Дайджест
18 Августа 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 532

August 15, 2011

RUSSIA

Kurgan Region. Investigators continue searching for killers of journalist Vladimir Kirsanov

By Valentina Pichurina,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Investigators have not forgotten about the case of journalist Vladimir Kirsanov, according to Denis Chernyatyev, new head of the Kurgan Region department of the RF Investigative Committee.

“I have looked through the investigation materials, since this case is still causing broad public repercussions nationwide,” Chernyatyev said addressing reporters during the first news conference after his appointment. “I can assure you the search-and-investigative work continues, although I still can’t speak of any specific achievements today. We will keep you updated on any information that may surface. Let me say again that we know about this case; we haven’t forgotten about it.”

As is known, Vladimir Kirsanov, editor of the regional public and political newspaper Kurganskiye Vesti, disappeared ten years ago. Early on 17 May 2001 he left his home for work but never made it to the office, and no one has ever seen him ever since. The city prosecutor’s office instituted legal proceedings on murder charges (Article 105 of the RF Criminal Code) and has checked several versions, including one linking his disappearance with his professional work. Yet the crime still remains unsolved: the investigation has been suspended “in view of no suspects identified”.

Vladimir Kirsanov is well remembered in Kurgan. Not a single news conference held by the law enforcement agencies has passed without reporters asking about progress in the investigation of his case. Besides, Vladimir’s colleagues and friends annually hold a picketing action in Lenin Square in Kirsanov’s memory.

Krasnodar Region. Reporters’ access to Internal Affairs Minister Nurgaliyev restricted

By Victoria Tashmatova,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

On the eve of Internal Affairs Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev’s visit to Krasnodar after the end of the restructuring campaign within the police and in connection with the recent appointment of a new regional traffic police chief, Vladimir Prikhodko, correspondent for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta Kubani, called police spokeswoman Larissa Tuchkova on August 9 to apply for accreditation that any reporter was required to have in order to cover events with the minister’s participation.

Ms Tuchkova told the journalist his candidacy would have to be coordinated with Moscow. Calling him back five minutes later, she said Prikhodko had been denied accreditation because a pool of accredited journalists had already been formed, involving reporters for only four newspapers – Kubanskiye Novosti, Krasnodarskiye Izvestia, Rossiyskaya Gazeta and Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Chelyabinsk Region. District newspaper editor reprimanded for expressing personal opinion

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Victoria Agafonova, editor-in-chief of the municipal newspaper Kopeisky Gorodskoi Vestnik issued in Kopeisk, a suburban town near Chelyabinsk, has received a curious official letter from town council head Vladimir Yemelyanov.

“Council deputies have met to discuss media-fanned rumours about the allegedly planned merger of Chelyabinsk and Kopeisk,” the letter said. “Most deputies agreed it is a very serious matter that would require thorough analytical work, should any economic prerequisites for such merger be established. So far, no such prerequisites have been identified, and the proposed merger is deemed unfavourable to both Kopeisk and Chelyabinsk. Contemplation on the subject by ordinary residents knowing little about the budget, employment rate and municipal economy would seem understandable and allowable; but your publications based on incompetent people’s assessments signal your non-professionalism as newspaper editor. You can hardly ever raise your newspaper’s popularity rating by challenging the opinion of the city council, which is the local self-government body consisting of lawfully elected public representatives.”

Councillors even convened a special conference to discuss whether or not to officially express their disapproval of the personal opinion voiced by the editor. “Just imagine: they put that issue to the vote!” Agafonova told the GDF correspondent, adding that the council chairman later told an apparatus meeting that he would see to it that her newspaper is shut down.

Agafonova wonders why the deputies should be paying so much attention to her newspaper and her in person at a time when there are lots of far more serious municipal problems that have been piling up for years. For example, water supply disruptions have caused residents of the village of Kalachovo to buy drinking water using special coupons. The “Our Yard”, “Clear Water” and other beautifully worded programmes have remained still-born paper-and-pencil projects that have never been translated into reality. Watching this bureaucratic procrastination, Kopeisk residents are pinning their last hopes on merger with Chelyabinsk: becoming a district within a megalopolis might help make their life at least a little better, they think to themselves…

 

Republic of North Ossetia-Alania/Republic of Ingushetia. Bloggers meet with journalists

By Vakha Chapanov,
GDF staff correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Ossetian and Ingush bloggers and journalists met in Vladikavkaz on August 6 to discuss interethnic relations and the impact of internet confrontations on the settlement of bilateral conflicts. The meeting was held at the Ingush side’s initiative.

Despite the complicated relationships between Ossetia and Ingushetia, the parties talked frankly and openly during the meeting. The Ossetian side focused on security problems, terrorist acts, society’s Islamisation, and the negative attitude toward women wearing the hijab. The Ingush participants pointed to problems with the return-home of refugees and the situation in the Prigorodny District. Interethnic relations were discussed at length as a matter of everyone’s concern.

The meeting proceeded in a relaxed atmosphere, and each was free to have his or her say. The only condition was to show mutual respect and not interrupt speakers. One of the organisers, Ingush journalist Beslan Tsechoyev, described the event as “useful and productive”, pointing to the importance of media-to-media contacts in building neighbourly relations between the two republics.

“Going beyond their virtual contacts in the internet, the participants met face to face to hear out each other, and try to find a common language in discussing serious and sometimes unpleasant problems while keeping up the friendly atmosphere of the conference,” he said. “Meetings of this kind are essential. They will be held in the future too, with everyone being free to speak out.”

The participants agreed the next meeting would be held in Ingushetia.

Perm. Public remains unaware of governor’s accessibility in internet

By Mikhail Lobanov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The prosecutor’s office’s legal claim for the regional administration to make public its directive “On Securing Access to Information on the Performance of the Perm Governor’s Administration” has been turned down in court.

The directive (No.SED-01-89-ra-53 of 10 August 2010), issued by gubernatorial chief of staff Firdus Aliyev, specified technological and software requirements related to the use of the Perm governor administration’s official website, with a list of data supplied about the governor’s performance that is subject to publication in the internet.

Perm Region prosecutor Alexander Belykh has qualified gubernatorial staffers’ failure to duly publish the directive as inaction and filed a legal claim with the Leninsky District court in Perm to make them rectify their error.

On 7 June 2011, Judge Vydrina turned his claim down, pointing to the fact that the governor’s administration is not an independent executive body and that its chief’s directives are not deemed to constitute normative legislative acts. The directive in question was just an organisational order regulating the maintenance of Chirkunov’s website, and its non-publication could not be deemed to infringe anyone’s rights, the judge decided.

First Deputy Prosecutor Vladimir Cherkasov’s appeal to a higher-standing judicial authority resulted in the regional court’s confirmation of the first court ruling on the grounds that the chief of staff’s lack of authority to issue normative acts is a sufficient reason for non-publication of the disputed directive.

Yekaterinburg. No photo cameras!

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Photography bans have been turning into a routine practice in Yekaterinburg.

Last year’s scandal over regional traffic police chief Yuri Dyomin’s beating of journalist Yuri Basok who attempted to take his photo pictures at the scene of a road accident caused broad public repercussions. In June this year, local media were appalled at the new city police chief Alexander Fedyunin’s unlawful orders on the detention of Novy Region and Life.news reporters Alexander Rodionov and Andrei Gorbunov for taking pictures of a robbed shop.

While photographing the Yekaterinburg metro or various defence industry facilities is indeed unsafe, the August 10 police attempt to detain British photo correspondent Andrei Shcherbenok for taking pictures of the luxurious villa of Nikolai Vinnichenko, President Medvedev’s personal envoy to the Urals Federal District, caused considerable public dissatisfaction.

“I was taking an evening stroll about the city when I spotted a magnificent subject for a photo image – a huge moon rising over a half-built tower,” Shcherbenok told the Ura.ru news agency. “Hardly had I made a snapshot when a policeman came up to say photography at this specially guarded site was forbidden.”

The photo picture turned out to feature part of the presidential envoy’s residence in Dobrolyubov Street – the right-hand gate with a checkpoint. “The policeman demanded my documents; he talked rudely to me and threatened me with detention,” Shcherbenok said. “Another police officer then appeared who confirmed that I was not allowed to take photo pictures near the residence.”

Blogger Alexei Sokhovich-Kanarovsky, an active fighter against photography bans, described existing restrictions as unlawful. “There is no legal act identifying some buildings or other as ‘specially guarded sites’ and banning photography of such buildings from the street,” he said. “When the public protested against the ban on photography in Moscow’s Red Square, the FSB was compelled to admit the ban was unlawful.” President Dmitry Medvedev personally interfered to lift that ban – unlike his envoy to the Urals who seems to feel more comfortable behind a shield of secrecy.

“Inside the villa’s area, one would likely be prohibited to take pictures, but one is not subject to any bans outside on the street,” Sokhovich-Kanarovsky noted, citing as two examples the governor’s residence and the regional administration headquarters in Yekaterinburg which anyone is free to photograph.

Chat forum exchanges show the incident with Shcherbenok is not the only one that has occurred recently. One forum visitor suggested “stretching an invisible veil over the presidential envoy’s residence, so that no one would ever mention, call by name or, for that matter, ever care about any of those officials, including Vinnichenko”. Actually, the public knows little as it is about the work of the envoy’s office, this absolutely useless bureaucratic sinecure, although a palace worth several billion roubles has been built for Vinnichenko at taxpayers’ expense.

And taking photo pictures of it is prohibited!

Krasnodar Region. One of region’s oldest newspapers closed

By Natalia Yusupova,
GDF staff correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The last issue of the Sochi-based public and political daily Chernomorskaya Zdravnitsa (CZ) was released on August 12. The region’s oldest newspaper, founded in 1917, has been closed because of problems with financing.

According to editor Sergey Belov, his newspaper first found itself in dire financial straits about eight years ago, when the Sochi administration stopped ordering the publication of its official documents. The subsequent developments followed the well-known scenario: first, CZ was deprived of its own building, then municipal authorities refused to lease office space to it, then subscription- and distribution-related problems began piling up, etc. Finally, the management’s failed attempts to preserve the daily while avoiding excessive commercialisation resulted in CZ starting to operate desperately in the red.

In his August 9 appeal to the readers, the editor explained that the newspaper was closing for economic reasons. “We have never deceived our readers, and if we featured commercial stuff we honestly admitted that, unlike many other newspapers,” he wrote. “We tried to focus on the most sensitive problems facing the resort city and its residents, and to highlight negative development trends. That was a big headache for the city leaders who, nevertheless, were compelled to put up with that for many years. Today, CZ finds itself no longer wanted by anyone – either the authorities, or business groups concentrated only on their primitive economic concerns, or even ordinary residents who remember about their newspaper only at difficult moments in life.”

Chernomorskaya Zdravnitsa will be preserved as a brand only as a 2-3-page supplement to the advertising/entertaining bulletin Kururtnaya Nedelya, to be released once a week.

Maritime Region. Mayor’s office declines to lease office space to newspaper

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

Vladivostok Mayor Igor Pushkaryov, a “Kremlin man” as the election committee officially introduced him to the city residents, has become the main character of numerous critical publications – not only in the human rights newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti (AV) but in other newspapers as well, although the latter have tended to write less harshly and sarcastically. That is why AV editor Irina Grebneva was not particularly surprised to receive a lease agreement termination notice from the city administration a short while ago.

Prior agreements with AV had been concluded by Mayors Cherepkov, Kopylov, Nikolayev, and now Pushkaryov. For a long time, the newspaper had to rent an office building without central heating in a slum area in Vladivostok.

The city’s Municipal Property Management Department now unilaterally terminated the existing lease agreement of indefinite duration, ordering that the office building “be freed within three months of your receipt hereof… and transferred to the Department’s balance account. Non-compliance herewith may result in your ejection in line with a court decision”.

 

UZBEKISTAN

Internet blockade toughened

Access to the majority of popular websites has been blocked in Uzbekistan, according to a Uznews.net report. The blockade began on August 9, terminating access to the websites of the Russian TV networks Rossiya, NTV and Channel One, as well as the newspapers Kommersant, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Izvestia and others. The web portals of the radio stations Ekho Moskvy and Mayak and the web publications Gazeta.ru and NEWSru.com are not accessible, either, as are LiveJournal and the websites of the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, the media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders, and even the Uzbek news agencies UzReport.com and UzDaily.uz, deemed to be loyal to the current regime, Uznews.com said. The clients of the SharTelecom internet service provider find themselves with zero access to Rambler and Google.

Technically, blocking off websites in Uzbekistan is only allowed to the national provider UzbekTelecom, but the lists of inaccessible websites vary depending on the internet service provider. Meanwhile, VympelCom’s branch office in Uzbekistan has said it did not receive any official instructions to terminate access to web resources and did not take any practical steps to do so.

Uzbekistan has repeatedly blocked access to Russian websites, and about 250 web portals, including those of Uzbek opposition media, are permanently inaccessible. Reporters Without Borders has put Uzbekistan on the list of enemies of the internet, and identified President Islam Karimov as an “enemy of the free press”.

[Lenta.ru report, August 10]

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

Former government official’s dispute with parliamentarian goes beyond RF Civil Code jurisdiction

By Mikhail Lobanov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

By finding a defendant’s statement “insulting” while reviewing a decision passed by a primary court, the Perm Region court has clearly gone beyond the framework of civil law, since insult entails either criminal or administrative liability.

Alexei Kamenev, a former FSB officer and deputy governor in charge of the regional Nature Management Agency, claimed offended by a 12 March 2010 anti-corruption article by Andrei Markov, deputy of the regional Legislative Assembly representing the Fair Russia party, and demanded RUR 1 m in moral damage compensation from the author, and as much from the newspaper Zvezda that carried the critical publication.

Judge Marina Vyazovskaya of the Motovilikhinsky District court, however, turned his legal claim down on June 16, finding the article neither libellous nor insulting and only expressing the author’s personal opinion. Kamenev, who had resigned from his gubernatorial post by that time, appealed to the higher-standing regional court which partially cancelled the first court’s ruling and passed its own judgment on the basis of a specially ordered forensic linguistic study.

The following passage in the article was found not true to life and disparaging the plaintiff’s honour and dignity: “Corruption is not reduced to banal bribe-taking, which we must admit is so widespread in this country. But no effective method of fighting this evil seems to have so far been found in the Perm Region. Let’s look, for example, at Nature Management Agency head Alexei Kamenev, a government official who has long been censured from different rostrums for his dividing all forest resources among his friends and cronies.” Zvezda is now required to refute that information and pay Kamenev RUR 5,000, and Markov RUR 10,000, in moral damage compensation.

It looks like in passing the new decision the civil law collegium chaired by Vladimir Lavrentyev went beyond the RF Civil Code jurisdiction. The descriptive part of the ruling says, “The above passage does not criticise the plaintiff’s performance as a government servant but contains insulting statements deliberately aimed at causing the readers to feel negatively toward the plaintiff.”

However, neither Article 152 of the RF Civil Code nor any of the six resolutions passed by the RF Supreme Court since 1992 to explain the way it should be applied mentions the word “insulting”. Judgments passed on honour-and-dignity defence claims use such legal terms as “disparaging”, “infringing” or “derogatory”. Insult is defined as disparagement of a person’s honour and dignity in an obscene form, which constitutes a criminal offence punishable under Article 130 of the RF Criminal Code. Administrative liability for offensive harassment accompanied by swearing is envisaged under Article 20.1 of the RF Administrative Code.

A prominent Perm-based lawyer, speaking on terms of anonymity, has expressed the view that the use of criminal and administrative law terminology during hearings of a civil claim may be deemed to be a reason for the defendants to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Journalist offered government post

By Yuri Chernyshov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The media community in Saratov has been set agog by Governor Pavel Ipatov’s appointment of journalist Stepan Parfyonov head of the newly established regional Committee on Youth Policy, Cultural Heritage Protection, and Tourism. Prior to becoming minister, Parfyonov was news service chief with the local television company NST, otherwise known as REN-TV Saratov.

According to media reports, the new committee was established “through merger of the regional Sports, Physical Culture and Tourism Ministry with the Committee to Protect Cultural Heritage”. In the process, the sports ministry was renamed Ministry for the Development of Sports and Physical Culture.

The new committee will be in charge of developing youth strategies; protecting and preserving cultural items on the basis of carefully selected priorities; implementing programmes of state support for the tourist industry; and ensuring accessibility of tourist sites to the general public.

The governor’s decision is deemed doubtful and giving rise to three questions.

First, how can youth policy and tourism (mostly in its individual or “ecological” varieties) possibly be tied together with the protection of cultural heritage – a totally different activity in terms of its nature, goals and structure? Is it not a purely utopian combination?

Second, as a follow-up to the first, will the new minister – a young and energetic man who, however, has a prior record of work in a completely different sphere – be able to cope with almost impracticable tasks? He faces a range of work that is seen as undoable because of the incompatibility of functions involved.

And third, according to press reports, REN-TV Saratov’s news shows, of which Parfyonov used to be in charge until recently, were known to be more than loyal toward the governor, whose performance other media have assessed either sceptically or absolutely negatively. So the question is, wasn’t Parfyonov’s appointment to a government post, even if one unrelated with the media, a kind of reward for his loyalty to the regional leader, or else a pre-election manoeuvre aimed to show younger electors that the region will start pursuing a targeted youth policy of its own at long last?

 

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.

 

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