17 Апреля 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 704

13 April 2015


Trial over Media Defence Centre in Voronezh: second hearing

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The magistrate court in Voronezh has held another sitting to hear the administrative case against the Mass Media Defence Centre (MMDC). During the first hearing, which took place on 2 April, the defendant’s representatives requested a few more days to finish reading the case files. On 7 April, the court questioned as witnesses the chief editors of three Voronezh-based media that had published MMDC Director Galina Arapova’s statements that allegedly gave rise to the Centre’s listing as a “foreign agent”.

“We thought it important for the witnesses to express their stand on the matter so that we could prove in court we are not a political organisation, as the Justice Ministry suspects, but that we only perform as legal experts and educationalists having nothing to do with politics,” Arapova told the GDF. The editors confirmed in court they had invited Arapova at their own initiative to provide expert comments for the press. They emphasised they had contacted her particularly as an experienced lawyer with an impressive record of work for the media, not as a public official.”

“The RF Constitutional Court has spelt out the differences in the work of organisations and [individual] public officials,” Yelena Pershakova, head of Legal at the NGO “Public Verdict” representing the defendant’s interests in court, said. “Yet the Voronezh department of the Justice Ministry, when designating the MMDC as a political organisation, only quoted excerpts from Galina Arapova’s statements for the media; those were just random quotes taken out of context and not analysed as part of a special check-up.”

During the second hearing, MMDC representatives made a number of motions the majority of which were granted by the judge. Specifically, the court chairwoman promised to call up for review that mysterious complaint, filed by an unnamed individual, which the Justice Department said had given rise to the unplanned inspection of the Media Defence Centre. The department itself has not confirmed so far that such a complaint ever existed.

Also, the Justice Department will have to present for review the defendant’s response to the inspection findings which the plaintiff somehow failed to include in the package of documents it presented in court.

Besides, the court will question a deputy head of the regional police department’s counter-extremism unit (E unit) which the Justice Department – for some unclear reason – involved in searching for Arapova’s statements in the internet. The court needs to find out why the department did so.

Again, about a dozen Voronezh-based journalists came to the courtroom on 7 April to support their MMDC colleagues. The next hearing is scheduled for 13 April.

As we have reported, the regional Justice Department is seeking to get the MMDC fined 300,000 to 500,000 roubles for its failure to register as a “foreign agent”.


Court in Izhevsk sentences journalist Andrei Nekrasov in absentia to a fine and arrest

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Glasnost Defence Foundation has been informed that a court in Izhevsk, Udmurtia, reviewed in February a libel case against local journalist Andrei Nekrasov, the founder and chief editor of the newspaper Izhevsky Nablyudatel, and prior to that, a contributor to the opposition newspaper Den’.

Criminal proceedings were started against Nekrasov after his reporting in his blog that a certain Andrei Shutov, a native of Izhevsk, had failed to duly declare the real property he allegedly owned in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the United States. The court ruled that Nekrasov failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that Shutov the realty owner in New York and Shutov the deputy leader of the United Russia Party faction in Udmurtia’s State Council was one and the same person. Therefore, the journalist was fined 30,000 roubles.

“The prosecution insisted I’d been spreading a priori false information,” Nekrasov wrote in his blog. “Bewildered, I asked them if they could prove that my making public information that I’d gathered [from private sources] was illegal. They said that before publishing, I should have asked Mr Shutov in person whether or not he had any real property in America.”

The fine, though, is not the sole problem facing Nekrasov, who also has been charged with extortion (under Criminal Code Article 163) in response to a complaint by Konstantin Busygin, general director of the Kalashnikov Concern turned head of Rosgranitsa [federal agency in charge of Russian border development and maintenance]. The journalist is convinced that by turning him into the main suspect in a two-year-old case in which he earlier posed as a witness, Busygin and the concern’s management are seeking to revenge themselves on him for establishing and taking the lead in a trade union at the Izhmash (Izhevsk Machine-building) Works, and for his publications about worker rights violations.

According to the case files, the “cooperation” proposal came from Kalashnikov Concern itself: they offered to pay Nekrasov for not criticising them in his newspaper; in the process of negotiations that were held in several stages, they recorded every word, the journalist’s defence lawyer Vladislav Prozorov told OVD-Info.

The Supreme Court of Udmurtia on 7 April upheld the first-instance court judgment in absentia on Nekrasov’s arrest in view of his shirking participation in the investigation process. Prozorov said the decision toughening punishment for the accused was passed with numerous procedural violations. Yet Andrei Nekrasov likely will be put on the international wanted list because he earlier fled from Russia.

The GDF fill closely follow the developments in Izhevsk.

Supporters of shut-down Tomsk-based TV2 broadcaster fined “for ideas”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The regional court in Tomsk on 10 April postponed the review of an appeal by Victoria Muchnik, a participant in one-person pickets in support of the now-shut-down TV2 channel, against the 20,000-rouble fine to which the Sovetsky district court had sentenced her as an “organiser” of those protests (see digest 699).

The judge claimed a need to study the additional evidence presented by the defence. Just as the primary evidence, it shows the obvious: there is not a single proof of Muchnik’s having performed the “organiser’s” functions or of the pickets having been “a single, coordinated action” – activists, placards in hand, stood at least 30 metres apart, as prescribed by regional legislation for one-person picketing actions. In the protocols made at the scene of the protests, the word “organiser” is not mentioned at all. A study of police officers’ reports shows they did not see any serious breaches of public order by protesters.

Earlier the regional court turned down an appeal by another one-person picket participant, Ksenya Fadeyeva, whom the district court had fined the same amount as Muchnik, with the regional court finding the measure well-grounded and fair.

And on 9 April, the same Sovetsky court levied three fines on retiree Natalya Lebedeva, an activist of the Solidarnost (Solidarity) movement, who last summer stood three times together with her comrades in pickets in support of imprisoned Bolotnaya Square activists in Moscow. The court labelled all the eight action participants “organisers”, and would summon the other seven for questioning one after another once her interrogation was over, Lebedeva told the VTomske news portal.

The “violation” committed by the picketers consisted in the fact that although they stood apart, they were “united by a single idea, which meant those pickets no longer had one-person status,” Lebedeva cited the judge as saying. As it turns out, like-minded people cannot assemble even if they “stand rather far – at least 30 metres – apart,” the activist concluded.

The judge, however, did not specify if people can take to the streets without asking official authorisation in case they defend “any” or only “certain” ideas, and whether the law specifies which particular ideas are “allowable”. For example, if Tom’ FC fans unrolled a transparency calling to “tear the rival team to pieces”, would they have to coordinate their “unifying idea” with law enforcement in advance? Would picketers be called to administrative liability if they carried placards with “I am for Putin” written on them, and would any court take the risk of fining them? Is there any core difference between the two ideas?

Lebedeva said she had been preparing for only one hearing, not three, but a separate administrative case was opened in the wake of each protest action, despite their having much in common, which approach enabled the court to simultaneously impose three 10,000-rouble fines. The retiree said she was “lucky”: her pension turned out to be lower than the country’s average; otherwise she might have to pay double, i.e., a total of 60,000 roubles, in fine.

This notwithstanding, she intends to continue taking part in picketing actions along with other TV2 supporters. “Only we’ll need to act more accurately in the future, because each new fine will be no less than 150,000 roubles, and after that we may face criminal liability,” Lebedeva said.

Sakhalin police prevent reporters from interviewing shipwrecked sailors

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Sakhalin’s largest news website Sakhalin.info has reported obstruction of journalists’ professional work by law enforcement.

Sailors who had survived the recent Dalny Vostok trawler shipwreck in the Sea of Okhotsk, had gone through preliminary medical check-ups and been accommodated at regional centre hotels, found themselves actually off limits to the press. As survivors were being bussed in, police cordoned off the arrivals area by creating a “live corridor” with reporters left outside and with any interviews prohibited – even with those willing to talk to the media.

“Why should law enforcement meddle in journalists’ professional work? Why is it forbidding survivors to tell the press about the working conditions their employer, who is now wanted by the police, created for them? Are these restrictions related to the ongoing investigation or is this a show of ‘care’ for the victims’ mental health?” Sakhalin.info asked rhetorically.

Perm court sentences Kazak Prikamya editor to 4 years in jail and 400,000-rouble fine

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

“Whether the information he published was true to fact or not is irrelevant when it comes to assessing Maltsev’s actions in legal terms,” the Leninsky district court in Perm announced on 8 April as it found Alexei Maltsev, the owner and chief editor of the regional newspaper Kazak Prikamya, guilty of extortion of 1.05 million roubles and sentenced him to 4 years in prison and 400,000 roubles in fine.

“I will challenge the ruling,” Maltsev, 57, taken under arrest in the courtroom, told the GDF. This means his case is to be reviewed by an appellate panel of the regional court.

As reported in digests 692 и 701, police charged the journalist with four instances of extortion and two fraud schemes that allegedly brought him 2.8 million roubles. Yet during the hearing of arguments on 30 March, Leninsky district Deputy Prosecutor Elina Tokareva refused to uphold 5 of the six charges originally imputed to the accused. In her view, the case does not show any evidence of deception or fraud at all, and the alleged instances of money extortion from the companies OOO Voyennaya Ekologiya (Military Ecology Ltd.) and OOO Priroda-Perm (Perm’s Nature Ltd.), too, look unproven and based on contradictory testimony by victims and witnesses.

The convictive sentence was passed in the case of OOO Merkuriy (Mercury Ltd.), a private firm based in the township of Kuyeda. The case files contain payment orders showing that between 2 February 2012 and 22 May 2013, the company transferred money to Maltsev’s charity foundation “Cossak Perm: Orthodoxy, Law Observance, Environmental Safety”, and paid for a Volga car for him, to the total amount of 1.05 million roubles, which Russian law classifies as a grave extortion case.

The prosecutors and judges found it a proven fact that Aleksandr Sergeyev, Merkuriy’s general director, was compelled to finance Maltsev’s foundation in exchange for the journalist’s promise not to publish defamatory articles in Kazak Prikamya. Maltsev’s claims that Sergeyev had used both the foundation and the newspaper “exclusively as instruments to override his rivals” and had been “an informer,” were rejected by the court as groundless.

“An injured party may consider any kind of information to be ‘defamatory’ and perceive it as such regardless of whether it is true or false,” Judge Irina Zhitnikova noted when reading out the sentence. The court required Maltsev to pay Merkuriy 1.05 million roubles in damages.


Pochta Rossii expected to correct its mistakes?

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The community of publishers has appealed to Russia’s media community with an open letter in support of the national postal service, Pochta Rossii. The appeal was signed by representatives of the publishing houses Kommersant, Sanoma Independent Media and Burda; the newspapers Argumenty I Fakty, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moskovsky Komsomolets, Sobesednik, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moskovskaya Pravda, Vechernyaya Moskva, Literaturnaya Gazeta, Ekonomicheskaya Gazeta, Argumenty Nedeli and others; and the Association of Print Media Distributors, the Guild of Periodical Press Publishers (GIPP), ARS-Press, the Inter-regional Subscription Agency, and the Rospechat’ Agency.

As noted in the open letter, during the past year Pochta Rossii has paid increased attention to dealing with problems with the distribution of periodical publications: “The government’s decision to cancel subsidising of periodical press delivery to subscribers compelled Pochta Rossii to raise subscription rates – and yet, Pochta has maintained daily newspaper delivery charges in 2015 at last year’s level. As regards the delivery of other publications, the rate growth here has remained below inflation.” How could it possibly be otherwise, you may ask, considering Pochta’s status as the sole organisation delivering newspapers and magazines throughout the Russian Federation? Also, it handles subscriptions at all the 42,000 post offices across this country, and for residents of Russia’s far-off regions, subscription is often the only way to receive the press. About 40% of all print media in Russia have so far been distributed by subscription and through street vendors.

Yet things have not been that way – for many years now! Pochta Rossii, as the saying goes, was vigorously “sawing the branch it was sitting on”: it was constantly raising delivery rates, causing many readers to quit subscribing, which in its turn led to circulation shrinkages. Pochta has long been grabbing and pocketing half of the subscription price, which has resulted in press delivery services costing as much as the entire process of making a newspaper or magazine – from the authors’ royalties to the costs of newsprint and printing services. And this despite Pochta’s receiving multi-billion subscription subsidies from the state budget all the while!

It no longer does, even regardless of the fact that exactly a year ago, President Vladimir Putin, replying at the Independent Regional and Local Media Forum in St. Petersburg to a question about the catastrophic situation in the area of subscription, instructed the government to work out a set of measures in support of the regional and municipal newspapers affected by price hikes. He went as far as hinting at the possibility of restoring subsidies to finance Pochta’s delivery of newspapers and magazines to subscribers. “Maybe, all this should be accompanied – if you come to think of it, must be accompanied – by some subsidising,” Putin said.

That did not happen however, and journalists and media owners were compelled to continue frantically fighting for their own and their readers’ survival all on their own. Strange as it may seem, they have scored a few achievements: Pochta Rossii has increased its charges for the delivery of non-daily newspapers by only 10%, with official inflation in the country running at 14%. Also, it has offered some benefits to newspapers with circulations of 5,000 or more – an option originally available to media with circulations over 17,000.

Yet the postal workers are stubbornly unwilling to remove the “nevoid marks of capitalism” in its ugliest and most repulsive – Russian – variety. All subscriptions throughout Russia are still handled by the Inter-regional Subscription Agency (MAP) – in the view of most provincial media owners, an absolutely unnecessary intermediary between Pochta and publishers, and essentially a kind of “offshore zone” where the organisers of the Pochta-MAP alliance have been shamelessly carrying off subscribers’ money. Meanwhile, instead of using their authority to initiate a serious audit of the performance of these dubious “twin” organisations, the heads of Russia’s leading media have signed this open letter in support of Pochta Rossii.

“We think it necessary to promote dialogue among the publishing community, distributors and Pochta, to pool our efforts in strengthening and developing the periodical press market, and to jointly work toward the resumption of government subsidising of the delivery of subscription publications,” the letter says, evidently conveying the authors’ main message.

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:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни