13 Ноября 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 822

November 7, 2017


On impunity, including in North Caucasus

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

On 2 November, International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the Free Press Unlimited group promoting freedom of expression circulated a statement focusing public attention on impunity for crimes against the press. The signatory media undertook to highlight all instances of violence against their colleagues and to put pressure on those facilitating such crimes.

The Free Press Unlimited statement was signed, among others, by the Committee to Protect Journalists. According to this organisation, 26 journalists were killed in the North Caucasus between January 1993 and May 2017. Impunity flourishes in conflict zones where powerful players often resort to violence and threats to control media content, CPJ research shows.

The Kavkazskiy Uzel (Caucasian Knot) portal is in the group of other signatories that includes more than 60 mass media, non-profit organisations, associations and broadcasting networks in about two dozen countries. That publication's journalists have repeatedly been targeted for attacks, two of them were murdered, and its correspondent Zhalaudi Geriyev is currently behind bars in Chechnya on trumped-up charges (see digest 784 , gdf.ru).

Murders and disappearances of journalists without a trace, including in the North Caucasus, have for years remained without investigation, and no masterminds behind those crimes have ever been convicted. One unfinished probe is into the 2013 murder of Caucasian Knot correspondent Ahmednabi Ahmednabiyev. A complaint has been filed with the European Court of Human Rights over investigators' inefficiency and authorities' inaction in protecting Ahmednabiyev.

The situation can be improved through collective and consistent pressure on those at the helm, media workers believe.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, annually marked on 2 November as an international event under the UN aegis, was established in 2013 by a General Assembly resolution with a view to attracting international attention to the issue of impunity. The resolution urges member states to take specific steps to counter the existing “impunity culture,” as a note on the UNESCO website says.


Newspaper editor Igor Rudnikov arrested in Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad authorities carried out an action against the newspaper Novyye Kolyosa editorial office and its director Igor Rudnikov just ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

Novyye Kolyosa staff said that law-enforcers began to “storm” the editorial office at around 15:40. The search began when a lawyer appeared at the scene and the newspaper personnel allowed the police to enter. Sometime later, Igor Rudnikov, handcuffed, was brought into the editorial office. Newspaper co-founder Svetlana Berezovskaya was detained as well.

An ambulance drove up to the editorial office by ten in the evening after Igor Rudnikov felt bad. His colleague and assistant Yuri Grozmani said that the editor had been beaten up by secret service officers. They had hit him on the head several times; medics suspect that he suffered brain concussion. Grozmani later told Novyi Kaliningrad that law enforcers had broken Rudnikov's arm. The editor-in-chief was carried out of the editorial office on a stretcher and rushed to hospital.

Kaliningrad Region Governor Anton Alikhanov said he would have a talk with law-enforcement bodies' representatives to understand what was going on. A police source told Klops.ru that Igor Rudnikov was suspected of taking a large sum of money from a person who was seeking to conceal defamation data. The Meduza portal, citing Alikhanov, said that an extortion case had been opened against the Novyye Kolyosa editor-in-chief. The case has already been passed to Moscow and is now under Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin's supervision.

A court ruled on placing Rudnikov under arrest till 1 January. He was allegedly extorting 50,000 dollars from head of the Investigative Committee's regional department Viktor Ledenev in exchange for stopping the publication of stories about him. Earlier, Novyye Kolyosa posted several articles about Ledenev's luxurious mansion.

Here's another interesting point. Earlier this month, a court was expected to pass a sentence in the case over the attempted murder of Igor Rudnikov. In March 2016, he was stabbed five times in central Kaliningrad. The defendant is former police officer Alexei Kashirin. The retrial of the case is now underway. Kashirin had been sentenced to 18 months in a penal colony; the verdict that nearly looked hilarious was later overturned. The prosecutor for the state has demanded ten years in a maximum security prison for the former police officer.


Independent news website's journalists beaten up in Yakutsk

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Three persons attacked and beat up Yakutia.info news portal personnel using shock batons on 3 November.

The injured parties said, “Former employee of Yakutia Future Generations Foundation Nikolai Fomin accompanied by two bruisers broke into the editorial office and hit editor Denis Adamov. As his colleague Timofei Yefremov reached for a mobile phone to record the scene, Fomin and one of his henchmen attacked Yefremov who got a jab to the right side of the body with an electric shocker. Denis pushed away Fomin and called the guards. Neighbours came to the scene upon hearing the noise and the trio of attackers retreated in haste”.

Editorial office staff said Fomin was furious about the portal's critical story about him. “Why did you post it!” he shouted as he threw several punches at Denis Adamov. “You scum! I can hit you every day with impunity!” Threatening Yakutia.info journalists, the men said they would attack them in the entrances to their apartment houses and punch their kidneys.

The Investigative Committee department for the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) is running a check to ascertain the fact of crime covered by Article 144 of Russia's Criminal Code (“Obstructing legitimate professional activity of journalist”).

Yakutia's Editors-in-Chief Council drew an official statement to the republic's Interior Minister Vladimir Prokopenko requesting him to take the case under personal supervision. “We view the incident as a threat to personality and health of an individual and blatant violation of the journalist's right to provide information and carry out a journalistic investigation, as well as obstruction of mass media's work. The threats issued against them are an attempt to interfere with the operation of the mass media and the right to disseminate information, guaranteed by the federal law on the mass media. We believe that any aggression, moral pressure or physical violence against journalists is inadmissible. The Editors-in-Chief Council expresses its concern and will monitor the investigation into the case,” the statement said.

The regional interior ministry's press service reported that criminal investigation department officers detained and handed over to investigators the key suspect in the journalists attack case, former head of the Future Generations Foundation Dedicated Programmes Department, 2nd Public Chamber member Nikolai Fomin. Police said they knew the whereabouts of the two other suspects.

Journalists threatened in Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

On 1 November, the Novyi Den agency newswire carried a report alleging problems at the company belonging to the Dolganov family which provoked an unexpectedly aggressive reaction from them. Lilya Dolganova phoned to the editorial office the next day to say that she would visit the media outlet together with police and threatened to mutilate the journalists. The news agency posted the audio recording of her threats.

Her reaction to the story was all the more surprising given the fact that she had headed the local television company 10th Channel and was aware of the professional ethics norms and legitimate ways to resolve problems. This, however, did not deter her from starting a conflict with her subordinates over back wages when the television company was being liquidated.

Novyi Den journalists hope the regional police department will pay attention to the information about Mrs Dolganova's plans to involve Sverdlovsk law enforcers in the “head bashing” action.

The GDF is monitoring the events.

Rossiya TV channel's report about victims of construction company fraud brings journalists into the dock in Karelia

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

The conflict between Sana Plus construction firm and Russian residents who now say they regret being its clients has dragged on for several years. It is a hot topic in Karelia mass media; the defrauded clients have staged rallies, the theme was on the agenda of the regional Public Chamber and even the presidential Human Rights Council met in Karelia's capital Petrozavodsk once to look into the matter. Dozens of complaints and statements against Sana Plus were forwarded to federal executive bodies (the presidential administration, the Prosecutor General's Office, the Investigative Committee, etc).

Amid the public pressure, the regional department of the Investigative Committee initiated criminal proceedings over fraud against a number of officials at Sana Plus, a developer affiliated with the regional Sana Group housing construction companies. In June 2017, Rossiya Television Channel aired a story about investors cheated by the construction firm. However, the investigation into the fraud was stopped in July due to the lack of element of crime and the VGTRK state-owned holding which includes Rossiya Television Channel found itself a defendant accused of marring the construction company's business reputation, as plaintiff Sana Plus alleged. Karelia's Arbitration Court received the statement of claim on 4 November; a hearing is scheduled for 8 November.

Blogger Sergei Kolyasnikov (zergulio) who came out in support of Sana Plus' fraud victims is among the defendants. He wrote on his page that unlike Rossiya, he would not take the story out and that he would wait for the court's ruling. He also said that Sana Plus demanded five million roubles in damages from him and ten million roubles from VGTRK.

Federal Tax Service asks court to declare bankrupt three Perm-based media companies owned by State Duma MP Skrivanov

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Tax authorities have filed a bankruptcy case with the Perm Region's Court of Arbitration against three media companies controlled by State Duma lawmaker from the ruling United Russia Party Dmitry Skrivanov. The debt two of them had run up totalled 9.4 million roubles.

When regional Legislative Assembly deputy Skrivanov began to buy up local mass media in 2014, he publicly called the acquisitions a “business project”. As subsequent events showed, the United Russia member used television, radio, the Internet, and print media for political purposes. The 2016 election campaign to the State Duma in the Perm Region was noted for cutthroat competition with the supporters of the then regional governor, Viktor Basargin. After winning a State Duma mandate, Skrivanov apparently aimed to take the gubernatorial seat. On 23 January, he inked an assignment contract with businessman Andei Sumlivy, passing the rights to demand from ActivMedia Holding JSC the payment on the loans totalling 157.6 million roubles he provided back in 2014-2015.

Perm journalists believe that Skrivanov ruined what little was left of once influential local media outlets. The failure of so-called business projects pursuing far-reaching political ambitions had an adverse effect as the state budget experienced tax revenue shortfalls.


Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in October 2017

Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 4 (David Frenkel, Mediazona photographer, St. Petersburg; Maxim Borodin, Novyi Den news agency journalist, Yekaterinburg; Irina Gorbacheva, editor, Pervyi Penzenskiy Portal, Penza; Tatyana Felgengauer, anchor, Radio Ekho Moskvy, Moscow)

Attacks on media offices and radio/TV stations - 1 (Radio FM-Birobijan, Birobijan)

Instances of censorship - 2 (newspaper Krasnyi Uralets, Chelyabinsk Region; Seventh Channel TV, Krasnoyarsk)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers - 3 (Darya Komarova, former chief editor of now-closed newspaper Ekspert Chuvashii, Cheboksary; Alexander Batmanov, journalist, Novosti na NKO news programme, Volgograd; Vladimir Romanenko, former director, Studiya Fakt municipal television company, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist - 3 (Nikolai Batavin, editor-in-chief, newspaper Krasnyi Uralets, Chelyabinsk Region; Tatyana Petrova, correspondent, newspaper Prikubanskiye Ogni, Krasnodar Region; Kristina Olenyova, Moskva 24 correspondent, Moscow)

Detention by police (FSB, etc.) - 17 (Alexander Zimbovsky, freelancer, Moscow; Alexander Valov, chief editor, BlogSochi news website, Krasnodar Region; Leonid Kudinov, blogger, Krasnodar; Andrei Loshak, freelancer, Krasnodar; Ilya Davlyatchin, RosBalt correspondent, St. Petersburg; Anatoly Maltsev, European Photo Agency photographer, St. Petersburg; David Frenkel, Mediazona photographer, St. Petersburg; Andrei Kiselyov, Radio Liberty correspondent, Beata Bubenets, Radio Liberty correspondent, Sonia Groisman, Dozhd correspondent, Roman Vdovichenko, Life journalist, Rostislav Bogushevsky, Daily Storm correspondent, all from Moscow; Georgy Malets, blogger, Moscow; Pavel Ryzhevsky, blogger, Moscow; Daniil Kuznetsov, 7x7 correspondent, Yaroslavl; Bashkir satellite TV film crew, Bashkortostan)

Threats against journalists, bloggers and media - 6 (Vitaly Kadayev, chief editor, newspaper Elistinskiy Kuryer, Elista; Maxim Borodin, Novyi Den news agency journalist, Yekaterinburg; 78th Channel film crew, St. Petersburg; Yevgeny Gaivoronsky, Primechaniya publication journalist, Crimea; Tatyana Felgengauer, anchor, Radio Ekho Moskvy, Moscow; Ksenya Larina, anchor, Radio Ekho Moskvy, Moscow)

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) - 47

Ejection of media from leased premises - 1 (newspaper Mayak, Sverdlovsk Region)

Withdrawal/purchase, or confiscation of print run - 1 (newspaper Krasnyi Uralets, Chelyabinsk Region)

Interference with Internet publications - 6 (The Village website, twice; websites of Fontanka.ru, Interfax, Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge, 47news.ru, all based in St. Petersburg)

Confiscation of/damage to photo, video and audio apparatus and computers - 1 (voice recorder of Yeiskaya Pravda editor Vasily Dovbysh, Krasnodar Region)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists' rights - 36


GLEDIS increases number of reviews of questionable expert studies

The Moscow-based Guild of Linguistic Experts on Documentation and Information-related Disputes (GLEDIS) is a long-standing partner of the GDF which made a sizable contribution to its establishment in 2001. It is a non-governmental non-profit organisation registered by the Russian Justice Ministry (Certificate No.14127, issued on 15 February 2001), and a leading expert centre in the Russian Federation. GLEDIS website: www.rusexpert.ru .

It provides effective assistance in linguistic and authorship expert examination of questionable Russian tests (publications, documents, and television and radio programmes), trademarks (wordmarks), names, surnames, etc, strictly upon official requests or under contracts with judges, plaintiffs and defendants (in civil, criminal and arbitration cases), mass media editorial offices editors, public organisations, investigators, law-enforcement personnel, law firms and panels, and foreign and international organisations including the European Court of Human Rights.

GLEDIS staff efficiently works in 30 regions of the Russian Federation.

Books, guides, booklets and articles on various aspects of linguistic data in resolving legal cases are freely available in the website's Forensic Linguistics section (see www.rusexpert.ru). “Methodological Recommendations on Linguistic Expert Examination of Disputed Mass Media Texts” is one of such useful reference materials composed by Yu. Belchikov, M. Gorbanevsky and I. Zharkov and published at the request of the Roskomnadzor media watchdog.

GLEDIS Board chairman Prof. M. Gorbanevsky told GDF that the organisation had recently increased the number of reviews of questionable expert examinations: “Along with requests for standard linguistic expert examinations of contentious texts (mostly found in the mass media) in 2017, we've had an increasing number of requests to review expert examinations performed by other linguists and organisations. Regrettably, it occurred due to a higher incidence of `customised' examinations carried out on the strength of resolutions by the investigators anxious to gather `solid evidence.' Such examinations foremost have to do with cases opened under Criminal Code Article 282 (`Extremism') as well as cases over insulting government representatives or hurting religious believers' feelings. We express our concern by stating that judicial and investigative practice has seen an increase in expert examinations performed by `specialists' whose skills and experience leave much to be desired. Their `conclusions' are often at odds even with the basic provisions of Federal Law No.73 `On state forensic and expert activity in the Russian Federation' dated 31 May 2001. GLEDIS has designed a method for reviewing questionable texts and expert examinations by other linguists and organisations and perfected it in extensive practice. These efforts are fully consistent with the GLEDIS mission to help preserve and develop the Russian language as a phenomenon of culture, science, politics, education and information space, assist people and their associations in exercising their right to freely express their opinions and ideas, and to communicate, produce and disseminate information, as well as contribute to successful administration of justice and judicial reform in our homeland”.

Committee to Protect Journalists' global impunity index titled “Getting away with Murder” released

A lack of justice in the murders of journalists can perpetuate a cycle of violence and impunity lasting a decade or more, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2017 Global Impunity Index released on October 31. The tenth annual report highlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and their killers go free.

Somalia, the worst country on the index, is one of seven to appear every year in the decade CPJ has compiled the list. The others are India, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, and Russia—showing that while impunity thrives in conflict environments, journalists working in some relatively stable nations that bill themselves as democracies are also murdered in high numbers.

“Impunity is a chokehold on society's free flow of information. When a single journalist is killed without justice, the message to all journalists is either watch what you say or watch your back,” said Elisabeth Witchel, author of the report and CPJ's consultant for the Global Campaign Against Impunity. “States on this list must not tolerate impunity year after year but actively take measures to address their failures of justice”.

This year, new murders occurred in half of the 12 countries on the index. Afghanistan dropped off the list for the first time because targeted killings of journalists have declined, even as conflict and large-scale violence have continued to cause journalists' deaths in the line of duty.

One positive development in the last decade is growing awareness of impunity in the murders of journalists. The United Nations has adopted five resolutions encouraging states to enact justice, and this year marks the fifth anniversary of the U.N. Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

The Impunity Index is released annually to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2. The report is calculated by looking at the number of unsolved murders of journalists over a 10-year period as a percentage of each country's population. The report includes a statistical table, report cards by country, and a detailed methodology (see cpj.org).

[Committee to Protect Journalists press release, October 31]

Forbidden Stories project with RSF participation launched

Reporters sans frontières (Reporters without Borders) and Freedom Voices Network have announced the launch of the Forbidden Stories project to help advance the investigation of journalist murders or arrests. The announcement came on Tuesday, October 31 (see rsf.org).

All journalists around the world who feel threatened will be able to use encrypted communication to protect sensitive information and put their ongoing investigations in a safe place. If something happens to them, Forbidden Stories will be in a position to finish their investigative stories in accordance with their instructions and to disseminate them widely.

Besides, Forbidden Stories will operate as a separate investigative media outlet. It plans to release one or two big investigative stories every year, made together with partners from the number of the world's media leaders.

The first material published on the Forbidden Stories website is dedicated to three journalists murdered in Mexico because of their investigation of drug cartel activities.

According to RSF, 55 journalists and other media workers have been killed in 2017, and more than 350 are currently behind bars. In the last decade, over 700 journalists have been murdered in the line of duty.

[RSF report, October 31]

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.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

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 Monitring 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 438, 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

Все новости

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