by intoxicated soccer fans in Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Street.

After the incident, he had to call an ambulance and the police. The police were first to arrive, taking the victim to the police station.

“My cell phone battery was down, so I couldn’t call anyone to get me to the first aid station or home,” the journalist recalled. “In exchange for letting me use their phone, the police officers told me I had to give a written pledge I wouldn’t file an official complaint, which I finally did. Only then did they allow me to go.”

Kaplin’s colleagues said they are appalled by the way the journalist was treated.

As a result of the attack, D. Kaplin was compelled to spend a few days in bed at home with a scull trauma, facial bruises and an arm injury.

 

Rostov Region. Newspaper’s print run seized, censored and printed again

After the inter-district newspaper Rodnik carried a November 26 interview with A. Krivorotov, former deputy head of the Matveyevo-Kurgansky District administration, the incumbent district leader A. Rudkovsky, a supporter of the ruling United Russia party, ordered confiscating the entire print run, editing the interview out, and having the issue re-printed by the same printing house (Voyenny Vestnik CKVO in Rostov-on-Don) for additional pay, Rodnik editor Pyotr Bychkov told the Glasnost Defence Foundation.

According to Bychkov, A. Krivorotov wanted the interview to be published as early as one month ago, but the editorial board declined to, pointing to some deviations from what is allowed under the RF law. In the meantime, the district administration put pressure on the editor insisting that the interview should not be published at all. Yet it was, with appropriate corrections, which caused A. Rudkovsky to frown and order the seizure of the “wrong” publication. P. Bychkov is preparing complaints to the prosecutor’s office and judiciary over the district leader’s arbitrary behaviour.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will be following the developments closely.

 

Perm Region. Battles over freedom of expression

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

When activists of a new religious organisation approached Marina Tomina, editor of the newspaper Selskaya Nov issued in the village of Beryozovka, Perm Region, asking her to publish paid announcements of the place and time of believers’ meetings, the editor, an experienced and prudent professional, did not give her consent until duly checking the organisation’s registration documents, verifying their authenticity, etc. Finally she agreed to publish the ads in compliance with Article 29 of the RF Constitution (guaranteeing freedom of thought and expression to everyone).

The head of district administration, however, gave Tomina a good dressing-down for what he saw as “a municipal newspaper’s irresponsible promotion of a religious sect”, causing her to think hard about the likely consequences. As a precaution, she decided to continue publishing the religious organisation’s ads along with analytical articles on the history and potential harm of sects and sectarianism.

Now it was the believers’ turn to claim offended. After repeated failed attempts to put pressure on the editor, the new sect’s leader B. Krasilnikov filed a complaint with the regional prosecutor’s office, asking to check the newspaper’s compliance with freedom of religion legislation in terms of those accompanying publications.

The prosecutor’s office requested an expert study by the regional branch of RosKomNadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications], whose specialists concluded that Tomina’s publications did not fan inter-religious strife, discriminate against the followers of alternative faiths, contain insulting statements, etc. The experts found the editor’s publications to be essential in terms of informing citizens about the activities of religious associations they knew nothing about. As regards the placement of religious ads side-by-side with “anti-religious” stories, it was up to the editor to decide, the experts said.

Some questions, however, remained unanswered, such as why media editors are so dependent on local administrators even as regards the publishing of announcements; why new sect leaders are so intolerant of any publications about their activities, etc. Indeed, the endless fight for freedom of expression takes too much nerve and effort…

 

Republic of Karelia. Personnel reshuffle in newspaper Karelia continues

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

The reorganisation of Karelia Publishers’, a publishing house issuing about a dozen newspapers, including the government/parliamentary newspaper Karelia, has been a source of ever newer conflicts. After its recently appointed general director A. Arkhipov announced the closure of the newspaper Litsei and the ouster of its supplement Moya Gazeta from its leased premises, yet another split-up of the newspaper’s staff occurred. Valentina Chazhengina is to be replaced as Karelia’s executive secretary after 14 years in that tenure – following a publication honestly describing the deplorable condition in which the official newspaper is finding itself. The founders have left the newspaper in the lurch, and the provisional new head managers appointed from time to time have been more of a hindrance than a help, as regards Karelia’s budget-financed development.

Chazhengina’s article became a challenge to Karelia Publishers’ management which instantly reacted by sending a dismissal notice to the executive secretary (who is actually to be fired in mid-January). The publishing firm’s trade union recommended that V. Chazhengina protest her dismissal which is seen as a violation of the labour law. The republic’s Journalists’ Union has offered her its support. Yet it seems clear that the lady journalist will be pressed out after all, nor is she herself willing to stay, watching her public and political newspaper turn into a bulletin publishing legislative acts only and thus needing a purely technical, rather than executive, secretary.

Significantly, Karelia’s editorial policy has been reviewed (resulting in the newspaper’s length cut down and its content reviewed) with one of its founders, the Legislative Assembly, excluded. It looks like the main founder, the republic’s government, has been pulling the strings without caring a bit about what parliament says. This is well in accordance with the position of United Russia’s parliamentary majority which has long ceased playing first fiddle and has eagerly moved, instead, to support whatever initiative executive power may advance.

 

Tula. Will court satisfy governor’s legal claim?

By Roman Zholud,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

A law court in Tula has twice delayed the passing of a sentence on the case of Vladimir Timakov, a member of the Yabloko party faction in the local Duma, who is charged with libel in respect of Governor Vyacheslav Dudka.

Prior to this, Timakov had to defend in court twice this year on honour-and-dignity protection claims filed against him by the governor.

The first one followed Timakov’s publication in the newspaper Zasechny Rubezh about the growing scale of corrupt practices during Dudka’s gubernatorial tenure. The judge then took the regional leader’s side and awarded him RUR 500,000 in compensation payable by the defendant. Considering Timakov’s dire financial straits (he is a father of three with no additional sources of income) and the questionable character of the plaintiff’s arguments, the compensation amount looked unfairly large. Significantly enough, an equal sum was charged also from the newspaper.

The second legal claim was filed in the wake of an interview Timakov granted to a Tula journalist preparing a story on Governor Dudka’s 49th birthday celebrations. He said, among other things, that Dudka is a “fairly good” leader, although the level of corruption in the region has grown substantially since he took over the helm. Having jotted down his comment, the story’s author reworded it, resulting in a statement to the effect that “Dudka is fairly good as a governor, but still better as a corruptionist”. Although he stated in court that he was not the author of such a statement, and that he had discussed the level of corruption in the region, not Dudka’s personality in the light of that corruption, the court nevertheless charged RUR 1 m from him in moral damage compensation to the governor.

Evidently encouraged by his two victories in court on civil law claims, Mr. Dudka also complained to the prosecutor’s office requesting the institution of criminal proceedings against Timakov on libel charges in connection with the same words the defendant had never said. The proceedings are still underway; many lawyers see the case as a clear and deliberate frame-up. But few are expecting the court sentence to be anything but convictive – the governor’s pressure will not let the judge pass a fair decision.

Actually, the hearings completed November 17 and a sentence was expected the same day. Yet the judge adjourned the defendant’s last plea until a week later, and then postponed the verdict for yet another week until November 29.

Analysts explain this by the need for the judge “to make the sentence look as well justified as possible”, which is difficult to do in a case that is deemed to be all trumped up.

If losing in this court, Vladimir Timakov and his lawyers will appeal to higher-standing judicial authorities. They have already appealed to the European Court of Human Rights over procedural violations committed during prior hearings.

 

Chelyabinsk/Sverdlovsk Regions. Campaign in defence of forest

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Four journalists and nine bloggers from Chelyabinsk joined the public organisation “Clean Yard – Clean City” in a picketing action outside the Yekaterinburg office of the President’s Personal Envoy to the Urals Federal District.

The Chelyabinsk delegates brought banners and posters with calls in defence of the city pine forest across which the municipal authorities are planning to lay a six-lane highway. They expressed solidarity with fellow environmentalists from Yekaterinburg, where several forests are under the threat of destruction after the regional Property Management Fund put up to auction a forest area within the city boundaries with plans of building 60,000 sq. m of housing there.

Also slated for destruction is a woodland park zone on the eastern bank of Shartash Lake and the unique plant-breeding area of the regional gardening centre. The two cities with a million-odd population are faced with similar problems: in Chelyabinsk, over 1,000 hectares of relict pine forests may be felled under a government decision in the interests of individual businessmen, leaving a heavily polluted metallurgical city without its “green lungs”.

The picketing action proceeded quietly, without excesses, with a little fir-tree in a flowerpot and a petition against the felling of Urals forests handed over to the presidential envoy.

Chelyabinsk journalists say thanks to colleagues from Yekaterinburg, Channel Four, the websites Novosti-66.ru, Е1.ru, NovyRegion.ru and MediaZavod.ru, the newspapers AIF-Chelyabinsk, and Chelyabinsky Rabochiy, the radio stations Ekho Moskvy and Radio Liberty, and many other media for the timely and extensive coverage of the picketing action.

 

DIGEST MAIL

“Please accept my congratulations on the occasion of the 500th issue of the GDF weekly digest. May this isle of glasnost and freedom of expression not only survive in the unequal struggle with authorities and the “force” (actually repressive) agencies but also become a still more potent tool in the hands of the journalistic community!

“Wishing you good health and every success in your efforts to assist the development of a full-fledged civil society in Russia,

“Sincerely,
Valery Pashkov,
Editor, newspaper Takova Zhizn, Krasnoarmeisk, Moscow Region”

 

***

“Dear Mr. Simonov:

“The staffers of the regional public and political newspaper Mestnoye Vremya congratulate the GDF team on the 500th issue of your weekly Digest. Your publication is in great demand not only by veteran journalists but also by budding reporters, showing them that this is not merely one line of creative work but rather a line of professional activity involving risks to one health and career, which point is to be specially stressed.

“You engage in work that is so much needed by so many people. Reading your weekly Digest and your monthly monitoring reports gives us a feeling we are not alone. We too have gone through an attack on our reporter and through more than one judicial process. The head of your legal unit, Svetlana Zemskova, is our long-time supporter and consultant. Your assistance is indeed vital to many regional and local media outlets, since our opponents, as a rule, have staff lawyers and even full-fledged legal services to defend their interests in court.

“Stay committed to your credo – to strengthen the area of glasnost in Russia, and contribute your knowledge and experience to serving the truth in the interests of the entire nation!

“V. M. Pyatyrova,

General Director, newspaper Mestnoye Vremya”

 

This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF),

 

We appreciate the support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Digest released once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.
Distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

 

Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

Editorial board: Boris Timoshenko – Monitoring Service chief, Pyotr Polonitsky – head of GDF regional network, Svetlana Zemskova – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy – translator, Alexander Yefremov – web administrator in charge of Digest distribution.

 

We would appreciate reference to our organization in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

 

Contacts: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, fond@gdf.ru

 

To be crossed out from the Digest list of subscribers, please e-mail a note to digest@gdf.ru

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Архив
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