23 Апреля 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation dIgest No. 656

14 April 214


Protests against censorship held in Moscow

A rally in defence of freedom of epression and independent media was staged in Moscow’s Sakharov Avenue on 13 April. Activists carried slogans reading, “For Honest and Independent Media”, “Against Lies on TV”, and “For Open Society, Against enophobia”.

The rally was prompted by increasingly widespread censorship practices on state-controlled television channels and the growing pressure on news websites. After the recent sacking of Lenta.ru’s chief editor Galina Timchenko, several prominent journalists quit work in solidarity with their boss. Shortly after, the media oversight agency Roskomnadzor blocked access to the news sites Kasparov.ru, Grani.ru and Yezhednevny Zhurnal without eplaining why. Earlier, the TV channel Dozhd had actually ceased broadcasting because providers ecluded its programmes from the cable TV service packages.

Speakers at the rally included actors Liya Akhejakova and Aleei Devotchenko, journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, writer Dmitry Bykov, literary critic Marietta Chudakova, writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, musician Aleei Kortnev, and opposition media journalists who had been fired or resigned of their own will. The action also involved journalists Olga Romanova and Sergei Parkhomenko, and Moscow Foreign Affairs Institute Professor Andrei Zubov. Cultural workers criticised the editorial policies of federal TV channels and individual anchormen, and urged the authorities to stop meddling in journalists’ work, to respect the principles of freedom of epression, and to outlaw censorship.

The rally did not lead to any incidents.



Prosecutor’s office in Karelia detects “signs of etremism” in editor’s actions

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

The newspaper TVR-Panorama recently posted on its website ecerpts from private correspondence between relatives living in Ukraine and Russia, who discussed the events in Kiev’s Maidan and the referendum in Crimea. The Ukrainian correspondents assessed those developments critically, without concealing their negative attitude toward Russia. TBR-Panorama’s chief editor Yevgeny Belyanchikov had asked the authors’ consent prior to publishing the stuff, and had edited out the most sharp-worded passages that might be assessed as “illegal” content.

After the publication hit the internet, the Karelian prosecutor’s office warned Belyanchikov that his action “showed signs of etremism”. By making public that echange of messages, the oversight agency said, the editor contributed to “fanning inter-ethnic strife between the Russians and Ukrainians” and might “provoke readers to post etremist comments”. Besides, Roskomnadzor accused Belyanchikov of “circulating unchecked information and rumours” under the disguise of truthful information (i.e., the correspondents’ opinions). The document mentioned no specific sanctions but warned the editor against “further law violations” and said that “in the event of non-compliance¦ you may be held liable under the law”.

Belyanchikov removed the controversial tets from the website, gave oral eplanations to the prosecutor but epressed his disagreement with the latter’s standpoint. He then lodged a legal claim in a bid to prove TVR-Panorama had not committed any acts of etremism and that the prosecutorial warning was irrelevant and should therefore be cancelled. The way the editor looks at it, he has not breached a single provision of the law “On Countering Etremist Activity”, since he did not incite racial, inter-ethnic or religious strife, nor propagandized anyone’s eclusiveness, superiority, or inferiority, nor encroached upon anyone’s freedom by publishing those correspondence ecerpts. He just made public the authors’ subjective opinions that might be shared or rejected by readers. Displaying one’s civic position cannot be seen as etremism, Belyanchikov said.

Court of law in St. Petersburg calls Press Committee reputation into question again

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

The city court in St. Petersburg on April turned down an appeal in defence of the Committee on the Press and Interaction with the Media’s business reputation, lodged against an opposition deputy of the city Duma, Maim Reznik.

As we have reported, Reznik was accused of libel in the wake of his September 212 statement alleging Press Committee abuses in spending budgetary funds, which allegations were later confirmed through check-ups carried out by the prosecutor’s office and Antimonopoly Service. Yet instead of correcting “system errors” (to which the competent agencies had pointed to the municipal authorities), committee officials preferred to frantically fight in courts for having the critical MP punished.

So far, it’s a 1-1 draw. Earlier, the Vasileostrovsky district court of St. Petersburg passed two decisions contradicting each other: it upheld an honour-and-dignity defence claim filed by Press Committee Chairman Aleksandr Lobkov while turning down a similar claim lodged on behalf of the committee itself. By the way, judging by the language of both claims, these were prepared by one and the same team of lawyers. If so, are tapayers aware that an official’s personal interests are defended at their epense? Or have municipal authorities in St. Petersburg continued using the services of “philanthropic-minded” lawyers of whom we already reported earlier (see digest 216)?

With the city court decision now in full legal force, it is St. Petersburg residents who will have to de facto reimburse the defendant’s judicial costs which the judges charged to the plaintiff – i.e., the Press Committee. Meanwhile, Maim Reznik has been preparing yet another appeal challenging the decision passed in favour of Mr. Lobkov.

Chairman of Rylsk Duma (Kursk Region) claims million roubles from newspaper and its editor

Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Vladimir Klevtsov, Duma chairman in the city of Rylsk, Kursk Region, and the road-building company he runs, have filed with the regional court of arbitration legal claims against the newspaper Rayonnyye Budni (RB).

One of the plaintiffs, OOO Rylskoye DRSU, wants RB to disclaim its “smearing and libellous” publications about the company, and to pay it 4 million roubles in reputational damages.

As we have reported, Klevtsov lodged his personal legal claim in March, feeling hurt by RB’s criticism of his performance as the road-building company head (see digest 652), and demanded an equal amount in damages.

The company’s latest claim is about the same publications and it features the same demands; the only difference is that it has been filed on behalf of a legal entity. Rylskoye DRSU asked the arbitration court to award it 3 million roubles in damages from RB and 1 million – from its chief editor, Valentin Ketsmanov. Thus the total sum claimed by Klevtsov from the newspaper and its editor amounts to million (sic!) roubles.

FSB epert study to be checked in terms of semantics in Perm

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm has ordered a forensic linguistic epert study of the article “A Fit of Hysteria, Pugachev-Style”, carried by the local newspaper Zvezda on 19 July 213. The prosecutor’s office wants the story’s content to be identified as etremist, and the FSB and Investigative Committee have started legal proceedings under Criminal Code Articles 2.2 (“Public calls via the media for acts of etremism”) and 22.1 (“Instigation of hatred or enmity, or disparagement of human dignity using media”).

We have reported in detail (see digests 621 and 651) on the scandal caused by that publication. Roman Yushkov, Ph.D. (Geography), an assistant professor with the State Scientific Research University of Perm (SSRUP), wrote that article to epress his view of problems generated by the outrageous behaviour of North Caucasians crime rings. The first hearing of the prosecutorial claim was held in the Motovilikhinsky district court on 19 March.

Local branches of the prosecutor’s office and the media oversight agency Roskomnadzor presented evidence to prove the “etremist” nature of the publication. That included conclusions by linguistic eperts from the Special Technology Centre at the FSB Institute of Criminalistics; the results of an epert study of the tet by psychologists and linguists at the Urals Region Forensic Studies Centre; epert conclusions by lawyers and linguists at the O. E. Kutafin Moscow State Academy of Law; the results of an epert study carried out by Valery Mishlanov, a professor with the SSRUP Verbal Vehicles Department; and conclusions by Maim Omigov, unit head with the RF Interior Ministry’s Regional Department for Countering Etremism.

Zvesda’s defence lawyer Arkady Ivanov said in court on 19 March that the evidence presented by the prosecution could not be considered within the framework of the on-going civil trial, while the newly-started criminal proceedings had not yet yielded any official charges against anyone in particular. Besides, neither the newspaper nor its author had been given the chance to propose eperts or epert groups of their choice, challenge those proposed by their opponents, or put their own questions. After a three-week adjournment allowed by Judge Marina Vyazemskaya for the parties to prepare, Ivanov voiced Zvezda’s suggestion that a forensic linguistic study be ordered. With no objections coming from the other party, the court on 1 April upheld the defence lawyer’s motion and entrusted the proposed study to Ivan Podyukov, a professor with the General Linguistics Department at the State Humanitarian and Pedagogical University of Perm, who has a 17-year record of carrying out these kinds of epert studies.

The professor is to answer 3 questions:

  • Which phrases and epressions in the article represent statements of facts;
  • Which of them are third-party evaluative assessments; and
  • Which of them are epressions of the author’s personal opinions or suppositions.

The epert was also asked to analyse the disputed tet in terms of semantics, i.e. to eplain the meaning of words used by Roman Yushkov.


Attacks on journalists

At least three news outlets and two journalists have been attacked and harassed in the past few days in eastern Ukraine, according to news reports and press freedom groups.

“All actors in eastern Ukraine must respect journalists’ right to gather and disseminate information to the public,” said Muzaffar Suleymanov, Committee to Protect Journalists Europe and Central Asia research associate. “By investigating these attacks and bringing the perpetrators to justice, Ukrainian authorities can demonstrate their commitment to democracy.”

On Monday, 7 April, in the eastern city of Kharkov, a group of armed and masked assailants raided the newsroom of the independent broadcaster ATN, told journalists they were being fired, and damaged equipment and furniture before leaving the building, the broadcaster reported. A video published online by ATN shows the etent of the damages, which include broken computers, studio equipment, and damaged furniture. Although police were at the scene, no one has been detained in connection with the attack, ATN said.

Also on Monday, masked men armed with Kalashnikovs tried to enter the newsroom of regional broadcaster Donetsk OGTRK, in the eastern city of Donetsk. After finding out the broadcaster was guarded by police, the attackers shot several times into the air, then fled, a video of the incident shows. The same day, masked men tried to storm the newsroom of the television channel Irta in the city of Lugansk and fought with the broadcaster’s security agents.

At least two journalists were attacked on Sunday while covering protests in Lugansk and Kharkov, according to the Kiev-based press freedom group Institute of Mass Information (IMI). In Lugansk, an unidentified man hit the head of Aleei Movsesyan, a cameraman with the local television station LOT. The journalist reported the attack to police, who said they were investigating. In Kharkov, men harassed, pushed, and tried to seize reporting equipment from Grigory Pirlik, a journalist with the independent broadcaster Ukraina.

[The Voice of America Russian Service report, 9 April]

BelSat correspondent beaten up in Donetsk

Ales Borozenko, a reporter for the Belarussian TV channel BelSat, has been assaulted in Donetsk.

As he was shooting a video report outside the regional administration headquarters, suspicious-looking young men were straining their ears for what he was saying. “Evidently, something I said wasn’t to their liking, so they started following me,” the journalist said.

Minutes later, they caught up with him and hit him several times in the stomach and face, ripping his mouth.

[Khartiya`97 report, 1 April]



Journalist infected with TB at detention centre placed after recovery into cell with TB carriers again

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Three years ago, Novosibirsk-based human rights activist and journalist Andrei Sergeyev lodged a legal claim estimating his right to life at 5 million roubles. He charged as much to the management of a detention centre in the city of Berdsk, Novosibirsk Region, where he had spent 5 months and 9 days “in inhuman conditions”, as he himself says and as has been acknowledged by a court of law after the plaintiff presented a legally made video featuring the place he had been kept at: a buggy cell for 6 persons with inmates crammed into it, some sleeping on the floor; no chairs or a bench to sit on; a dining table just a metre away from an unscreened toilet; and a cell overhead for detainees in a state of alcoholic intoication, with no toilet at all and with inmates, having called in vain for the guards to take them out, often urinating right on the floor to flood and soil the cell below, where the walls never actually dry out, judging by the video.

Over the three years of the trial (dragged out for as long as that beyond the legally established two-month period), the horrifying impression the video initially produced on the judge must have gradually diminished, causing her to slash the 5-million-rouble compensation claimed by the plaintiff to only 15, roubles [appro. US$42]. If one divides this amount by the 159 days Sergeyev spent in detention “under virtual torture” (as the judge herself admitted during the trial), the daily compensation will amount to just 94 roubles [appro. US$2.6].

But even that is not the worst thing about it, Sergeyev told the GDF. The point is – and this is the major justifying reason for his claiming the multi-million compensation – that during his stay at the detention centre he caught a deadly infection, tuberculosis. Medical certificates and eaminations show he actually got infected twice, both times catching the disease from his cellmates. The court, though, dismissed this as an unproven fact.

The guilt of Sergeyev, who was accused of inflicting bodily harm on police officers, was not proven in court, either; nor was it proven that he had ever attempted to attack them. This means he suffered torture and was eposed to deadly risks in prison for nothing at all. Andrei has two minor children who might have got infected from him while visiting him at the detention centre. The court disregarded this circumstance while acknowledging that the plaintiff, indeed, caught TB in prison. Yet the judge believes that happened because of the nasty conditions in the cell, not as a result of his continuous stay there together with TB carriers – a fact that the defendants, who represented the RF Internal Affairs and Finance Ministries, did not deny during the trial.

The court decided Sergeyev had not been infected twice – rather, he had not had the time to fully recover from the first infection, meaning that he had been sick with TB continuously for two years before the disease suddenly “whiffed away” in the same, appallingly unhealthy, cell environment. The judge found this version more plausible than the one that after 11 months of Sergeyev’s anti-TB treatment at the detention centre, the Berdsk police again placed him in a cell with two fellow inmates suffering from tuberculosis in its last, lethal, stage of lung decay.

The regional court in Novosibirsk a few days ago reviewed Andrei Sergeyev’s appeal against the Berdsk city court decision and left the latter unchanged, awarding Sergeyev 15, roubles in damages. When the decision is handed to him, he will file complaints with all the remaining cassation authorities, all the way up to the RF Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights, Andrei told the GDF. He will back his complaints with a court decision in full legal force that recognizes the conditions at the detention centre as inhuman.

Although not a lawyer by training, he has relied on self-defence throughout the court hearings, both civil and criminal. Before finding himself in detention, he had never thought of becoming a human rights activist. But life decides otherwise, and some time ago Sergeyev took over as leader of the Novosibirsk branch of the For Human Rights movement and established a private website, Pravdolyub (Truth-Seeker). Currently he is busy preparing a variety of legal claims.

“It was de facto proven in court that no disinfection had been carried out at the detention centre in Berdsk for many years, which posed a deadly threat to inmates, since healthy people were kept together with sick persons in inhuman conditions; they caught TB and died of it, with the prison managers pretending they knew nothing about that,” Sergeyev told the GDF.



NHC: Norway denies entry not to journalist but to propagandist

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) supports the decision to deny entry to [Russia Today news agency director] Dmitry Kiselyov. The human rights group does not see this as a violation of freedom of epression, since what Kiselyov does is not journalism, it is propaganda.

“Kiselyov has been added to the EU sanctions list for his role as a central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine. Norway has joined these sanctions,” NHC Secretary General Bjørn Engesland said to BarentsObserver. 

“We do not believe the sanctions against Kiselyov are a violation against the freedom of epression,” eplained Engesland. “Dmitry Kisleyov is a propagandist for president Putin¦  We will add that Russian journalists who have criticised Putin for his invasion have already been fined. That is a violation of the freedom of epression.”


CPJ: Ukraine must allow entry to all Russian journalists

New York, April 9, 214 – The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by reports that Ukrainian border guards have denied entry to the country to several Russian journalists over the past few days. Reports say that journalists with the newly reshuffled RIA Novosti news agency, TV channels Rossiya and Russia Today, the business daily Kommersant, and Forbes-Russia magazine have all been turned down at the border. 

“We call on Ukrainian authorities to ensure that all journalists, foreign and domestic, are able to report freely and without obstruction on the unfolding events in Ukraine,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Democratic governments have no business barring journalists from working based on nationality. Restricting media access only increases suspicion and misunderstanding.”

Ukrainian officers alleged the journalists did not have enough cash to support their trip, news reports said.



This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

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  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
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