Дайджест
22 Февраля 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 558

20 February 2012

 

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Election campaign: Numerous violations recorded

In the run-up to the presidential elections due on 4 March, a variety of electoral law violations have been recorded throughout Russia. Below is an overview of those registered last week.

On February 12 Anne Nivat, a prominent French writer and journalist, was expelled from this country for “mixing with opposition activists”, which allegedly signalled a “misuse” of her business visa, according to migration service officials. Although Federal Migration Service (FMS) chief Konstantin Romodanovsky dismissed Vladimir Region FMS head Oleg Brechko for “carrying things too far” in Nivat’s case and ordered an internal probe into the circumstances, further meetings with the opposition are still out of the question for the French journalist.

Public attention was then drawn to developments around the Ekho Moskvy radio station. First, the company’s main stockholder, Gazprom, demanded the Board’s replacement – a “strictly intra-corporate affair”, according to Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, who also hastened to stress that the Ekho reshuffle should not be linked with the station’s criticism of the Russian premier. Shortly afterward, Ekho’s chief editor Alexei Venediktov was reported to have been summoned to the prosecutor’s office for questioning about the company charter in the wake of a “well-timed” complaint by a listener – A. Filsher of Tambov – about the allegedly “unlawful” charter provision requiring the radio station’s chief editor to be elected by the staff. The General Prosecutor’s Office, though, refuted the report about Venediktov’s summons but acknowledged that an inspection had indeed been ordered to check the “vigilant” listener’s complaint. That was followed by assurances that the popular radio station is “under no threat”, but many tend to see the Ekho-related developments as a continuation of the policy that once turned Russian television into an entertainment-propagandistic tool in the hands of the ruling elite.

Another scandal flared up as the “State Department with Sobchak” TV show was banned from the air on the MTV youth channel without any explanation. The reasons, though, were clear enough: anchorwoman Ksenya Sobchak had announced that Alexei Navalny, an extremely popular opposition activist, was to appear in the show. The MTV management later said the sharply politicised talk show was “of little interest” to the viewers; Sobchak contended that her show had from the outset enjoyed high popularity ratings...

The Zamoskvoretsky inter-district prosecutor’s office officially inquired into who financed coverage by the Dozhd TV channel of the opposition rallies for fair elections in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Avenue in December. The inquiry was made at the initiative of MP Robert Schlegel, a United Russia party (URP) representative, who said he was “just curious”, although the real reasons for the inquiry are still unclear, Lenta.ru reported.

A close look at reports from the regions revealed that editors of the government-controlled newspapers in Voronezh are required to feature the texts of Putin’s pre-election articles already published in the federal media earlier. A ruling party directive tells them also to feature comments “on the main points of the article” by regional or municipal Duma deputies representing the URP next to the main text, Y-Voronezh.com reported.

In Yaroslavl, NTM chief editor Anton Golitsyn published an open letter to the regional authorities accusing them of “deceiving and pressuring” the media. He refused to cover mayoral elections, taking a leave from work in view of “health problems”. “The diagnosis is simple enough: I am ashamed,” Grani.ru quoted him as saying. “Today, you’re banning my shows from the air. You’re banning (candidates other than Putin) from speaking live… All this is an actual media-cleansing campaign”.

In Pervouralsk, Sverdlovsk Region, press distributors stopped co-operating with “disloyal” newspapers, citing “unofficial recommendations” to that effect from local administration officials.

And in Samara, unidentified assailants beat up Radio Liberty reporter and prominent human rights activist Alexander Lashmankin. They attacked him one evening on his way to a meeting of the organising committee of the “For Fair Elections” movement; he was taken to hospital with a brain injury, broken nose and facial bruises.

As we see, the authorities have used whatever means are available, including administrative leverage, censorship and banal criminal acts, to control the opposition… And they continue relying on Central Electoral Committee Chairman Churov, who is as ready as ever to “help legitimize” whatever falsifications may follow. Sort of “jumping the gun”, Churov has already warned that the number of electoral law violations to be reported during the presidential campaign may exceed those recorded during December’s parliamentary elections. This had to be expected, though.

In this kind of situation, the outcome of the presidential race looks predetermined, and its legitimacy is growing more and more questionable.

 

RUSSIA

Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (North Caucasus). TV anchors threatened with violence

Aznor Attayev and Arina Zhilyasova, anchors of the Vesti news show released by the Kabardino-Balkaria State TV/Radio Company, have been threatened with murder by the leader of an outlawed extremist movement.

A video clip that appeared on the radical Islamist website Jamaat Takbir on 13 February featured “Explanations from Amir Abdul-Malik” – routine calls on the public to help Islamist fighters with arms, money and moral support under the threat of reprisals. This time, however, extremists decided also to intimidate anchors of the Vesti show who, in their view, had “shown too much enthusiasm” describing special law enforcement operations aimed to track down and apprehend armed gangsters and their accomplices. Surrounded by armed thugs in facial masks, Amir Abdul-Malik was shown promising the two TV hosts to “cut out” their smiles with a knife.

This marked the first ever instance of so-called “amirs” (gang leaders) openly threatening journalists in Kabardino-Balkaria. Until recently, personal threats were made only to republican administration officials, traditional Islamic clergymen, law enforcement officers, servicemen of different government organisations, and individual businessmen.

Voronezh. Police officer fired for interference with journalists’ work at polling station

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Human rights defenders in Voronezh have succeeded in getting a police lieutenant dismissed from the police for hampering the work of a reporter for the GOLOS Association, a monitor of elections in Russia, at a polling station during the Duma elections of 4 December.

According to the local office of GOLOS, the incident occurred at polling station No. 31/32, where reporter Maxim Lobanov arrived to monitor the voting process. Seeing United Russia flags hung out at the entrance as an instance of unlawful agitation, he turned to the electoral committee head for explanations. The latter denied him registration as an observer and called the police.

Meanwhile, Natalya Zvyagina, who combines the position of leader of the Youth Human Rights Movement with that of a legal consultant for the Voronezh office of GOLOS, arrived at the same polling station to monitor the proceedings. Lt. Dmitry Pylev, the police officer on duty, attempted to seize her photo camera and pushed Zvyagina rudely several times.

He led Lobanov out into a police vehicle, requiring him to provide written explanations.

After the incident, Lobanov and Zvyagina complained about the police officer’s behaviour to the regional Interior Department’s internal security unit, which informed them a few days ago that D. Pylev had been dismissed from service.

Khabarovsk. Editor of Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda acquitted

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

After six months of judicial investigation and a pause in anticipation of the results of a linguistic expert study ordered last year, a sentence was finally passed on 14 February in the case of Lyudmila Boldyreva, general director and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda.

As we have reported, the editor faced charges of libel and defamation (Articles 129 and 130 of the RF Criminal Code) – see Digest 528. Both articles were decriminalized two months ago, shifting into the sphere of administrative offences, but the defendant insisted that hearings of her case be completed in full.

“With the charges against me decriminalized now, I could have demanded an end to the proceedings, but I deliberately waived that right,” Boldyreva said. “I’ve worked as a journalist for more than 25 years and am leading a 150-strong team of journalists today. I am convinced a sentence needs to be passed in my case.”

The victims – parents of a Railway University student, Andrei Nemtsov, who died allegedly of grave bodily harm inflicted on him by a 75-year-old professor, Anatoly Ivanov, who has been convicted and is serving a prison term – were appalled by a story published by Boldyreva who dared question the fairness of the professor’s conviction. She “deliberately distorted the facts and spread libellous information, thereby publicly defaming us as the victims and discrediting the prosecutor’s office, investigators and judges,” they wrote in their claim.

“My publication reflected my personal judgment as to the efficiency of the law enforcement and judicial bodies which investigated this crime,” Boldyreva said during the last court sitting. Her lawyer, Dr. Yuri Kuleshov, referred in his defence statement to Putin’s pre-election articles in which the premier “cut up the (poorly performing) law enforcement system”.

Judge Irina Sytnik at Precinct No. 18 in Khabarovsk’s Kirov district acquitted Boldyreva under Article 130, stating that “in and of itself, the publishing of several stories describing this case does not prove that in writing them, Boldyreva fulfilled anyone’s order or request”. The judge also ruled to terminate the proceedings under Article 129.2 and to forward the case to the Kirov district prosecutor for handling (as subject to public, not private, prosecution).

Separate mention should be made of the expert opinion about Boldyreva’s publication provided by Valeria Ivanova, a Moscow-based expert in forensic linguistic and authorship studies. Replying to the questions set before her by the court, she stated that the publication “does not contain insulting statements… or negative evaluations” and that it “is essentially evaluative but not negative (in its tonality)”. She specially stressed that, “Irony, ironic words and concealed mockery cannot be subject to judicial investigation, since they are all related to perception. One and the same ironic utterance can be perceived differently by different individuals: some may react positively to it, others negatively, still others may not see the irony at all. A textual hint presuming guesswork on the part of the reader cannot per se insult or defame, since one cannot establish whether the reader did actually get the point. A hint may be defined as such by a linguistic expert, but it cannot be an argument proving that a text features ‘negative’ information.”

Republic of Karelia. Petrozavodsk administration keeps concealing information from reporters

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

In Petrozavodsk, Karelia, just as elsewhere in Russia, local administrations seek to optimise budget expenditure. In some cases, for example where institutions with overlapping functions are liquidated, these efforts are useful – but it is always necessary to inform the public which structure is being reorganised and who is expected to benefit from this. In this context, it seems only natural that journalists want to attend discussions of matters of considerable social importance. This is what Tatyana Demidova, a reporter for the Petrozavodsk newspaper, thought as she went to attend a conference that was to discuss reforming the city’s children’s sports schools.

The conference was presumably open to all, including journalists. Yet heads of the Petrozavodsk administration, specifically Deputy Mayor L. Podsadnik and Physical Culture and Sports Department head V. Filin, did not let Demidova through on the pretext that neither she as a sports columnist nor any other press reporters had been invited.

Upon learning about this instance of interference with journalists’ work, Karelia’s Journalists’ Union sent a letter to Petrozavodsk Mayor Nikolai Levin urging him to hold the two officials liable for breaching federal legislation.

This is not for the first time that Petrozavodsk administrators attempt to place barriers in journalists’ way. The Journalists’ Union has repeatedly complained to the prosecutor’s office about unlawfully behaving officials; it seems it is about time someone “cut them down to size” – particularly in view of the prosecutors’ warning already received once by Mayor Levin.

 

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

Hunger strike in Omsk reveals strange coincidences

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The regional court in Omsk has required the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (NG) to publish a belated disclaimer – that the person whose actions a group of hunger strikers are protesting is not the one mentioned in an NG story dated 21 January.

The story in question, posted on the newspaper’s website, was about a “warning” hunger strike being held by 25 Omsk Region residents, among them Svetlana Kosheleva, a mother of three, who was kicked out into the street together with her son-in-law and a 5-month-old grandson from the house she had lived in for many years. The place was promptly occupied by Olga Filatova, “common-law wife of Nikolai Garkusha, chairman of the Omsk Region College of Judges, which status he publicly acknowledged in the course of court hearings”, the story said.

Three weeks after the publication, regional court spokeswoman Yulia Sokolenko told NG that Garkusha, the man representing Filatova’s interests during district court hearings, was not the person who heads the qualifying college of judges – although the two men are full namesakes; as established in the course of a check-up ordered by the regional court, they have different passports, and one was born in 1960, the other a year later. The “real” Nikolai Garkusha has been married for many years to one woman and never been known to have any other, not even a common-law, wife. Hence the requirement for NG to refute its “inaccurate” report, the court said. While apologising to the chairman of the college of judges on its website, Novaya Gazeta also posted comments by hunger strikers.

They appear to be concerned over a whole number of strange “coincidences”, so the poster featuring Garkusha’s name is still on the Hall of Shame board fixed on a wall of the house where the hunger strike is being held (which has repeatedly been shown on regional TV). They also continue insisting on his resignation, for which “there are quite a few reasons”, according to the protesters.

In a score of complaints she filed with the Omsk prosecutor’s office, RF Investigative Committee and RF Supreme Qualifying College of Judges, Svetlana Kosheleva wrote it was he, Nikolai Garkusha in person, who contributed to her family’s ejection from their house. None of the power bodies mentioned above has so far officially replied to her, although her complaint to the city prosecutor was filed back in December. It was then forwarded to the RF Investigative Committee which ordered a probe into the circumstances; in the course of questioning, Kosheleva and her representative Ninel Vinevitina (also a hunger striker) confirmed what they had said earlier, and no official protests followed. Nor did Garkusha himself insist on a disclaimer, although the wife of one hunger striker testified he had “helped vacate (Kosheleva’s) apartment for his common-law wife”. Replying to her, Garkusha chose to avoid any mention of this fact at all, as did also the regional court chairman, V. A. Yarkovoy.

Other “strange coincidences” are still waiting to be explained too: the two namesakes happen to have similar signatures (copies of which are at NG’s disposal). Also, according to Kosheleva, the two men are look-alikes (she saw a photo of the chairman of the college of judges in the Internet). She saw Nikolai Garkusha giving testimony in court and says the judges treated him with servility. “When he presented a power of attorney, they didn’t even ask his passport,” Kosheleva said adding that his refusal to present a list of property owned by his client was taken by the court “for granted”.

The hunger strikers are demanding that this gentleman’s identity be established through an official check-up. Word has gone around that Russian law enforcers are allowed to have more than one passport (more and more such facts have surfaced lately). In protesters’ view, the court demanded a disclaimer from NG in view of a team of inspectors from the General Prosecutor’s Office arriving in Omsk one of these days to check local prosecutors’ performance…

 

OUR PARTNERS

Radio Ekho Moskvy’s communique

Gazprom-Media, the Ekho Moskvy radio station’s controlling stockholder (with 66% of the company’s shares), has demanded – in full accordance with Russian legislation – the convocation of a general meeting to discuss the early termination of the powers of the incumbent Board of Directors and election of a new body of the Board.

Ekho’s staff journalists (holding 34% of the shares) find this demand surprising, since the regular annual meeting at which a new composition of the Board is to be elected is scheduled for June, which brings to the fore the need to explain all this rush.

We express regret that as a result of the latest developments, two independent directors – Alexander Makovsky and Yevgeny Yasin – have been compelled to resign from the Board after eleven years of vigorous efforts to contribute to Ekho’s development. We see their replacement from the Board as an unfair act and intend to initiate the passing of amendments to the radio station’s charter that would provide for the establishment of a Board of Trustees to be led by A. Makovsky and Y. Yasin, so that they could continue their Ekho-developing work.

This notwithstanding, we have coordinated with Gazprom-Media a single list of candidates for seats on the new Board for whom we will vote during the 29 March 2012 meeting of shareholders. Preserving the institute of independent (unrelated to shareholders) directors, we supported the candidacies of Vadim Semenov, General Director of Svyazinvest, and Yevgeny Trubin, former General Director of Lenizdat Publishers’, as nominees for the new openings.

We understand that Gazprom-Media could not but react to criticism of our radio station by Russia’s top-ranking government executives.

We assure listeners that Ekho’s editorial policy has been and will continue to be based on the laws of the Russian Federation and meet the criteria of public good; this is generally the way our station has operated up until now.

2 February 2012

 

LETTER

From publisher in Moscow Region

Dear colleagues:

Knowing your organisation as a defender of journalists’ rights, we hereby ask you for support.

On Friday, 17 February, the office of the newspaper Energiya released by OAO MSZ, Russia’s leading producer of nuclear fuel for Rosatom Corp.’s nuclear power plants and submarines, had a group of visitors led by Bailiff Y. Patakhova, who came with a warrant of diligence issued in the name of the tenant organisation which had occupied the building until 31 December 2011. They seized all the more or less valuable property they found, which action brought the newspaper’s operation to a full standstill. Attempts by colleagues to explain that they are a different organisation and different tenant, and that some of the office PCs are staffers’ personal property were in vain – the bailiffs were deaf to their pleas, briskly packing and carrying away computers, printers, telephones and other office equipment. Their leader Patakhova, in spite of repeated requests, refused to leave a copy of the confiscation protocol; so Energiya’s journalists have no official paper to prove their office ever became the venue of a “special operation” conducted by the bailiffs.

What Patakhova kept repeating was, “Go to law to have your property back – if you can prove it’s yours.” Evidently, presumption of innocence means nothing to bailiffs in the city of Elektrostal – they seize whatever they can lay their hands on!

Now Energiya staffers are sitting at bare desks gloomily trying to figure out if they’ll be compelled to write news reports using pen and ink as in olden days, and to print their newspaper on a mimeograph machine…

By the way, Energiya is one of the nuclear industry’s oldest newspapers, established in 1990. It is released once a week in 8,000 copies. Its readers are active and retired workers of OAO MSZ. The head office is in the city of Elektrostal, Moscow Region.

Sincerely,
Alexander Kuznetsov
General Director, OOO Atompressa, member of RF Journalists’ Union

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitoring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.

Contacts:

Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 432, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or 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