19 Июня 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 806

13 June 2017


Summing up 12 June protest actions in Russia

By GDF Information Service

Anti-corruption rallies took place across Russia on 12 June. Some of them were uneventful, at least they had no negative consequences for the journalists covering street protests. In many cities however, reporters took the brunt of the authorities' anger with the police detaining rally participants and plainclothes men at the scene making all efforts to interfere in reporters' and bloggers' work. Journalists were detained together with protesters, threatened and attacked, their equipment was damaged or taken away to give them no chance to film what was going on, a routine scenario of almost all protest actions.

In St. Petersburg, Kommersant photographer David Frenkel who had a press card on him was nevertheless detained; Sobaka.Ru journalist Ksenia Morozova was detained as well. In Sochi, police detained Radio Liberty correspondent Andrey Kiselyov; for some reason, law-enforcers designated him as protest organiser and warned him in an official statement against inadmissibility of unlawful actions. In Makhachkala, journalists were interfered with as they were covering the protest action: Caucasian Knot correspondent Patimat Makhmudova's camera was broken and the phone of a newspaper Chernovik correspondent was taken away. An unidentified man tried to prevent Otkrytyi Kanal correspondents from taking a video: he walked up to the camera crew and asked them if their equipment was in order, and then tried to snatch away the camera from a journalist. In Vladivostok, journalists were threatened and attempts were made to take away their cameras.

In Moscow, law enforcers were roughing journalists and bloggers too: Echo Moscow radio correspondent Andrey Poznyakov was detained in Tverskaya Street. “They searched me and put me in a police van,” he reported. “Police are trying to find out if I'm a journalist”. He said he had shown them his press card and passport several times. Police examined his assignment sheet, and then set him free.

Not everybody was that lucky though. Blogger Yan Katelevsky said “they handled me roughly, tore off my press card, kicked and beat me with batons, bruised my trachea when they were choking me and hit my head on the police van”.

Novaya Gazeta correspondent Yevgeny Feldman, Otkrytaya Rossiya journalist Nikita Safronov, photographer Georgy Malets and freelance reporter Denis Styazhkin were among the detainees. RTVi photoreporter Alexey Abanin said a Russian Guard officer threatened him: “A man came up to me and gently told me that he would break my camera and my face if I continued filming”.

It is another reminder that police dislike eyewitnesses of their work: that is why they pay special attention to the journalists covering protest actions.

[Sources: OVD Info, Mediazone, Chernovik, Svobodnye Novosti, RBK and Echo Moscow]


Five knife stabs to Kaliningrad editor cost attacker only 18 months in penal colony

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Kaliningrad's Central District Court announced the verdict in the case over attack on Novyye Kolyosa editor Igor Rudnikov. The court found Petersburg resident Alexey Kashirin guilty sentencing him to 18 months in a penal colony. The prosecutor for the state had demanded a ten-year prison term for the defendant.

Two unidentified men attacked Igor Rudnikov near cafe “Solyanka” on 17 March 2016. They stabbed Rudnikov five times and fled the scene in a waiting car. The journalist was rushed to hospital and operated upon.

Law enforcers opened a criminal case; the charges were later reclassified several times. Detectives managed to find the Mercedes in which the attackers had fled. Two suspects were identified in May; one of them was detained.

However, the case went on trial with only one defendant. The mastermind and other perpetrators were never found. The motive remains unclear. Judge Lilia Aliyeva announced the verdict on 8 June. The judge sentenced the defendant to 18 months in prison saying that the homicidal intent had not been proven. The prosecutor for the state had demanded ten-year imprisonment.

“I survived miraculously, thanks to law-enforcement personnel; a month and a half later, Kashirin and Vasyuk were detained. However, Kashirin was the only person in the prisoner's dock although the whole criminal group is known to police and appeared in the criminal case,” Rudnikov wrote on Facebook in comments on judge Aliyeva's ruling. He believes that it was a contract hit. The journalist repeatedly said that police should look for the mastermind in Svetlogorsk as the crime was committed shortly after Novyye Kolyosa reported unlawful urban development in this resort town.

Kashirin, who has already spent 13 months in custody, might be set free in a few days. Judge Aliyeva thereby licensed the murder of journalists. It was not a sentence for killer Kashirin and his accomplices, it was a sentence for the Kaliningrad legal judicial system,” Kaliningrad 24 news portal quoted Igor Rudnikov as saying.


Picketing action Our Children Are Not Hostages in support of Natalia Yakovleva held in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Activists have picketed the Omsk Education Department again in defence of journalist Natalia Yakovleva and her daughter. Digest 798 reported that two months ago, eleven federal websites posted the same article signed by School No. 40 teacher Viktor Vlasov, in which he slandered a 15 year-old girl “prognosticating” her likely future. The “prognosis” is direct threat to the health and life of the child who the teacher claimed might “commit suicide or be physically, emotionally or sexually abused or bullied by her peers” etc (see digest 798).

A majority of the websites that disseminated Vlasov's libel cast themselves as “patriotic”: Zavtra, Velikoross, Publitsist, Nasha Molodyozh... The text identifying the girl by her real name was posted on Vkontakte social media so that her peers and classmates could read it. It provoked the girls' nervous breakdown and her six-week stay away from school. Over this period, the girl learnt at home. Rights activists and Natalia's colleagues have no doubt that her family has been harassed by the officials she criticised in her articles on Radio Liberty and in the newspaper Krasnyi Put (Natalia is currently an observer with the newspaper Novaya Gazeta - Zapadnaya Sibir). The reports filed with law-enforcement bodies stated that the family was regularly persecuted.

Neither municipal or regional officials seem to hold authority over teacher Vlasov: when Natalia Yakovleva asked deputy mayor for social policy Irina Kasyanova to intervene on her behalf and make him stop disseminating his indecent allegations on the Internet, the official said she had no right to forbid the teacher to do what he wanted during his nonworking hours. The chlidren's ombdusperson office staff were unable to find the teacher on the school website and the regional education ministry recommended Natalia to seek justice in court...

The first action in support of the journalist took place in Omsk in April. The next day, guardianship service agents were knocking on the door of her apartment and insisting that Natalia let them take her daughter for examination (see Digest 799) .

Two hundred and sixty-eight Facebook users from all over Russia signed a letter to the president in defence of the Yakovlevs. As always, the Kremlin gave the appeal the runaround, sending it to the city education department, the lowest level of power vertical. The latter replied that Viktor Vlasov, as a teacher, met all the requirements.

It was another face of teacher Vlasov that many Omsk residents saw after the scandal flared up: the mass media affiliated with the authorities hailed him as a great Siberian writer and proceeded to quote from his writings in every issue.

Regional police found no hallmarks of crime in his actions; the last hope is the Investigative Committee Department which recently extended the probe. However, Natalia Yakovleva's colleagues are not going to keep silent while awaiting its results. On 8 May, Novaya Gazeta - Zapadnaya Sibir staff and other media outlets picketed the city education department (the next action is expected to take place near the regional prosecutor's office). They stood for an hour holding slogans “Our Children Are Not Hostages,” “If You Can't Break a Reporter, Hit Her Child,” “Let's Protect our Children from the Authorities' Lawlessness,” “No to Vlasovism”... The protesters demanded that the department announce its opinion about the incident and answer the question if a teacher has the right to defame a child and issue threats against her. “It's not just about our family,” Natalia says, “nobody knows whom Vlasovites or those who control them might target tomorrow: any family might find itself in our place”.

Omsk reporter sends open letter to owner of VKontakte social network

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

“Mr Usmanov, your business wrecks the lives of hundreds of young people”.

Novaya Gazeta - Zapadnaya Sibir website carried the letter by deputy editor-chief Natalia Gergert. “Mr Usmanov, you talk contemptuously about Navalny, but what is happening to the business you control? Why have the lives of hundreds of Vkontakte users been wrecked in the past couple of years? Those who had the misfortune to create accounts on Vkontakte (rather than Facebook, Odnoklassniki, Twitter or Telegram) get sentenced under Criminal Code Article 282.

It happened to the son of the author of the letter, too (GDF reported it in Digest 802-803): anti-terrorism centre agents persecuted him for the post sent to his page by an unknown spammer. He did not immediately discover the unwelcome content, and when he did, he deleted it, but law enforcers had already made screenshots of his Vkontakte page by then. The adolescent who had just finished school came under law enforcers' surveillance.

“Then they began to gather evidence by questioning his former classmates and teachers. Investigator Gordeyeva's three-hour interrogations put people under heavy pressure as criminal case materials show,” Natalia Gergert said. The investigators brought the case to trial in the long run but the hearings found multiple falsifications: “a witness” had not seen the video and signed the testimony without reading it; the “linguists” (who carried out an expert examination in the absence of the defendant's lawyer) called Natalia's son “the author of the posts” 22 times though he had neither written nor commented on them; there were secret witnesses in the case, their personal data were altered, etc.

“Many school leavers, before they created their Vkontakte accounts, had no idea what extremism was about,” Natalia went on. Extremist pictures and texts appear on their social media pages one way or the other (our president recently told NBC news anchor Megyn Kelly that specialists could “fix it up” to make your three-year-old child “the perpetrator” of the hacking attack). These include posts with Nazi symbols. Vkontake has not filters to block them: the network is flooded with these images. For some reason, police never track down the initial sources.

The journalist reminds oligarch Usmanov that under the consumer protection rights law, Russian citizens have the right to absolutely safe services which must not cause harm to health or threaten their freedom and life, and they can demand compensation if the producer of services cannot meet his commitments. Natalia Gergert believes that the owner of the Vkontakte network might have taken care to protect young people from these disgusting things finding their way onto their pages”.

“The school leavers persecuted for reposts which they did not write and did not even comment on are not criminals; they are the consumers hurt through inferior service”. The journalist called for amending Russian Criminal Code Article 282 to make social media administrators responsible for filling the media with extremist content which provokes crimes that otherwise could be prevented with filtering. In such cases, criminals should be reclassified as the injured parties.

Natalia Gergert asked to consider her open letter an appeal to Russia's Supreme Court.

Prosecutor's office in Sverdlovsk Region takes journalists' side

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Acting Serovsky municipality head Vyacheslav Semakov has expelled newspaper Globus reporter Alexey Pasynkov from a conference which addressed housing and public utilities issues, under the pretext that the latter had no accreditation; Semakov had no issues with Pasynkov's colleagues who apparently represented more loyal media. Globus editor-in-chief Alexander Artsybashev did not put up with the violation of law as the district administration's letter dated 5 December 2016 confirmed Pasynkov's accreditation for a year.

He reported the incident to the regional Union of Journalists. Following a response from its chairman Alexander Levin, prosecutors carried out a check, the Union said on its website. The Serov town district prosecutor's office cited a violation of the federal law “On Providing Access to Information on the Activities of Government Bodies and Bodies of Local Self-Government” and demanded in a statement on 30 May 2017 that district administration head Elena Berdnikova rectify the situation and hold the guilty official responsible.

Regional prosecutor's spokeswoman Marina Kanatova told the Sverdlovsk Union of Journalists that although no signs of criminal offence had been found in officials' actions, the prosecutors would see to it that other kinds of penalties envisioned by the law applied to the official.

GDF will follow up on the story.

Karelia governor reinstates illegally fired editor-in-chief, thus upholding staff's will (Karelia, North-West Russia)

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

The unlawful dismissal of Respublika Karelia News Agency editor-in-chief did not end well for some of the persons involved. Following is the timeline of the events. Karelia chief enlistment officer A.Artemyev read an article on Respublika website about a district enlistment officer who had been caught taking a bribe. Artemyev assumed that the article was about him (the article identified the bribe-taker as Karelia enlistment officer).

An indignant Artemyev phoned Respublika Karelia News Agency director general L.Stryapicheva threatening her with legal action for disseminating misinformation. The article did not contain false data as the author had used the information on the Investigative Committee website. The only thing that must have angered the Karelia enlistment official is the mentioning of the suspect's official position (“Karelian enlistment officer”). On the other hand, each of Karelia's 18 districts has its own enlistment officer and they all can be called Karelian on the strength of their geographic location.

The phone call initially had bad consequences for Respublika website editor-in-chief Grigory Chentemirov who was summoned to the agency director general to give explanations. The chief editor tendered his resignation under Stryapicheva's pressure. However, the editors of the online media, a Respublika Karelia News Agency division, appealed to the agency founders and Karelia's administration in an open letter, and the story took a new turn. Karelia administration officials immediately terminated the contact with Respublika Karelia News Agency Director General A.Stryapicheva replacing her with Alexey Makarov, a professional journalist who had headed various media organisations for many years.

G. Chentemirov formally requested the new director general to view his resignation as invalid as the former director had made him quit the job under pressure. A.Makarov ordered to reinstate Chentemirov as Respubika editor-in-chief.

The favourable outcome for journalists can be explained by the fact that acting Karelia head A. Parfenchikov is now busy replacing former administration officials; his new team might have viewed it as a good pretext to oust general director L.Stryapicheva who had had the job for much too long. In any case, the journalist's wishes in this story mirrored the governor administration plans.


Court in Omsk rules “foreign agent” is not an insulting label

Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A court has ruled that the phrase “foreign agent” is not an insult to Russian citizens.

Omsk's Sovetsky District Court refused to consider the claims against Omsk state-owned television and radio company and its director general Alexander Malkevichby filed by Parnas Party regional branch leader, City Public Council Chairman Igor Basov. The plaintiff demanded a six-million rouble compensation for moral damages for being called “a foreign agent” by head of the region's major media outlet during televised municipal election debates. Omsk's chief anchor Alexander Malkevich told Basov the following: “Igor Gennadyevich, let's talk straight: you're a foreign agent anyway, do you still wish to defend the city interests?”

GDF said local television ran the clip three times. Also, it was posted on YouTube. Basov said he had to tell his friends and acquaintances time and again that he was not a foreign agent. “If an organisation is recognized as a foreign agent, the consequences are bearable, but if this term is applied to a person, he is unequivocally viewed as a foreign secret service agent”.

The claims included the disavowal of the misinformation disseminated by A.Malkevich.

The plaintiff told the GDF that the court acknowledged that the phrase had been spoken by his opponent and heard by many TV viewers and Internet users, yet it did not regard it as an insult as it did not harm human honour, dignity or business reputation. “It means that you can call any Russian citizen “a foreign agent,” but they should not take offence, according to Sovetsky District Court's notions,” Basov said. He intends to appeal the ruling at the regional court and if it comes into effect, he would take his case to the European Court of Human Rights: “I've got nothing to lose anyway since they've recognised me as a foreign agent”.

The GDF, which the Russian Justice Ministry added to the list of “foreign agents”, disagrees with Mr Basov who believes that if an organisation is recognized as a foreign agent, no great harm is done.

More about tenders with predictable results in Krasnodar Region

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Oddly, I never wondered if Cannes festival organisers paid the media for coverage. I asked myself this question after the government procurements website announced a tender for coverage of arrangements for and holding of the 3rd international Bridge of Arts Moties and Sports Festival 2017. I have no idea how much taxpayers' money was spent on the first two such festivals given the fact that the 2017 funding amounted to 2.3 million roubles for media coverage alone.

The key point in the procurement documents is the statement of requirements. 2017 requirements committed the winner to publishing 1.5-page materials on the film festival in five regional magazines and a 0.5-page article in one federal magazine. The tender was held by the Rostov Region's Information Policy Department. As usual, the magazines are easily identified by detailed description of their size, print run and publication frequency. Their location gave an additional clue: they are published in the Rostov, Voronezh, Volgograd, Krasnodar and Stavropol Regions (what a southern Russia get-together at an international festival).

The tender documents set the specifications for footage to be taken by the television companies which win the tender for “procurement of information services”. The filming has to be done at all angles in HD format with 1920 x 1080 image resolution. Camera shake should be avoided (not to be confused with hand tremor caused by nerve disorder).

I wonder if these magazines and television companies will produce original materials on the festival and the works by its participants, in addition to custom-made ones? Or maybe the contract does not provide for independent coverage? Will the festival be covered by other media outlets which were not lucky to get the funding? Because it's a shame to work for free when someone does it for money.

The question is what it has to do with federal, regional or municipal procurements, not mentioning such basic ideas as freedom of expression or media independence. Viewers and readers do not know that the festival is praised by the spin doctors hired by the organizers, not the true journalists; custom-made coverage never reveals itself as promotion.

It seems nobody is around to stop the authorities from dishing out money under the guise of a tender. The Rostov Region Department of Russia' Anti-Monopoly Service, in response to a GDF correspondent's complaints over previous tenders which were held much along the same lines, said it had found “no violations” in the arrangements for regional government procurements.

Bear is the master in taiga, and regional officials are masters of Don River steppes.

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.

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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:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни