Дайджест
20 Января 2011 года

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 507

January 17, 2011

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Markelov and Baburova murder trial gets underway

Court hearings commenced in the Moscow City Court January 11 of the case of Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis who are charged with killing lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Markelov and Baburova were shot point-blank in downtown Moscow January 19, 2009, as they were returning home from a news conference where the lawyer had demanded the resumption of prosecution against a just-released army officer who had been convicted of killing a Chechen girl. The assassin stalked on them from behind, firing a shot through the back of Markelov’s head. Baburova made a few steps after him, but he turned round and discharged his gun into her head, too. Markelov died instantly, and Baburova a few hours later in hospital.

A special law enforcement operation early in November 2009 resulted in the detention of two suspects, Yevgenia Khasis and Nikita Tikhonov. “The investigative group carefully studied all available security camera recordings from Prechistenka Street where Markelov and Baburova were killed and from neighbouring streets, as well as from the entrance to Kropotkinskaya metro station where the killer went after firing the shots,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told the RIA Novosti news agency. “The investigators and police operatives checked several versions. In-depth analysis of data concerning actions aimed at fanning racial and interethnic hostility put them on the track of Tikhonov and Khasis,” Markin said adding that “the investigation of this appalling crime with broad public repercussions involved the best professionals of the Investigative Committee, and FSB and Interior Ministry operatives.”

According to them, the accused committed their crime in connection with Markelov’s active participation in the anti-fascist movement and his defence of anti-fascist activists. N. Tikhonov is deemed to be the main killer accused under Article 105 (“Homicide”) and Article 222 (“Illegal turnover of firearms”) of the RF Criminal Code, and Y. Khasis his accomplice. She is refuting all the charges brought against her, and Tikhonov is claiming he carried a gun but did not use it.

The jury trial will be open to the press, with 12 principal and at least 2 reserve jurors to be selected January 27. Lawyer Vladimir Zherebyonkov, who represents the interests of A. Baburova’s family, told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that “the investigation seems to have been carried out thoroughly, the charges against the accused are well substantiated, and there is sufficient evidence to prove Tikhonov and Khasis’ guilt.”

Hopefully, this time the case will not fall apart in court, as it often happened in the past, when the killings of other journalists were considered.

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Freedom House 2011 “Freedom in the World” report published

On January 13, the Freedom House human rights watchdog published its annual survey of the way political rights and civil freedoms are observed worldwide. It stated that the general level of freedom in the world has been declining for the fifth year running – the longest ever decline over the nearly 40 years of the FH report’s publication.

All countries and territories are divided into three groups in the report – “free” (showing open political competition and respect for civil liberties, with the media enjoying independence); “partly free” (restrictions on political rights and civil freedoms; corruption; absence of the rule of law; and interethnic and religious strife); and “not free” (no respect for the basic political rights, and systematic denial of civil liberties).

Russia was identified as belonging within the third group. “President Dmitry Medvedev’s public pledges to fight corruption, arrest those responsible for the notorious killings of journalists and activists, and enhance the rule of law were left unfulfilled. Bribe-taking and theft remained the norm, politically motivated violence remained unpunished, and law was observed depending on the leaders’ whims,” the FH report says.

The authors maintain the situation in Russia deteriorated towards the year’s end, during a period marked by the passing of convictive sentences in several heavily politicised trials; prosecution of human rights activist Oleg Orlov on trumped-up libel charges; and wild beatings of journalists. Besides, demonstrations were dispersed in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and a campaign against migrants from Russia’s south and Central Asia was launched by ultra-right groups supported to a significant degree by part of the country’s political leadership.

Chris Walker, FH director of studies, explained to Radio Liberty why Russia was ranked among the “not free” countries. He said this is a reflection of the fact that all the critical indicators in Russia – from civil society’s ability to act autonomously to the judiciary’s independence – cannot be called satisfactory. The main thing, in his view, is that all members of Russian society must understand well that if the country is run in an unsatisfactory manner and if social problems are dealt with poorly, they have every right to demand more sensitive response from the authorities. Until the Russians make the government fully accountable to society, any significant improvements in that country will be unlikely, Walker said.

A study of the situation in 194 countries caused the Freedom House analysts to point to a decline of freedom in 25 of them, including Ukraine, Mexico, Latvia, France, Hungary, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Venezuela. At the same time, certain progress towards greater freedom was marked in 11 countries, among them Kyrgyzstan where comparatively free and honest elections were held.

 

RUSSIA

Rostov-on-Don. Molot editor Lydia Rtishcheva acquitted in court

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Leninsky District court in Rostov-on-Don has acquitted Lydia Rtishcheva, for five years editor of the regional newspaper Molot, of what the prosecutors and investigators suspected to be misappropriation of advertising proceeds. Molot’s chief accounting officer Andrei Naumenko posed as the “victim” during the hearings.

Yet Rtishcheva presented evidence proving that her activities, far from inflicting losses on the newspaper, only brought additional income to it. Moreover, a thorough review of both its content and form enabled Molot to start regaining its former popularity and win additional subscribers. As regards monetary rewards for efficient advertising, those had been practised long before Rtishcheva took over as editor-in-chief.

The court fully acquitted Rtishcheva in view of no elements of crime in her actions. Remembering that acquittals in Russian courts account for only 10 per cent of all cases considered, this may be deemed a significant victory for the national media at which Russian judges look – for some strange reason – with particular suspicion.

 

Vladimir. Journalist cleared of extortion charges

Continued from Digest 478

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Investigation has shown that Vladimir-based journalist Alexei Salov did not extort money from a local businessman turned parliamentarian.

A. Salov, editor of the local supplement to the weekly Argumenty Nedeli, was detained by police back on May 11, 2010 on suspicion of extortion. According to police spokesman Oleg Kurochkin, the journalist had allegedly demanded RUR 100,000 from Grigory Anikeyev, a businessman and member of the State Duma’s United Russia party faction, for not publishing some compromising information about him.

Two days later, Salov was released, with no official charges brought against him.

But the investigation continued for eight long months until it was finally established that Salov’s critical reports about the region’s wealthiest man had nothing criminal about them. The investigation was cancelled in view of no elements of crime in the journalist’s actions.

 

Krasnodar Region. Criminal proceedings opened following explosion in newspaper office

An explosive device was set off late at night December 30, 2010 in the office of the Sochi-based newspaper Narodnaya Gazeta (NG). No casualties were reported, but the office was seriously damaged by fire. “The office equipment, computers, furniture, archives and the latest print run got fully burnt,” editor Ilya Nedelko said.

On January 12, Novaya Gazeta reported that originally, police had been no hurry to institute criminal proceedings, although eyewitnesses had seen two men running away from the office building right after the explosion. The blast wave had dislodged the metal door and broken the office window panes, and fragments of a (Molotov cocktail) bottle had been found nearby. Finally, the police opened a criminal case January 10.

The journalists see the arson as revenge for the newspaper’s critical publications – specifically, for reports about the unlawful construction of a garbage disposal facility. “We are sure the explosion and fire were linked to the series of sharply critical stories we published recently,” Nedelko said.

 

Krasnodar Region. Journalist’s complaint about threats ignored unlawfully

Continued from Digest 499

Last November, Svetlana Kravchenko, investigative reporter for the Sochi-based newspaper Chernomorskaya Zdravnitsa, contacted the Glasnost Defence Foundation to report the violence threats she had been receiving on the telephone and by e-mail. “I have officially complained to the prosecutor’s office about attempts to interfere with my lawful journalistic activities and to fan public hostility toward me as a reporter fulfilling my professional duty,” she said. “I have also read on different websites about a grudge held against me by the Molodaya Gvardiya (Young Guards) movement. With the prosecutors showing zero reaction to my appeals for protection, I hereby warn the independent media, human rights defenders, and public and political parties and organizations that I feel I am being targeted”.

We appealed to Krasnodar Region Prosecutor Leonid Korzhinek to take S. Kravchenko’s situation under control to prevent the lady journalist from getting in bad trouble.

A reply message signed by Sochi First Deputy Prosecutor S. Muratov said that the initial decision (of June 26, 2010) not to institute criminal proceedings, based on a preliminary check-up that had produced no evidence of an event of crime against S. Kravchenko, was cancelled by the district prosecutor December 12, and a new check-up was ordered, which is still in progress and the results of which will be duly reported to the GDF. The Central District prosecutor’s office was reprimanded for issuing its unlawful refusal to open a criminal case in June, and disciplinary actions will be taken in respect of the individuals concerned, S. Muratov pointed out.

 

Republic of Buryatia. Two journalists tried on charges of “extremism”

By Dmitry Florin,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Two lady journalists, Nadezhda Nizovkina and Tatyana Stetsura, were tried in Ulan-Ude, Buryatia, on December 11 on charges of instigating hostility toward three social groups – the army, police and investigative agencies.

Svobodnoye Slovo reporter N. Nizovkina and Vsemu Naperekor editor T. Stetsura were detained at about 4 p.m. December 31 on their way to the site where an officially authorised rally in defence of freedom of association was to be held. Shortly before, they had again been warned by the prosecutor’s office of “the inadmissibility of extremist actions”. The detainees were brought to the Sovetsky District court, where Judge Levandovskaya ruled to keep them under arrest for the following two months, as a preventive measure…

Criminal proceedings against the two journalists have continued since the spring of 2009, when they circulated leaflets labelling February 23 (officially – Motherland Defender’s Day) “Genocide Day” in connection with Stalin’s issuing that day in 1944 a deportation order in respect of 13 nationalities – Chechens, Ingushes, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Germans, Finns, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Bulgarians, Armenians, Turks and Kurds.

Nizovkina and Stetsura are defending themselves in court. However, the judge received a message from Buryatia’s College of Lawyers December 12, saying that N. Nizovkina has been deprived of her lawyer’s status “for non-observance of official requirements”, which means hiring a defence lawyer may be needed soon, although Buryat journalist Kirill Zaichenko says the accused will continue defending themselves in spite of their expecting the severest legal punishment – two years in prison, which is what the prosecutor is insisting on. At the next hearing, they will themselves question witnesses for the defence, Zaichenko told the GDF.

A sentence on the case is to be passed January 19.

 

Chelyabinsk. No funds to finance cultural news show

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

The TV show Novosti Kultury – Yuzhny Ural (South Urals Cultural News) is on the verge of closure after four years on the air on Kultura Channel.

Not a single edition has been released since this year began, and last year’s shows left the Chelyabinsk TV/Radio Company in the red, according to its management, which says they had been wringing water from a flint until December in a bid to pay salaries to the staff. The national channel Kultura, where South Urals Cultural News used to be shown, prohibits any advertising or mention of sponsors. During the previous years, the news show was financed with budgetary allocations made by the late Governor Pyotr Sumin.

“We tried winning a grant in one all-Russia contest but lost,” Yuzhny Ural director Vassily Platonov said. “The majority of ‘cultural’ grants went to Moscow, with only 12 per cent of the total amount divided among the regions.”

A month ago, the TV company management appealed for assistance to the regional Culture Ministry and Vice-Governor Vadim Yevdokimov, but no official reply has so far been received.

Kultura Channel eagerly borrowed local cultural features for their show nationwide – about the Malachite orchestra, Urals ensemble, prima ballerina Tatyana Predeyina, Glinka musical competition, local history museum exhibitions, sculptor Viktor Mitroshin, etc. It is this kind of culturology content that is capable of adding to the public image of Chelyabinsk, art critics say. But evidently, no one needs it any longer – and this despite the very modest amount of RUR 2.5m per year needed to continue financing the project – a mere trifle as compared to the RUR 280m spent on the purchase of a helicopter for the governor. Yet it looks like the needed sum will not be found in the regional budget. The civilised, gentle people working on the cultural news shows are unwilling to clash with the authorities or raise a scandal over the matter. They will keep hoping for success until the very last moment, saying to themselves, “They haven’t yet said no officially, after all…”

 

Sverdlovsk Region. Awards to insiders

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

A traditional Press Day reception has been held at the Sverdlovsk Region governor’s residence.

A powerful media community has been formed in the region, Governor Alexander Misharin stated. The regional printing houses release over 2 million copies of newspapers every day, including 450,000 copies of district and municipal publications. There are more than 20 news agencies already, and the blogger community has been growing fast.

On a somewhat discordant note, the winners of various creative competitions mostly included representatives of the official media – Regional TV Company, Oblastnaya Gazeta (Regional Newspaper) and the governor’s own press pool. It may as well be noted that Oblastnaya Gazeta’s circulation fell by one half last year, and the press pool leaders had to be replaced by the governor in view of their obvious miscalculations as regards improving Misharin’s public image. But the very principle – “Reward Insiders” – remained unshakeable…

Yet the fourth estate did manage in 2010 to strike a dialogue with the regional authorities, as shown by the First Urals Media Forum held in Yekaterinburg, Misharin’s pledge to have a House of Journalists built soon, and the reshuffle made in the gubernatorial media pool – the post of Oblastnaya Gazeta’s deputy editor-in-chief went to Dmitry Polyanin, board chairman of the regional branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union.

 

BELARUS

Human rights activists demand release of prisoners of conscience

Amnesty International has called to release 16 Belarussian activists and journalists accused of “instigating mass unrests” during a post-election demonstration in Minsk in December. The human rights watchdog organization declared those people prisoners of conscience.

A total of 25 opposition activists and journalists, among them six former candidates for presidency, were detained in the wake of the December 19th demonstration in Minsk. They are to stand trial in two to three months’ time. At present, they are being denied legal or medical assistance, although some were seriously injured by OMON [special police] servicemen during the demonstration.

“Of those detained, sixteen persons are prisoners of conscience facing trumped-up charges only because of expressing their political views peacefully,” said John Dalhausen, deputy director of Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Programme. “They must be immediately and unconditionally released and cleared of all charges.”

The detained prisoners of conscience are charged with “organising mass unrests” accompanied by attacks involving violence and armed resistance, for which they may be in for up to 15 years in prison. However, Amnesty International has not found any evidence of their resorting to violence or calling for it before or during demonstrations. In the course of the demonstration in Minsk, most protesters behaved peacefully, except for a few young men wearing masks who attacked the parliament buildings. After that, OMON resorted to force in dispersing the demonstration.

The 16 prisoners of conscience are Alexei Mikhalevich, Nikolai Statkevich, Vladimir Neklyayev, Grigory Kostusev and Andrei Sannikov – Alexander Lukashenko’s rivals in the latest presidential race; prominent journalists Natalya Radina, editor of the Khartiya’97 website, Irina Khalip, correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Sergey Voznyak, editor of the newspaper Tovarishch; Alexander Feduta, a political commentator; Pavel Severinets, an opposition activist and member of V. Rymashevsky’s election team; Anatoly Lebedko, a member of the United Civil Party; Vladimir Kobets, a member of A. Sannikov’s election team; Dmitry Bondarenko, coordinator of the opposition campaign “European Belarus”; Alexander Arestovich and Sergey Martselev, members of N. Statkevich’s election team; and Anastasia Polozhanko, deputy leader of the Young Front movement.

Amnesty International is studying the case files of other persons accused of similar offences in connection with the December 19th demonstration, because more prisoners of conscience may be identified among them.

[Prava Cheloveka v Rossii report, January 12]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 20 times in the Internet, including at:

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

Where is Maritime press heading for? A look at facts and trends

GDF correspondent Anna Seleznyova’s interview with Sergey Bulakh, head of the Maritime Region Creative Journalists’ Association

For many years, Sergey Bulakh used to be editor-in-chief of the Maritime Region’s single most popular newspaper Vladivostok, an independent public and political publication released by a highly professional team of journalists. He also became the region’s first editor instantly fired after the newspaper was taken over by the new mayor of the city of Vladivostok, Igor Pushkaryov, on New Year’s eve two years ago. Now the sacking of Vladivostok staffers during the New Year holidays seems to be turning into a kind of evil tradition.

Our discussion is about the media’s position and development trends in the Maritime Region.

A.S.: One more year has passed, and a pre-election year has begun. What are the media development trends in the Maritime Region? Some popular newspapers, such as Yezhednevniye Novosti, have been closed; other newspapers and media pools have emerged; some editors have been dismissed; the regional administration’s Media Department has actually ceased existing; and access to information has become more difficult. What kind of message do those editor dismissals convey – regardless of the different pretexts on which those people were fired? Could you identify new trends, if any, in the media owners’ relations with journalists?

S.B.: That was a year of deep recession and destructive change, as regards print media in the first place. District and municipal newspapers were clearly degrading.

The general slide-down was accompanied by the continued, systematic destruction of what remained of the old pool of media managers who had good practical skills. Anatoly Tabachkov, editor-in-chief of Nakhodkinsky Rabochiy and a board member of the Creative Journalists’ Association, was fired on an absolutely groundless pretext, as were Larissa Layd, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Vzmorye, and Lyudmila Bryzgalina, editor-in-chief of Sem Dnei v Primorye, the newspaper with the region’s largest circulation as of today. Regrettably, that list is not exhaustive. Instead, people without a full-scale higher education were appointed to run media outlets, among them the regional supplements to Izvestia and Argumenty i Fakty, and the newspaper Millionka.

Personnel reshuffles can be identified as the main indicator of the situation on the media market today. Besides the fired editors-in-chief I mentioned, employment bans have affected others, too. On New Year’s eve, a whole six most experienced journalists at Vladivostok-Novosti got “the black marks” – invitations to retire on pension. Administration officials have warned a group of journalists in Nakhodka they may not hope to find any jobs at all in the media sector, according to Alexander Syrtsov, editor-in-chief of the newspapers Tikhookeansky Komsomolets and Dalnevostochniye Vesti.

Last year was marked by a serious re-division of media property, a process involving Vladivostok Mayor Igor Pushkaryov. The newspapers Vladivostok, Sem Dnei v Primorye, Izvestia-Region, Argumenty i Fakty-DV, and Moskovsky Komsomolets, magazines Sady i Ogorody Primorya and Shef, and radio stations BBC and Lemma all got involved in the mayoral press pool via affiliated persons. Total content control exercised through information service contracts has created an atmosphere of mellow appeasement not only in Vladivostok but throughout the Maritime Region, since the mayor’s demands go beyond municipal interests to cover regional interests as well.

The year 2010 was also marked by an attempt at having the newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti closed in view of two consecutive warnings of its breach of the Media Law, as GosKomNadzor [federal agency overseeing the media – Translator.] claimed.

The general trend toward circulation shrinkage lingered into this year, too. The number of media closed for various, including economic, reasons has exceeded the number of newly opened ones several times over. The popular newspaper Yezhednevniye Novosti ceased existing. Among the better known latest projects one may list a year of work of the newspapers Novaya Gazeta vo Vladivostoke and Tikhookeansky Komsomolets. But the modest circulations and performance results of the two newspapers are indicative of their difficult financial position. TK’s circulation is 5,500, and Novaya’s only slightly larger, which is clearly insufficient for them to survive in the current market environment. And Novosti Primorya, launched instead of the closed Yezhednevniye Novosti, has a still smaller circulation.

RosKomNadzor’s influence kept growing last year. A public supervisory board was established, involving journalists, Glasnost Defence Foundation representatives, law enforcement officials, lawyers, and linguistic experts. Three warnings were issued for the spread of pornography and for the publication of statements deemed to insult people’s ethnic and religious feelings. This kind of activity is related, in the first place, to the problems the state has been dealing with in the area of media control – and, no less importantly, to the active stand of the local branch of RosKomNadzor, where a significant number of good professionals currently work. They not only issue warnings to lawbreaking media outlets but also call conferences of editors and specialists to consult them on, and explain to them, new laws and regulations, analyse performance mistakes, and help journalists defend their rights.

 

Manipulation is not journalism

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Yet another para-journalistic scandal flared up in the Komi-Permyak Autonomous District after criminal proceedings were instituted against Dmitry Zidlyayev, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Parma, accused under Article 137.2 of the RF Criminal Code of “encroachment upon a person’s privacy through abuse of one’s official position”.

The investigators say Zidlyayev asked a clinic to confirm or refute whether it had provided a course of medical treatment for a certain person. Surprisingly enough, the clinic eagerly disclosed this confidential information by giving a positive reply which the editor promptly made public via his newspaper – of course, without the consent of the person concerned. One might reproach the inexperienced provincial editor for his poor knowledge of elementary legal and ethical norms, and even feel sorry for him. But unfortunately, the real situation is not that simple…

Parma, the sole state-owned newspaper in the Perm Region, has its own history. For many years, it used to be led by a very good professional, Sergey Vlasov, whom the local authorities did not like because of his independent manner of thinking. In the autumn of 2009, Igor Bykariz, the district head and a minister of the regional government, urged Vlasov in a rude form to resign. Today, Sergey issues the independent newspaper Rakurs with a group of like-minded colleagues.

Olga Radosteva, an honest and straightforward person who led the newspaper for a few months after Vlasov’s resignation, was likewise fired without even a permission to stay as an ordinary staff member.

Last spring, the editor’s-in-chief position was offered to Dmitry Zidlyayev, a specialist of the land department in the administration of the city of Kudymkar. His competence as a journalist and editor-in-chief may be deduced from the story with his publishing confidential information supplied by the clinic.

The person mentioned in the publication is a department head at a local university and a very prominent personality in Kudymkar. Until recently, he was a city Duma deputy who tendered his resignation after the system of direct mayoral elections was scrapped. With another Duma election due in Kudymkar on March 13, and with the subsequent election of a mayor from the number of Duma deputies pending, the incumbent administrators must feel pretty certain about the scientist and ex-deputy’s likely intentions.

It was local authorities that instructed Zidlyayev to file his notorious inquiry with the clinic, and the latter to furnish a reply which would then be made known to electors. In other words, they simply resorted to manipulation, as additionally confirmed by the fact that the editors of all Kudymkar-based newspapers, except Rakurs, were urged to reprint Parma’s publication for pay. But all of them refused to!

…For the past few years, I have sadly watched non-journalists appointed by a bureaucratic whimsy to lead newspapers or TV companies being used for some unseemly purposes for while and then thrown out “into nowhere”. I have seen that happening in Berezniki, Chusovoi, Cherdyn, Uinsk, etc. That is sure to happen again…

 

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 organisation 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 .

Все новости

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