Дайджест
9 Августа 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 577

6 August 2012

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Strange coincidence: Two district courts in Moscow simultaneously ban courtroom reporting

Two district courts in Moscow attempted to teach journalists yet another lesson on 1 August. The Zamoskvoretsky and Khamovnichesky courts, where the cases of Rasul Mirzayev, the alleged killer of Moscow resident Ivan Agafonov, and the Pussy Riot punk rock group accused of hooliganism, are under consideration, prohibited the journalists – at about one and the same time – to publish witnesses’ testimony.

The ban is on publishing essential evidence, Khamovnichesky court spokeswoman Darya Lyakh said. And her colleagues from the Zamoskvoretsky court press service explained that witnesses who have not yet been questioned may read the testimony of those who have and change their own testimony; so no direct quotes are allowed.

This judicial initiative surprised many journalists and made them frown. Moskovsky Komsomolets Chief Editor Pavel Gusev, a member of the Public Chamber on the Media and Freedom of Expression, described the ban as unlawful. “If reporters are allowed into the courtroom, they are entitled to provide detailed coverage of the proceedings; any bans are at odds with the Media Law,” he said.

“After this ban on details about the Mirzayev and Pussy Riot trials, they may as well ban – for the very same reason of preventing witnesses from changing their testimony – all TV shows except the Olympiad and all radio shows except Olympic and weather reports, and require all the newspapers to release blank pages. And, most important, they should switch off the Internet,” political writer Leonid Radzikhovsky told Actualcomment.ru.

Mikhail Fedotov, author of the RF Media Law and an adviser to President Putin, was surprised, too. “Any public event may be freely reported to the public,” he said in an interview for The Moscow News. “A court of law cannot prohibit journalists to report about open hearings. If a judge wants to rule out contact among witnesses, he should ask those witnesses – not reporters – out.”

“Dictating to journalists how to structure their courtroom reports is beyond the judges’ range of authority,” defence lawyer Henry Reznik summed up, speaking live on Radio Ekho Moskvy.

Finally, Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachova felt compelled to correct her district court colleagues, saying that journalists are free to report on open court hearings, quote witnesses and analyse courtroom information. She noted, though, that reporters “should take the court chair’s orders into account.”

Attempts to ban courtroom reporting were only one of the problems that journalists came across. The Khamovnichesky court, at the prosecutor’s office’s request, banned web reporting on evidence analysis during the Pussy Riot trial on 30 June, and then played one of its old-time tricks by transferring the proceedings to a room half as large as the previous one and leaving several dozen journalists behind closed doors.

Reporters covering the Pussy Riot trial complained to Chief Bailiff Artur Parfenchikov about his subordinates’ rude behaviour in the Khamovnichesky court. A letter written by journalist Yelena Masyuk and signed, among others, by her colleagues Vladimir Varfolomeyev, Oleg Kashin, Aleksandr Minkin, Aleksandr Podrabinek and Zoya Svetova, said that bailiffs wearing no identification badges constantly “humiliated” journalists covering the proceedings, “keeping them for hours on the stair landing and not allowing them at least into the courtroom corridor; pushing them around; shouting at them; ousting them from the courtroom by force; and even threatening to unleash a guard Rottweiler on them”.

“We come to the Khamovnichesky court to do our job – to report on open proceedings – not to be humiliated and manhandled by men in black uniform with yellow insignia,” the letter said.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation hereby expresses its support for the journalists’ statement.

 

RUSSIA

Runaway human rights activist finds shelter in one of EU countries

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

After Maxim Popov, editor of a human rights website, harshly criticised the Russian Orthodox Church in his publication “Russia Tired of Priests” last year, criminal proceedings were started against him on charges of “instigation of hatred or enmity toward, or hurting the religious feelings of, a group of persons” (Article 282.1 of the RF Criminal Code).

In the course of proceedings, a judge upheld the Investigative Committee’s request for having Yefimov examined by a board of psychiatrists (See Digest 571). On learning the news, the blogger ceased co-operating with the investigators, fearing that placement in a mental clinic might be hazardous to his health. In late May, he was declared wanted by the police.

Although the Investigative Committee withdrew its psychiatric examination request in mid-July, Yefimov wrote in his web blog toward the end of that month that lack of trust in law enforcement had caused him to leave Russia and cross into one of the European Union countries via Ukraine.

He explained his flight by citing “secret services’ desire to revenge themselves on me at any cost for my human rights activities”.

That gave rise to preparations for putting Yefimov on Interpol’s wanted list, which action his defence lawyer has reported to the republican prosecutor’s office as an “unlawful measure”.

Media oversight agency stands up for St. Petersburg-based journalist

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications] suddenly stepped in to protect Peterburgskoye Kachestvo newspaper editor Vsevolod Vishnevetsky, who was twice fired at from a traumatic gun and wounded in the head on 31 July. The agency urged the prosecutor’s office to take the investigation under close control, since the attack might be linked with the editor’s professional activities and, therefore, qualified as an offence falling under Article 144 of the RF Criminal Code (“Interference with a journalist’s lawful professional activity”). Analysts cannot remember Roskomnadzor doing anything like that before.

The general public hardly ever knows which particular agency oversees the media; and few journalists have had something to do with Roskomnadzor in their life. Many veteran reporters believe no media oversight is needed at all. The latter point is questionable, but very few media workers indeed can boast of having ever received Roskomnadzor help in a difficult situation. Why? It’s as simple as this: the agency has always focused on authorisations and control, not on journalist protection as one of its numerous functions. This situation could not be changed even after Roskomnadzor signed a co-operation agreement with the RF Journalists’ Union. The only thing it has done since then was establishing a hotline, the efficiency of which is doubtful, to say the least, as confirmed even by pro-government media whose efforts in defence of their maltreated employees have generally been much more efficient than the oversight agency’s measures.

The latest Roskomnadzor move seems an exception. As it turns out, the controlling agency is well capable of rushing to help a journalist in distress. Two days after Vishnevetsky was shot and wounded, it notified the prosecutor’s office of the likelihood of the attack’s signalling an attempt to interfere with the victim’s professional work.

If only administration officials could always react as promptly as that – and not only in situations endangering journalists’ lives but also in cases where media workers’ rights are violated, and where effective legislation fails to be observed…

As regards our colleague, we wish Mr. Vishnevetsky the soonest possible recovery!

Rules of journalist accreditation at economic forum in Sochi at odds with Media Law

By Georgy Tashmatov, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The 11th International Investors’ Forum “Sochi-2012” is to be held in the city of Sochi on 20-23 September. As before, the forum will be sponsored by the Krasnodar Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Hardly had the previous forum ended last year, registration of participants in the next forum began (in November). The organisers’ requirements to the press look contradictory, and sometimes clearly unlawful. For example, while inviting “all interested parties” to take part in the forum, the organisers require would-be participants to present, as “a must”, publications about the previous, last year’s, forum – a clear violation of the RF Media Law. Also, they reserve the right to deny accreditation without explaining the reasons – another rude violation of the Media Law, since accreditation can be cancelled or denied only by a written order spelling out the full name and position of the responsible official, with reference to the law provision applied and with details about how such a decision may be challenged. Moreover, the absence of accreditation shall not be a reason for infringing the rights of a journalist who is entitled to gather information by any means allowed under the law.

On the basis of previous experience of economic forums held in Sochi, one may suppose it will be very difficult for non-accredited journalists to work at the forum, since passing onto the exhibition grounds through the metal detectors and security guards will be impossible. But then, accredited reporters will be offered very limited privileges, too. In the past two years, for example, journalists viewed the Winter Theatre proceedings not from the inside but on a big display installed in a special closed and guarded room with a dry closet and fast-food snacks. Any reporter who has passed security examination is not allowed to leave that room during the official opening ceremony.

On-budget expenditures enciphered in Sakhalin Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Aleksandr Chernega, editor of the independent newspaper Paramushir-Vesti and a deputy of the City Council of Severo-Kurilsk, has long tried but failed to get a reply from any of the electoral committees about the amounts of budgetary money they spent on different, including the latest presidential, elections.

The local electoral committee has been turning a blind eye to his information requests. Chernega succeeded in getting its report on budgetary spending on the 2009 municipal elections only after repeated appeals to the regional electoral committee, the city prosecutor’s office, and the district court.

The situation with the budgetary spending on the March 2012 presidential elections is much like that with the 2009 vote. The city electoral committee, which has elected a new chairman, stays true to the “old tradition”. The regional committee, too, “enciphers” budgetary expenditures and keeps mum about the sums spent on the presidential elections. Meanwhile, there are reasons not to trust the bureaucrats after the disappearance of the lists of Severo-Kurilsk electors with notes about their participation in the vote, which was acknowledged only a week later, after Chernega had complained to the prosecutor’s office; no one was held responsible for that. Independent observers recorded about 300 ballot papers “thrown in” during the vote, but nothing can be proven or disproved now that those lists of electors are missing.

But Chernega, a journalist and MP, is a resolute sort; he is determined to shoot the works. After regional electoral committee chair Lyudmila Vetrova told him the city committee’s operation was financed “from the federal budget” but did not specify the amount, he filed an inquiry with Regional Prosecutor Sergei Besschasny that read:

“Dear Mr Besschasny,

“This is a plea for your help in putting pressure on the brazen heads of electoral committees at all levels who feel free to act beyond public control. I hereby ask your assistance in getting information from the Sakhalin Region’s electoral committee about the amount and expenditure of the funds allocated for the holding of the 4 March 2012 presidential elections in Severo-Kurilsk. Also, I would like you to require L. Vetrova to instruct the city electoral committee to publish the reports of all candidates for the city mayor’s position in the same-day mayoral elections.”

The journalist referred to Article 28 of the RF Budget Code which proclaims budgetary transparency and openness, as well as Article 46 of the RF Law on Presidential Elections which requires the electoral committees at all levels to keep the electorate informed about preparations for, and the holding of, elections, and about the amounts of budgetary funds spent thereon. In the event of their refusing to provide such information, Chernega asked the prosecutor to hold the guilty persons liable (for sabotage).

Newspaper in Kursk Region challenges court ruling

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The newspaper Ekho Nedeli (EN) based in Zheleznogorsk, Kursk Region, intends to challenge a court ruling requiring it to pay 100,000 in moral damages for circulating information about an underage teenager.

In June, the city court in Zheleznogorsk accepted for scrutiny an honour, dignity and business reputation protection claim filed by local police officer Oksana Yevsyukova in the wake of EN’s reporting about the death of four teenagers as a result of a gas leak in a private apartment in January. The report said, among other things, that “many locals doubt that the true reasons of the tragedy have been identified. One of the boys’ (Nikita’s) mother is a police investigator, so many residents believe the true reasons will never be disclosed.”

The plaintiff claimed hurt by the “smearing and libellous” facts reported about her and urged EN to publish a disclaimer. The newspaper, however, said there was nothing to be disclaimed. Yevshyukova then turned to a court of law, insisting that EN had breached several provisions of effective legislation – particularly it had disclosed her underage son’s name without her consent, had not asked the investigators’ permission to publish interim investigation findings, and had circulated rumours under the disguise of truthful information.

Also, Yevsyukova involved the report’s author Sergei Prokopenko, and ZAO Golos Zheleznogorska, the founder of EN, as co-defendants in the legal proceedings, and divided the claimed compensation amount fifty-fifty: 50,000 roubles in moral damages and as much in compensation for the disclosure of her underage son’s name.

The city court in Zheleznogorsk on 30 July ruled to satisfy her claim partially: while refusing to uphold the plaintiff’s demand for identifying the article as smearing and libellous, it awarded Yevsyukova the 50,000 roubles she wanted for the disclosure of her late son’s identity.

EN disagrees with that decision, noting that the issue of an underage boy’s identity disclosure was not actually studied in court, making it impossible for the defendants to prepare a defence statement. It is currently preparing an appeal to the Kursk regional court.

Svetlana Kuzevanova, a lawyer at the Voronezh Media Rights Defence Centre, is providing consulting services for the defendant.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in July 2012

Deaths of journalists – 1 (Alexander Khodzinsky, freelance journalist, Irkutsk Region).

Attacks on journalists – 3 (Grigory Akhtyrko, anchor, TV Saratov-Videonovosti web television show, Saratov; Dmitry Alyayev, correspondent, Noviye Izvestia newspaper, Moscow Region; Vladimir Romensky, correspondent, Dozhd TV channel, Krasnodar Region).

Instances of censorship – 3 (KomiInform news agency, Syktyvkar; Vsya Ufa TV channel, Ufa; Krepkoye Radio, Moscow).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 1 (Ksenya Turchak, journalist, Nara-Novost newspaper, Moscow Region).

Illegal sacking of editor or journalist – 4 (Igor Rabiner, journalist, Sport-Ekspress newspaper, Moscow; Vladimir Kara-Murza, anchor, RTVi, Moscow; Anna Zholnerchuk, anchor, Ekho Moskvy v Omske radio station, Omsk; Irina Vassilyeva, editor, Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti newspaper, Rostov Region).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 7 (Dmitry Zykov, correspondent, Grani.ru, Moscow; Sergei Kovalchenko, journalist, RBK Daily, St. Petersburg; Ivan Skirtach, correspondent, ITAR-TASS, St. Petersburg; Oleg Solomatin, journalist, BaltInfo news agency, St. Petersburg; Svetlana Samodelova, correspondent, Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, Krasnodar Region; Stanislav Somin, correspondent, Ridus news agency, Nizhny Novgorod - twice).

Refusals to provide information (including bans on use of audio recorders and video/photo cameras; refusals to provide accreditation; restrictions on admittance to official events held by government bodies, industrial enterprises or state institutions) – 27.

Threats against journalists and media – 5 (Semyon Tereshonkov, correspondent, 7x7 magazine, Syktyvkar; Darya Sukhovaya, correspondent, Elektron independent radio station, Krasnodar Region; Grigory Akhtyrko, anchor, TV Saratov-Videonovosti web television show, Saratov; Olga Li, editor, Narodny Zhurnalist newspaper, Kursk; Dmitry Krylov, journalist, Eros TV studios, Volgograd).

Disruption of TV or radio broadcasts – 4 (Elektron FM radio station, Krasnodar Region – twice; Eros TV studios, Volgograd – twice).

Closure of media – 1 (Alapayevskaya Iskra newspaper, Sverdlovsk Region).

Withdrawal, seizure or confiscation of print run – 2 (Risk newspaper, Republic of Tyva; Velikaya Epokha newspaper, Vladivostok).

Interference with Internet publications – 6 (website of Vedomosti newspaper - twice; website of Izvestia newspaper; Life News portal; LiveJournal portal in Yaroslavl; Dobraya Mashina Pravdy website).

Confiscation of or damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 1 (camera of SKAT TV company, Kirov Region).

Administrative pressure (unplanned inspections by sanitary, fire, tax inspectors, etc.) – 2 (Elektron FM radio station, Krasnodar Region - twice).

Other forms of pressure and infringement of journalists’ rights – 33.

***

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

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Administration officials seldom walk the talk: Municipal authorities closed newspaper in Sverdlovsk Region

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

A conflict had smouldered between the management and staff of the newspaper Alapayevskaya Iskra (based in the Sverdlovsk Region) since last year before flaring up after the passing of a federal law requiring municipal entities to change their legal status to that of either government-financed or autonomous organisations. Finally, in April, all parties concerned met at a conference, at which Regional Council of Municipal Media Chairman A. Chertkov, Rossiyskaya Gazeta-Ural Deputy Chief Editor E. Ovchinnikova and Regional Journalists’ Union Board Chairman V. Golubev spoke out in journalists’ support.

Since Alapayevskaya Iskra was an inter-municipal newspaper with three (sic!) co-founders, it could only think of getting re-registered as an autonomous non-profit organisation. During the conference, Chief Editor S. Vostrikova appealed to the founders with exactly that proposal, having in advance co-ordinated all the pros with her legal adviser, a specialist in this kind of issues.

Yet she did not find any understanding on their part. V. Zavodov, the newly elected head of the Alapayevskoye municipality, spoke to her in a tough, ultimatum-like tone, disregarding the staffers’ rights altogether. It was not until E. Ovchinnikova (who is a lawyer by training) explained to the founders the Media Law provisions they were about to breach, and until they learned about public activists’ and MPs’ negative attitude to the proposed “reform” that the founders agreed to settle the conflict amicably and promised to take the staffers’ lawful demands into account in the process of Alapayevskaya Iskra’s reorganisation. Also, they promised not to impose on the journalists their own nominee for the newspaper’s new leader, who turned out to have a very vague idea about journalism.

That, however, did not settle the conflict. On 10 July, the editor received a document liquidating Alapayevskaya Iskra as a municipal entity, and staffers met again with the founders later that day. As it turned out, the founders had already registered an alternative media outlet by that time. And, to crown it all, they introduced to the staff the very same new director who knew so little about journalism.

By the way, the changes they made to the newspaper charter failed to reflect the decisions that the MPs had made during the conference. The supreme ruling body was left with its old name, the General Meeting of Co-founders, but not a single staff representative was included in it.

There is no talk of legal succession either – and this despite the newspaper’s having a number of advertising agreements in place until the year’s end, an impressive pool of advertisers created over the past 20 years, an extensive distribution network, and an early subscription campaign underway for the first half of 2013. Unless steps are taken to reorganise Alapayevskaya Iskra into an autonomous non-profit organisation, the 92-year-old newspaper will cease existing. Actually, when promising to improve the situation on 4 April, the founders were aiming not to settle the conflict but to kill the newspaper.

Regrettably, such stories are numerous in the Sverdlovsk Region: new municipal leaders have already replaced dozens of disagreeable editors in that manner.

 

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