4 Ноября 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 543

31 October 2011


Internet to be censored?

Two government agencies reportedly intend to scan online and other media publications for features contravening the Russian law, with special focus on stories about top-ranking Russian officials, crime reports and emergency situation accounts.

As of December, Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing public communications] will conduct round-the-clock monitoring of online media publications with the help of special computer software designed to search for “words, expressions and other markers from the officially approved list” that with time is to be enlarged to embrace 5 million entries. Allegedly, the process will target individual radically-minded bloggers, rather than the media at large.

The Justice Ministry intends to join in with the monitoring effort, the Noviye Izvestia newspaper reported adding that the focus here will be on thematic clusters: stories about the RF President and Prime Minister; legislative novelties; and law enforcement problems. The monitoring tool is supposed to be able to differentiate between positive and negative evaluations of the performance of the Justice Ministry and its head.

The proclaimed goals are strictly good, as usual, although giving rise to questions. One is what this “list of words, expressions and other markers”, to be checked with by Roskomnadzor, will look like. Another is what will be deemed to constitute a violation, and what kind of official reaction may follow. And finally, won’t the notorious list be extended beyond the target 5 million entries? It seems likely that work on this “breathtaking” project may give those in charge of it a taste for setting ever higher targets before themselves…

Evidently anticipating a negative reaction from the press community, the Justice Ministry hastened to calm potential critics down by claiming that the system is for “internal” use only – i.e., by the ministry’s press service – the more so monitoring of this kind has been conducted for some time already entailing no real sanctions for those monitored. Yet its assurances do not sound convincing enough, and it is not clear how government officials may react to “negative” information – particularly in the provinces where local executives are apt to interpret federal centre recommendations in an “excessively creative” manner.

“I’m afraid I don’t like the idea,” GDF President Alexei Simonov said. “What does the Justice Ministry need this for? Or has its press service been assigned to uphold the top-ranking leaders’ public image – why start monitoring news reports like that? There’s something fishy about all this – it looks like some kind of a sham game.”

Meanwhile, Lenta.ru has reported on the launch of a “Barracks Blog” in the internet – the diary of a young man doing his military service in one of the army units. The blog was discovered by the owners of the Real Army web portal (highlighting problems facing the Russian army), who contacted the blogger and got his consent to their publicising his blog, which became very popular in a matter of days. The readers, though, hardly learned anything new about the army routine – violence against younger conscripts, extortion-practising sergeants, officers beating soldiers, widespread theft, etc.), but shortly afterwards the blogger’s Twitter was hacked, all the previous entries were erased with a link to a porno site posted instead, and with contact with the diary owner finally blocked off.

It looks like the internet may soon become subject to censorship. Or is it being censored already?



CPJ publishes special report on impunity in Russia

Killers of journalists in provincial Russian cities still go unpunished.

New York City, 27 October — Although witnesses have been identified and the murder weapons and major leads found, the consecutive killings of two newspaper editors in Togliatti (Volga Region) nearly 10 years ago, just as many other journalist murders in Russia, remain unsolved, according to a new report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“The two unsolved cases offer a window into Russian law enforcement’s poor overall record in solving the murders of journalists,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia programme coordinator. “It is provincial cases like these in Togliatti, lower in profile and subjected to powerful local political influence, that test national leaders’ commitment to upholding the rule of law.”

Valery Ivanov, editor of Tolyattinskoye Obozreniye, then leading newspaper in the capital of Russia’s motor industry, was shot at point-blank range with a pistol outfitted with a silencer near the apartment block where he lived. Eighteen months later, his successor Alexei Sidorov was stabbed to death near the entrance to his own apartment building. Their newspaper had regularly reported on corrupt practices and organised crime in the city.

“Despite the evident connections between both Togliatti murders, authorities never joined them under one inquiry. Investigators did little to pursue a common, obvious, and compelling lead—that both editors were working on a story about alleged police malfeasance when they were killed,” the report says.

“It is essential, as a minimum, to reopen investigations into the murders of Valery Ivanov and Alexei Sidorov, and join the two murder cases into one probe,” Ognianova said.

In 19 work-related journalist murders since 2000, authorities have won convictions in only two cases, the product of a criminal justice system beset by corruption, lack of accountability, and conflicts of interest. Authorities have made some recent progress in addressing this record of impunity – one of the world’s worst – by winning convictions in the 2009 slaying of Anastasiya Baburova and making arrests in the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya. The Togliatti murder investigations illustrate the systemic problems that afflict the other 15 unsolved journalist murders, nearly 70% of which were committed in different regions of Russia.

For details, see http://cpj.org/ru/2011/10/post-26.php



Republic of Karelia. Labour inspectorate wants newspaper presses publisher to pay 160,000 in wage arrears to fired workers

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

In early September, Petrozavodsk-based businessman Leonid Beluga, the publisher of the Kuryer Karelii newspaper, announced the closure of his business project. The readers were shocked to learn that a newspaper that had been released under different names since 1917 was shutting down – but nothing could be done about it, since such was the owner’s will. This outcome was predictable, though, since for the previous few years the newspaper had languished in poverty, shrinking from a weekly to a daily publication and from format A2 to format A3, getting ever deeper in wage arrears and causing journalists to leave in search of better-paid openings. As per the date of closure, only technical workers and advertising agents remained on its payroll, with the journalists working on contract as freelancers.

By KK’s closure, Beluga’s debt to the staff had added up to 160,000 roubles (about US $5,300). To him, a very wealthy businessman who owns several industrial plants and retail trade networks, that was a really trifling sum. Yet two months of fruitless talks with Beluga’s representatives have not yielded a kopeck in debt repayment to the fired workers.

Their complaint to the Labour Inspectorate was officially supported, but no payment followed still. The most decisive ones went to court to get what was due to them. Beluga, however, has kept stubbornly silent about settlements with his former employees while making lots of other promises during his frequent public appearances as a candidate for a seat on Karelia’s Legislative Assembly.

Chelyabinsk. Editor cleared of charges of extremism fails to get prosecutors to apologise

See Digest No. 517

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Valery Uskov, editor of the Pravda Goroda Zlatousta newspaper (Chelyabinsk Region) who has served a 4-and-a-half-month term in a pre-trial detention facility on charges of extremism, has been finally acquitted after a fourth psycholinguistic expert study of his publications but has never got the prosecutor’s office either to close his case or to officially apologise to him.

His conviction of extremism (under Article 282 of the RF Criminal Code) was based on the findings of a philologist, Mr. Demidov, who pointed to signs of “attacks on the government and attempts to instigate hatred and enmity” in Uskov’s story urging readers not to pay poorly-performing community service companies for their improper work. His newspaper also reprinted federal opposition publications criticising authorities, their separate shortcomings, and the poor work of the Zlatoust mayor in person (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/842#p1 ).

Two subsequent studies of the disfavoured editor’s publications by independent experts did not find anything criminal in their content, so a final, comprehensive psycholinguistic study was then ordered.

“The experts unambiguously stated that the material under study did not contain any signs of extremism at all, causing the prosecutor’s office, which had itself initiated the latest study by Urals Federal District experts, to challenge their findings,” Uskov said. “Clearly, it’s yet another attempt to drag out the proceedings.”

The federal court ruling clearing Uskov of the charges of extremism is final and may not be appealed against.

A closer look at the case will show the prosecution campaign cost the taxpayers a pretty penny. The meals Uskov had during his 4.5-month stay in detention; the four expert studies ordered, each worth nearly 200,000 roubles; and the wages paid to prosecutors, barristers and police officers all add up to 700,000-1,000,000 roubles. As it turns out, the price of calls not to pay to negligent community service providers is indeed high.

Yekaterinburg. Journalist beaten and robbed

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

A reporter for the Vedomosti Ural (VU) web publication was beaten in the presence of police officers for taking pictures of an illegally operating barbeque outlet in Yekaterinburg’s Leninsky district on 22 October.

After repeated complaints by readers about this outlet, and a previous series of photo pictures on VU’s website showing it as a dirty joint serving dubious food, Sergey Avdeyev was assigned by the editor to check whether anything had improved there ever since. According to visitors, nothing had. Arriving at the place in the evening, the journalist showed his ID and had hardly begun taking pictures when several men attacked him, pushed him onto the ground and proceeded to kick away at him. A traffic police patrol that happened to be near attempted to hold back the attackers, but the outlet’s owner advised the officers to “mind their own business” and continued beating the reporter. A street police patrol arrived – only to drive the victim to the police station for questioning. After that, Avdeyev turned for medical assistance and was diagnosed to have a concussion, and numerous bruises and haematomas on his face and neck.

The police have started legal proceedings under Article 161.2 of the RF Criminal Code (“Group robbery involving the use of violence”). Mikhail Borodin, head of the regional police department, has taken the investigation under personal oversight and instructed the city police chief, Igor Trifonov, to “conduct a thorough probe” into the incident, according to the department’s spokesman Valery Gorelykh. Two suspects in the case have been detained, he said.

“We have fed information about this outrageous attack on our colleague into the Media Conflicts in Russia database compiled by the Russian Journalists’ Union jointly with the Glasnost Defence Foundation and International Federation of Journalists,” a statement by the VU management said. “Moreover, we will supply this information, together with updates on progress in the investigation … to the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament to ensure that the situation is kept under public control.”

Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. Media placed under supervision

By Natalia Yusupova, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Media workers in Kabardino-Balkaria now know for certain who will oversee their performance. A few days ago, the republic’s head Arsen Kanokov signed several decrees on structural changes and a personnel reshuffle in the republic’s government. The post of head of the Media Affairs Committee went to Mukhadin Kumakhov, who had previously led the republican TV channel “Kabardino-Balkaria”.

The Media Affairs Committee is a relatively new structure. Since 2005, when the Press and Information Ministry was scrapped in the republic, its functions were delegated to one government agency after another – first to the Culture Ministry, then to the Youth Affairs Ministry, and most recently to the agency in charge of work with public and religious organisations. Very understandably, those perturbations reduced the actual efforts to address media community problems actually to naught. Finally, in a key decision endorsed in October 2010, then newly re-elected President Arsen Kanokov divided the Ministry for IT Communications, Work with Public Associations and Youth Affairs into a Ministry for Youth Affairs and Work with Public Associations and a separate Committee on the Press and Public Communications.

However, the committee has only existed on paper ever since, with numerous guesses made as to who might be put in charge of it – from administrative functionaries to local showmen. With the latest appointment announced, one may express cautious optimism that a man has been chosen with at least some record of work in the media area. As to the rest – time will show.



Opposition video portal’s film crew attacked

A crew of reporters for the Stan opposition video portal has been attacked in the city of Aktau, Mangistau Region, where they arrived to cover the oil worker strike that has continued for over six months now.

As journalist Orken Bisenov and cameraman Asan Amilov were walking out of an apartment house early on 26 October, a jeep pulled over to the entrance, from which four unknown men got out to start beating the journalists for no apparent reason. They were armed with baseball bats and traumatic guns. The attackers took away the office notebook PC the reporters were carrying.

As a result, the two journalists were taken to hospital with serious injuries. According to the regional police department, though, only one of them was hospitalised. The department did not mention any police measures taken in connection with the attack.

[Interfax news agency report, 26 October]



Jubilee congratulations to Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov

For more than 10 years now, our Foundation’s life has somehow or other been connected with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

There has not been a single Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” in which some journalist from our favourite newspaper has failed to become a laureate or a nominee. GDF diplomas, showcased at the Novaya Gazeta headquarters, proudly feature among the prizes won by NG reporters at different times.

On Saturday, 29 October, the newspaper honoured its editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov on the occasion of his 50th birthday.

Dear Dmitry,

You have lived the first 50 years of your life with dignity and prowess. You have many friends who are very nice and kind people. And you have many enemies who are very serious individuals.

Continue living for the good of your friends and in spite of your enemies!

Your newspaper readers

from the Glasnost Defence Foundation


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



Journalist acquitted of contempt may become Russia’s last person convicted of insult

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The regional court in Perm has confirmed the sentence passed in the case of Yevgeny Koltsov, editor of the Vesti Okhanska newspaper and a deputy of the Okhansky district assembly who was acquitted under Article 319 (“Contempt of a government officer”) but found guilty under Article 130.1 (“Insult to a person”) of the RF Criminal Code.

It all began on 8 October 2010, when Koltsov brought to the Okhansky district court a complaint about what he thought to be an unlawful refusal to start criminal proceedings against a local administration official. Court usher Pavel Sharov asked him to go through the metal detector several times, which triggered a high-tone verbal exchange. A couple of weeks later, the usher filed a request for legal proceedings to be instituted against Koltsov on charges of contempt of a government officer, and the regional Investigative Department started a probe.

During a 3 February confrontation conducted by Nytvensky inter-district investigator Anton Sorgutov, the suspect again quarrelled with the victim; his allegedly rude address to Sharov resulted in a new criminal case opened against Koltsov – this time on charges of insulting Sharov as a private person.

On 16 August, a justice of the peace at Precinct No. 110 in the Okhansky district considered both cases as those joined under one inquiry. Having found nothing rude about Koltsov’s pronouncements made in October, he cleared the defendant of those charges while finding him guilty of disparaging Sharov’s honour and dignity by using foul language in his respect in February; that cost the defendant a fine of 10,000 roubles. The district court of appeals on 22 October ruled to leave both sentences in force.

The ruling was challenged by everyone – the convict, victim and state prosecutor. At the 27 October hearing in the regional court of appeals, Koltsov suggested that the usher and investigator had slandered him deliberately. “As the publisher and editor of Vesti Okhanska and a self-nominated candidate, I’ve been a headache to many,” he said. “I stand up for my electors, so I ask the court to stand up for me.” Regional prosecutor Yevgeny Lyalin, on the contrary, supported the victim’s plea and asked the court to cancel the defendant’s acquittal under Article 319.

The court of appeals did not find any grounds for meeting the requests of any of the three parties and left the two sentences in force, thus convicting Yevgeny Koltsov under a penal code clause that President Dmitry Medvedev recently suggested scrapping altogether. A bill on de-criminalising insult is under consideration in parliament and is likely to be passed into law this autumn. But the journalist from a remote province in the Urals may go down in history as the last Russian citizen convicted under the criminal code for his words.

“Three previous criminal cases opened against me on charges of insult and beating since my victory in the 2009 election have either fallen apart or been terminated in view of amicable settlements reached,” Koltsov told the GDF correspondent. “Now the prosecutor’s office will be sure to urge the Assembly to strip me of my parliamentary powers.”



Karelia Journalists’ Union: Russian Railways’ internal regulation contradicts RF Constitution

Anatoly Tsygankov, President of the Journalists’ Union of Karelia, has appealed to a court of law demanding that Russian Railways Ltd. cancel Paragraph 4 of its 18 July 2008 internal directive No. 1513r “On TV, Video, Film and Photo Imaging on Commonly Accessible Infrastructure Facilities Belonging to Russian Railways Ltd.” This regulatory norm, which has been effect for over three years, had never – until recently – hampered the work of journalists who felt free to use cameras when seeing in athletes, artists, politicians and other personalities of interest to the public. They would interview celebrities and record their comments right on the platform with zero interference from the railway security.

But when security guards at the Petrozavodsk railway station attempted to stop reporters from interviewing M. F. Khodorkovskaya, mother of the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, on her way home from the Segezh penal colony where her son is serving time, the journalists started to protest vigorously. They did finish their work after all, but lost much time wrangling with security guards during the train’s rather short stopover at Petrozavodsk.

Shortly after the incident, the Journalists’ Union asked the Petrozavodsk railway station management to comment on what had happened. It turned out the guards had acted in line with effective internal instructions, a closer look at which revealed their discrepancy with the Russian Constitution and Media Law.

In his official protest against the intra-agency regulations, Tsygankov proved, with reference to constitutional norms, that the unlawfully imposed restrictions are at variance with federal legislation which does not prohibit the use of cameras anywhere on the station premises which are commonly accessible areas not classified as secret or specially guarded sites.

For that reason, he asked the court to declare Item 4 of the said regulations null and void.

Journalists would hardly ever have learned about this in-house regulatory norm but for this Petrozavodsk incident with clearly political underpinnings, which showed that an intra-agency directive can be turned into an instrument of political pressure on journalists. It is this hidden threat that the head of Karelia’s Journalists’ Union rose up against.


Karelia Journalist and Media Rights Centre holds first internet conference

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

The goals of the human rights centre established at the initiative of the Journalists’ Union of Karelia and the Soyuz Partnership of Legal Experts are to (1) regularly monitor violations of the journalists’ right to engage in professional work; and (2) provide legal counselling at the request of editorial boards and individual journalists. The Union conducted this work in the past too, but now, in partnership with Soyuz lawyers, the efficiency of its efforts is bound to increase.

The centre has more than once defended journalists in court and provided consulting services at their request; now it has the new technical opportunity to hold web-based news conferences, round tables and consulting sessions. The first internet conference was devoted to discussion of media participation in the forthcoming elections.



GOLOS Association holds news conference

The GOLOS Association “NGOs in Defence of Electors’ Rights” announces a news conference to share its preliminary assessments of how campaigning for the 4 December elections has proceeded at local, regional and federal levels, with focus on the nomination of candidates and the beginning of electioneering.

The conference will begin at 2 p.m. on 2 December at 17/9 Prechistenka St. in Moscow (Kroponkinskaya metro station, near the Lev Tolstoi Museum). Entrance to Independent Press Centre from Barykovsky Pereulok, arch after Gate 2, across the yard, left porch, first floor.

Speakers will include Andrei Buzin, head of GOLOS election monitoring unit; Alexander Kynev, head of GOLOS analytical unit; Arkady Lyubarev, leading analyst and head of the ad hoc group to develop an electoral code; and Lilia Shibanova, GOLOS executive director.

Experts will present an interim analytical report, a public statement and a review of reports from the Map of Electoral Law Violations.

For further details, please contact GOLOS’ Olga Novosad by calling (+7) 909 638-3305, (+7495) 234-5939 or by emailing a message to: press@golos.org


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

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, 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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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