21 Августа 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 810

14 August, 2017


More about impunity in Karelia

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The police officer who hit a journalist has been found but he has not admitted wrongdoing.

A policeman hit journalist A.Vladimirov at a street protest action in March 2017 as the latter was taking footage for his online media outlet. The law enforcer's unmotivated aggressive behaviour was captured on video and shared along with other reports. The recorded evidence together with written statements were forwarded to the Petrozavodsk Department of Russia's Investigative Committee. Karelia's Union of Journalists and the injured party demanded that the investigators check the fact of the attack on the journalist who was performing his duty during the rally and punish the person, supposedly a Russian Guard member, for law-breaking.

The journalist was wearing a press badge; when the law enforcer approached, Vladimir told him that he was a reporter and got a blow in the face. The policeman smashed his glasses, and then kicked him in the leg for good measure. The journalist's smart phone containing a video of police detaining a rally participant was taken away and returned to him after the incident (see digest 795).

A statement to the investigative bodies was written immediately after the attack; four months on, no clear answer has come from the Interior Ministry, Karelia's Investigative Committee Department or the republic's Russian Guard Department (the regional Union of Journalists reported it to all the bodies concerned). The authorities ran a check and found the policeman but he said had never hit the journalist and his word was enough to stop further investigation. The case was dropped.

Viewing the authorities' replies as run-arounds, Karelia's Union of Journalists appealed to higher bodies, demanding punishment for the policeman, as well as Petrozavodsk investigators' assessment of his professionalism. The Russian Union of Journalists sent similar statements to the Investigative Committee and the General Prosecutor's Office asking them to check the presented facts and evidence, give legal assessment of the attack and hold the guilty party responsible for verified offense. Unlawful use of force against reporters is inadmissible, the Union said.

Karelian journalists are now waiting for Moscow law enforcers to say what they think about their regional colleagues' actions.


Legal proceedings over nothing: Law against extremism applied randomly in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

An expert examination has shown (and the Russian president has confirmed it) that court rulings in cases over extremism are not always based on evidence.

The trial of Omsk journalist Natalia Gergert's son, accused under Russian Criminal Code Article 282 for a VKontakte repost was instructive for users of this social network. The defence presented conclusions by the Moscow-based Technical Expert Examination Centre which said that VKontakte personal accounts (pages) were too vulnerable, anybody could access them and make a mess, which, if promptly scanned by the Centre for Combating Extremism, made incontrovertible evidence.

Digest 802-803 (www.gdf.ru) reported that some three years ago, Natalia's son cleared his account of an unidentified spammer's posts containing Nazi symbols, but that Centre E agents had recorded the unlawful content by then.

The investigation continued for two and a half years. To dig up the evidence proving that it was the adolescent (he was 17 at the time of imputed crime) who had placed the posts, regional investigators questioned his neighbours (even the tenants who moved in after the account had been deleted), asking them if they had a router in the entrance hall and available wi-fi. The investigators believed that a technical expert examination was unnnecessary taking on faith the words by an Omsk Cable Network employee who said that strangers were barred from VKontakte accounts. Later on, he acknowledged at a court hearing that hacking an account and doing with it what one wished was possible.

Prosecutors saw no need for expert examination either, and the court accepted the case for review. Natalia Gergert and the lawyer then requested assistance at the Technical Expert Examination Centre whose findings were acknowledged by courts across the country. The Centre's report detailed the seven methods to access a personal account (for example, by cloning the hard drive to create the precise copy of the operating system or through remote connection to the computer to manage VKontakte accounts).

The prosecutor for the state objected to attaching the Centre's report to the case apparently having more confidence in the Omsk Cable Network employee with vocational training background than in a graduate of the famous Bauman Engineering University.

Here's another opinion which the court might have taken into consideration. Vladimir Putin, in an interview with NBC journalist Megyn Kelly, said “IP addresses could be invented”. “You know, there are many specialists that can invent them. They could make it look as if your three-year-old girl perpetrated such an attack. They can invent anything. And then they will blame someone else. That is not proof,” Putin said.

Is our president aware how many people in Russia, mostly youngsters, have been convicted without evidence? According to the Agora rights organisation, Russian courts have passed 1,312 guilty verdicts in extremism cases over the past two years.

In a comment on Natalia Gergert's blog, well-known Omsk rights activist Igor Pushkar said, “If one is to follow the president's logic, it is not possible to offer convincing evidence of an IP address belonging to this or that Internet user, hence all similar criminal cases have to be dropped in connection with unreconciled doubts which should be treated in the defendant's favour under Article 49 of the Russian Constitution”.

However, an outside observer, even without these sacramental words, cannot understand what the trial which is running into its fourth month is all about, or what the investigators had dug up over 2.5 years before it began. Earlier, we reported that Centre E agents admitted that they had illegally obtained the sanction to carry out the probe. A witness said that she had no idea to what she had put her signature; the anonymous witnesses said that they had received no threats (why then, are they anonymous?); the linguistic expert examination report named the defendant the author of the reposts 47 times which the investigators said he had not placed etc. (see digest 807). There are too many inconsistencies in just one case. Perhaps they can be explained by the fact that Natalia Gergert is an independent journalist, currently holding the position of Novaya Gazeta - Region deputy editor-in-chief. GDF will follow up on the odd trial at the Kirov district court.


Ali Feruz' deportation halted in Moscow

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Moscow City Court judge Olga Pankina on 8 August suspended the deportation from Russia of Novaya Gazeta reporer Hudoberdi Nurmatov (Ali Feruz). A week before, Moscow's Basmanny district court ruled on expelling the journalist for violating regulations for foreigners staying in the country (see digest 809).

The Moscow City Court overrode the Basmanny court's ruling following the European Court`s decision to apply Rule 39 of the Court's interim measures. The Rule bans any relocation of Ali Feruz until the Strasbourg Court processes his application, which can take up to two years.

As the Moscow City Court suspended the deportation, Novaya Gazeta press secretary Nadezhda Prusenkova said an opportunity had presented itself for the journalist to seek refugee status. The relevant application was submitted by his lawyers. Prusenkova said the newspaper would use all possible measures to keep its correspondent in the country.

Ali Feruz has been staying at the Migration Centre outside Moscow. It is unclear how much time he might spend there. Head of the presidential human rights council Mikhail Fedotov said, “It is unnecessary to keep Ali Fruz at the facility for the foreigners facing deportation or expulsion, because such measures are currently not applicable to him”. “He might as well be allowed to return home,” Fedotov added.

GDF will monitor the situation.

Ex-editor gets suspended 18-month imprisonment sentence in Rostov Region

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Matveyevo-Kurgansky Court judge Anatoly Korkishko has sentenced Lyudmila Shilenko, former director and editor of Rodnik Newspaper Editorial Office, to 18 months in prison. However, the court said the punishment would be suspended as Shilenko's correction was possible without her isolation from society.

The journalist had paid the price for her zealous work: over a year and half, she managed to pay 2.5 million roubles' worth of debts piled up by her predecessors and make the district newspaper profitable. She did not get along with district administration head Alexander Rudkovsky though, who was god almighty in Matveyvo-Kurgan in his second term.

The Rodnik editorial office was checked inside out but no major irregularities were found. The investigators finally blamed Shilenko for buying consumables and paying for the editorial office's legal services and mobile phone bills (see digest 809).

She is now drawing up an appeal to the regional court while her district media colleagues wonder if they might find themselves in similar circumstances one day: even Ingosstrakh that seems to insure against all kinds of eventualities has never thought of such a risk as “treading on the superior's corns”. The president's recent thunderous reminder not to make life a nightmare for business does not regrettably apply to municipal companies.

District newspaper editors say that local law enforcement and supervisory bodies, from prosecutors to environmentalists, meet the inspection schedules at local newspapers' expense. These journalists must be truly devoted to their work if they still haven't given it up in such challenging conditions for a position of - let it be an apartment house manager (as the protagonist in a famous Russian classic novel suggested).

LGBT activists attacked by hooligans in St. Petersburg

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

LGBT activists and the journalists covering LGBT rally on August 12 were attacked after the action ended. Several people suffered chemical burns.

Last Saturday, LGBT activists conducted one-person protests and held a rally in St. Petersburg's Field of Mars. The venue was chosen because of the city law allowing pubic actions in this green area without having to request the authorities' permission in advance. Actually, such a request had been filed, but Town Hall had prohibited the action.

After the action ended, hooligans attacked the participants and several reporters spraying pungent gas at them. Eye-witnesses made a video recording of the attack. Nastoyashcheye Vremya (Current Time) television channel's camera crew, editor of Petersburg's popular online outlet Fontanka Ksenia Klochkova and photographer David Frenkel were hurt in the attack.

Although police officers were on hand and saw the incident they never tried to stop the wrongdoers. That caused a public outcry in social networks amid speculations that the attackers were affiliated with the authorities.

Only the journalistic community acquitted itself well in this situation: aside from voicing its support to the injured people, it promptly came up with the initiative to identify the hooligans. The colleagues exchanged the photos; the rights holders did not object to their dissemination. Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge published the suspects' photos on its webpage urging the readers to help with their identification.

GDF will monitor the situation.

Berega journalist forced to resign after criticizing Yaroslavl Region acting governor

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Alexei Krivtsov, a newspaper Berega journalist released in Tutayevo, has tendered his resignation after criticizing in Facebook the Yaroslavl Region's acting governor, Dmitry Mironov.

“I was told that unless I resigned voluntarily, they would fire me in line with the law's article on labour discipline violations, and they reprimanded my colleague for liking and commenting on some Facebook posts,” Krivtsov told the publication 7x7: Gorizontalnaya Rossiya (Horizontal Russia). “They referred to my breaching company instructions and the Journalist's Code of Ethics”.

After the acting governor visited the city of Tutayev, Alexei Krivtsov posted on his page in Facebook a critical comment about the official's security service asking, “What is it that so frightens a man whom President Putin himself appointed to head our region? Yaroslavl residents are peaceful and quiet, so when a big boss surrounds himself by security guards, this does seem wrong. Also, those guards are rude and use lots of swear words; as they were trying to shoo me away from the [gubernatorial] delegation, they behaved rudely and threatened me - and this despite my wearing a badge showing I was a member of the press”.

Journalist attacked by unidentified character in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Eduard Freier, a correspondent with the Sakh.com news agency, has been attacked by an unknown man on Mira Avenue in the regional centre. He walked wearing earpieces when a Huyndai taxi caught up with him (he did not notice the exact license-plate number but remembers it featured the figure 5).

He saw two men in the car - the driver and a black-clothes passenger in the back seat. The passenger got out and tried to grab the journalist and pull him inside the car.

Shouting for help, Freier broke out and ran away. Stopping another driver, he attracted his attention to what was happening. The man in black rushed toward the car and again caught the journalist by the hand, attempting to tear his cell phone away. Fortunately, the group of witnesses included an official of the press pool at one of the regional government agencies, who recognized Eduard. Only then did the man in black finally introduce himself. Yet the State Drug Control official's ID he showed did not even feature his photo!

Asked why he had been following Freier, the man said the journalist had been taking photo pictures of the road, which made him think the journalist was attempting to secretly plant tabs there - in broad daylight!

Freier reported the incident to the police. Sakh.com asked its readers to send in photo pictures or video sequences of what had happened - if any - and provide the cameramen's contact information.

Former general prosecutor keeps filing lawsuits against journalist in Sverdlovsk Region

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Yekaterinburg on 10 August returned to the prosecutor's office for re-investigation the libel case against Ura.ru news agency journalist Yulia Litvinenko. The judge agreed with the defence's statement that over the past 8 months the investigators had failed to establish what the alleged libel was actually all about, whether it was deliberate, or what its consequences were.

Let us remind you that the case against Litvinenko was started late in December 2016. The plaintiff - Russia's former general prosecutor Yuri Skuratov - considered as libellous the article saying his company lawyers had helped Vladimir Makarov, a man already convicted earlier for an attempt to steal company shares, to win a similar case in court against the Ventprom Works in the city of Artyomovsky. Such a decision was ruinous to the enterprise, plus 500 persons were to be kicked out onto the street (see digest 791). The decision was later cancelled as unlawful but the ex-prosecutor did not call his lawsuit back.

Litvinenko passed lie-detector tests that showed she had not taken any money for the publication and that her article was true to fact; yet the investigation continued. May saw the Ura.ru offices searched; in July the investigation was complete and the case was handed over to the prosecutor's office from where it was then returned. Yet the new investigation could not collect any proofs of Litvinenko's guilt, either.

The Leninsky court decided the investigators had failed to identify the separate phrases in the article “Former General Prosecutor Now Works for Raiders” that might be considered libellous, that is, were a priori not true to fact.

“Maybe it's because there are no such phrases there,” the accused said. “Each word in the publication is confirmed by an appropriate document, and the case wouldn't ever have reached even the investigation stage if it were not for the personality of the plaintiff, who is this country's ex-general prosecutor”.

But then, the prosecution, for its part, is sure the investigation was thorough and comprehensive. “We will necessarily appeal,” Tatyana Shavkunova, division head at the Sverdlovsk Region prosecutor's office, said. The journalist may be in for a fine of up to a million roubles or equal to the amount of her salary, or for coercive work for up to 240 hours.

The GDF is closely following the developments.

Perm court treats reporter as if he were a witness

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Any citizen, including a reporter, attending an open court sitting may be ousted from the courtroom along with the witnesses, as one can deduce from the messages received by the GDF from Natalia Nechayeva, deputy chairwoman of the Perm Region court, and Igor Chelombitsky, head of the regional judge-qualifying board.

The two high-ranking judicial officials met the request of the GDF correspondent asking them to assess the degree of competence of Leninsky district court judge Olga Korotayeva. As reported in digest 804, when considering Raffeisenbank's legal action against Irina Malygina, head-manager of the notorious project Perm's Micro-district No.1, the judge clearly went beyond her official authority and started questioning me, a reporter, i.e., a person unrelated to the court proceedings.

Holding my passport in hand, Judge Korotayeva coerced me into disclosing my personal data, including my full name and the year, month and day of my birth. My reference to Article 10 of the RF Code of Civil Procedure left her unimpressed. Meanwhile, the law does not provide for any such procedure to be applied to citizens other than the plaintiffs, defendants, third parties, representatives of either of the conflicting sides, as well as witnesses, experts, specialists, or interpreters. In Raffeisenbank's civil lawsuit against I. Malygina, no witnesses were brought by the sides or were called by the court for questioning.

In her assessment of Judge Korotayeva's performance, N. Nechayeva cited Article 163 of the RF Code of Civil Procedure about witnesses' removal from the courtroom. Here are excerpts from her reply: “The information you mentioned [concerning personal data - Author.] was not redundant and was requested by the judge for purposes of meeting Code of Civil Procedure Article 163 prescribing the summoned witnesses' removal from the courtroom. Your allegations about the judge's unethical behaviour were not confirmed, and no action was taken by the presiding judge to disparage your human dignity”.

Chelombitsky, the new chairman of the regional judge-qualifying board, described the GDF inquiry sent to him in line with Articles 38 and 47 of the RF Media Law and Article 18 of the Law on Access to Information about Court Activities in the Russian Federation, as a “complaint”. Shielding himself by the reply already sent out by Nechayeva, this judicial official preferred to return the “complaint” without considering it. It seems judges in Perm have a free hand to act as they please; in particular, they feel free to neglect people's requests and inquiries in a manner clearly contradicting the law.


New photo site dedicated to anti-extremism trials launched online

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Bolshoye Delo website (bigcasephoto.com) is a unique project launched by St. Petersburg photographer Viola Andrushchuk based on real trials of extremism cases at Russian courts. The author examined administrative and criminal cases against journalists, bloggers, and social media community members where rulings put to doubt the authorities' justice and adequacy.

The project employs the “post documentary” method to reconstruct the event with sequences of images. The author has to resort to allegory because re-publishing the content which was recognised as extremist is fraught with new problems with the law.

The project partners are the Media Rights Defence Centre and the SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis.

“This project is unusual in nearly all ways but not only because of using an unorthodox method to reconstruct legal proceedings,” said Media Rights Defence Centre Director Galina Arapova. ”It highlights the fact that society cannot discuss problems openly. Political satire is a risky business because humour is not always appreciated. The author has to employ reconstruction, hints and allegory to draw attention to well-known cases where disseminators were punished under the anti-extremism law. Perhaps if viewed from this angle, the cases can prompt the public to think about whether anti-extremist legislation has been misused. Can the law cope with dangerous manifestations of radical nationalism in society or is it taking a hatchet to break eggs? Or, worse, it is an imitation of anti-extremism fight? Is it reasonable to block an online Spanish shopping site offering Iberian ham, under the pretext of “protecting Russia's constitutional order?” Or open criminal proceedings under the anti-extremism law against the director of a children's toy shop for selling a collection of toy soldiers clad in Wehrmacht uniforms? Does selling such toys really promote Nazism and offend World War II veterans?

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

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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