24 Мая 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 571

21 May 2012



Court agrees to editor’s placement in psychiatric clinic in Karelia

See Digest 566

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

This scandal broke out back in December, when Maxim Yefimov, leader of the Youth Human Rights Group, published an article entitled “Karelia Tired of Priests”, which criticised hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church in very tough, sometimes rude, terms for “deceiving people with their sermons while raking in money”.

Clerics themselves preferred staying away from a public conflict with the author, but Investigative Committee officials charged with media and Internet monitoring checked Yefimov’s publication for compliance with the law. As a result, they started proceedings against him on 7 March 2012 on charges of Article 282.1 of the RF Criminal Code (“Instigation of hatred or enmity toward, or disparagement of, a group of persons in connection with their religious views”).

The case was brought to court, but after the first sitting the investigator asked for the proceedings to be adjourned until additional information about Yefimov was available, to be acquired through the defendant’s examination in a psychiatric clinic. The judge supported the request, which was backed with expert conclusions by a panel of psychologists and psychiatrists who recommended questioning witnesses and relatives to evaluate Yefimov’s mental condition. (While witnesses from the number of his acquaintances are available, his sole relative – mother – lives abroad, which makes the proposed questioning problematic.)

Yefimov’s defence lawyer Olga Rybalova protested against her client’s forcible placement in a mental clinic; she challenged the Petrozavodsk court’s decision (which has not yet taken full legal force) before the Supreme Court of Karelia. She said such a measure would exert pressure on the defendant; and if the court had questioned Yefimov’s close friends and acquaintances in good time – at the phase of preliminary investigation – then the court would have been able to consider his case in essence without delay.

Yefimov is pleading not guilty and has already refused to explicitly repent, insisting he did not mean to instigate hatred toward clergymen or dishonour them.

Protesters against unlawful felling of forests under pressure in Khakassia

By Mikhail Afanasyev, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

For nearly two months now, TV-Abaza, a local television company in Khakassia, has fought against the unlawful cutting of forests in the Tashtyp District of the republic. It is not giving up protests despite repeated threats to its journalists and incessant inspections of the company’s founder by controlling agencies.

Back in winter, local residents started complaining about so-called “sanitary” slashing of precious Siberian pines on the pretext of “fighting the bark beetle”. In reality, they said, healthy trees have been felled, yielding huge profit – an estimated 400 million roubles by the present day – for those running the illegal business. Meanwhile, the Tashtyp taiga sectors really in need of sanitation have remained untouched.

Amid TV-Abaza’s regular reporting on the unlawful practices, six OBEP [police task force against economic crime] servicemen came to its office on 16 May, accompanied by guards [evidently, OMON, police force against organised crime] armed with submachine guns, to check the validity of computer software used by the company. Under the threat of using weapons, they barred the staffers from their desks to gain unhindered access to the computers. To their utter bewilderment, all the software turned out licensed and perfectly legal, which caused the inspectors to call their bosses asking what to do.

Khakassia’s police commanders said they were not yet ready to comment.

Finally, the law enforcers acknowledged TV-Abaza’s full compliance with effective legislation. But one cannot rule out they may come again on some other pretext, so it seems too early to relax.

Actually, what happened in Tashtyp was nothing new. Similar – apparently unlawful – cutting of forests in Khimki and Zhukovsky near Moscow was accompanied by attacks on protesters and reporters by pro-government groups. Fortunately, the law enforcers in a remote settlement deep in Siberia’s taiga proved less aggressive than their Moscow colleagues, leaving no crippled reporters behind.

Journalist attacked in Moscow Region

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

According to GDF information, Nikolai Kuznetsov, a reporter for the newspaper Oka Info, became the target of an attack in Serpukhov, Moscow Region, on 6 May.

On his way home from the office late in the evening, the journalist dropped into a grocery store to buy some food. Walking out, he received a heavy blow on the back of his head and fell unconscious. Coming to, he found his food bags and documents missing.

The doctors diagnosed a concussion and closed cranio-cerebral injury. The police intend to start a criminal investigation.

“I have mixed feelings about this attack,” Kuznetsov told the GDF correspondent. “On the one hand, all this looks like ordinary hooliganism; on the other, I’ve written some critical stuff that may well have provoked the assault. Actually, I’m surprised it didn’t happen earlier.”

Green press barred from oil and gas conference in Maritime Region

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Anatoly Lebedev, a Merited Ecologist of Russia and editor of Ekologiya I Biznes magazine, was not admitted, just as many others, to a conference discussing the key problems of Maritime Region development, including some important environmental issues.

“The guards stood their ground firmly, threatening to call the police to club me down,” he told the GDF correspondent. “Meanwhile, others were being let through into the ‘crammed’ conference room unhindered, without showing any registration or accreditation cards.”

The 17 May conference on petroleum and gas chemistry development, organised by the regional administration’s Energy, Oil-and-Gas Complex and Coal Mining Department, closed its doors on all sorts of “green” organisations as well as the pro-ecological and independent press.

“All attendance applications filed by journalists and environmentalists with the Energy Department were turned down, with the standard pretext – ‘no vacant seats’ – cited (although a large next-door conference room was empty, and not all of the invited delegates had arrived in real terms),” Lebedev said. His attempts to explain to security guards that one needed special registration or accreditation only to attend a closed or protocol event were in vain; his showing a certificate of his media outlet’s accreditation with the Maritime Region administration did not help, either.

Asked to comment, Lebedev had this to say about the incident:

“The administration’s justification of investments in the oil-and-gas complex is to be submitted for public discussion at the year’s end, when all major claims and protests by local analysts and residents – already voiced to the oil sector administrators during preliminary debates a year ago –are bound to surface again and will have to be taken into account, if a new wave of litigations and a new spiral of political tensions in the region are to be prevented. The new regional leadership, which is clearly staking on greater openness to the public, hardly ever needs such tensions.”

This is not the first time that independent journalists and environmentalists are barred from discussions of ecological issues. Last autumn, prominent journalist Yelena Kashkarova and ecologist N. Gorbachev, a standing analyst of environmental issues for the independent press, were not admitted to a petrochemical conference organised by the administration of Nakhodka.

This “policy of non-transparency” spreads to matters beyond the sphere of environmental protection, too…

Independent news agency may be ejected from its headquarters in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Answering a question on “spot construction” (erection of separate new buildings in densely populated residential areas) during a news conference on “affordable and convenient housing”, Yelena Ivashova, deputy head of the Sakhalin Region government, shocked the journalists by announcing that the headquarters of the independent news agency Sakh.com “was built unlawfully and may be pulled down”.

“We find the announcement about the possible demolition of our office building strange to say the least,” the agency management commented instantly. “Very understandably though, plans of this kind may be prompted by the independent editorial policy pursued by Sakha.com as a media outlet having no contractual obligations toward the administration and providing unbiased coverage of anything that goes on in the region. Sakh.com’s office was built in 2011 as part of the official urban development plan; but with the package of commissioning documents still under review in court, the State Construction Oversight Inspectorate seems to be deliberately dragging out the formal acceptance process, although it oversaw the construction project from beginning to end, without ever voicing any doubts as to its legality.”

This is not the first encroachment on the independent web-based news agency. Last year, Georgy Ivanov, just before stepping down as Sakhalin’s chief ideologist, vice-governor and gubernatorial chief of staff, reported to Sakhalin Prosecutor Sergei Besschastny about “extremist” statements posted on Sakh.com’s chat forum. His report was forwarded to the regional department of the media-oversight agency Rossvyazkomnadzor, which then ordered a linguistic expert study of the chat forum content but found nothing criminal about it.

Parody article published by Voronezh-based newspaper found non-extremist, after all

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Voronezh Region Investigative Committee has refrained from starting legal proceedings against the independent student newspaper Perekhod: a preliminary check-up of one of its “suspicious” publications showed it did not contain any extremist statements.

As we have reported, in the spring of 2010 the newspaper featured a parody article, “Youth for Totalitarianism and No Freedom”, which caused Voronezh law enforcers, who failed to see the story’s humour, to start a preliminary investigation into whether or not the publication fell under Article 282 of the Criminal Code (“Instigation of hatred or enmity”).

On 20 March 2012, officers of the “E” (economic crime) task force searched the Human Rights House in Voronezh, where a number of regional NGOs, among them Perekhod, rent offices, and seized a copier with reference to FSB information about its being used for purposes of “multiplying extremist material”. The confiscation was carried out in violation of existing procedural requirements, so the Xerox machine had to be returned 10 days later.

Many analysts believe law enforcement’s close attention to the youth newspaper should be attributed to the fact that its chief editor Ivan Kondratenko is a member of the regional branch of the Golos Association [electoral law watchdog group] and an organiser of opposition rallies in Voronezh.

Newspaper in Perm penalised for copyright violation

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Perm has found the newspaper Permsky Obozrevatel guilty of violating copyright law by featuring a photo picture without the author’s consent.

The picture, featuring a fistfight of players in a hockey pitch as an illustration to the 26 March 2011 article “Skates on the Nail”, was borrowed from a publicly available Internet site. Although the photo was printed in black and white, given a new title (“Hammerers on Ice”) and modified – the hockey players were shown closer to each other than in the original picture – photographer Mikhail Voskresenskikh recognized it as his own work and claimed moral damage compensation from Permsky Obozrevatel Media Group Ltd.

The journalists refrained from challenging his authorship and cited a “technical mistake”. The district court upheld the plaintiff’s claim on 20 February, awarding Voskresenskikh 10,000 roubles in compensation for the violation of his copyright by the media company; 3,000 roubles in moral damages; and 600 roubles to reimburse him for the state fee he had paid.

The higher-standing regional court in Perm on 16 May agreed with this ruling with reference to Articles 152, 1229, 1255, 1257, 1259 and 1301 of the RF Civil Code, and left the journalists’ protest unsatisfied.



Prosecutor’s office brings criminal charges against persons who hampered reporters’ work on voting day

The prosecutor’s office in Armenia has announced the opening of several criminal cases in the wake of incidents that occurred during the 6 May elections to the National Assembly, including three cases involving interference with journalists’ work at polling stations in the city of Gyumri, according to the Yerevan Press Club’s weekly news bulletin.

A posting on the prosecutor’s office’s website mentioned, specifically, a conflict at Polling Station 34/25, where Gyumri Mayor Vardan Gukasyan’s son, Spartak Gukasyan, confiscated the video camera of Kentron TV Channel’s Varazdat Papikyan and drove the cameraman out into the street. At Polling Station 34/21, a group of unidentified men seized and carried away the video camera of Kentron’s correspondent Vladimir Khachatryan.

Besides, Karen Alekyan, a reporter for the Max-Info news agency, reported to the city police about four young men at Polling Station 34/26 tearing the press badge off his jacket and seizing the video camera he had received from the Thriving Armenia party. They returned the camera, broken, two hours later.

All those incidents gave rise to charges under Article 149 of Armenia’s Criminal Code (“Blocking the exercise of one’s franchise, the work of electoral commissions or the performance of duties by persons standing for election”). The case files have been submitted to the republic’s Special Investigative Service.

Yet another criminal case was earlier opened on charges of interference with a journalist’s lawful professional activity (Article 164 of the Criminal Code), after an unknown young man at Polling Station 12/33 in Yerevan attempted to seize the video camera of Radio Liberty’s Armenian Service correspondent Elina Chilingaryan.



Unlawfully sacked editor reinstated

UNIAN news agency president Oleg Nalyvaiko reinstated the earlier-sacked chief editor Alexander Kharchenko, the latter said in a 17 May interview for the TBI television channel.

“A short while ago, I had a phone call from Nalyvaiko, who told me I should continue performing as UNIAN chief editor, since he had cancelled my dismissal earlier ordered by Vadim Osadchy, the agency’s general director,” Kharchenko said. “A general meeting of the staff is to be held tomorrow to discuss the situation.”

According to Kharchenko, the new management has been trying to get the news agency “politically sterilized and tabloidized”. “We’ve been told we shouldn’t write too much about politics, the opposition, Timoshenko or the power system generally, but focus on football, celebrity life and public scandals instead, since people are tired of ‘grisly’ news stories,” the chief editor added.

As we have reported, staffers pressed hard for Kharchenko’s reinstatement and accused the new management of practising censorship.

[LB.ua report, 17 May]



GDF appeal to public and state-and-public organisations and media

The Glasnost Defence Foundation has accumulated impressive experience in organising short-term schools with a view to improving journalist skills in different kinds and genres of journalism.

In the past few years, such schools have been held in Karelia, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok and Saratov, offering tutoring in human rights reporting, journalistic investigations, and civil journalism for bloggers.

Those efforts involved hiring local organisers and specialists on a contractual basis. That was a good and useful practice, although local managers failed to show a comparable degree of motivation to attain the best possible results.

We have obtained a two-year grant for organising two more law schools for journalists, two other for investigative reporters, and three civil journalism schools for bloggers. We have all the necessary methodology, a core pool of instructors, and most of the requisite teaching aids. Also, we have DVDs featuring lectures delivered by lawyer Yuri Baturin, journalist Leonid Nikitinsky, judge Sergei Pashin, blogger Anton Nosik, scholar Mikhail Gorbanevsky and other celebrity specialists who have taken part in our school projects co-ordinated by such eminent journalists as Igor Korolkov and Grigory Pasko (Moscow), Sergei Plotnikov (Yekaterinburg), Natalia Ostrovskaya (Vladivostok) and Alexander Krutov (Saratov).

We are looking for potential local cost-sharing partners capable of representing the collective interests of local media, public associations and universities, ensuring that the training course is region-specific, and bearing responsibility for the student selection and quality of education on a par with us.

GDF President

Alexei Simonov

Contact phones: (+7) 495 637 4420 – reception;

(+7) 495 637 5023 – executive director


Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 15 times in the Internet, including at:



Youth look at freedom of expression: Inter-university conference held in Kirov

By Angelica Korobeinikova, Kirov, Volga Federal District

An inter-university round-table conference hosted by the Kirov branch of the Moscow State Academy of Law on 15 May discussed media freedom as a guarantee of state and civil society openness. The majority of speakers were university students. Some of their reports were truly interesting and showing the angle at which youth look at the media freedom problems in today’s Russia. Apart from “eternal” issues, the conferees discussed a few very pressing ones, among them the need to establish a national public television channel. Most assessments, though, sounded pretty pessimistic.

Second-year student Amid Kuliyev, for one, summed up his report with this statement:

“Is there freedom of expression in Russia? My answer is no. Although some may find this too categorical, it is bitterly true,” he said, backing his words with sad statistics at the disposal of Russian and international human rights watchdog organisations.

The report “Public Television as a Guarantee of Information Openness and Freedom in the Russian Federation” by second-year Law Academy student Anna Plyusnina caused heated debates. While recognising the very concept of public TV as interesting and useful, Anna doubted its workability in the Russian environment. Listeners, too, had mixed feelings about the idea of an independent channel director’s appointment by the country’s President. Asked whether the proposed channel in that event would remain truly independent, Plyusnina said, “Hard to say so far, since the project is still under discussion. I think, though, that the director’s appointment by the President may potentially have some negative effects in the longer term.” Clearly, university students in Kirov do not believe in the open-mindedness of presidential appointees…

On the other hand, Oksana Kovtunenko, a TV anchor and reporter for the Gorod news channel, said journalists in Kirov enjoy real professional freedom. This notwithstanding, her report “Exercising Journalists’ Rights” struck many as controversial. She addressed the audience in a very emotional manner, showing her press card and reading aloud the journalist’s rights; but as she stated that Nikita Belykh’s taking over as governor had simplified access to official information, she cited some examples testifying to the opposite – that reporters had repeatedly been denied information without a good excuse. Kovtunenko found it difficult to explain this contradiction. But, discrepancies aside, the audience found that part of her report where she discussed venal media as opposed to honest and unbiased ones, very exciting.

Although the latest round table was hardly anything out of the ordinary, the very fact of youth showing an interest in media freedom issues in Russia gives reasons to hope that as today’s students of journalism grow up to become mature reporters, they will be aware of the free media’s indispensable role as part of a genuinely democratic state.


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.


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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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:
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