3 Ноября 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 775

31 October 2016


Vienna hosts international conference on freedom of expression

The second Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting, "Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media with a Special Focus on Conflict Situations, Including Protection of Journalists and Reporting during Armed Conflict", was held in Vienna on 27-28 October.

In her opening address, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic expressed regret over journalists' getting killed or taking risks while doing their professional work. "Yet we should remember that the killing of journalists must not turn into a daily routine," she said.

Also, Mijatovic stressed that when journalists are exposed to unbearable risks and are compelled to leave conflict zones their absence enhances the risks of violence against peaceful civilians.

The conference discussed such issues as journalists' security in armed conflict conditions; the role of the OSCE, governments and civil society in defending the media at times of crises; ending impunity for crimes against journalists; and media self-regulation as an instrument of improving ethical norms and countering propaganda.


Prominent Rostov-based blogger Sergei Reznik released from detention

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Blogger Sergei Reznik was released on 25 October, having served the full 3-year term of general-regime penal colony confinement to which two Rostov district courts - Pervomaisky and Leninsky - had sentenced him while rejecting his appeal to be released on parole.

Several human rights groups designated Reznik as a prisoner of conscience because his prosecution had started after a number of sharply critical LiveJournal posts regarding high-ranking judiciary and law enforcement officials. The accused himself never claimed guilty, repeatedly stressing that he was convicted for criticising the authorities.

Facebook and other social networks feature numerous congratulations to Reznik on his release from detention, but he has so far replied to none - maybe because the judges imposed additional sanctions on him in the form of a ban on engaging in professional work for two years after his release (which is a very rare, if not an unprecedented, occurrence in Russian journalism), or just because he is too tired of what he has had to go through. ___________________


Court in Yekaterinburg puts blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky back in pre-trial prison

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Kirovsky district court in Yekaterinburg on 28 October toughened the restrictions on blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky from house arrest to his return behind bars pending trial. The measure, valid until 23 January 2017, follows his violations of the house-arrest regime, such as using the Internet and meeting with other people in his apartment. Sokolovsky's defence lawyers will appeal, they have told journalists.

As we have reported, Sokolovsky has become notorious lately for videoing himself in a church trying to catch pokemons. The video made many believers indignant and caught the eye of the police, just as other videos posted by the blogger in Youtube.

The experts hired by the Investigative Committee have found signs of extremism in those videos and studied at close quarters some magazines issued by Sokolovsky, as well as the "spy pen" with a video camera seized during a search of his home. A local court arrested the man for two months, but his lawyers appealed to the higher-standing regional court which mitigated the punishment to house arrest. Yet it seems he is eager to continue teasing the public, even at the cost of his moving to a prison cell.

State Duma deputy claims 1 million roubles from Omsk-based web publication for disclosing "insider information"

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Kuibyshevsky district court in Omsk has accepted for review a lawsuit filed by Alexander Kravets, a State Duma deputy and first secretary of the regional Communist Party (KPRF) committee, against the web publication BK55 which put forward its own explanation why Communist Oleg Denisenko was defeated in the latest election by the ruling United Russia Party (URP) nominee Andrei Galushko, a senator who was running for the Russian parliament's lower chamber.

Both candidates, by regional standards, are "political heavyweights": Denisenko has served two terms as a Duma MP, and before that, he was deputy commander of the RF FSB's Alpha combat unit; and Galushko was the region's first deputy governor. They competed with each other for a State Duma seat in a single-mandate constituency embracing some of the Omsk Region's northern districts.

According to anonymous insider sources, the regional URP department "paid the Omsk Communist leader 25 million roubles for Denisenko to not win the race". The disputed publication, though, contained no operative or other information capable of persuading the readers the report was true to fact.

In an interview for the newspaper Krasnyi Put, Alexander Kravets explained why he reacted the way he did to what he described as a "newspaper hoax": "Any humiliation needs to be retorted so that others refrain from acting as insolently… Unfortunately, a refutation is not always an adequate way to restore one's damaged reputation. Yet effective legislation does not provide for alternative ways of defending a person's honour and dignity. That's regrettable. In the past, you could challenge your offender to a duel, or give him a slap in the face. But the times have changed, and one should never venture beyond the legal framework".

The Communist MP estimated the damage done to his reputation by the BK55 publication at 1 million roubles.

Court rejects legal claim filed by institute that expelled Turkish students, allegedly for political reasons

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Sovetsky district court in Voronezh on 24 October reviewed a reputation-defence claim lodged by the Voronezh High Technologies Institute (VIVT) against Andrei Zolotukhin, editor of the @ps5sov student website, over a publication about a group of Turkish students expelled from VIVT last December in view of rising tensions between Russia and Turkey.

In its statement of claim, the VIVT management described as "damaging" to its reputation the passage saying that the Turkish students had been expelled "for political reasons", and asserted that VIVT's characteristic as "a commercial institution" was untrue.

The management is empowered to expel students "in full compliance with the law" at any time, without waiting for the results of exams, the VIVT representative said in court, adding that the Turkish students had been dismissed because of absenteeism. He refused to accept the phrase about the conflict's "political underpinnings" as an expression of the author's private opinion, and described it instead as "a report about a fact of life", and the phrase "commercial institute" as a hint that the level of VIVT education was "lower than in other higher schools".

Representatives of the defence countered by stating that the author had fully complained with the requirements advanced to journalists in such situations: when preparing the publication, both conflicting parties had been asked to comment - students and the VIVT management - and their opinions were later reflected in the text. The situation itself was doubtlessly of interest to the public, warning against the likely consequences of a political conflict. The author had indeed been tough in his assessments, but he had had every reason to: there were too many coincidences. A few days before the Turkish students' expulsion, a management official claimed there was "no problem" with them, but VIVT's position changed, and quickly - it was students from Turkey - a whole group - that was expelled at once.

The defendants presented in court a video clip and excerpts from correspondence with the ousted students (who are all back in Turkey now and could not attend the trial). The former VIVT students said that shortly before their expulsion they were summoned to the dean's office and were asked, for the sake of their own security, to voluntarily leave Russia. If they did not, they were told their would-be academic career would be decided "by other means".

In the course of the hearings, a witness was questioned - a student of Voronezh State University's school of journalism - who had taken part in preparing the publication. He said he had talked to would-be drop-outs and they all had complained about pressure exerted on them by the institute's management.

The court ruled to reject VIVT's legal claim in full.

Businessman sues news agency in Voronezh for criticising his utility services company

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Ex-businessman Vadim Ishutin has turned to the Kominternovsky district court in Voronezh filing a legal claim in defence of his honour, dignity and business reputation against the regional news agency Chernozemye.

The conflict was all about the publication "Voronezh public activists to legitimately defeat the legacy of Vadim Ishutin and his patrons from the Regional Policy Department henhouse", carried by the newspaper Ekonomika i Zhizh-Chernozemye and the news agency's new website.

The critical article described the deplorable state of communal services in the city, which in the author's view, was a direct consequence of the poor performance of the Voronezh Community Services Chamber established by Ishutin. The claimant pointed to passages and phrases that were "damaging" to his dignity and reputation, such as "Vadim Ishutin the rogue", "This marvel at one time was a regional Duma MP", etc. In his view, the author "meant to humiliate me and disparage my human dignity" with those remarks, just as with criticism of the "Community Chamber's honour, dignity, and business reputation".

Ishutin is demanding that the text of the publication be declared as untrue and smearing, the article be erased from the website, and a disclaimer be published.


Newspaper editor in Vladivostok receives threatening letter containing white powder

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The latest weekend was marked for the Vladivostok-based newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti by a very uncommon occurrence - for the first time in their 20-odd-year history, they received an envelope with contents that scared the secretary nearly to death: some white powder of unknown origin!

The secretary, who had many times heard threats from visitors, and read them in the texts of court subpoenas and judicial decisions, was really frightened this time, seeing unknown powder pouring forth from a just-opened letter - was it sugar, flour, salt, or poison?

The envelope was pretty ordinary, with the sender's name and address in Vladivostok. The enclosed message was short: "Die, you American broad!" The powder was spilling all over the desk and had fallen on the floor. The editor's first reaction was quite understandable: "Don't touch it!"

After some laughing, the staffers started thinking what to do. Finally, they decided to turn for help to the FSB that is just across the street. They sent the article's author as the negotiator. Marina Zavadskaya went there to talk things over, taking the mysterious envelope along - just to be re-directed to the medico-biological laboratory which will come up with its conclusions no sooner in a few days.

Meanwhile, Zavadskaya has commented on the incident: "Well, that's what I call popularity with the readers. I don't shelve my writings, they hit people where it hurts, and now I can see they do. That's a strange message, really: it's addressed to me, Marina Zavadskaya, and the sender's address is known, so it's not an anonymous letter. When we opened the envelope, some white powder poured forth - supposedly, flour. Also, there was an excerpt clipped out from the article "The elevator doesn't lift down" and a copybook page with the message: "Die, you American broad!" - kind of a mix of wishful thinking with a threat. Clearly, the author acted spontaneously: the article was delivered to the press stalls and subscribers on 19 October, and the post office stamps on the envelope are dated 21-22 October. There's the sender's full name and address which we won't cite here, however: we suppose someone else might write the message while referring to the address of some acquaintance - just to set him or her up, since such an action is qualified as an act of terrorism or extremism and may be punishable under the law".

The journalists wrote an appeal to the Maritime Region FSB Department: "We hereby inform you of an alleged terror act. On 27 October 2016, journalist Marina Zavadskaya received a letter (please find it attached, with the sender's address on the envelope), with written threats and some white powder inside - all this seems terrorism to us. Please analyse the letter's contents, the chemical composition of the powder, and whether or not the author is a terrorist. We remind you that in line with the RF Media Law, unless you reply within a week, you must inform us of the reasons for the delay within three days' time. Attachments: Letter with post office stamps; enclosed message; enclosed excerpt from the article; and white powder found in the envelope. Please send you reply to: Arsenyevskiye Vesti, 2, Pogranichnaya St., Room 334, 690090, Vladivostok, Russia. Date: 28 October 2016".

Arsenyevskiye Vesti editor Irina Grebneva believes that the reader's letter sent to her office - the one containing unknown powder - is a result of attempts to stir up intolerance against dissidents.


2016 Andrei Sakharov competition "Journalism as an Act of Conscience" draws to a close

The 2016 Andrei Sakharov Competition "Journalism as an Act of Conscience" is drawing to a close, with the works submitted for this year's contest accepted until November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award "For Journalism as an Act of Conscience" is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors' active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between 15 October 2015 and 15 October 2016 in Russian print or online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard (gate of Journalists' Union of Russia), Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: "Andrei Sakharov Competition `Journalism as an Act of Conscience'".

For further details, see www.gdf.ru or call: (+7 495) 637 4947.

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