Дайджест5 Мая 2012 года
Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 568
30 April 2012
Event of the week
News from partners
EVENT OF THE WEEK
By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District
When the opposition announced plans to hold a prayer service, “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Drive Putin Away!”, about 200 people came to Moscow’s Cathedral of the Redeemer on 29 April, including opposition activists, their opponents from different Orthodox organisations, and several dozen Cossacks. The police took steps to strengthen security near the venue of the action.
Only two persons were detained – Roman Dobrokhotov, the action organiser, and another man who stepped in to defend a woman who was arguing with supporters of the Russian Orthodox Church. The number of opponents of the prayer service exceeded that of protesters. The group of Cossacks and so-called “Orthodox gonfaloniers” – in black paramilitary uniform, some in tall astrakhan hats despite the April heat – looked much like members of the Black Hundred.
They were rather aggressive, chanting, “No to sodomy!” and “Orthodoxy or death!”. Several dozen of them stood along the church fence, not allowing anyone they disliked to go through. This even led to a few minor clashes. People in the square in front of the cathedral were arguing loudly, divided into two groups – supporters of the Patriarch and Orthodox Church, and their opponents. Bickering sometimes boiled over into bad-name exchanges provoked mostly by believers, who accused their opponents of non-traditional sexual orientation.
Many reporters were covering the action; relationships among the journalists were sometimes complicated, too. Members of an NTV crew well remembered due to a series of reports on previous protests cursed loudly as other journalists came up. A young girl from the crew started shouting at a Radio Liberty correspondent to go away, since she was “asking exclusive questions”.
During a heated argument, a man kept stepping up before the RL reporter to screen the proceedings from the camera with his back. Another one said if the camera weren’t switched off immediately, it would be smashed. The threat sounded serious enough, particularly as several other Orthodox activists moved closer to the reporter, telling him to take away his camera “the good way”. Squeezed tight among a group of believers, the correspondent felt someone grabbing him by the arm. To preserve the camera, the reporter had to pretend he had switched it off, which was enough for the activists to calm down.
Anyone carrying a photo or a video camera was forbidden to go through into the church square. The ban was ordered by the church management, police said.
By Magomed Magomedov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District
Ruslan Gereyev, a reporter for the Dagestani weekly newspaper Nastoyashcheye Vremya, was attacked by unidentified persons in Makhachkala on 24 April.
Several men attacked him not far from his newspaper’s office in Akushinsky Avenue in the evening and proceeded to beat him right on the street, Gereyev said adding he does not know the why. He underwent a medical examination and was diagnosed with an elbow injury, numerous bruises and a haematoma near the temple that might result from a blow with brass knuckles or a pistol butt, medics said. The journalist was offered first aid and released; he reported the beating to the Kirovsky district police department in Makhachkala.
The law enforcement agencies have confirmed the fact of the attack on Gereyev, which they see as possibly connected with his professional work. NV chief editor Milrad Fatullayev intends to press for criminal proceedings to be started.
Gereyev, who is NV deputy editor-in-chief, engages in research in such areas as conflict settlement, religion, and youth strategies.
By Natalya Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District
The Glasnost Defence Foundation has been informed a reporter for the web newspaper Park Gagarina (PG) and her family have been receiving threats, which fact has been reported to the Samara Region prosecutor’s office, Investigative Committee, and regional police department, with requests to have these incidents duly investigated.
PG observer Darya Grigoryan and her relatives started receiving threats after her husband posted in the Internet photo pictures of private cars parked on sidewalks and at pedestrian crossings, endangering people who therefore are compelled to skirt the illegal parking lots and walk across the busy roadway at the risk of being run down. The fines levied on the road rule violators gave rise to their threats to “catch” the police informers and “have it out” with them.
Her husband’s junior brother called her on the phone, frightened, on 20 April to say he had been approached by an acquaintance showing him a photo of her son riding a scooter in the backyard, Grigoryan said. “He resolutely refused to name that acquaintance because of the threats he’d heard from him; he said the man had only come to ‘warn’ him that the sanctioned motorists were ‘very angry’ with my husband,” she said.
“Considering the low level of morals in Russian society today, incidents of this kind have to be taken in earnest,” Grigoryan wrote in a service report to PG chief editor Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev. “This is particularly so when the interests of rich and powerful individuals have been affected.”
“We are used to taking seriously any threats addressed to journalists, since the Russian realities of the past decade prompt us to do so,” Kurt-Adzhiyev said. Hence the PG appeals to Samara Region police chief Yuri Sterlikov, prosecutor Murat Kabaloyev, and chief investigator Vitaly Gorstkin.
The GDF will follow the developments in Samara closely.
Journalist Fatima Magomedova, who was fired from the State TV/Radio Company “Kabardino-Balkaria” after reporting on a scandal over “Mowgli”, a boy from a problem family, has now been reinstated. Finding her sacking unlawful, a court of law also awarded her back-pay and 50,000 roubles in moral damages.
The scandal flared up in mid-February, after Magomedova’s TV story about a child who was “forced time and again to live in a doghouse” was first shown on republican television and then on a federal channel that also changed the original off-screen commentary.
After the facts cited in the report started to be checked up by republican investigative authorities, the TV company management urged Magemodova to resign voluntarily, and after she refused to, they issued two official reprimands to her – for failure to fulfil the plan targets and for putting an “unchecked” TV report on the air – and promptly fired her “in view of her incompetence”. She challenged her dismissal in court and won the case, with the Labour Inspectorate coming over to her side, too.
Fatima Magomedova is the winner of the Fourth All-Russia TV Festival “Peace, Accord, Unity” – she was awarded the Grand Prize for a series of TV reports “No Child Is ‘Somebody Else’s’ Child”. Thanks to this series, 26 orphans were adopted in Kabardino-Balkaria last year. However, early this year the TV show was closed, and Magomedova was reassigned to the news service.
Vitaly Titov, founder of the regional news agency Mangazeya, has informed the GDF that he and his family are under surveillance – evidently in connection with a series of publications criticising Oleg Nam, vice-president of the oil company TNK-BP.
“It is essential that this information spreads as widely as possible, giving me the hope this surveillance won’t turn into something worse,” Titov said.
He first saw a dark Niva Chevrolet with heavily tinted windows following his car and trying to be inconspicuous on 26 April. “When I saw the same Niva again in my rear-view mirror a while ago, I smiled to myself, thinking this was a kind of paranoia,” Titov went on to say. “But it kept popping up again and again, with the same people sitting in it, so I started thinking what to do. To make sure it wasn’t a mistake, I drove around Nizhnevartovsk and watched the Niva following me all the time. On the following day, I found it parked near my house, with two other men sitting inside. They drove after me all day long again. Making a sudden manoeuvre, I managed to take photo pictures of the car and the people in it.”
Titov believes the surveillance is linked to Mangazeya’s criticism of TNK-BP and Oleg Nam, director of its West Siberian branch.
“I happen to know pretty well how TNK-BP’s security service works,” Titov said. “I am taking into account what we’ve been writing about the oil company lately. I know the company rents all vehicles, including those for its security officers, from private motorists. I see those guys watch me in pairs, each working every other day. I know the Niva Chevrolet that is following me and my family isn’t registered anywhere within law enforcement. All this leads me to think TNK-BP West Siberia’s security officers are, at best, fulfilling orders to monitor all my contacts. As regards the worst possible option, I don’t even want to talk about it. I think, though, that the alleged ordering party is the same. I wish to stress all those actions are unlawful.”
By Georgy Tashmatov, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District
Based on a ruling of the Leninsky district court in Krasnodar, the bailiffs have started executory proceedings against the newspaper Argumenty I Fakty-Yug (AIFY).
AIFY’s conflict with the regional department of Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing public communications] began in 2009, when the controlling agency, after a period of close monitoring, accused the newspaper of unlawfully circulating the Gorodskoy Yezhenedelnik Krasnodar periodical bulleting as part of regular AIFY issues without due registration. It make a protocol of administrative offence under Article 13.21 of the RF Administrative Code and a judge of the peace pronounced AIFY guilty. The Sovetsky district court on 21 June 2010 turned the newspaper’s appeal against that ruling down, and the higher-standing regional court of appeals confirmed that decision and left the first-instance court’s ruling in full legal force.
Shortly afterward, AIFY featured on its pages and posted on its website an article entitled “Government Officials as Opposed to Red Tapists”, which criticised Roskomnadzor, among other things, for violating the established rules of notifying AIFY of the inspection results. The controlling agency challenged that publication and smearing and damaging to its business reputation, of which it duly informed the newspaper. Since AIFY did not publish any reply, Roskomnadzor filed a complaint with the Leninsky district court in Krasnodar.
Having considered the complaint, the court ruled on 7 December 2011 for AIFY to publish a disclaimer. Instead, the newspaper came up on 29 February 2012 with a publication titled “Down with Red Tape! An Open Letter to Vladimir Putin”, in which it again criticised the regional Roskomnadzor department for its poor performance.
Since no Roskomnadzor reply has been published in AIFY up until now, the bailiffs stepped in to restore law and order.
By Vakha Chapanov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District
The Kirovsky district court in Makhachkala, Dagestan, has found Milrad Fatulayev, chief editor of the newspaper Nastoyashcheye Vremya (NV), guilty of inaction leading to defamation of the President of Dagestan, and sentenced him to a fine of 10,000 roubles.
Fatullayev was notified of the institution of administrative proceedings against him on 13 April. The prosecutor’s office said his newspaper had published “smearing” materials about President Magomedsalam Magomedov – specifically Nadira Isayeva’s article “The Caucasus Leads” dated 3 February.
The court turned down Fatullayev’s plea to consider his case in Moscow, at the place of his permanent residence, and banned some media reporters from attending the hearings, and the rest from making any audio recordings.
The editor intends to challenge the Kirovsky district court’s decision before a higher-standing judicial authority.
Juvenile delinquency commission in Chelyabinsk hesitates to decide an underage opposition activist’s future
By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District
Evidently caring a lot about protection of their honour and dignity, members of the Juvenile Delinquency Commission (JDC) in Chelyabinsk have denied a teenager suspect the services of a defence lawyer, and prohibited the use of audio or video recording equipment during the hearings of his case, leaving the underage youth face to face with the 12-member jury panel.
Here are a few details about the case. After Alex Koretsky, a high school student, took part in a 26 February street march and a 17 March green picketing action in Chelyabinsk, law enforcers started criminal proceedings against him as they otherwise would against an adult opposition activist. They required his parents to provide written explanations, and forwarded his case to the Traktorozavodsky district JDC for scrutiny. Ever since, the commission has been in twenty minds how to punish the youngest one in the family of prominent opposition activists. His father Andrei Koretsky, owner of a public and political website, has been under investigation for allegedly extorting money from a government official, speaking contemptuously of those at the helm, damaging their honour and dignity, and so on and so forth. In a word, Koretsky Sr. is suspected of trying to shatter the government regime’s foundations... And look, his son is there too – right at his father’s side!
Hence the administrative charges brought against Koretsky Jr. – him alone among 300 other, adult, protesters who took to the streets on 26 February to call for the pending presidential elections to be honest and fair.
Finally, a few days ago, the commission held a sitting behind closed doors, banning the use of cameras and tape recorders and leaving Alex’s defence lawyer Vassily Moskovets outside – allegedly because he failed to present a notarized power of attorney, regardless of the written request his client and his parents had filed.
The panellists said they were afraid of potential pressure from the journalists; besides, they “do not wish to disclose their personal data,” according to Chairman S. Plyusnin – and this despite their status of public servants who have been hired and are paid for their services by ordinary taxpayers, among them the Koretsky family. Hadn’t they better resign than try to stay in the shadows?
“I’ve seen different judges and panels in my life, but I’ve never seen them behave as outrageously as these people are behaving,” Moskovets commented.
NEWS FROM PARTNERS
By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District
A seminar in the series “Public Control and Public Investigations in a Local Community” was held in Voronezh on 19-20 April.
The event was organised by the Press Development Institute Siberia (Novosibirsk) and Media Rights Defence Centre (Voronezh) as part of the project “New Media: Full-Scale Community Involvement and Public Investigations” co-sponsored by the EU and the Internews Network Association.
The group of speakers included Alexander Gorshkov, deputy director of the Journalistic Investigations Agency (St. Petersburg); Ksenya Poteyeva, a journalist at Fontanka.ru (St. Petersburg); Oleg Khomenok, Internews Network media coach from Voronezh; and Project Director Viktor Yukechev, head of the Press Development Institute Siberia.
The seminar brought together journalists from the regions of Voronezh, Belgorod, Lipetsk, Kursk and Volgograd, and the Republic of Adygea. They discussed methods of conducting journalistic investigations and working with information sources, with focus on journalist safety rules and the legal aspects of access to information.
The programme of the seminar included presentations of the Tak-Tak-Tak human rights social network and the Public Investigations Competition.
I am not introducing myself – regrettably, I have reasons for this. I am not a journalist, by the way, and have no relation to the press whatsoever.
This is to draw your attention to the fact that some topics are banned for media coverage in my home region of Chelyabinsk. I am not talking about controversies over elections, interethnic tensions or other “boat-rocking” activities. I am referring to pretty ordinary things, like one cannot write anything positive about, say, an industrial plant whose owner happened to quarrel with the governor – one can only write bad stuff about it. I could cite quite a few recent examples of chat forum visitors’ comments erased from websites if they said something good about that plant – such were the orders.
Now it seems our turn has come to be blacklisted. “We” refers to the Equestrian Sport Centre “Rifei”, and I am father of a young rider. Here are a few details about the case. The Centre was built on orders from the late Governor Pyotr Sumin, with whom the incumbent governor, Mikhail Yurevich, used to be in bad. When Sumin died, Yurevich became governor. The Equestrian Centre is an ordinary sport club attended by 300 to 400 children, free of charge. They hold competitions every weekend. The Centre is considered to be the best in its kind throughout the Urals Federal District. It holds a variety of awards for sport achievements, etc., but that’s not the point. It so happens that people regard this facility as a kind of monument to Governor Sumin. Yurevich has taken pains to uproot all the good memories. For some time after Sumin’s death, the press could write a few things about our Centre – achievement reports, competition schedules, and all that. Then suddenly – full silence. Attempts to invite reporters to cover our competitions were in vain. Even the Governor’s Cup competitions and Federal District championships were hushed up. Journalists from 74.ru, the region’s major news portal, have admitted in a private conversation they have orders from the regional administration not to say a single word about Rifei. The sport complex is quietly being prepared for reconstruction into yet another (the fifth!) ice-hockey rink with manufactured ice – one of those the incumbent governor likes so much. No competitions will be held there; it’ll be the Mechel team’s training and accommodation facility, and the rink will be offered for rent in order to bring profit. All the equestrian personnel and the young athletes will be kicked out into the street.
We’ve been unable to persuade the media to give us a chance to speak out. Journalists say they would like to help but they cannot – under the threat of sacking. We started writing comments at the end of hockey news reports, but they soon denied us that opportunity, too. A message I received from 74.ru earlier today said, “Hi, they pulled the plug on everything about Rifei. No more commenting, sorry.”
People attempting to write on ordinary chat forums, such as Miass.ru, among them one of my relatives, have had warning phone calls from the police. Mind you, we don’t write any four-letter-word comments and don’t call for overthrowing anyone – we just try to tell people a few things about ourselves! A coach who attempted to give an interview was told he would be fired.
We do realise you don’t deal in sports and cannot possibly help us in that area – but would you please look at it at least from the angle of glasnost in our region?
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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