19 Июня 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 805

5 June 2017


GDF marks 26th anniversary

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

June 6 is a special date for Russian journalism. On that day in 1991, the Glasnost Defence Foundation's first press conference was held. Could the organisation's founders be described as idealists? To some extent, yes, because it seemed yet another step and you would enjoy the long-awaited freedom of expression! However, as if anticipating many a hardship along that road, the Foundation refrained from including that term in its name, choosing instead “glasnost” - a word well known since the 1980-1990s and one translated into other languages with considerable difficulty. During the period of Soviet perestroika and the very complex time of new Russian statehood development, freedom of expression incorporated very optimistic expectations - much more optimistic than in the 19th century.

Now, it would seem, censorship has been officially banned and the state proclaims a policy of maximum openness, when the press is free to operate without any ideological impediments - so does glasnost need to be defended in such an environment? Yet the reality insistently prompts: yes, it does! Journalists and the media have come to understand that to get the right to honestly and truthfully describe ongoing developments one sometimes needs to pay too high a price. Murders, attacks, lawsuits, seizure of print runs, cuts-off of financing - those are just a few of the numerous methods of suppressing independent journalism. The GDF teaches how to defend oneself, provides support and help in difficult situations and, most important, it honestly and objectively chronicles events.

Over the past couple of decades, Russian society has failed to acknowledge freedom of expression as an unconditional value. This is why today, in 2017, we are watching pro-government propaganda flourishing, the deep systemic crisis growing worse, ethical standards trampled underfoot, and pressure on the few remaining independent media increasing. Under the circumstances, the efforts of the Glasnost Defence Foundation are growing still more important, all the more so because our symbol is a turtle slowly but surely crawling toward freedom of expression.

We firmly believe this freedom will triumph someday!


For first time ever, RF Supreme Court cancels convictive sentence to journalist based on ECHR decision

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The convictive sentence passed in the case of journalist Yelena Nadtoka, accused of insulting a government official, has been cancelled and the case files have been returned to the court of original jurisdiction for review.

On 31 May, the Supreme Court Presidium cancelled the sentence to Yelena Nadtoka of the Rostov Region, who was convicted of insulting an official 12 years ago. The verdict was changed due to the European Court's decision passed in response to Nadtoka's complaint exactly one year ago, on 31 May 2016.

“We think the sole correct way to settle the conflict after the European Court recognized the violation of the Human Rights Convention would be to take legal action putting Yelena Nadtoka in a situation preceding the passing of the convictive sentence,” Mass Media Defence Centre Director Galina Arapova said. “Therefore, defence lawyer Tumas Misakyan turned to the Supreme Court asking to cancel the sentence albeit the journalist's conviction has been expunged and the European Court has granted her complaint. Hers was an unfair sentence that should be fully crossed out from Yelena's biography”.

“The Supreme Court Presidium has reviewed the case in view of new circumstances surfacing, which reference is to the ECHR decision,” lawyer Misakyan commented. “As a result, the sentence was cancelled as were the decisions passed by the appellate and cassation panels”.

“This is for the first time ever that the Supreme Court cancels a verdict returned to a journalist after the European Court recognized a violation of her right to speak,” Arapova added. “Notably, both the defence and the prosecution asked the Supreme Court to scrap the sentence; the prosecution was represented by a deputy general prosecutor of Russia”.

Now Yelena Nadtoka's case will be returned for review to the court of original jurisdiction in the city of Novocherkassk, Rostov Region, where the lady journalist lives.

Criminal charges were first brought against Nadtoka in 2004, after the newspaper Vecherniy Novocherkassk published an article criticizing the then mayor, whom the author called “thievish Altai guy” as part of stating facts of his abuse of official authority. The mayor filed a lawsuit with a magistrate court (as per that time, criminal liability for insult had not yet been crossed out from the criminal code). Nadtoka at the time was involved as a co-defendant because of her being acting editor-in-chief at the newspaper.

Although a panel of linguistic experts did not find any insulting language in the publication, the court passed a convictive sentence and fined Nadtoka 50,000 roubles. Challenging the verdict before a higher-standing judicial authority turned out useless, so the journalist complained to the ECHR in 2005. Her interests were represented by Galina Arapova. On 31 May 2016, the ECHR found in the case Nadtoka vs. Russian Federation a violation of Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention (regarding freedom of expression) and awarded the journalist 4,000 euro in moral damages.

On 31 January this year, defence lawyer Misakyan, who was representing Nadtoka's interests, filed with the RF Supreme Court a request for the sentence against his client to be cancelled altogether, and the court chairman granted it.


Military enlistment officer's careless reading of info on Respublika website in Karelia leads to site editor's firing

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

According to a note on the Respublika news website, a certain “Karelian enlistment officer” was caught red-handed taking a bribe and is now under investigation - a fully truthful point, since the info was reprinted from the Investigative Committee's website. Karelia enlistment officer A. Artemyyev took the note for some reason as one about himself (although there are a total of 18 officials across the republic to whom such a description may be applied). The enraged official called on the phone L. Stryapicheva, director general of Respublika Karelia News Agency, and strictly reprimanded her, after which she summoned website editor-in-chief Georgy Chentemirov and demanded that he remove the info from the site. Also, she put him before a dilemma: she would fire either him or the author of the publication. Chentemirov responded by tendering his resignation - presumably, voluntarily and post factum, as if he had resigned before the scandal flared up.

The note about the corrupt enlistment officer was removed from the website, and the staff apologized to A. Artemyev for the dubious title. Chentemirov was left jobless.

The news agency team, defending their chief editor, wrote an open letter to the republic's acting governor, A. Parfenchikov, with copies sent to Karelia government officials responsible for the administration's information policy. The autonomous enterprise Respublika Karelia is controlled by the republican government as its founder. Staffers asked their employers to closely look at the situation and protect the chief editor as well as the entire team, because that was not the first such conflict between the director general and the workers.

The response was unexpectedly prompt: T. Ignatyeva, Karelia's deputy governor, nearly instantly cancelled the work contract with Stryapicheva - in other words, she fired the director general. It is still unclear, though, if this means Chentemirov will be reinstated as Respublika chief editor.

Anyway, before drawing a line under the whole story, it would be wise to assess enlistment officer Artemyev's behaviour in legal terms, considering his gross meddling in the media outlet's work in the form of putting pressure on the journalists to remove a truthful news report from the website. His actions may otherwise be qualified as an instance of censorship making him liable for the illegal moves that led to Chentemirov's sacking. This is what the Union of Journalists of Karelia is insisting on in its official statement.

Chernika news website suspends operation in Karelia

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

The news website Chernika was launched in 2015 as an author's project by journalist Valery Potashov, who was its editor and sole staff writer (the other journalists contributed stories as freelancers). Their work was paid for by the publishing house Guberniya which also runs two other Internet resources.

Over the nearly two years of its operation, the media outlet earned the reputation of one actively opposed to the republic's authorities. That is why Guberniya director N. Barausova' announcement of the website's suspension because of its “becoming unprofitable” caused little trust in the media community.

There are two explanations for the opposition site's suspension - the official one, calling it a “financial burden” on Guberniya, with three months needed to bring things back in order; and another, more plausible, one: the website has been suspended in view of forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Karelia.

Chief editor Potashov has been given a leave from work, and it is unclear if he returns to Chernika, ever.

Tyumen blogger Alexei Kungurov transferred to settlement colony and may now complain to ECHR

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Tyumen Penal Department has finally transferred jailed blogger Alexei Kungurov to the place of confinement prescribed to him by the Supreme Court back on 28 March (see digest 801), which decision, however, was executed just days ago, although the law allows the Department 10 days to execute a court ruling. Yet the documents notifying the pre-trial centre administration of the decision passed in Kungurov's case took more than two months to be delivered from Moscow to Samara (where the assize session of the Volga Military Court took place) and from there to Tyumen. The procedure turned out twice as long as in the 18th century, when the post was delivered on horseback.

As reported earlier, Kungurov was convicted under RF Criminal Code Article 205 (“Public justification of terrorism”) and sentenced to two years in a settlement colony for a post on his page in the LiveJournal social network, titled “Who Are Putin's Falcons Bombing in Real Terms?” For all its presumable “public danger”, the article is still available for everyone to read online.

The blogger spent nearly a year in the pre-trial detention centre. According to his wife Asiya Baishikhina, he was kept “under tough-regime conditions”, actually without the right to write letters for the past few months. “Letters from him were not sent out at all, and only one in ten in-coming letters could get through to him,” Asiya told the GDF adding that Kungurov had also been the target of psychological pressure - threats “to remain here until the end of your term”.

Until the Penal Department in Tyumen received the documents, the blogger had not been allowed to file a complaint to the European Court about the unfair sentence passed in his case.

Retired editor in Krasnodar Region pressured to return payment for journalistic work

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The newspaper Znamya Truda issued in the Timashevsky District, Krasnodar Region, is at law with its former editor-in-chief, Tatyana Pogorelova, trying to return what it describes an “unlawful” fee paid to her in 2014. Since end-August 2015, Pogorelova has been on pension.

Upholding the demand that editors of district media return these kinds of fees is the regional Property Relations Department, the owner of local newspapers across the Krasnodar Region. According to officials, no such payments are provided for by the terms and conditions of work contracts despite the clause allowing “other payments in line with effective legislation”.

The Krasnodar governor is well informed about the district editors' fee problem and has even instructed his deputy, Anna Minkova, to clear up this point. Yet the Property Department is insisting on the money-back arrangement, and suing those who refuse to obey.

“Earlier, too, department officials attempted to get back the chief editor's fees, though sensibility and respect for the editor's rights on the part of the previous department administration would take the upper hand,” Pogorelova desperately wrote in her blog. “Today, the Property Department bureaucracy, building upon the absolute indifference of the regional Media Department, is trying again and again to lay hands on the editors' fees. Aren't they ashamed of creating a judicial precedent on my own example as a retiree? Aren't they ashamed of presenting editors as `plunderers' of their media outlets and the regional budget? Aren't they ashamed of banning the payment of emoluments to creative union members? I've earned my fees as a journalist, by writing my own stories during my off time - at nights and on holidays. Evidently, officials find it hard to understand the `golden rule': if a chief editor doesn't publish his/her own stuff, they will soon be dead as journalists and as creative team leaders. How can one work professionally with staffers' texts, edit them, or train young talent while not writing oneself? I know that some of my former colleagues from district newspapers across the Krasnodar Region, under pressure from officials or out of fear of losing their jobs, have returned the fees”.

At the end of April, a court granted Pogorelova's lawsuit over applying the period of limitation for withholding fees for 2014 from her. Yet Tatyana Pogorelova doesn't see this as a victory, since the problem of fee payment to local editors in the region remains unsolved, because Property Department officials continue to believe the editors should contribute authors' stuff to their outlets for no pay at all.

While counting seconds of airtime, Perm Roskomnadzor misses 3-month period of limitations deadline

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region Court of Arbitration has rejected media regulator Roskomnadzor's request to hold Ural-Inform TV administratively liable for a violation of licensing rules that might otherwise cost the local television company 30,000-40,000 roubles in fine.

Evidence against the TV men included data from the federal unitary enterprise “CFO Radio Frequencies Centre” in the Volga Federal District. The time sheet showed that the weekly volume of broadcasting in Perm on 30 January-5 February had been prolonged by 50 minutes 13 seconds; in Solikamsk - shortened by 4 hours 35 minutes and 28 seconds; and in Kungur - extended by 1 hour 20 minutes and 33 seconds. The protocol of administrative offence dated 10 March also pointed to the programme concept's non-compliance with licensing terms and conditions. News reporting made up 78.3%, educational broadcasts 14.87%, and children's programmes 6.9% of the total. The oversight agency qualified that as an offence falling under Administrative Code Article 14.1.3 and filed a lawsuit.

The regional Roskomnadzor department's statement of claim dated 16 March was received on 20 March, according to the info on the arbitration court's website. The case over airtime seconds and percentages was heard as part of a simplified procedure on 22 March. The court turned the media regulator's claim down. In a motivated decision made at Roskomnadzor request on 1 June, it was pointed out that the 3-month period of limitations for filing lawsuits of these kinds expired on 18 May.

The parties have 15 days for challenging this ruling before the 17th Arbitration Court of Appeals.


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

Death of journalists - 1 (Dmitry Popkov, chief editor, newspaper Ton-M, Krasnoyarsk Region)

Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 2 (Valery Yartsev, journalist, newspaper Stolitsa S, Saransk; Svetlana Svechkaryova, REN TV correspondent, Chelyabinsk Region)

Instances of censorship - 2 (Kurchatov TV channel, Kursk Region; media in Kazan)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers - 2 (Sergei Kononov, chief editor, newspaper Kondopozhskiy Krai, Karelia; Yegor Portnyagin, chief editor, news agency Kamchatskiy Region, Petropavlovsk-on-Kamchatka)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist - 1 (Georgy Chentemirov, chief editor, web magazine Respublika, Karelia)

Detention by police (FSB, etc.) - 6 (Yelena Sidorenkova, correspondent, newspaper Rabochaya Demokratiya, Moscow; Sergei Orlov, photographer, VL.ru, Vladivostok; Yegor Portnyagin, chief editor, news agency Kamchatskiy Region, Petropavlovsk-on-Kamchatka; Vladislav Pushkaryov, journalist, RBK channel, detained in Sverdlovsk Region; film crew of PBS Newshour, detained in Makhachkala; Igor Finkovsky, blogger, detained in Moscow Region)

Threats against journalists, bloggers and media - 5 (Valery Yartsev, journalist, newspaper Stolitsa S, Saransk; Yana Mamayeva, journalist, Channel 8, Krasnoyarsk; newspaper Ton-M, Krasnoyarsk Region; Pavel Netupsky, chief editor, SudebnyyeResheniya.rf portal, St. Petersburg; newspaper Kuryer-Sreda-Berdsk, Novosibirsk Region)

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.) - 30

Closure of media - 1 (news website Chernika, Karelia)

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video or audio apparatus and computers - 3 (computer of Natalia Gergert, deputy chief editor, Novaya Gazeta v Zapadnoi Sibiri news website, Omsk; computer of Yegor Portnyagin, chief editor, news agency Kamchatskiy Region, Petropavlovsk-on-Kamchatka; video camera of REN TV, seized in Chelyabinsk Region)

Other forms of pressure and infringement of journalists' rights - 28

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