15 Августа 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 808

July 31, 2017


Photographer handcuffed for taking pictures of stadium in Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Yekaterinburg Arena stadium construction site in the regional centre which is to host several 2018 FIFA World Cup games next summer has been surprisingly off limits to photo journalists. Leonid Makarov's detention by Professional Security Agency guards on 24 July was the second scandalous incident involving a photographer; his colleague Vladimir Zadumin was arrested in June.

Makarov said the guards had overpowered him as he was about to take a couple of pictures of the arena for a Wikipedia article. Two minutes later the handcuffed journalist missing his camera was taken to Police Station No.9 where he was searched, fingerprinted and photographed. Leonid told TochkaNews portal that the security agency guards cited Russian government anti-terrorism resolution No 485 as they were detaining him. In actual fact however, the document does not provide for any measures against photographing FIFA World Cup facilities under construction.

Yekaterinburg's internal affairs department confirmed that Leonid Makarov had been brought to a police station on 24 July. “He was questioned and identified; his equipment was not confiscated and no data were deleted. The man was released thereafter,” the city police press service said.

Local photographers are bewildered by the authorities' policy towards “specially protected facilities”. Yekaterinburg seems to be the only place where taking photos of a stadium under construction is prohibited; their colleagues in other World Cup host cities have no such problems.

Criminal proceedings on extremism charges against editor Natalya Vakhonina closed in Sverdlovsk Region

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

After 12-month proceedings, the Russian Investigative Committee dropped the criminal case against Mezhdu Strok (Between the Lines) editor-in-chef Natalia Vakhonina (see Digest 765). The journalist was charged with posting several songs by the Right Hook band and the “Get Ready” trailer on VKontakte social media in 2011. According to an expert conclusion, the posted songs and trailer incited “hate towards burghers”. Police searched the journalist's apartment in January 2016, seizing her notebook, mobile phone, system unit and several flash disks.

The investigators asked her to admit her guilt, and promised to drop the proceedings due to the statute of limitations, which she declined. The journalist believed she had been prosecuted because of her criticism of Town Hall's and Nizhny Tagil mayor Sergey Nosov's policies.

At long last, Sverdlovsk Region Investigative Committee Department spokesman Alexander Shulga told reporters that the criminal proceedings against the woman had been stopped. “The woman is not implicated; the investigation is ongoing,” Shulga said. Defence lawyer Viktor Masterenko handed his client the investigators' resolution saying that the extremist content had been traced to another person.

Vakhonina said three investigators handling the case had been replaced over a year. The authorities returned the journalist her notebook back in January 2017 but still keep her system unit which Vakhonina said might be out of operation.

Gubernatorial press pool instructed which topics “not to connect” with Perm governor

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region government press service has circulated among local media an instruction telling them what they can cover and which topics should not relate to the governor. In its first release on 26 July, new Internet portal Versiya (v-59.ru) posted excerpts from the document.

“The document leaked to the press as officials mistakenly attached the in-house instruction to the mailed list of regional ministries' press office contacts,” Versiya journalists alleged. Public relations personnel are ordered to follow “the plan of interaction with the gubernatorial press service” and carry out the three tasks it sets forth. Also, the instruction identifies six other “important topics” and names the responsible parties.

The instruction has the word `governor' capitalised throughout the text, for some reason. Technically, the Perm Region has had no governor since February 2017; Maxim Reshetnikov, a native of Perm and Moscow's nominee, has been acting head of the region. The gubernatorial election is scheduled for Single Voting Day on 10 September. Bureaucrats, rushing already now to demonstrate loyalty to President Vladimir Putin's appointee, seem to be taking liberties with Russian language rules.

Public relations staff at all regional departments are ordered to support the mass media topics “publicly identified by the governor”. Regional authorities plan to partially cover the cost of mass media publications. Government bodies' press secretaries have been tasked with informing their superiors about the “crisis-related” topics appearing in media space. The instruction names acting governor's adviser Igor Lobanov, chairman of the regional Union of Russian Journalists, as one of the persons responsible for promoting “important” topics.

In a manner reminiscent of Soviet censorship, the government press service said that it was “indiscreet” of Education Ministry officials to raise the issue of informal fees demanded by kindergarten administrations. It believes that the Ministry should have removed the questionnaire addressing the issue, as well as voting statistics from its webpage. Next, the press service offers an explanation: “Not all demands for money are extortions. Money is raised upon approval by the parents' or activists' committees. Do not associate this topic with the governor,” the instruction says.

This clarifies the principles of operation of the new regional leader's team in media space, Versiya noted. Alexander Sosnin edits this private news portal at present. Glasnost Defence Foundation Digest 800 reported that the journalist earlier headed the Mestnoye Vremya (Local Time) web portal. As that Internet media outlet was shut down and he lost the job, he had to file a legal action over wage arrears.

Versiya's objective is to conduct journalistic investigations, Alexander Sosnin told GDF. Sosnin said his colleagues established and launched this web portal on a pro bono basis.

Blogger's car burned by unknown evildoers in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Viktor Shaternikov from Novotroitskaya village is an activist, blogger, author and local YouTube channel So-Vest anchor. A Molotov Cocktail bottle flew into his garage at around 2:00 a.m. overnight from Friday to Saturday. He did catch a glimpse of headlights as a car drove away. Firefighters and investigators who came to the scene said it was arson. An intruder had entered the garage, smashed the car windshield and threw an incendiary bottle inside.

Many resent Shaternikov's articles and human rights activities. Earlier, So-Vest channel carried a resounding story about the Izobilnenskaya Central District Hospital where expectant mothers who did not pay fees were denied even emergency surgery which put their life and the lives of their babies at risk. The journalist began to receive more phone threats after presenting the story on regional television.

In a second high-profile story on So-Vest Channel, Shaternikov told about a Krasnogvardeisky District farmer who had to pay a kickback for a business support and development subsidy. He later came under pressure to give up a land plot (initially it was a waste dump which he turned into a garden). The farmer was also threatened with violence.

Later on, Viktor Shternikov posted one more trailer on social media where he asked regional government deputy chairman Nikolai Velikdan online about farmer support. The official's upbeat reply was in stark contrast to the farmer's truthful story about the support they were getting in practice.

Unidentified characters throw reporter out of district election headquarters in Novosibirsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Entry to the Election Committee is strictly prohibited to journalists in Novosibirsk and elsewhere. Taiga.info stringer Potr Manyakhin tried to attend a session of the (district) election commission at the Central District Administration which on 28 June met over the registration of Sergey Boiko, director of the regional headquarters for support of opposition activist Alexey Navalny. A cordon of six police officers highlighted the significance of the meeting in the building which any Russian citizen can enter without having to show his ID, as the Russian law says. The police major who was with the guards demanded that Manyakhin, a well-known freelancer, show his journalist's ID (which he did not happen to have on him) as well as a certificate confirming that he was Boiko's agent. The procedure was set by the district election commission chairman, the major explained.

Pyotr Manyakhin was denied access also to the welfare and utility services in the same building which was a gross violation of his constitutional rights. Two minutes later, two plainclothes men, who said they were just passing by, began to push the journalist out of the building and then grabbed his hands to drag him out into the street.

Sergei Boiko, commenting on the incident in social media, said that he had noticed OTC and First Channel cameras in the hall. “It seems we have not only different categories of voters, but also different categories of journalists here,” he wrote. “There is little doubt that even if Pyotr Manyakhin had shown his journalist's ID, he would have been denied entry anyway: the same police cordon had earlier stopped his Radio Liberty colleague dismissing his ID as untrustworthy”.

Only the chosen journalists can access the Omsk Election Committee; a number of outlets such as Novatya Gazeta - Region do not belong to the elite.

Roskomnadzor in Chelyabinsk prohibits publishing words and expressions linked with suicide

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The measures Roskomnadzor media watchdog's Ural Department has been taking against Lentachel.ru begin to look like regular witch-hunt. The journalists have been blamed for reposting publications by law-enforcement bodies (prosecutors and rescuers) containing such words as `Pravy Sektor' (a neo-Nazi Ukrainian organisation), `suicide' and other media taboo words and expressions.

“In two legal actions, we were cleared of charges in connection with mentioning Pravy Sektor (which is banned in Russia),” said editor-in-chief German Galkin. “The courts said the offence was of little significance. Prior to announcing the rulings, the judge's aide printed out our report which we had corrected long before as well as the prosecutors' article which they had left unchanged. The judge looked them through, grunted and ruled to exempt me from administrative penalty and only issue a verbal warning”.

Later on, prosecutors picked on Lentachel.ru over its article “Man Jumps from 14th Floor” published on 27 April 2017. The author should not have used the word “jumped”, or written about the suicide which the investigators considered among possible versions. Roskomnadzor believes that they should have written in this vein: “A man suddenly died, for no apparent reason”. They should not have mentioned the floor either, because it's forbidden, the supervising agency added.

The web portal has been charged with three administrative offences overall. As a legal entity, it may face, together with the media founder, up to 50,000-rouble fine for each offence at new court hearings, although journalists are used to immediately correcting their writings after each reprimand.

The journalists suspected that the media watchdog had no clear criteria for detecting violations, and asked regional Roskomnadzor representatives at a recent meeting to give them the list of taboos which had to be kept out of publications starting 1 July 2017. They got no reply however. As Roskomnadzor's Urals office representative put it, “Each case is unique”. It is up to the media regulator to issue notices and file legal actions.

“Amendments to the legislation on mass media that come into effect on 1 July will cause major complications for journalists,” German Galkin alleged. “In fact, they eliminate the very opportunity to conduct journalistic investigations which are part and parcel of true journalism. Russia enacted the personal data protection law which, starting from the second half of this year, will toughen penalties for divulging sensitive private information without data subjects' consent. Leaking personal data will be treated as abuse of freedom of the press. In this event, an editorial office might receive a Roskomnadzor warning. Two warnings a year justify supervisory bodies' legal demand for shutting down the media outlet”.

Undisguised censorship holds sway again like in the Soviet era in addition to existing mass media self-censorship practices.


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

Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 3 (Yan Katelevsky, blogger, Moscow; Pyotr Pliyev, Rossiyskaya Gazeta journalist, attacked in North Ossetia; Andrei Burlaka, freelancer, St. Petersburg)

Instances of censorship - 1 (Vashi Novosti website, Veliky Novgorod)

Legal charges against journalists, media and bloggers - 1 (Marina Vostrova, editor, newspaper Znamya Truda, Penza Region)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist - 5 (Sergei Stepanov, director, municipal radio station Radio Kotovsk, Tambov Region; Sergei Gurkin, journalist, newspaper Delovoy Peterburg, St. Petersburg; Yelena Kolyadina, journalist, Golos Cherepovtsa publication, Vologda Region; Nina Perevozchikova, editor, newspaper Alapayevskaya Gazeta, Sverdlovsk Region; Lyudmila Palayeva, editor, newspaper Onega, Arkhangelsk Region)

Detention by police (FSB, etc.) - 13 (Sergei Stepanov, director, municipal radio station Radio Kotovsk, Tambov Region; Pavel Nikulin, correspondent, Takiye Dela publication, Moscow; David Frenkel, photographer, Kommersant, St. Petersburg; Ksenya Morozova, journalist, Sobaka.ru, St. Petersburg; Andrei Poznyakov, Ekho Moskvy correspondent, Moscow; Andrei Kiselyov, RFE/RL correspondent, Krasnodar Region; Georgy Malets, blogger, Moscow; Yan Katelevsky, blogger, Moscow; Yevgeny Feldman, photographer, newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Moscow; Nikita Safronov, journalist, newspaper Otrkrytaya Rossiya, Moscow; Denis Styazhkin, freelancer, Moscow; Vladimir Zadumin, freelance photographer, Yekaterinburg; Maxim Maksimov, freelancer, Murmansk Region)

Threats against journalists, bloggers and media - 3 (Andrei Adarin, blogger, Altai Republic; Alexei Abanin, RTVI photo correspondent, Moscow; film crew, Rossiya Bashkortostan television channel, Ufa)

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.) - 28

Disruption of radio and TV broadcasts - 1 (TV-Kamen channel, Altai Region)

Closure of media - 1 (The New Times magazine's print version, Moscow)

Interference with Internet publications - 1 (Novyi Kaliningrad news portal, Kaliningrad)

Damage to photo, audio and video apparatus and computers - 4 (camcorder of Patimat Makhmudova, Caucasian Knot correspondent, Makhachkala; phone of Chernovik newspaper correspondent, Makhachkala; iPhone of Life correspondent, in Karelia; video camera of Rossiya Bashkortostan television channel's film crew, Ufa)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists' rights - 19


Investigative Committee closes Russia's first ever criminal proceedings against public organisation's leader on charges of Article 330.1

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Don Women Union chairwoman Valentina Cherevatenko, who also heads the organisation's Foundation, has been officially notified that the case against her was dropped and that she was entitled to rehabilitation for illegal criminal prosecution.

In 2016, the Investigative Committee, on the strength of an FSB officer's report, opened a criminal case over non-compliance with the law on foreign agents. The Don Women Union and the affiliated Foundation refused to register as a foreign agent as they did not engage in politics. The investigation and questionings of Union activists and Board and Trustee Council members continued throughout the year. On 2 June 2017, Valentina Cherevatenko saw a resolution on criminal proceedings against her under Russian Criminal Code Article 330.1 (“Repeated unwillingness to comply with foreign agent law”). It was the first practical application of this criminal code article which carried a penalty of up to two years in prison.

“I was charged with establishing the Foundation, allegedly for the purpose of drawing foreign funding,” Valentina Cherevatenko told the GDF. “However, the Foundation was set up for an entirely different reason. Various supervisory bodies had been running endless checks on the Don Women Union in the past few years but had not found any irregularities. At that time, we were accused of operating not only in the Rostov Region, but also across southern Russia (by the way, the law on public organisations does not prohibit it). We set up the Foundation outside our region to hedge against such claims”.

The criminal case against Valentina Cherevatenko was opened by the Rostov-on-Don-based federal division of the Investigative Committee, not its regional branch. However, it was later referred to the Investigative Committee department for the North Caucasian Federal District in Yessentuki for unknown reason. The report on dropping criminal proceeding because of the absence of the event of crime was released by the Prosecutor General's Office department for the North Caucasian Federal District.

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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