Дайджест30 Ноября 2011 года
Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 547
28 November 2011
Topic of the week
Glasnost defence foundation
TOPIC OF THE WEEK
The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) announced 23 November as the International Day to End Impunity. The IFEX community chose that day to honour those who died for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to raise awareness that their killers often go unpunished.
This is “a solemn reminder of the risks taken to inform the public and speak truth to power,” the message posted on the IFEX website said. “It is also meant to be a day to recognise the work IFEX members and others are doing to combat impunity and to inspire action everywhere to demand justice and advance efforts to stop impunity in the killings of journalists, musicians, artists, politicians, and other free expression advocates.”
A total of 500 journalists have been killed around the world in the past 10 years, and in 90% of cases their killers have remained unpunished.
Murder is not the sole method of journalist and media harassment. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)’s database on media conflicts in Russia features six more categories of media rights violations. It shows that not only journalist killers manage to get away with impunity. For example, of a total of 64 attacks on reporters in 2010, only 6 were fully investigated; of the 44 journalist detentions only 2 were duly checked; and of the 31 incidents of threats against journalists none was explored.
A lot of work is still ahead that may take many a long year to complete, so chances are high that Days to End Impunity may become a tradition – at least here in Russia, where convictions for the perpetrators of crimes against reporters fully depend on the political will of those at the helm, who are unlikely to outspokenly express this will in the near future.
Omsk. Governor claims 500,000 roubles and disclaimer from elderly human rights activist for speaking at protest rally
By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District
Leonid Polezhayev, the Omsk Region Governor, has long been at odds with journalists and human rights defenders, although the latter seem to have given him less headache, so he never until recently advanced any financial claims against them. But the speech of Human Rights Committee Chairman Valentin Kuznetsov at a recent rally of protest against construction of a silicon plant in Omsk must have been the last straw: in the legal claim he lodged against the protester, the governor, with reference to a DVD supplied by his aides, quoted Kuznetsov as saying, “Polezhayev must be prosecuted for ruining the (region’s) industry and agriculture and for subjecting residents to economic genocide… He has long since privatised all the regional assets and sold them to his relatives.”
The plaintiff also demanded that an official disclaimer be published in one of the newspapers “within 15 days of the court decision’s taking full legal effect”, although it is not clear how a pensioner who has never worked in the media can possibly organise such a publication.
The governor demanded from Kuznetsov half a million (sic!) roubles in moral damages – exactly as much as he had earlier claimed from each of the newspapers Vash Oreol, Biznes-Kurs, Omskoye Vremya and Novaya Gazeta.
If his claim is satisfied in full, the defendant will only be able to relieve the governor’s “moral suffering” by selling his old one-bedroom flat on the city outskirts, since his other real property is limited to a 0.06-ha vegetable garden (worth not more than 100,000 roubles in Omsk), and his monthly income to a pension of 6,500 roubles.
As we have reported, Governor Polezhayev attempted last year to sue for words (for a transparency with “extremist” content unfolded during a protest rally) Alma Bukharbayeva, mother of a soldier killed in the army. However, that attempt failed: having won in the first-instance court, Polezhayev withdrew his claim and apoligised to the hero’s mother. The outcome of the latest litigation is difficult to predict, but his new legal claim is bound to cause broad public repercussions again.
Meanwhile, Kuznetsov is not giving up hope; he told the GDF correspondent he is ready to present in court “a lot of evidence” proving his charges against the governor are well-justified.
By Magomed Magomedov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District
Journalists from the Novoye Delo weekly news bulletin based in Dagestan have urged the republic’s prosecutor to qualify the Liberal-Democratic party (LDPR)’s booklet “Russians, Look Sterner!” as extremist.
In the view of the weekly’s chief editor Marco Shakhbanov, LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has tried hard to instigate inter-ethnic and inter-confessional hatred (toward residents of the North Caucasus), including with the help of media.
“No one has paid any serious attention to this, with some politicians labelling Zhirinovsky a clown who may as well be neglected,” Shakhbanov said. “But the problem is that his clownish behaviour has very negatively affected North Caucasians and may tell as badly upon Russia’s own future.”
Evidently, what caused the Dagestani journalists to frown at Zhirinovsky as an extremist was the LDPR booklet’s passage reading as follows:
“People in the Caucasus have always respected force only. However much money you might transfer there, that would not guarantee you against new terrorist acts or provocations... To take away money from Ivan the toiler and hand it over to Magomed the gangster, who would then kill Ivan and get away with it by bribing the police, is a really absurd thing to do.”
See Digest 521
By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District
The Leninsky district court in Rostov-on-Don has finished hearing the case of Margarita Yefremova, deputy editor and marketing director of the Yuzhny Federalny newspaper. As established in court, last April Yefremova faxed to the head of Morozovsky district administration a draft article she had written that was accusing him and the district police chief of machinations with land allotment.
The court found the defendant guilty of trying to extort 500,000 roubles from the two officials for not publishing that article in her newspaper. Later she agreed to take only 300,000 roubles, which sum was handed over to her in a Rostov cafe on 19 April 2011.
The district prosecutor asked for 3 years in a conventional penal colony for Yefremova, but the judge sentenced her to a suspended 2-year term of imprisonment with a 2-year probation period.
On23 November, the International Day to End Impunity, the Belarussian Journalists’ Association (BJA) reminded the authorities of the crimes committed against fellow reporters.
The Association made public a statement on journalists’ targeting in Belarus, BJA Deputy Chairman Andrei Bastunets told the BelaPAN news agency. “It is about barriers placed in the way of reporters’ professional work, and tragedies that happened to our colleagues,” he said referring to the cases which journalists say have never been fully investigated. “It’s about the killing of Veronica Cherkasova, the disappearance of Dmitry Zavadsky, the strange death of Oleg Bebenin and the no less strange death of Vassily Grodnikov,” Bastunets said.
BJA urged the General Prosecutor’s Office and Internal Affairs Ministry to restart investigations into the Zavadsky and Cherkasova cases so that the victims’ families, colleagues and society could finally learn who murdered the journalists and who masterminded their killings; and to hold additional transparent probes into the deaths of Bebenin and Grodnikov.
Copies of the statement were sent to the prosecutors’ offices and police departments charged with investigating the relevant cases, and to the General Prosecutor and Internal Affairs Minister of Belarus, Bastunets said.
According to him, at 3 p.m. on 23 November, colleagues from the Ukrainian Media Association handed over to the Belarussian embassy in Kiev an appeal containing demands similar to those listed in the BJA statement. The Belarussian Association, for its part, urged the Ukrainian embassy in Minsk to find and prosecute the masterminds of the killings of journalists Georgy Gongadze and Vassily Klimentyev, and the perpetrators of attacks and attempts on the lives of journalists Alexander Techinsky, Maxim Trebukhov, Alexei Matsuk and Vassily Demyanov; and have the other crimes against Ukrainian colleagues fully investigated.
In response to the IFEX call for holding the International Day to End Impunity on 23 November, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said it was joining the action and called “for governments around the world to prevent and punish violence against journalists, thus help making journalism safer”.
[Belorusskiye Novosti report, 23 November]
GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION
Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the internet, including at:
By Vakha Chapanov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District
On 4 December, the day of nationwide State Duma elections in Russia, voters in Ingushetia will also elect deputies to the People’s Assembly and local self-governments.
Polls show Ingush people intend to ignore next month’s elections the way the majority of them did during the 2 December 2007 presidential and People’s Assembly elections, when voter turnout in the republic was very low. In view of the complicated situation, the coordinating board of the All-Ingushetia Civil Council has made public the following statement:
“We are seriously concerned and worried by the continuously worsening situation in the electoral sphere, which is characterised by the absence of real political competition and by outrageous vote-rigging and falsifications in favour of parties representing the interests of the republic’s leadership... Most voters in the Republic of Ingushetia do not believe that the 4 December elections will be honest and fair, and they are unwilling to go to the polls because the outcome is pre-determined.
“The authorities are afraid to allow even limited-scale competition, giving tens of thousands of electors zero incentive to participate in the voting or hope for any improvement of the difficult socio-economic and political situation.
“All this indicates that the rulers themselves are uncertain about potential support from the electorate and that all branches of power, including local self-governments, stand low in the eyes of the public.
“Whatever their electoral pledges, the republic’s leaders are unable to cope with the people’s growing dissatisfaction with a power system that has lost sight of its targets and its ability to tackle problems that cause Ingush society to feel concerned.
“We urge the federal authorities to ensure full observance of the Ingush people’s constitutional rights and to enable them to express their real political preferences in the course of honest and fair elections of deputies to the State Duma, the People’s Assembly of the Republic of Ingushetia, and to municipal governments.
“It is up to electors, not government officials, to make their choices. The Electoral Committee must not allow itself to be led by the compromised ruling elite. If this false and overzealous imitation of a political process continues, then the Ingush public will not recognise the forthcoming elections as honest and fair and their returns as legitimate, which will inevitably raise questions as to the legitimacy of Ingushetia’s entire power system from bottom to top.
“We all should remember that voter exclusion from the electoral process through the use of unlawful political technologies means usurpation of power. Only a government system established and structured in line with the constitutional norms can be recognised as constitutional…
“We urge all the voters in the republic to go to the polls and express their civil stand by supporting one of the parties. Time has come for us to pass an exam for the right to be called citizens. High voter turnout and stringent control over the electoral process will reduce all sorts of machinations and falsifications to a minimum.
“Civil society is in a position to interfere in the electoral process. Unless we do so, we will once again prove the correctness of the old saying that each nation has the power system it deserves.”
[The statement was adopted at the 23 November 2011 meeting of the coordinating board of the All-Ingushetia Civil Council.]
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.
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