Дайджест
3 Марта 2011 года

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 513

February 28, 2011

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Markelov-Baburova murder trial news

On February 21, the Moscow City Court commenced hearings to consider in essence the case of two suspected killers of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Markelov and Baburova were shot and killed in the centre of Moscow on January 19, 2009. In November 2009, a special law enforcement operation resulted in the detention of two suspects, Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis. Tikhonov is charged with homicide, illegal keeping of, and trading in, arms and the use of forged documents; and Khasis is accused of complicity in the murder.

The accused are standing trial by a jury panel. On February 21, the prosecutor told the jurors that Tikhonov and Khasis, with a group of unidentified nationalists, had conspired to kill S. Markelov “for his active participation in the anti-fascist movement”, according to a Legal and Judicial Information Agency report. The prosecutor also said A. Baburova’s killing had not been planned in advance; she was eliminated as an eyewitness.

The accused are claiming not guilty. According to Khasis, she committed no crime, and her companion was “simply set up”. Tikhonov has confessed to using forged documents and trading in arms but is denying any involvement in the murder.

However, an eyewitness questioned on February 22 identified Tikhonov as the man who had shot the lawyer and the lady journalist. He said he had clearly seen the killer – as Tikhonov was passing by, his scarf had slipped down opening his face. During the following day’s sitting, the court heard testimony by the FSB officers who had participated in the suspects’ detention. The officers were speaking from a secret room. One of them said when they had rung the door bell Tikhonov himself had opened the door, wearing a jacket with a knapsack on his back. He had attempted to resist but was neutralised.

A search of the apartment rented by the accused produced several pistols, a Kalashnikov, hand grenades, ammunition, as well as nationalist literature, wigs, a false beard and moustache, and two forged Russian passports. Another questioned operative told the court the two suspects’ arrest had been fast and urgent – information had been received about yet another crime being plotted; Tikhonov was apprehended with a pistol in his jacket and a submachine gun in his knapsack, just about to set out on his criminal mission…

Reporters covering the proceedings have noted that the defence lawyers are clearly trying to drag out the trial for as long as they can. The GDF will follow the developments closely.

 

RUSSIA

Perm Region. Banker convicted of fraud claims offended by journalists

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Sergey Karasyov, former head manager of a branch office of OAO VneshTorgBank, has filed a legal claim against OAO Information Group 59, the owner of the website www.59ru . He claimed offended by a publication entitled “Banker Robs His Own Bank”, which said that Karasyov had “misappropriated bank money”, “pursued a negligent crediting policy”, “approved lending out money to insolvent companies”, “signed orders on loans to companies that had submitted false information regarding collateral”, “engaged in criminal scheming”, etc.

The offended banker demanded protection of his honour, dignity and business reputation, the publishing of an official refutation, and payment to him of RUR 100,000 in moral damage compensation. However, he failed to prove in court the very fact of such publication: a copy he presented was not certified by a notary. The defendants, for their part, denied having ever published anything of the kind on their website.

And yet they presented documents proving that the information challenged by the plaintiff was true to life. A law court had accused Karasyov of stealing about RUR 188 m from his bank and had sentenced him to a suspended term of three and a half years in prison with a two-year probation period.

After the first-instance court turned his legal claim down, Karasyov appealed to a higher-standing judicial authority which did not satisfy his claim, either.

It may be noted that the number of such claims has been growing. Persons convicted of financial crimes actively resist to the media’s reporting on their criminal behaviour.

 

Moscow. Reporters barred from court hearing

By Dmitry Florin,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

As Moscow’s Lefortovo District court was preparing February 22 to consider the case of Issa Khashagulgov, an Ingushetia resident charged with keeping firearms, Caucasian Knot news agency reporters Lydia Mikhalchenko and Yekaterina Seleznyova, as well as the family of the accused, were barred from attending the hearing without any legal ground.

The reporters and Khashagulgov’s relatives had arrived 20 minutes before the sitting’s opening, but neither the police officer on duty nor the court press spokesman had told them anything about the attendance ban. But as they tried to go through, an FSB investigator and a prosecutor who declined to identify themselves told them they were not allowed into the courtroom.

A group of special police servicemen in facial masks surrounded the journalists, and when Khashagulgov’s family urged the judge to officially confirm that the sitting would be a closed one, the FSB investigator told them they would be ousted by force.

The reporters, too, were compelled to leave the courtroom.

 

Kursk Region. Governor sues rival party for publishing his caricature

By Roman Zholud,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Kursk Region Governor Alexander Mikhailov’s personal complaint to the police about a caricature in a pre-election leaflet issued by the Fair Russia party has given rise to criminal proceedings on charges of insult to a government official (Article 319 of the RF Penal Code).

The caricature featured the regional leader, a bottle of liquor and a cigar in hand, riding a cart tugged by the first three candidates from the United Russia party list of nominees for March’s election to the regional Duma. All the three were shown calling on electors to vote for them, and the governor adding, “Otherwise they’ll kick me out!” The text below said that if the ruling party (URP) happened to gather fewer than 50% of the votes, the regional head “might be told to resign as early as the following day”.

Oleg Mikheyev, a Duma deputy and Fair Russia’s central apparatus head, sees nothing wrong about the caricature. “I can see neither abusive language nor, for that matter, a government official featuring in it,” he said in an interview for the newspaper Kommersant. “We look forward to Mikhailov’s explaining to us what in particular in that picture insulted him, and how. I suspect he’s growing a bit paranoid, but that isn’t fatal, really.”

Human rights defenders have noted that Russia’s law enforcement is again demonstrating an approach that is opposite to that of the European Court of Human Rights. Strasbourg maintains that public figures, including politicians, should be protected to a lesser degree against criticism – they are supposed to endure it.

“Besides, that leaflet didn’t signal any ungrounded personal attack (on Mikhailov) – it was part of public debates pointing to local power’s negative role in promoting United Russia during election campaigns,” Media Rights Defence Centre head Galina Arapova said. “To be identified as insulting, an expression of somebody’s opinion about a person has to be obscene in its form. That caricature was by no means obscene. The law enforcers are just showing servility (toward those at the helm) again – in defiance of common sense and the norms of law.”

 

Rostov Region. District newspaper readers write complaints

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

Readers of district newspapers have been complaining to the Antimonopoly Committee, the prosecutor’s office and courts of law about non-delivery of supplements featuring district administration decisions and auction and tender announcements.

In line with existing agreements with their founders, i.e., the district administrations, local newspapers are supposed to publish regulatory decisions and other official documents of local power. Since this is a paid service, it would seem the newspapers should consider it profitable. On the other hand, official information often happens to be too bulky, causing editors to print thick supplements which more often than not are of little interest to the reader. As regards pay, its size depends in many cases on the administration heads’ attitude: those who like their newspaper will pay generously, whereas those seeking to treat the journalists shabbily will pay barely enough to cover the costs.

The size of pay ranges from RUR 60,000 to RUR 4 m per year. Some newspapers get paid at the highest rate, others at the lowest. Readier-witted editors have found a good way out – to issue special supplements featuring official stuff, printed in fifty to several hundred copies. This keeps them compliant with the law requiring local government decisions to be made known to the public, while reducing costs to a minimum.

But some people appear to be dissatisfied with this practice. One of them, Mr Sukharevsky, a Konstantinovsky District resident who subscribes to the newspaper Donskiye Ogni, has complained to the Antimonopoly Committee, the prosecutor’s office and a law court that the postman fails to deliver the official supplement featuring local administration resolutions and ads about land rent tenders.

The committee confirmed the fact of the subscriber’s rights being violated and called for having the situation rectified. In contrast, the court and prosecutor’s office found the supplement-issue practice to be in line with the law. The “vigilant” reader is eager to go as far as it takes to have his rights duly observed.

 

Krasnodar Region. Journalists detained by police

Police in the Tuapse District, Krasnodar Region, have unlawfully detained 19 people, among them media reporters. The incident occurred on the grounds of the so-called “Tkachev Dacha” located in a woodland area that anyone should be free to enter in line with Article 11 of the RF Forestry Code.

The Tkachev Dacha is the informal name of an elite recreational complex built for Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachev on the Blue Bay coast of the Black Sea. A strip of the coastline with the adjacent forest area under the complex is surrounded by a fence, which is at odds with both the Forestry Code and Water Code of the Russian Federation.

Environmentalists and journalists assigned to carry out a public inspection arrived at the Dacha at noon. Soon afterward, police arrived together with district administration deputy head German Apitin and an FSB officer named Molchanov. At about 13:45, several more police vehicles pulled over. The policemen cracked down on the action participants and detained, among others, Novaya Gazeta correspondent Yevgeny Titov and Chelovek Truda reporter Yuri Kutsenko. They confiscated their cell phones and photo cameras and drove the detainees to the police station in the village of Dzhubga, charging them with “refusal to obey a law enforcement official’s lawful requirement” (Article 19.3 of the RF Administrative Code).

[Based on North Caucasus Ecological Watch reports]

 

Orenburg Region. Newspaper’s print run withdrawn

An issue of the newspaper Yayik has failed to reach its reader. It featured an article about the regional governor’s wife who had managed to purchase 0.2 ha of land for only RUR 1,500 (about USD 52), i.e., 10,000 times cheaper than the land’s cadastral value.

A man came to the newspaper’s office in the evening offering to purchase the entire print run, but heard no in reply. A series of phone calls followed from street vendors who said people had come “to buy the newspaper in whole stacks”. At a newsstand outside the House of Soviets, unknown persons simply confiscated the entire stock of Yayik “as an advance rent payment”.

“People kept coming to the office all day long on Wednesday, each asking 30 to 50 copies of Yayik at once: some wanted to earn a bit extra, others to inform their colleagues and friends, still others to please their boss and rule out any chance of his reputation getting tainted,” Yayik staffers said.

Subscriber interests were affected, too. Several people complained they had not found the newspaper in their mailboxes. “The postman had always brought Yayik on Thursday,” said a woman from the village of Fyodorovka in the Aleksandrovsky District. “This time, he came as late as Sunday bringing a totally different newspaper. He said the regular issue of Yayik was not to be found because it featured some ‘provocative’ article.” The woman went around the village to find out whether neighbours had received that newspaper number; many said they had not. She then talked to the post office head who admitted she had been ordered by district authorities not to deliver the scandalous issue to the readers.

“We’ll look into the reasons why Yayik was not delivered,” said Nadezhda Kustova, head of the press distribution department of the Federal Postal Service Administration for the region of Orenburg.

Significantly enough, no Yayik reporters were invited to a news conference held in the wake of the controversial publication. Asked why, the governor’s press service plainly stated, “We are free to select the people to be invited to cover different social events.”

[Based on newspaper Yayik reports]

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the Internet, including at:

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

Journalists labelled “extremists”

Prosecutor Y. Kharkov of the city of Aleksandrovsk, Sakhalin Region, has warned Mayor V. Nikitin of “some local groups trying to fan interethnic strife which may boil over into conflicts”. In a representation entitled “On Eliminating Violations of the Law to Combat Extremism”, the prosecutor specially pointed to Article 2 of the law (FZ-141) providing for “unavoidability of punishment for extremist activity”.

The document gives rise to serious concerns, especially in the light of the well-known developments in this country and abroad lately. What kind of conflict may be in store for Sakhalin’s former capital, where clashes between residents have been fuelled, since the beginning of time, only by excessive drinking, not by interethnic differences?

It turned out that the journalists are to blame, as usual. It is they who have come up with “extremist” publications in the local newspaper Krasnoye Znamya that have struck Prosecutor Kharkov as “undermining the public image of state power” and instigating the “interethnic strife” he referred to.

Having looked at the text of the publication that caused Mr Kharkov to get as concerned as he is, I thought hard whether or not to reproduce it here – what if my newspaper Sovetsky Sakhalin, too, comes to be labelled extremist? Finally I decided I should – to give the reader a general idea of what the “conflict” was all about. A joke in Krasnoye Znamya read as follows:

“Katya plucks out her eyebrows in 3 minutes, and Marina in 30 minutes. Who of the two girls is of Caucasian origin?”

And what of it, you may ask. But it is this joke that caused the prosecutor to write a four-page representation warning against “the circulation of material containing public calls for terrorist acts or publicly justifying terrorist activity”, and citing several other excerpts from regulatory documents where the word “extremism” is italicised.

Actually, the joke is pretty silly, to say the least. Still, one is left to wonder what particular legislative ban the district paper violated by reprinting it on its pages.

It turns out the joke is “rude and insulting to Russian citizens of Caucasian descent”.

Some may feel it really is. No two minds think alike. But then, in the same city of Aleksandrovsk, the word “Caucasus” is associated, first and foremost, with the residential area between the 1st and 2nd Kavkazskiye (Caucasian) Streets. “I’m from the Caucasus” is a phrase any local resident would normally say to explain in which part of the city he lives. It is still unclear whether any of those people got hurt by that joke – I, for one, don’t think so. But that is my personal view.

In contrast, Prosecutor Kharkov goes beyond voicing his private opinion; he interprets the law within the limits of his professional competence and demands “elimination of the law violations”. Specifically, he wants “tough disciplinary measures to be immediately taken in respect of those responsible” by the municipal administration as the newspaper’s founder. This means he calls for direct repressive action, which is no longer a joke.

But then again, the very struggle against jokes looks very much like a farce. Did the city prosecutor achieve anything serious by threatening a newspaper with sanctions for reprinting a joke? Did he contribute to strengthening interethnic peace? Actually, the situation in this particular city has always been rather quiet as far as that is concerned. Or did he expose an extremist den? The effect of his action is opposite: we used to think extremism is something terrible, but as it turns out, it’s no more than a silly joke...

[Based on newspaper Sovetsky Sakhalin reports]

OUR PARTNERS

Press Development Institute Siberia holds regular seminar

Another seminar in the PDI Siberia series “Public Investigation in the Regional Internet Community” was held at the Philology Department of Omsk State University February 19-20 to highlight abuses in the disposal of local resources. The seminar brought together university professors and students, journalists and active bloggers. The goal was to teach the trainees how to initiate and conduct public investigations into matters of importance to the regional community.

Lectures and practical classes were conducted by Yuri Trigubovich, an observer for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta v Sibiri; Aleksei Konovalov, a lawyer with the Institute of Information Freedom Development (St. Petersburg); and Viktor Yukechev, director of the Press Development Institute Siberia (Novosibirsk).

The first-day programme opened with a round-table conference “Fighting Corruption: Information Wars or Public Investigations?” with the main report delivered by Ilya Sharapov, a student of the School of Journalism.

The participants then familiarised themselves with the key elements of the budgeting process, the system of budget control and the way it works.

The seminar’s main event was a business game, “Public Investigation in the Social Network Tak-Tak-Tak”, in the course of which trainees investigated a real case involving misappropriation of budgetary funds allocated for road construction and repairs.

The project is implemented as part of the Small Grants Program of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

 

DIGEST MAIL

Dear Mr Simonov:

We already appealed to you in 2006-2007 and you helped us a lot that time.

Our newspaper, Cherkessk: Vchera, Segodnya, Zavtra, has operated for 12 years now, mostly as a self-supporting enterprise that has found it pretty hard to survive. Today, we again appeal to you for protection from arbitrary treatment by Cherkessk Mayor Pyotr Korotchenko.

The mayoral Property Management Department, acting on behalf of the city head, has demanded that we move from our present premises within a week’s time. However, it is not easy to find an alternative office, the less so in winter… Driven by a desire to close our newspaper, the mayor put us before the choice: either we pay RUR 135,000 that we allegedly owe him, or we move out.

We found ourselves under this kind of pressure after I refused to publish a story about the Slav Union of Karachai-Cherkessia that Korotchenko wanted to see published. The competent agencies are currently checking the legality of the mayor’s demands that we pay or move.

Mr Simonov, we need your help in making sure we stay in our current office until the investigation is over. Mayor Korotchenko is in a position to kick us out into the street – belied and humiliated – any minute now with the help of the police and without any warrant from a law court or the prosecutor’s office. If he does, we will have to close. I will publish a story about the way we have been treated by all means – later, when we have gathered all the factual proofs.

The wild things happening to us explain why there is no free press in Karachai-Cherkessia. Independent newspapers being the mouthpiece of civil society, we receive lots of complaints from ordinary people pointing to the fact that municipal authorities have turned realty renting into a profitable business. One author cited Putin as saying, “Local administrations, instead of supporting entrepreneurs, have themselves got engaged in business by simply renting out municipal property.” If you start investigating this kind of facts, you are certain to fall into disfavour and join the group of those targeted by the authorities, which is dangerous. The mayor’s office in Cherkessk today is a heavily politicised tangle of movements, unions, councils, public organisations and parties, with the mayor on top of this pyramid taking pains to pretend he works really hard. One never knows what kind of orders he may give his team the next minute…

Sincerely,
Lyudmila Mamkhyagova,
editor-in-chief, newspaper Cherkessk: Vchera, Segodnya, Zavtra

The Glasnost Defence Foundation has filed an inquiry about the matter with the mayor’s office of Cherkessk.

 

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

 

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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