Дайджест
31 Мая 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 572

28 May 2012

STORY OF THE WEEK

Amnesty International releases Human Rights Report 2012

Amnesty International (AI) on May 24 released its regular – 50th – report on human rights observance in different countries and regions of the world. Having studied the situation in 155 countries, analysts concluded human rights are violated in many of them, including this country.

There is “a growing demand for civil and political freedoms and social and economic rights” in Russia, where mass protest actions have been held since December’s parliamentary elections, the report says.

Describing the situation with media freedom and freedom of expression in Russia, the authors call attention to the fact that “state control over television broadcasting and other mass media remained strong” in 2011, and “the importance of the Internet as an alternative source of information continued to grow”. Also, while the Internet “continued to be relatively free from state interference, several well-known websites and blogs reporting on electoral abuses were brought down by attacks”, the report says.

“Journalists continued to face threats and physical attacks for writing about politically sensitive issues, including corruption,” AI goes on to say. “Such attacks were rarely effectively investigated or prosecuted,” as shown by the investigation into the violent attack on journalist Oleg Kashin in November 2010, which “had yielded no results at the end of the year, despite promises by the most senior Russian officials to bring the perpetrators to justice.” Neither had the investigation into the murder of Khadzhimurad Kamalov, founder and editor of the independent Dagestani newspaper Chernovik, who was shot dead outside his office in Makhachkala on 15 December 2011. “For years, Chernovik’s staff had faced intimidation and harassment by the local authorities,” the report says.

Human rights defenders were concerned that “anti-extremism legislation was often used arbitrarily to clamp down on those critical of the authorities. In response, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June clarifying that criticism of government officials or politicians did not constitute incitement to hatred under anti-extremism legislation. In a positive development, defamation (Article 129 of the RF Criminal Code) was decriminalized at the end of the year,” the AI report says.

 

RUSSIA

MPs urge RF Investigative Committee to fully investigate Khadzhimurad Kamalov’s murder

See Digest 550

By Magomed Magomedov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Activists of four State Duma factions – the United Russia, Communist, Fair Russia and Liberal-Democratic parties (in all, 105 MPs) – appealed on 22 May to RF Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin, urging him to facilitate the investigation of the killing of Khadzhimurad Kamalov, a public and political figure and founder of, and reporter for, the Dagestani weekly Chernovik.

Specifically, the Duma deputies asked Russia’s chief investigator to send a team of senior police operatives and investigators to Dagestan to thoroughly probe into Kamalov’s murder. The text of the appeal was drafted and the signatures were gathered at the initiative of Rizvan Kurbanov, deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation and Government Development; Boris Reznik, a member of the Committee on Security and Corruption Combating; and Sergei Reshulsky, a member of the Health Protection Committee.

Earlier, a republic-wide campaign was launched in Dagestan to sign a petition to President Vladimir Putin to take the investigation under his personal control.

Meanwhile, Chernovik staffers have attempted an independent investigation into the killing of their colleague, Novaya Gazeta reported. They established that three weeks before the murder, Kamalov was taken under surveillance by several persons in cars, who watched him in shifts round the clock. Moreover, “according to unofficial sources, the investigators have identified the killers by the bills for calls on cell phones via which they stayed in touch on the murder day,” Novaya Gazeta said. “It’s also known where they bought their cell phones and SIM cards, and where they paid their bills. Yet no suspects have been detained or interrogated. It seems the investigators are deliberately stalling for time, since cell phone operators keep information on servers only for six months, and then it is automatically deleted. In a little more than a month, the opportunity to detect the killers by their phones will be lost, and tracing down the masterminds will become impossible.”

As we have reported, Kamalov, a celebrity journalist and human rights defender, was killed while getting into a taxi outside his newspaper’s office in Makhachkala late on 15 December last year.

Moscow’s GazpromBank sues bloggers for “defamation” and “extremism”

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

OAO GazpromBank has charged LiveJournal with “incitement to hatred toward the social group of top managers of Russian companies”, lodged a legal claim in defence of its business reputation, and complained to the prosecutor’s office about its having been belied.

Moscow’s Investigative Committee on 18 May received GazpromBank’ request, signed by Legal Service head A. Salnikov, for the institution of legal proceedings against Svetlana Robenkova of Zelenograd, Moscow Region, who posted a note in her LiveJournal blog under the title “One of GazpromBank’s top managers runs down a child and drives away”. The reference was to the bank’s Vice-President Alexander Schmidt.

The way the bank looks at it, “the said article is spearheaded against the social group of top managers of larger Russian companies”, meaning it contains “extremist” statements.

Furthermore, GazpromBank’s fearful management interpreted the author’s call “to start acting now to resist this outrage” as a call “for use of violence against representatives of the said social group”, thus suggesting that its members’ lives may be at risk.

Also, in their view, Robenkova’s article “whips up social tensions in Russia”, and “the author’s actions indicate she may be questioning the lawfulness of the state policy pursued by the government, which may result in a distorted perception of Russia by international politicians and lawyers”.

But that was not the end of the story. On the following day, GazpromBank filed a legal claim against Robenkova and asked the Moscow Court of Arbitration to protect the company’s business reputation. It described the LiveJournal publication as “inaccurate and defamatory”, and demanded a disclaimer and an apology to the bank and A. Schmidt.

Also, it asked the prosecutor’s office to start administrative proceedings against a group of bloggers, who had reprinted Robenkova’s article, on libel charges under Article 5.60.1 of the RF Administrative Code.

Regardless of whether or not the reported road accident did occur in reality, we are again witnessing the emergence of yet another “social group” – company top managers.

Village administration’s legal claim against newspaper turned down in Lipetsk Region

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Court hearings have completed in the village of Stanovoye, Lipetsk Region, of a business reputation protection claim lodged by the village administration against the district newspaper Zvezda.

The claim was filed in the wake of a February publication entitled “Is a Snowfall Such a Big Problem?” discussing the village administration’s inaction as regards clearing the roads from snow. Specifically, it cited the local administration head as saying, “All the local roads are free from snowdrifts”, while the head of a local road-cleaning company indicated the administration was in default on payments for prior services and had not extended the service contract for a new term.

The administration head, for her part, insisted in court that the journalist had distorted her words, and that the road-cleaning manager had lied. She described the publication as “untrue and smearing”, and demanded a disclaimer and apology.

Representatives of the defendant managed to prove in court that information about a non-extended contract or someone’s debt cannot per se be regarded as smearing. Specifically, the administration’s failure to re-conclude its contract with one service company may mean it has hired another to do the job; and the fact of its indebtedness to a service provider does not necessarily signal defiance of the law or dishonest behaviour in business, since there typically is a creditor and a debtor where services are provided for pay. Also, the defendant stressed that a newspaper cannot be held liable for circulating information its reporter has received from an official source – a company manager. Even if the village leader’s comment was not cited word for word, this cannot be viewed as defamation either, since it did not constitute an instance of lawless or unethical behaviour. And finally, Russian legislation does not list apology as a measure of judicial protection of one’s honour, dignity or business reputation.

As a result, the Stanovoye district court turned the plaintiff’s claim against Zvezda down in full.

Court in Perm requires “separating veal from horseflesh”

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Before 21 June, Perm resident Sagit Akhmetshin is to publish at his own expense on the website of the weekly Argumenty I Fakty-Prikamye (AIFP) a disclaimer of his prior report that “the butcher’s shop near the mosque sold me instead of veal a piece of horseflesh dressed on the meat processing plant’s equipment”. Also, he must pay the shop owner Denis Muksinov 5,000 roubles in moral damages.

Akhmetshin and three other customers, dissatisfied with the meat they bought from Muksinov, complained to the regional Rospotrebnadzor [agency defending consumer interests] department and Consumer Rights Defence Group, asking them to check the quality of the product. Akhmetshin sent a copy of the complaint to AIFP, which then reported the incident on its official website. A specialist check-up showed the meat was of a good quality. A justice of the peace turned the legal claim Akhmetshin had filed against Muksinov demanding his money back, together with moral damage compensation and reimbursement of his judicial costs.

Muksinov, for his part, lodged a counterclaim against Akhmetshin, demanding a disclaimer and 100,000 roubles in moral damages. The Dzerzhinsky district court in Perm on 28 February upheld his claim but slashed the requested compensation amount to 5,000 roubles. Akhmetshin challenged that decision before the higher-sanding regional court, describing himself as an improper defendant and shifting the blame for the untrue publication to AIFP. His arguments were rejected, and the previous decision was left in full legal force.

The regional court, specifically, stated that “the right to select a defendant under an honour-and-dignity protection claim in a case where a media report identified its source of information shall be reserved for the plaintiff, meaning that the first-instance court was not obliged to involve AIFP as a defendant”. Now Akhmetshin has a month to have a disclaimer posted at his expense on AIFP’s website.

Further on freedom of expression in Kabardino-Balkaria

By Natalya Yusupova, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

A round table held at Kabardino-Balkaria’s Human Rights Centre last week discussed the Draft Strategy for the Republic’s State Media Development until 2017 – a document recently prepared by the State Committee on Media Development.

The way conferees looked at it, the strategy should focus not on strengthening and developing the government-controlled media but on creating favourable conditions for the exercise of citizens’ constitutional rights to receive and impart comprehensive and unbiased information about all areas of government and society’s life and activity, and on banning censorship and other restrictions on freedom of expression.

The greater the state presence in the mass media, the more censorship there is, contrary to what the Constitution stipulates, Human Rights Centre Director Valery Khatazhukov said. In Kabardino-Balkaria, there are 27 government-controlled media outlets, which is too many, he said, suggesting that one or two government newspapers would be enough for publishing official documents; the rest should operate on the basis of market mechanisms.

Journalist Larissa Aloyeva said if the state creates a pool of “pocket” media, it thereby introduces a system of control and undercover censorship. The majority of republican media, she said, provide lopsided coverage of developments in Kabardino-Balkaria, with a clear bias toward the authorities.

The draft strategy was discussed in the republic’s Public Chamber, with a number of remarks and suggestions voiced, said Media Committee representative Jamilya Khagarova. At present, she said, the document is being reviewed by legal experts. Answering questions from public activists and human rights defenders, and in response to comments that local media have provided “insufficient” coverage of such problems as extremism and terrorism in the region, she said this topic is “too dangerous” to report on locally, because the republic’s journalists remain totally unprotected; so the bulk of reporting comes from federal journalists.

 

AZERBAIJAN/ BELARUS/ RUSSIA/ UKRAINE

Gerd Bucerius Free Press of Eastern Europe 2012 Awards handed to journalists

At a ceremony at Hamburg’s Town Hall on 24 May, the 2012 Gerd Bucerius Free Press of Eastern Europe awards, established by the Fritt Ord Foundation, Oslo, and the ZEIT Foundation, Hamburg, were awarded to journalists who strive to promote a free press, free speech and liberal civil societies in Eastern Europe.

The Gerd Bucerius prizes this year went to three journalists and two media outlets from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine – to journalists Olga Romanova (Moscow), Valery Karbalevich (Minsk) and Khadija Ismailova (Baku); the independent magazine DOSH (Grozny/Moscow, chief editor – Israpil Shovkhalov) and the analytical weekly Ukrainsky Tyzhden (Kiev, chief editor – Sergei Litvinenko).

We are happy to congratulate the prize-winners and wish them to remain staunch and courageous journalists, whatever difficulties they may face in the future.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the Internet, including at:

Civitas.ru: Voronezh Region Investigative Committee finds parody article non-extremist, after all

Kasparov.ru: Joking apart

Guard: Republic of Khakassia: Forests cut unlawfully, journalists intimidated

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Journalists’ Union awards to “merited bosses” scrapped

By Tatyana Sedykh, GDF correspondent in Khabarovsk Region, Far Eastern Federal District

A journalist honestly doing his job often does this at a risk to his life. An administrator hired by the people must work off his salary, rather than cover himself with unearned decorations.

RF Journalists’ Union Secretary Vitaly Chelyshev, in contrast to quite a few other officials, did not pretend he hadn’t read my article “Through the Looking-Glass Stories Time: Further on Honour, Dignity and Professionalism”; instead, at a regular meeting of the Secretariat on 5 May, he put the question point-blank, resolutely insisting that not a single executive should ever receive journalistic awards in the future.

This may help scale down the level of self-censorship among the regional journalists – particularly in regions like Khabarovsk, where administrators have for decades revelled in their omnipotence. A journalist may now be sure that his desire to help people by criticising, say, a governor for inaction will not be frustrated by the JU’s rushing to decorate such a governor with a medal of excellence.

From now on, the “Honour, Dignity, Professionalism” journalistic badge will not be available to any government official, whatever connections he may have in the top echelons. The Secretariat upheld Chelyshev’s initiative without much debating also because he suggested an alternative symbol of acknowledgement of government officials’ efforts to help journalists do their work – a badge “Supporter of a Journalistic Action”. The “a” here is very significant: to avoid undue generalisations and references to “overall facilitation”, a government executive who has provided tangible support for a one-time, specific journalistic action, may pin such a badge onto his jacket and wear it with a proud feeling it is well-deserved.

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2012 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The Jury continues accepting works submitted for the 2012 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2011 and October 15, 2012 in Russian newspapers, magazines or almanacs, or posted on web portals registered as media outlets. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’”.

For further details about the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637-4947.

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