28 Августа 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 811

August 21, 2017


Suspected attackers of LGBT activists in St. Petersburg identified by journalists

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

Journalists have identified the people who attacked LGBT activists and the correspondents covering their rally on 12 August 2017. This information helped the police detain one of the suspects.

GDF earlier reported hooligans' attack on LGBT community members and several journalists. The hooligans' spraying pungent gas on their targets was caught on eye-witnesses' cameras (see Digest 810).

Police inaction during the incident prompted the journalists to look for the attackers on their own. The suspects' photos were published by the Fontanka online newspaper and Novaya Gazeta in Petersburg. Young St. Petersburg journalists of Mediafan informal community whose organising committee member Ksenia Klochkova had been hurt in the attack joined the search. The data provided by the journalists enabled the law-enforcement bodies to identify all the attackers, Fontanka reported.

On 18 August, the police conducting the probe into battery case (Article 116 of Russia's Criminal Code) detained Artyom Andreyev, the suspected mastermind behind the attack. Andreyev is an administrator of VKontakte social media's Straight Edge group which brings together many of the identified attackers. The Straight Edge community, noted for overt ultra-rightist views and having no clear agenda, had claimed responsibility for the incident.

The violence also drew the attention of several opposition factions' deputies at the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly who urged police to find and punish the wrongdoers. Regional deputy Marina Shishkina, a longtime dean of the Department of Journalism at St. Petersburg State University, currently secretary of Petersburg and the Leningrad Region Union of Journalists and director of the Union's Professional Centre, offered the journalistic community to jointly criticise police for “the contempt” of journalists' rights.

GDF will follow up on the story.


Chernovik editor appeals to presidential Human Rights Council for help

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District;

Dagestan newspaper Chernovik editor-in-chief Mairbek Agayev has requested presidential Human Rights Council Director Mikhail Fedotov to personally supervise the probe into the attack on journalists and help hold the guilty parties responsible.

On top of that, Agayev asked General Prosecutor Yuri Chaika to carry out a check and open criminal proceedings against the attackers.

GDF earlier reported that three men had attacked Chernovik reporters Saida Vagabova and Bariyat Idrisova who were covering an anti-corruption rally at the Kumyk Theatre in Makhachkala on 12 June. The attackers took away the women's phones, pushed Vagabova while threatening to “break her” and told Idrisova that they would “have it out with her”. The men also damaged Kavkazsky Uzel (“Caucasian Knot”) correspondent Patimat Makhmudova's camera (see digest 806 and digest 807 ).

The journalists asked Makhachkala's Sovetsky district police department to file a case over obstructing legitimate professional activity of journalists (Article 144 of Russia's Criminal Code). The police turned them down viewing the attack as petty hooliganism. The wrongdoers were fined 500 roubles ($8.4).

Chernovik later detailed the incident in the article titled “Impunity is Crime”.

Chernovik journalists and readers managed to identify the attackers. One of them is a suspect in the Dagestan Republican State Broadcasting Company staffer Yakhya Yakhyev murder case.

Prosecutors overturned the law enforcers' decision not to file a case and ordered to recheck the incident.


Police official in Perm describes his rumoured kinship with Interior Ministry general as “smearing” information

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Denial can tell more about the heroes of a story than they would conceal from the public, as an August 17 article on Perm's NeSecretno (“No Secret”) news portal showed.

Former deputy chief of the regional police Professional Training Centre Baatr Lidzhiyev felt offended at two articles published two years ago. The policeman sent an eye-catching text to journalists. The editorial office published the demands the man had set forth leaving the original spelling intact. “Deny the information on my personal life, in particular the allegation that I'm a nephew of police Lieutenant-General Yuri Valyayev, as inconsistent with facts and defaming me, Baatr Lidzhiyev”.

Yuri Valyayev has headed the Perm police department since 2011. B. Lidzhiyev arrived in Perm shortly after Valyayev was appointed to the post. Watching these two high-placed officials interacting, some subordinates suggested that they were relatives and called Lidzhiyev “the Nephew” between themselves.

Both law enforcers were witnesses in the criminal case related to Sochi Winter Olympic Games funding. Lidzhiyev, in charge of Perm police training before their secondment to the Olympic Games in autumn 2013, passed 15.8 million roubles to businessman Oleg Novichenkov who represented JSC Perm Bears Sport Complex. Accommodation, food and transportation costs for the law enforcers slightly exceeded half of the budget-allocated sum. The remaining 6.9 million rubles had been stolen, as the investigators and the court ascertained. As charges were brought against the former regional police logistics department chief, Vyacheslav Veskin, he claimed that he had passed one million rubles to his superior Valyayev. After face-to-face interrogation of the former colleagues, the Investigative Committee decided on 27 November 2015 not to open criminal proceedings against the general. Vesin and Novichenkov were given suspended sentences on 21 December and 30 December 2015, respectively.

Lidzhiyev, the author of the denial in NeSecretno, apparently didn't like the articles mentioning Valyayev. However, the stories published on 30 September and 16 October 2015 told about Lidzhiyev's debt to the Savings Bank. The bank filed a 1.1-million-rouble suit against the police official over defaulted payment on the loan taken on 20 September 2014. As the defendant returned to Kalmykia, Perm's Motovilikhinsky district court referred the civil law case to the Elista city court on 15 October 2015 for review within its territorial jurisdiction. Lidzhiyev preferred not to challenge the information on defaulted payment.

Omsk journalist reporting about illegal liquor trade charged with “slander”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The journalist who wrote about illegal alcohol production controlled by law enforcers is suspected of slander.

Russia's Investigative Committee department for the Omsk Region which previously dismissed numerous local online media articles about a ramified network of illegal alcohol producers, suddenly reacted to the story titled “Time for Moscow to Send a Special Team to Combat Liquor Mafia” carried by the BK55 news portal.

The story was backed by a video recording made at the police unit combating economic crime. Investigators showed an interest in not so much the facts narrated in the story of which they could have been aware (the author of the story, Alexander Grass, said he alone had contributed several hundred reports on the problem) as the method employed to obtain the information. Earlier, Grass offered explanations at the police department concerning “unsanctioned entry and making a video recording at the department for economic crimes,” as well as purported “slander against investigator Babkin and his colleague Babkina”. This is what drew the law enforcers' attention in the article on illegal vodka trade covered up by “people with shoulder straps” (as Alexander Grass had repeatedly proved with audio and video recordings).

Investigators told the website editors that they were handling a criminal case opened under Criminal Code Article 298.1 (“Slander against judge, juror, prosecutor, investigator, interrogating officer, or bailiff”). The Article envisions a one- to five-million ruble fine and hundreds of hours of community work. The investigators requested BK55 and the editorial office “to immediately contact them, name the author of the slanderous story” (didn't they see that it was signed “Alexander Grass”?) and reveal “the secrets” of its publication on the website, i.e. how it had been delivered to the editorial office and whether the text had been edited.

The investigators did not say who had complained about the story, nor did they reveal the content of the complaint or what, in the complainant's view, constituted slander in that particular case.

Alexander Gross suspects that the complainants are the local shadow alcohol trade bosses who have been developing their business despite law enforcers' countermeasures. Prosecutors' answers that police “cannot cope with their duties in this issue while permitting foot-dragging, cover-up and unprofessionalism” confirmed his suspicions. Although many officials were reprimanded and disciplined in connection with the problem, it did not deter the bootleg liquor market from flourishing. Any Omsk Region resident knows about local bootleg liquor trade; many are regular consumers of illegal alcohol, so the classic's [Mikhail Lermontov's] words can be applied to police officials: They were “slandered” not only by Alexander Grass but also “by a rumour”.

Two men convicted in Sverdlovsk Region of meddling with film crew's work and beating its members

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Artyomovsky city court on 14 August gave 18-month suspended sentences with two-year probation to Universalremont car maintenance company director Yevgeny Shlein and local resident Denis Slyusarenko who had beaten up Yermak Television camera crew on 28 July 2016. They were found guilty of obstructing legitimate professional activity of journalists, using violence on journalists, and damaging their property (Article 144 of Russia's Criminal Code).

The journalists came to Armyomovsky's industrial site in Kuibyshev Street together with All Russia's People Front regional branch member Valery Basai who wanted to expose Universalremont's poor quality services. As soon as the reporters entered the industrial zone and began to take footage, they were attacked by several “tattooed bruisers”. Although Shlein denied the accusations at court hearings, the court proved that the attackers had smashed photographer Denis Urazbakhtin's camera and taken away the flash disk. The reporters were repeatedly punched but did not suffer serious harm to health.

Yermak journalists were attacked twice (!) on that day (see digest 762); thanks to the injured parties' perseverance and support by the Russian Union of Journalists' regional branch, both criminal cases went on trial and the attackers got the punishment they deserved.

[Based on reports by Znak.com]

Judge in Rostov prohibits reporter to use voice recorder at court sitting she was the only person to attend

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Rostov-on-Don's Leninsky district court has considered the case over violation of the law on protection of historical and cultural monuments. As the matter stands, the defendant is the Rostov Diocese which tore down a historical building on the premises of the Rostov Cathedral without securing the regional Culture Ministry's approval.

Neither the defendant nor the plaintiff appeared at the hearings. Had Rostov Ofitsialny reporter Tatyana Tumanova not turned up at the court session, city residents would have never known that the Diocese pointed at its logistics manager Polyakov, a part-time employee, as the person responsible for the demolition of the building. No objections followed from the Culture Ministry as the trial took a new turn. Both parties requested the court to review the case in the absence of their representatives.

The hearing might have been cancelled had it not been for the journalist's appearance. Judge Margarita Lazareva read the case materials to Tumanova but did not allow her to turn on her voice recorder. The court ruled on the minimum fine of 20,000 roubles (the maximum is 200,000 roubles for natural persons, 400,000 rubles for officials, and five million roubles for legal entities). Predictably, the parties did not appeal the ruling.

Judge Lazareva seems to have a vague idea about the mass media and journalists' rights law stipulating that voice recorders can be freely used at open court hearings by journalists, participants, and community members.

VKontakte social media administrator of newspaper Vesti Priladozhya in Karelia fined for posting police's official video report

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

Lahdenpohja resident V. Puzov has filed a moral damage claim against N. Fedyuntsov, editor of the newspaper Vesti Priladozhya, after the latter posted in the VKontakte social group a video featuring police officers detaining Puzov in a state of intoxication, for which the detainee was later charged with committing an administrative offence.

Soon afterward, Puzov challenged the sentence and the court established that the non-departmental security guards had had no right to take him to a police station only because his home music centre was too noisy. Upon getting the video showing the detention, the Vesti Priladozhya editor posted it online, causing Puzov's son to ask him to remove the video and not disgrace his father, which Fedyuntsov refused to do. That was followed by Puzov's filing his lawsuit on charges of intrusion into his private life aggravated by his defaming, an offence the claimant estimated at 100,000 roubles payable by the editor and his newspaper.

Fedyuntsov insisted in court that by posting the video in a social network he was defending state and public interests, because he thereby condemned vice and described how efficiently police worked.

Puzov, for his part, kept repeating that the editor had had no right without his consent to post the disgracing video for anyone to see, while reporting nothing about Puzov's suffering at the hands of policemen. He refused to acknowledge his detention near his own house as an event of any interest to the public, unlike cases where a reporter or a media outlet may publish videos without first getting the consent of the persons shown.

The court agreed that Vesti Priladozhya could not be held responsible for publishing the video online because its account (page) in VKontakte was not registered as a media outlet; this notwithstanding, the court did fine the group's web administrator, Fedyuntsov, for intruding into Puzov's private life. The judge decided that the video, posted in the social network under the title “Police Ask Man into Black Maria” was an inadmissible instance of a breach of privacy. Puzov is not a public figure and making a questionable video with his participation was unrelated to his government, political, public, or any other activities; therefore, his detention was uninteresting to the public, the court said.

The video was made by police officers with a view to documenting the process of Puzov's transportation to the police station and was not meant for broad viewing audiences. After Puzov filed his legal claim, the video was removed from all open-access online resources including the social media page of Vesti Priladozhya. The question of who was the first to post online the police's official video report which Fedyuntsov only copied was beyond the scope of that court sitting.

The court awarded Puzov 20,000 roubles in moral damages from Fedyuntsov.

Journalists in Vladivostok barred from hearings of vice-governor's alleged corruption case

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Though Maritime Region Vice-Governor Yevgeny Vishnyakov was due to return from summer vacations, he did not appear at his workplace; one day earlier his office had been searched. Regional administration officials refused to comment on the situation for the press, but after a while they had to confirm that searches had indeed been carried out in the vice-governor's office and at the Energy Department, and the Frunzensky district court accepted Vishnyakov's case for review.

“The causes and results of those operative-investigative measures are unknown, so we think it premature to draw any conclusions before the court returns a sentence,” was their official comment for journalists. As it turned out, Vishnyakov had been detained by FSB agents at the Vladivostok airport, as had earlier been Ussuriysk Mayor Yevgeny Korzh, whose damage to the city budget is estimated at 50 million roubles, a fact that had been hushed up until recently. The case is handled by the Maritime Region FSB Department.

As Vostok-Media news agency correspondent Yevgeny Cheryomukhin has said in a phone call from the Frunzensky court, the regional administration deputy head is under arrest with criminal proceedings launched against him, but no press reporter is allowed into the courtroom to cover the trial.


“Freedom of rumour” soars in Krasnodar

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Krasnodar Regional Court deputy chairwoman Elena Khakhaleva gained fame in the country over a short period. The first resounding reports over her daughter's rich luxurious midsummer wedding involving such celebrities as [pop singers] Baskov, Brezhneva, Meladze and Kobzon were followed by stories putting to doubt the authenticity of Elena Khakhaleva's academic degrees and the lawfulness of her appointment as a judge. Yet no checks were launched by law enforcement despite the questions posed by reporters in numerous critical articles.

It was not until a Krasnodar Federal District farmer Elena Dryukova requested eight top Russian law-enforcement bodies to verify Khakhaleva's diplomas and the legitimacy of her appointment that the authorities began to look into the matter.

The trend not to react to critical mass media stories was aptly commented on by well-known Russian journalist and rights activist Lydia Grafova: “The authorities have begun responding to freedom of expression with freedom of listening: Speak all you want: we enjoy freedoms, too, we might want to hear you or we might let it pass”.

The scandal involving Khakhaleva showed well that the trend had long become a rule. In the Krasnodar Region, editorial offices have a long-established practice to send critical reports along with requests for government and law-enforcement bodies to check the information stated in the critical stories and send back motivated written replies. This policy is superfluous with current effective legislation, but journalists deliberately go for this red tape in order to enhance the effect of their stories and raise the prestige of their media in the public eye.

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.


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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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