Дайджест26 Апреля 2012 года
Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 567
23 April 2012
Story of the week
STORY OF THE WEEK
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to the global defence of press freedom, published on 17 April its 2012 Impunity Index listing the countries where journalists get killed and their killers go unpunished. Russia – the sole one among the European countries – is on that list, too.
The Impunity Index, annually published by the CPJ since 2008, names the countries whose governments have proven helpless in solving journalist murders. This year’s Index lists 12 countries where five of more such murders, committed in the past 10 years, remain unsolved, meaning that no convictions have ever been passed in those cases.
The situation is the worst in Iraq, where no one has been brought to justice in the past decade in any of the 93 journalist murders committed over that time. “Most of the murders occurred as Iraq was immersed in war, but even now, as authorities claim stability, they have failed to bring justice in a single case,” the report says. Somalia with 11 unsolved murders has ranked second worst for three years running. The other countries on the CPJ Index are the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Nepal, Afghanistan, Mexico, Russia, Pakistan, Brazil and India.
As regards Russia, the situation here has not changed since last year: Russia ranks 9th with 16 journalist murders remaining unsolved. The most recent victim was Gadzhimurad Kamalov, founder of the independent Dagestani weekly Chernovik, who was gunned down in December 2011. “Authorities have made modest progress in some cases: several suspects were indicted last year in the 2006 killing of Anna Politkovskaya, but authorities have yet to bring the case to trial or identify the mastermind,” the report says, citing Sergey Sokolov, deputy editor of Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, as saying, “The impunity the masterminds enjoy – this is the main part of the mechanism which breeds new murders.”
Other facts mentioned in the CPJ Index are: (a) Local journalists are the victims in the vast majority of unsolved cases; (b) Political reporting was the most dangerous beat; (c) Even in conflict zones, the targeted killing of journalists is common. Besides, killers’ impunity is conducive to the spread of self-censorship practices in the press. Threats are a major indicator of potential killings of journalists: “In more than 40 percent of cases reviewed for the Index, victims received death threats prior to their murders,” the report says.
See Digest 549
By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District
In Novocherkassk, Rostov Region, Irina Vassilyeva, editor of the newspaper Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti and director of the municipal unitary enterprise publishing this newspaper, has lodged yet another legal claim asking the city court to reinstate her as editor/director, and award her backpay along with compensation for the moral damage she suffered finding herself fired for the fourth (sic!) time.
“In his address to a commission of deputies, Deputy Mayor Pavel Ovcharov said I’ve released my newspaper only to be eligible for subsidies from the budget; and that we don’t actually distribute our newspaper but burn it right in the office,” Vassilyeva said telling the story of her dismissal. “Also, he said there’s a team of ‘shadow authors’ working for me. That’s what he called the freelance reporters with each of whom we’ve signed a contract, as required under the law, to reward them for the work done. Since our newspaper has no editor at all at the moment, the pages are signed for printing by the newly appointed director Yuri Butin’s wife, who is actually a proof-reader.”
It looks as if the mayor’s office in Novocherkassk has nothing else to do but fire Vassilyeva again and again. But then, the city administration’s actions cannot be described as totally senseless: with Mayor Nikolai Kondratenko due to report to the city Duma on his accomplishments shortly, a group of deputies intend to give him a vote of no confidence and urge him to resign. In a situation as complex as this, the mayor’s office is evidently seeking to fully control the content of the largest municipal newspaper’s reporting.
By Magomed Magomedov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District
Ramazan Novruzaliyev, chief accountant of the news agency “Dagestan” and a prominent North Caucasian blogger, was killed in Derbent, Dagestan, on 20 April.
Eyewitnesses say he was invited to Khayal Restaurant’s banquet room for a business meeting that soon grew into a high-toned verbal exchange that ended up with a gunshot at Novruzaliyev. He was rushed to hospital but died there hours later.
The police have identified the gunman as a Moscow resident, 21, son of the banquet room’s owner, whose motives are being analysed. Preliminary investigation shows he felt hostile toward the victim. The police are taking steps to apprehend him.
One version being checked now is that Novruzaliyev was killed because of a money debt. “The alleged killer has been identified; he is on the police wanted list,” the Dagestani Investigative Committee said.
Police and prosecutors in Omsk see release and circulation of duplicate newspapers as non-criminal practice
By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District
The Pervomaisky district court and Leninsky district magistrate in Omsk, Siberia, have issued writs of administrative offence imposing civil fines on distributors of fake newspapers released in huge numbers on the eve of the elections to the City Council, held concurrently with the 4 March presidential vote.
The law enforcers proved unable to identify anyone of those who ordered or produced the duplicate (i.e., rival) number of one of the city’s most popular newspapers, Domashnyaya Gazeta, although a police raid on a storehouse had resulted in the seizure of 300,000 copies of the fake (of a total of half a million copies reportedly printed). Allegedly on behalf of Communist and Fair Russia party nominees, as well as the pro-mayor Omsk Initiative movement, which was running against the pro-governor Omsk Spring movement in that election race, the forged issue called for pay rises to deputies and mayoral officials, the introduction of a paid education system, wage cuts for budget-financed government employees to replenish the so-called “300th Anniversary of Omsk Fund”, the imposition of a curfew, etc. – clearly, all this for the purpose of smearing the said political parties and individual public figures in the eyes of ordinary voters.
This might cost the provocateurs criminal liability on at least two charges – libel and copyright violation. But Domashnyaya Gazeta director Andrei Tkachuk’s official reports to the police and prosecutor’s office were abandoned. “There are no elements of crime in this,” the SuperOmsk news website cited the Investigative Committee as telling Tkachuk. Nor did the law enforcers find any signs of a criminal offence in the illegal releases of duplicate issues of the Moy Rayon and Vash Oreol newspapers in numbers several times larger than the original print run.
This story, just as many other similar ones, ended in administrative charges brought against two scapegoats – university students aged just over 20 – a boy and a girl caught red-handed while handing out fake newspapers to passers-by in the street and tossing them into residents’ mailboxes. A few days ago they were found guilty of breaching Article 5.12.1 of the RF Administrative Code (circulation of campaign material in violation of electoral law provisions) and sentenced to a fine of 1,000 roubles each.
It is unclear whether the managers of the original newspapers will continue searching for the persons who ordered parodying their publications. They still have some time to challenge the law enforcers’ actions – or, rather, their total inaction.
By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District
The Leninsky district court in Voronezh on 19 April opened hearings of an honour, dignity and business reputation protection claim filed against the regional newspaper Voronezhsky Kuryer (VK) by Yuri Bavykin, deputy head of the Verkhne-Donskoye department of Rostekhnadzor [federal service overseeing ecology, technology and nuclear power engineering], who wants a disclaimer and 1 million roubles in moral damages.
The claim was lodged in the wake of a 13 March publication describing Rostekhnadzor’s dispute with a company called OKO Ltd., which accused Bavykin and his reports of requiring firms that provide technological expert conclusions to “share” their profits with his agency by paying for official certification of their findings. Otherwise, they said, they would not confirm the results of technical expert studies.
It may as well be noted that OKO had already complained about Rostekhnadzor’s unlawful behaviour to the prosecutor’s office, which fact the journalist mentioned in his article which cited excerpts from the text of his complaint.
VK’s interests are being represented in court by defence lawyer Svetlana Kuzevanova of the Media Rights Defence Centre in Voronezh.
By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District
Roskomnadzor, the federal service overseeing public communications, has gone to law more and more often lately to request the annulment of the registration certificates of media outlets not operating in real terms. The controlling agency’s increased activity may be attributed to the 18 March finalisation of the rules of conducting the Russian media’s official register. Enactment of the rules must have galvanised Roskomnadzor officials into action to deregister the non-operating media outlets. Earlier, this work was part of the overall supervision routine; today, it appears to be strictly targeted. Print media, for example, have been required, as “a must”, to present check copies of their releases to the Book Chamber and Roskomnadzor, along with updates on the size of the circulation, etc.
Since a media outlet’s registration can only be cancelled under a court ruling, Roskomnadzor and its regional branches have increasingly often filed relevant requests with courts of law. In the case of non-operating media, rulings have to be typically passed in absentia, because the founder can rarely be identified (see, e.g., ruling No.2-927/12 recently passed by the Krasnogvardeisky district court in St. Petersburg). Before a legal claim is lodged, inquiries are sent to the founder and staff’s addresses specified in the registration certificate. After a Roskomnadzor claim has been satisfied, the judicial fee is charged to the media outlet’s founder.
The Glasnost Defence Foundation is once again calling on all media and their founders to fully comply with the relevant law provisions. If a media outlet stops operating, be sure to notify Roskomnadzor or, still better, to take independent action to have your registration certificate annulled.
By Tatyana Sedykh, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District
For more than six months now, Konstantin Pronyakin, editor of the Khabarovsk-based news website Debri-DV, has been denied accreditation at, or invitation to attend, any events held by Viktor Ishayev, President Medvedev’s personal envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District. Pronyakin is not a corrupt official or a gangster, it should be stressed – he is just an independent journalist. “I believe by refusing to accredit me with the envoy’s office, they violate the law ‘On Securing Equal Access to Information’,” he repeatedly said in a bid to draw public attention to Ishayev and his team’s negligent attitude to Media Law observance, which they must be thinking they will somehow get by with.
The independent newspaper Khabarovsky Ekspress (KE) has been finding itself in a similar situation: none of its reporters has been invited in the past few years to attend any important news-making event organised by Ishayev’s office.
Arrowy tongues say this may be in revenge for such KE publications as “How Viktor Ivanovich (Ishayev) Jeep-Chased a Police Detective”, “The Platinum Governor”, “Viktor Ishayev the ‘Great Scholar’,” “Ishayev’s Family Business”, “Who Made Holes in Khabarovsk Region Budget” and others.
Idrak Abbasov, a journalist and human rights activist, was attacked in the Sulu-Tepe residential area in a suburb of Azerbaijan’s capital at about noon on 18 April, Radio Liberty’s Farid Arifoglu reported.
The journalist was shooting video sequences of a confrontation between local residents and a state-owned oil company’s security guards who were tearing down people’s homes. The company believes those houses were built on its land illegally.
Several guards attacked Abbasov, tore away his camera and proceeded to beat him. He was later brought, unconscious, to the city hospital. Despite a scull trauma and numerous bruises, there is no immediate threat to his life, doctors say.
Earlier, Abbasov was repeatedly targeted by authorities in connection with his journalistic and human rights activities. Last month he received a Freedom of Expression Award from the international rights organisation “Index on Censorship”.
[Radio Liberty report, 18 April]
Uralskaya Nedelya correspondent Lukpan Akhmedyarov was in surgery in Uralsk, western Kazakhstan, when Radio Azattyk staffers managed to get through on the phone to his colleague Tamara Eslyamova, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.
She was at the hospital together with his other friends and relatives. The doctors were refraining from any assessments but said he had been “gravely” wounded. “The surgery continued for three hours; it turned out he’d received eight knife stabs in the chest and two bullet wounds from a traumatic gun; his condition is said to be very serious,” Eslyamova said. Akhmedyarov was then transferred to an intensive care ward at the regional clinic. “It’s good the attackers missed the heart – he was lucky not to lose too much blood, and no transfusion was needed,” she added.
Colleagues say Akhmedyarov was attacked near his apartment house after 10 p.m. on 19 April as he went out to have a smoke. “Neighbours say they saw at least five attackers,” Eslyamova said. The police arrived at the scene of the crime that night to question Akhmedyarov and his wife, she added.
The editor links the assault with the journalist’s civil and professional activities. He repeatedly mentioned receiving threats and being subjected to pressure together with his family, she said. “Two days ago, one of his wife’s employers called her to his office and said to tell her husband to stop organising protect rallies, because National Security Committee officers had already contacted the company over that matter,” Eslyamova said.
A correspondent for Radio Azattyk got through on the phone to the city police in Uralsk. Kuat Duisengaliyev, deputy chief of staff, told him police operatives were conducting a probe into the case. “I can’t say anything at the moment,” he said. “Arman Mukhamedyarov, deputy chief of the police, is at the scene of the crime right now; he’ll be available for details in the afternoon. We suspect two hooligans of attacking journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov.”
On 7 March, Radio Azattyk reported Akhmedyarov had been stopped by police a whole three times that day – in his own view, in connection with the application he and a group of local civil activists had filed with the mayor’s office requesting authorisation to hold another Disagreement Day action on 24 March. Akhmedyarov was one of the action organisers.
He has more than once fallen into disfavour with the authorities for staging protests and asking local officials “inconvenient” questions.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has posted on its website an appeal to Kazakhstani authorities to fully investigate the attack on Akhmedyarov and hold the guilty persons liable under the law.
“This near-fatal attack on Lukpan Akhmedyarov shows just how dangerous it is to be an independent investigative journalist in Kazakhstan,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Akhmedyarov criticised the government and he now lies in hospital. The authorities must thoroughly investigate this brutal assault and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
[Radio Azattyk report, 20 April]
United Russia leader and district newspaper editor in Omsk Region fined for unlawful campaigning for Putin
By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District
As compared with other districts in the north of the Omsk Region (Tara, Muromtsevo, Tevriz), Bolshiye Uki, lying in a marshland amid a taiga zone, is thought to be the back of beyond. In poky holes like this, the United Russia party (URP)’s positions are typically very strong. This notwithstanding, local URP leader Nadezhda Kleshchenok, who is also deputy head of the district administration, has been brought to administrative responsibility for unlawfully campaigning for Putin during the latest presidential elections – for hanging out a URP banner just before the 4 March vote – and required by the regional electoral committee to pay a fine of 1,000 roubles.
The editor of the district newspaper Luch will have to pay as much in fine for featuring a 2 March article calling to vote for only one candidate, Vladimir Putin, which was at odds with the Constitutional Court’s resolution of 15 October 2003.
Getting the authorities to acknowledge those violations was not easy, Vassily Lutonin, secretary of the district branch of the Communist party (CPRF), told the GDF correspondent. “First, the regional electoral committee refused outright to accept my complaint, telling me to go to the prosecutor’s office instead,” he said. “The prosecutors, for their part, claimed ready to support me in court but, again, refused to take my complaint, saying that was beyond their jurisdiction; they forwarded me further to the police. Once there, I was told they didn’t look into cases of this kind and that I’d better turn to a justice of the peace. The latter sent me back to the police.”
Completing the vicious circle, Lutonin found himself at the prosecutor’s office again, which agreed at long last to make a representation to the regional electoral committee, whose chair, Pyotr Portyanko, was finally compelled to acknowledge the violations.
“Didn’t they show you unlawful campaigning clips on TV just before the vote?” I asked Lutonin.
“Of course they did, but that was hard to prove,” he said. “I had a newspaper as a graphic piece of evidence in my hand – and yet I had to waste as much time as I did going through all those channels.”
Lutonin also managed to gear the police, insisting that they start legal proceedings in connection with “damage to presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov’s campaign materials”: someone in Bolshiye Uki stuck Putin’s photo portrait right over a portrait of Zyuganov on a billboard in front of the CPRF office on 2 March. The 30-day period established under the law for the police to identify the wrongdoers is not yet over, Lutonin said.
While forecasting political trends Russia-wide is a pretty difficult thing to do, one may be satisfied the next election in Bolshiye Uki is bound to be fairer and more honest.
By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District
Joseph Charny, who defended political prisoners in the Soviet Union, has released a book entitled “A Defence Lawyer vs. the KGB” (Perm, 2012). The eminent lawyer was guided by the behest of one of his clients, Anatoly Marchenko, who died in the Chistopol political prison in 1987 and who had once said, “My testimony is needed in the first place by my people: they want to know the truth.” (“My Testimony”, Novy Mir magazine, No. 12, December 1989.)
In the foreword to his book, J. Charny admits that before the events of 1984-1987 he, a Communist party member, had not belonged to the fighters against the totalitarian regime and had little known at all about such fighters. In 1984 he, then a lawyer at the Leninsky district legal consulting office in Perm, was approached by the wife of Joseph Begun, convicted under Article 70.1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (“Calls for a violent overthrow of, or change to, the Soviet state and social system”) and serving a prison term in the UT-389/35 penal colony near the town of Chusovoy. She said the colony management had unlawfully put her husband into solitary confinement (as a penalty).
Having signed an agreement to defend Begun, the lawyer went to see his client in the Perm-35 penal colony near the township of Tsentralny, having co-ordinated the day of the visit with the colony management. He was met by a plain-clothed man who presented himself as a senior lieutenant of the KGB and who followed him to the colony chief’s office. During the meeting, the lawyer was told by Begun he was under the management’s pressure to repent. Seeing that attempts to appeal against the additional sanctions imposed on him would be useless, Charny and his client agreed that a good way to avoid further pressure would be to make the management’s arbitrary behaviour known to the public.
They were never allowed to meet again. Their scheduled meeting in the Perm-36 colony near the village of Polovinka was cancelled on the pretext of some “special order” being needed. In the spring of 1985, Begun was transferred to the city prison in Vladimir. Nor could they meet in April 1986 in the UE-148/4 penal colony in Chistopol, Tatarstan, where Begun had been transferred by that time and was receiving medical treatment in the prison hospital.
But there, in Chistopol, J. Charny had the long-awaited opportunity to meet with Anatoly Marchenko (convicted under Article 70.2 of the RSFSR Criminal Code), who had earlier served his time in the Perm-37 penal colony in Kuchino village. His wife Larisa Bogoraz – also a prominent human rights defender – had requested Charny’s legal assistance in view of her husband’s repeated beating by colony guards. After the Chistopol meeting, the lawyer filed a complaint with the USSR General Prosecutor’s Office.
Marchenko never saw freedom again; he died of a severe illness in prison just three months before the political prisoners’ amnesty announced in 1987. Defence lawyer Charny’s license was cancelled after repeated warnings by the KGB “not to get in their way”. He lost his job in the wake of a 23 November 1986 publication in the newspaper Zvezda that accused him of taking 100 roubles “from husband and wife P.” in addition to the official fee charged for a defence lawyer’s services to a figurant in a criminal case.
Although being at law with a Communist party newspaper was against the Soviet-era rules, Charny lodged a legal claim and demanded a disclaimer. The first ruling passed by the Ordzhonikidze district court in Perm was not in his favour, but the higher-standing regional court of appeals agreed that the first-instance court had failed to make a comprehensive study of the evidence presented by the plaintiff. Specifically, it had ignored eyewitnesses’ testimony and the documents showing that Charny had been out of town on the day of his alleged taking the money from Valery and Nonna Postanogov. The case was reviewed – this time by the regional court performing as the first-instance court, which on 9 July 1987 required the article’s author to disclaim the article disparaging Charny’s honour and dignity. The ruling was upheld by the RSFSR Supreme Court, which on 28 September 1987 turned down the Ordzhonikidze district court and Zvezda’s protests and left the regional court decision in full legal force.
Joseph Charny got back his defence lawyer’s license. On his difficult way to victory, he writes in his book, he learned that the police and prosecutor’s office – evidently at the KGB initiative – had carefully studied the 116 criminal cases he had handled. Some of his former clients, including those serving time in pre-trial detention centres or correctional labour camps, had been summoned “for a conversation” during which they were put under pressure to testify against Charny. For example, Valery Postanogov – the man who had allegedly paid Charny in addition to the regular fee – had been released from prison ahead of time on the eve of the trial over Charny and even reinstated as a university student despite his unexpunged conviction. A letter addressed to Charny came to the Regional Bar from the United States later with an enclosed leaflet of the People’s Labour Union (an emigrant organisation outlawed in the USSR), which all looked like a clear provocation.
“My personal struggle against the KGB ended positively for me,” Charny writes in his book. “But they did not fully fail, either. I stayed jobless for ten months, and everybody could clearly see one had better refrain from coming to grips with the KGB. I would like to note at once that should anything of the kind happen again to me now – or have happened at that time – I would take the same path without thinking twice… because I want people to be honest and act in accordance with law.”
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.
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