Дайджест
14 Апреля 2011 года

Glasnost Defence Foundation Digest No. 519

April 11, 2011

 

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Markelov-Baburova murder trial continues

The Moscow City Court has continued hearings of the murder case of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

During the April 5 hearing, the court questioned Mikhail Markelov, brother of the murdered lawyer, who blamed the killing on the neo-Nazis who had repeatedly warned his brother against defending anti-fascists. “Stanislav constantly spoke about some brutes threatening to kill him, but he didn’t pay much attention to those threats,” he said.

M. Markelov welcomed the arrest of the nationalists who he thought had killed his brother. “The main goal has been attained – it’s over there, behind the glass,” he said nodding at the man and woman on the dock.

The court then proceeded to question witnesses for the defence. Alexei Baranovsky, coordinator of the Russian Verdict Centre, took quite some time giving testimony. He said Yevgenia Khasis, who is charged with complicity in the murder, could not have possibly been in Prechestenka Street at the time of the crime because she had been with him on the other end of Moscow. “I can remember January 19, 2009 well enough because January 20 was my birthday,” he said. “On that day, I went with Khasis to buy vintage champagne. We met between noon and 4 p.m. and went to the Matritsa store near Timiryazevskaya metro station. It was there that I heard about Markelov’s murder and told the news to Khasis.”

It is still unclear why Baranovsky said in the course of preliminary investigation that he could not remember the date of his latest meeting with Khasis.

He also said that Khasis, whom he called “a human rights defender”, was interested in radical nationalism only inasmuch as she wanted “to fight it more efficiently” afterward. “The right-wingers need to be given the opportunity to legally express their views, if the degree of their radical manifestations is to be scaled down,” Newsru.com cited Baranovsky as saying. He said that the photo picture of an Asian man’s severed head, found in Khasis’ notebook PC, had been copied by him from the Internet and e-mailed to the accused. However, the state prosecutor had earlier stated that the photo had been stored on Khasis’ computer earlier than it hit the web.

Attorney Vladimir Zherebyonkov, who represents the interests of the victims, described Baranovsky’s testimony as a lie, because the witness had not said a single word about Khasis’ alibi in the course of the investigation, although he had twice been questioned in the presence of lawyers and asked what he knew about the circumstances of the crime. “This is a clear instance of perjury at which the prosecutor’s office should look closely after the sentence on this case comes into full legal force,” Zherebyonkov said. As we have reported, one of the eyewitnesses earlier said he had seen Khasis at the scene of the crime. But Baranovsky claimed he had kept silent for fear of coming under pressure from the investigators.

Among other interesting details is that one of the accused, Nikita Tikhonov, claimed he only knew Baranovsky “as a web user, by his nickname” – and this despite Baranovsky’s calling Khasis and Tikhonov his “friends”. Obviously, someone of them lied. Another meaningful detail: if the witness had told the investigators about Khasis’ alibi in due time, she would not have had to spend 18 months in prison awaiting trial. And, finally, Baranovsky in person contracted defence lawyers Vassilyev and Nebritov to represent Khasis’ interests in court and paid them for their services, Novaya Gaseta reported, observing that he was evidently interested in Khasis’ acquittal. In view of all that, Baranovsky’s testimony is anything but doubtless.

At the following hearing on April 7, another witness for the defence, Olga Mukhacheva, was questioned. She confirmed she had talked on the phone with Baranovsky on the day of the murder, and had heard him saying he was “together with Yevgenia” at the time. He had not mentioned his companion’s surname, but his friendly relations with Khasis were well known, Mukhacheva said. This evidence missing in the investigation files, Mukhacheva’s statement caused a mixed reaction in court. But the witness explained she had not supplied that information to law enforcement thinking “it was not important”. Also, Mukhacheva failed to recall how many phone calls she had had from Baranovsky – “many”, “one” or “two”, Grani.ru reported.

Significantly enough, Mukhacheva’s husband, a nationalist, is currently under investigation as the alleged founder of an extremist group.

The next hearing is to be held on April 11.

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Will police officer go to jail for beating journalist?

A police major beat up a woman – nothing out of the ordinary, one might say. And yet, this case differs from all other similar ones by the fact that the incident did entail negative consequences not only for the victim but also for the “law enforcer” concerned.

The driver of a Toyota Land Cruiser happened to quarrel with a woman who was walking a dog in a suburb of Moscow. Finding a high-tone verbal exchange not enough, he dashed out of the car to start beating the woman. As a result, both were taken to the police station. The man, though, was soon released, and the woman had to stay for a while – the police officers refused to accept her complaint. She soon found out why – her attacker turned out to be the officers’ boss, Major Alexei Klimov, chief of the local criminal investigations department.

As a rule, cases like this are hushed up by the police. But this time, it turned out differently. The attacked lady proved to be journalist Natalia Seibil, Channel One’s editor of TV shows Pust Govoryat, Zakrytiy Pokaz, Uchastok and GorDon Quixote. Her son is a journalist, too. They made a few phone calls, and colleagues from different media, including TV, soon started arriving at the police station. Meanwhile, the news about a police officer’s having beaten a journalist spread around on the Internet, and bloggers started actively discussing the incident.

Authorities reacted promptly – Major Klimov was dismissed from service the following day. The regional police department’s command officially apologised to Natalia Seibil. “Hopefully, nothing of the kind will ever happen again, because only true professionals must stay to serve in the reformed police,” Moscow Region police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev said. A few days later, the RF Investigative Committee instituted criminal proceedings against the former police officer under Article 116 (“Beating”) of the RF Criminal Code.

Curiously enough, A. Klimov explained his behaviour by a “nervous breakdown” triggered by “family problems”. That was nothing new – similar explanations had already been heard from Tomsk-based police officer Alexei Mitayev who killed a man at a sobering-up station, and from another police major, Denis Yevsyukov, who fired random pistol shots in a Moscow shopping mall, killing two and injuring several other persons. A peculiar way of stress-lifting, isn’t it?

But for Natalia’s status of a journalist, we would hardly ever have heard about Major Klimov, although the nation must know its “heroes”. But what is more important, he is no longer a major and no longer a police officer. Moreover, he is likely to stand trial for his wrongdoing.

 

RUSSIA

Perm Region. Regional prosecutor’s office suspects journalist of extremism

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Journalist Roman Yushkov’s article “Komi-Permyak District: Venue of a Guerrilla War?”, published in the human rights newspaper Za Cheloveka, caused the regional prosecutors to frown. But failing to find any direct signs of law violations in the publication on their own, they turned to the regional department of RosKomNadzor [federal service overseeing public communications] asking to have the article scanned for possible signs of extremism by its knowledgeable scientific consultants.

Za Cheloveka often highlights acute social problems facing the Perm Region, of which interethnic tensions are one. Roman Yushkov began by reporting on the torching of an expensive car belonging to Yurlinsky District prosecutor’s brother, stressing that the prosecutor himself, Artyom Novikov, declined to meet with the journalist to comment on the incident. The author also called attention to the fairly complicated relations between indigenous people and the Azerbaijani diaspora. Azeri immigrants own almost all sawmills in the region that they have operated for years in violation of existing environmental laws and without paying taxes. Yet local law enforcement has turned a blind eye to those malpractices. Yushkov also hinted that many hired hands from the Caucasus live in the district illegally, which point he illustrated by a photo picture of sawmill workers scattering in all directions from his camera. “Many young Azerbaijanis behave defiantly in public places, provoking fistfights and rudely attacking women,” the journalist wrote, citing specific facts of mass fighting.

However, the law enforcers, including the prosecutor’s office, prefer to stay away from conflict situations, refusing to accept local people’s complaints. This has led to repeated cases of expensive cars belonging to Caucasian businessmen and local law enforcers set on fire. Unless urgent measures are taken, the interethnic tensions may go still higher up, the author warned.

It is still unclear why the prosecutor’s office, instead of probing into the conflict in this remote district of the Perm Region, chose to turn its attention to the journalist, suspecting him of extremism. All he did was honestly reporting to the readers on the problem-laden situation. Or would the law enforcers prefer burning problems to be hushed up? Sergey Isayev, founder of the newspaper Za Cheloveka and director of the regional Human Rights Centre, said such an approach is tantamount to censorship.

Most members of the RosKomNadzor Consultative Council agreed that Yushkov’s article does not contain statements fanning racial or interethnic differences or extremist sentiments, which conclusion they submitted to the prosecutor’s office.

Regrettably, social problems in Russia are as numerous as ever, giving the prosecutors and the entire law enforcement system meaningful signals about society’s being seriously unwell. But can it ever be cured through whipping up tensions around the media whose authors dare to publish analytical materials exposing social evils?

 

Rostov-on-Don. Aleksandr Tolmachev’s new war

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The staffers of the newspaper Upolnomochen Zayavit reporting to work early on April 5 failed to get into their offices because the sole entrance had been blocked by specially hired security guards. “The office building was seized by Yuri Pogiba, general director of the Slavyane construction company, who was criticised in a story we featured in the latest newspaper issue,” editor Aleksandr Tolmachev told the GDF correspondent.

The newspaper office is housed in A. Tolmachev’s Media Rights Centre at 39, Bolshaya Sadovaya St. in Rostov. Part of the building was sold at one time to the editor’s wife Inessa Tolmacheva by Tatyana Pogiba, wife of Slavyane’s general director. The transaction was officially registered with the Justice Department, as required under the law. The other part of the building remained in Pogiba’s ownership. The sole entrance, corridor and bathrooms have since been shared by the two owners.

“After we published a story exposing the outrageous behaviour of Yuri Pogiba and his company, he called me on the phone to say he had cut off and taken away a 20-metre length of the power cable, leaving our offices without power supply,” Tolmachev said. “The story said Pogiba had purchased a shabby downtown building, offering its tenants alternative housing, to hire it out for pay without repairs. The new tenants live in awful unsanitary conditions, paying RUR 5,000 for a room for four but without the need to pay the power or water bills. It is unclear who pays those bills in their stead.”

To release the regular issue of their newspaper, staffers had to enter the building through a ground-floor window to retrieve the computers. The fresh number featured another article exposing the construction firm’s malpractices. Due to law enforcers’ interference, the entrance blockade was lifted but the newspaper offices remain disconnected from power supply, resulting in the need to look for an alternative place to keep the publishing process going.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will follow the developments in Rostov closely.

 

Arkhangelsk Region. Printing firms refuse to print communist newspaper

By Tamara Ovchinnikova,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District

In yet another media-related scandal in the Arkhangelsk Region, the local Communist party branch has barely managed to release an issue of its newspaper Pravda Pomorya.

A special issue announcing a CPRF rally was to be released back in February, but none of the region’s printing firms agreed to print it, the party’s press service said. Printing houses in Vologda and Yaroslavl would not print it, either.

As a result, the communists were compelled to request the services of a private commercial printing firm.

 

Krasnodar Region. Legal claim as a warning to newspaper

By Victoria Tashmatova,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

A regular hearing took place in the Krasnodar Region Arbitration Court April 5 of a legal claim lodged by ZAO TamanNefteGaz against the newspaper Novaya Gazeta Kubani (NGK). The case has been under consideration for the second year already. TamanNefteGaz is a client of, and investor in, the trans-shipment complex which handles liquefied hydrocarbon gas (LHG), oil and petroleum product consignments on Taman Peninsula near Cape Zhelezny Rog.

The claim was filed in the wake of Larissa Rat’s story “Why Stretch the Truth?”, published in NGK in June 2010, reviewing the results of public hearings held by the township administration in connection with plans to build at TamanNefteGaz request an oil and LHG terminal with a sea channel to facilitate access to port facilities.

The author voiced local people’s concerns over whether the investor company would honour its social obligations to Temryuk District residents in full, which they doubted. The story was written based on Dictaphone-recorded interviews with public hearing participants, the district tax service chief and a local police officer, who complained that each new construction project left the people with a severely damaged environment and with roads broken by heavy dump trucks, while securing super-profits for the investors.

Voicing that opinion cost the author and her newspaper a legal claim. TamanNefteGaz labeled Larissa’s article “libelous” and demanded a refutation, without specifying, though, what particular passages of the publication were to be refuted.

“If the plaintiff maintains that government officials’ statements quoted in the publication are not true to life, the court should declare the said officials suable, while relieving our newspaper of any liability for citing their opinions,” NGK editor commented. “However, neither the court nor the plaintiff are willing to do so, dragging out the proceedings indefinitely. The investor company is reluctant, for well understandable reasons, to spoil its relationships with the tax collectors and police. It lodged its legal claim against our newspaper just to prevent our touching upon sensitive matters like this in the future.”

 

Sverdlovsk Region. Town mayor attempts to censor media

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Present-day government officials are as willing to control everything and everyone as their predecessors were decades ago, as described in Soviet-time satirical movies.

S. Nistratov, head of administration in Verkhnyaya Salda, Sverdlovsk Region, issued Decree No. 28-0 of March 15, 2011, prohibiting all heads of municipal institutions to share official information with the media without his personal prior authorisation. He went as far as extending the ban on contacts with journalists even to the funeral parlours, and assigned the Culture Department to oversee everybody’s compliance with his instruction.

This brings back memories of Nistratov’s namesake from the movie “Faithful Friends” made in the 1950s, where a prominent architect and academician from Moscow was horrified to find himself behaving much like a brazen red tapist from a godforsaken provincial town on the Volga river. One may wonder if the Urals bureaucrat ever saw that movie…

 

AZERBAIJAN

Opposition journalist beaten up in Baku

Ramin Deko, an opposition journalist from the newspaper Azadlyg (Liberty), has been beaten up in Baku, Contact.az reported.

Late on April 4, as Deko was returning home after a day’s work, two unknown men attacked him and proceeded to beat him, telling him in the process to break off with the opposition and stop taking part in protest actions. The journalist managed to tear away and escape. Whether or not he is going to report the attack to the police is unclear.

One day earlier (early on April 3), R. Beko had been kidnapped by unidentified plain-clothed men who pushed him into a car and held him there for about eight hours, asking questions about his publications in Azadlyg and Facebook. According to the regional service of Radio Liberty, they advised him not to criticise authorities and, still better, to find a job in some pro-government newspaper. His refusal to do so might “have its consequences”, they warned.

Deko himself believes those who beat him were linked to the people who had abducted him earlier.

This is the second attack on Azadlyg staffers over the past 10 days. Journalist Seymour Khaziyev was likewise beaten up late on March 25.

[Lenta.ru report, April 5]

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

 

OUR PARTNERS

Urals State University School of Journalism marks 75th anniversary

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

The school of journalism of Urals State University is marking its 75th anniversary on April 15. Celebrations in Yekaterinburg will attract alumni from all over the country who are eager to meet with their teachers and recall good old days with friends.

The RSFSR People’s Education Committee decreed the establishment of the Communist Journalism Institute in Sverdlovsk in April 1936. In 1941, the institute was reformed into a department of Ural State University, to remain for many years the sole educational institution training journalists from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific coast. It still is in Russia’s top three schools of journalism along with Moscow and St. Petersburg Universities, and there are many journalistic celebrities among its graduates.

The program includes an international theoretical and practical conference (April 14-16) that will attract guests from China, Poland, Finland and Turkey, and presentation of the book “School Songs” as a special event of the jubilee celebrations.

Many are wondering what their Alma Mater will be like after Urals State University merges with the Urals Polytechnic Institute to form Urals Federal University, as is planned. Dean Boris Lozovsky and Periodic Press Department head Vladimir Oleshko assured journalists at a recent news conference nothing bad is going to happen. The school of journalism will become a department within the new university’s Institute of Humanitarian Sciences and Arts. “To become an independent Institute of Journalism and Public Communications within Urals Federal University, we’ll have to ‘put on weight’ by adding several more specialties, such as publishing, advertising and public relations,” Boris Lozovsky explained.

There is every reason to believe, therefore, that new traditions will be added to the existing ones by the time the school marks its 100th jubilee.

 

DIGEST MAIL

TO: Alexei K. Simonov, President, Glasnost Defence Foundation

Dear Mr Simonov:

This year marks 20 years since Viktor Nogin and Gennady Kurinnoy, correspondents for the USSR State TV/Radio Committee, died a tragic death near the Yugoslav village Serbska Kostajnica (now on the territory of Croatia). Until 1993, I had investigated that case as chairman of the Ad Hoc Commission of the RF Supreme Soviet, and after the well known events of 1993 – as a journalist and V. Nogin’s friend, considering it my professional and civic duty to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of that crime and get the perpetrators brought to justice (which was finally done – one of the killers, Milan Martic, was tried in the Hague and sentenced to 35 years of imprisonment). Regrettably, we failed to accomplish the most important task – to find the remains of our colleagues and bring them to Russia to bury with honours. But I persuaded Croatian authorities to pass a decision on putting up a memorial sign at the place where the journalists died, which will be done near the village of Horvatska Kostajnica on May 21 this year.

I hereby urge you to organise – jointly with the RF Journalists’ Union – the sending of a delegation to attend the memorial ceremony.

Please be sure to include relatives of the murdered journalists in the delegation.

Sincerely,
Vladimir Mukusev, journalist

 

ANNOUNCEMENT

A conference entitled “The Fourth Estate: Myths and Reality” will be held at the EU Office in Moscow on April 12 to discuss the media’s role in the system of social and political institutions in Russia and Europe; why the journalist’s profession is deemed hazardous; how he state defends media freedom; and what needs to be done by civil society structures, primarily NGOs, to tackle problems and tasks facing the media.

Taking part in the conference will be Fernando M. Valenzuela, head of the EU Mission to the Russian Federation; Veronique Arnault, Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the External Action Service; Mikhail Fedotov, Chairman of the Presidential Council in Support of Civil Society and Human Rights Development; and Alvaro Gil-Robles, EU first Human Rights Commissioner (1999-2006).

Speakers will also include Haidi Hautala, Chair of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights; Pavel Gusev, Chair of the Public Chamber Commission on Communications, Information Policy and Media Freedom; Iosif Dzyaloshinsky, Professor at the Higher School of Economics; Henry Reznik, President of the Moscow Chamber of Barristers; John Crowfoot, an analyst with the International Federation of Journalists; Nadezhda Azhgikhina, Secretary of the Russian Journalists’ Union; and Alexei Simonov, President of the Glasnost Defence Foundation.

 

This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF),

 

We appreciate the support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Digest released once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.
Distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

Editorial board: Boris Timoshenko – Monitoring Service chief, Pyotr Polonitsky – head of GDF regional network, Svetlana Zemskova – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy – translator, Alexander Yefremov – web administrator in charge of Digest distribution.

We would appreciate reference to our organisation in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

Contacts: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, fond@gdf.ru

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Архив
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