4 Декабря 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 777

14 November 2016


Journalist Grigory Pasko under close surveillance, target of provocations

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

In Barnaul in late September, unknown men attacked Grigory Pasko, head of the Commonwealth of Investigative Journalists, who had arrived in the Altai Region capital to hold a school for journalists and bloggers. Prior to the attack, he received threatening messages online; some local "patriot" warned him: "You'll be the subject of our closest attention" (see digest 771 ).

He did become one, as recent developments show. In Syktyvkar on 8 November, the first-day seminar at the school for journalists was disrupted. The event began at Avalon Hotel at 5 p.m., according to the 7х7 news portal, and only an hour later a female hotel manager asked Pasko out of the lecture room, telling him that an unknown man had called the police because of "a bomb allegedly planted inside the hotel", so everyone had to leave the building.

Pasko refused to leave, and went on with his lecture. Minutes later, he called on the phone a member of the Komi Republic administration who explained they had received an anonymous letter saying, "Pasko intends to blow up Komi". More provocations were likely, the administrator added.

After ten or so minutes, an alarm system worked and the seminar participants were told to go out onto the street. It was not until 8 p.m. that they were allowed back and could resume their work. Pasko, meanwhile, was at the Interior Ministry department answering law enforcers' questions.

The provocation was well predictable because shortly before Pasko's arrival in Syktyvkar state-controlled media had published at least two "news reports" under high-sounding headings - "Czech billionaires' money to be handed out in Syktyvkar", and "Local bloggers will be coached at traitors' school" - both hinting at Pasko's connections with foreign secret services. Both publications had identical content copied from an anonymous LiveJournal.com blog created, judging by the registration data, on the very same day and containing only one post - about Pasko.

Let us repeat it was not the first provocation. While police in Barnaul did start legal proceedings under Article 116 after Pasko was beaten there, this time the situation looks different. "Police officials tried to charge myself with dispatching that [false] report about the bomb," the journalist told the GDF. "That show with the bomb, the ousting of hotel guests, the sniffer dog in my suite searching for an explosive device, weapons and drugs, and two good dozen of men armed with automatic rifles and of uniformed or plain-clothes police officials are all fraught with a criminal case that may be opened against me. I know for sure whose shadow looms behind those incidents in Barnaul and Syktyvkar, and I readily share that regional administrator's view that more provocations can be expected".


Blogger Sergei Reznik released but unavailable for contact with friends in Rostov

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Prominent blogger Sergei Reznik, convicted by Rostov courts to three years in a general-regime penal colony, has been released after fully serving his term. Yet his cell phone is switched off; moreover, Reznik will not use cell phones at all for a couple of years, according to journalist Alexander Masalov who met the ex-prisoner outside the Kamensky colony gate on the day of his release. Nor has Reznik replied to e-mails lately because of the additional sanctions imposed on him - a two-year ban on engagement in journalism after coming out of prison.

Evidently aware that if he starts giving interviews or simply sharing his views on different issues, law enforcers and judges may see that as a violation of the said ban. Only someone not knowing the content of the four cases under which he was convicted could call Reznik an "overcautious" person. In two of those cases, he was sentenced to real terms of imprisonment for harsh online criticism of a high-ranking regional prosecutor and of the chairman of the Rostov arbitration court - "offences" that might cost others nothing more than fines. The two other cases were even more puzzling: in one of them, the blogger was charged with bribing a car service official when he yielded to a provocation and agreed to pay the man 2,000 roubles for issuing a car service ticket.

The fourth case, involving "deliberate false reporting", was based on the testimony of a man who himself (as proven during the investigation and in court) had phoned Reznik and threatened him with physical violence. That character, who presented himself as press spokesman for Ataman Kozitsyn, the head of the Don Cossack Army who was very much surprised to learn the news, had been calling media offices to borrow money on various pretexts - to never pay back, of course; special investigators at the regional Investigative Department turned him from the accused into the chief witness for the prosecution. The investigators alleged the journalist had himself asked the guy to call and threaten him on the phone - presumably "to gain additional popularity".

Now that Sergei Reznik has served three years in prison for the above-described kinds of "crimes", it is hard to predict how stringently he may now be punished for any statement actually or allegedly made in public. Speaking with us over the phone, his wife Natalya Reznik reproached fellow journalists for their failure to help and defend her husband. Actually, they did try hard to - both journalists and human rights activists in and outside Russia, not to mention ordinary people who were always in the courtroom in large groups to express their sympathy and compassion. This notwithstanding, the Investigative Committee and later Rostov-based judges simply ignored all domestic and international appeals. They rarely pay attention to such "trifles" as public opinion.

Anyway, the good news for the moment is that Sergei Reznik has staunchly endured the pre-trial detention, the trials, and the three-year imprisonment. Asked how the ex-prisoner felt today, Alexander Masalov commented briefly: "I haven't noticed any serious difference between how he felt before and after all those dramatic events".


"Coordination" as a form of censorship in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The public and political news portal Stavropolskiye Vedomosti the other day published an interesting message titled "Prosecutorial secrets, or A letter to the regional prosecutor's office's press pool," namely to its chief, Lyudmila Dulkina.

The letter is interesting inasmuch as it describes in minute detail, step by step, how the prosecutors - officials appointed to enforce the constitution - have practised censorship that is constitutionally outlawed.

In her message, journalist Marina Kandrashkina wonders why Dulkina has never granted her an interview they both agreed on. The newspaper is concerned over disruptions in the supply of medicines to the region - the more so because the Office of Russia's General Prosecutor has reported that it exposed in 2015 and the first half of this year 28,000 violations of the rules of supplying Stavropol's population with pharmaceuticals. If so, can one really hope to see Russia's health care work uninterruptedly, observe the patients' rights, and keep medical product prices under control? It is to learn the results of prosecutorial check-ups, and talk on the pre-agreed topic with a detailed list of questions in hand that Kandrashkina contacted the regional prosecutors' press office.

In the original version of her interview, Assistant Prosecutor Dulkina boldly cited the following statistics: "Prosecutors have identified more than 300 violations in the relevant sphere, and have opened more than 50 administrative cases against guilty persons". The Stavropol Region, apart from pharmaceutical price hikes, is plagued by another, at least as serious, evil - disappearance of inexpensive medicines from the drug stores, as officially acknowledged in the cities of Yessentuki, Nevinnomyssk and Pyatigorsk, and the Arzgirsky, Buddenovsky, Izobilnensky, Kursky, Levokumsky, Predgorny and Stepnovsky districts.

Noting later that "This text still needs to be corrected a bit," the press pool head dragged out the coordination process for several days.

"We are too busy doing other work right now," she would tell Kandrashkina politely on the phone each time she called. Yet the journalist continued insisting: the newspaper was nearly ready for publishing, people wanted to know the truth, while the interview remained unfinished. "Well then, edit it out - we have conferences, fact-finding trips, and other kinds of urgent work to do!" she would hear in reply.

The interview's rewriting took several more days; when Kandrashkina received the final version at long last, she thought some computer incident had occurred, since a good half of the questions and answers had disappeared. "Putting on airs, they actually told me to get lost - they themselves had removed `redundant' details because they had `every right to do so'. My attempts to protest were rebuffed, because `Who are you to dictate your will to the prosecutors?'" the journalist told the GDF.

Since no telephone dialogue ever took place, Kandrashkina wrote her open letter reminding the prosecutors she was doing her professional work. In line with the federal Media Law, she wrote, a media outlet is entitled to request details about how well government bodies, local self-governments, different organisations, public associations, and their officials perform their functions.

Lawsuit lodged against critical newspaper in Stavropol

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The "garbage problem" is a standing topic for critical discussion in the newspaper Stavropolskiy Reporter (SR). One of such articles, titled "Weapons of mass contamination", published in SR Issue No.34 dated 1 September 2015, resulted in the filing of a lawsuit against the author.

The story was about a refuse dump in the Shpakovsky district (officially called "a domestic solid waste-disposal plant") that is located within the boundaries of a large underground natural-gas repository, not far from a subsoil freshwater deposit serving as a drinking-water emergency reserve for Stavropol residents. Consequently, the author wrote, dumping garbage in that area is inadmissible, since the subsoil water may get contaminated, or a powerful explosion may occur if the gas leaks to the surface while the waste accidentally catches fire. By the way, one of the major opponents of the refuse dump was the leadership of OOO Gazprom PKhG, the company exploiting the gas repository, whose general director appealed over the issue to the regional administration. He specially stressed that his company had never given its consent to garbage dumping or recycling in the district.

The author and the editorial board carefully studied that appeal, along with numerous negative expert opinions and public protests against the project. Yet their efforts ended in a lawsuit filed with the regional arbitration court against them by Eduard Putylin, director of the waste dump operator, OOO Eco-City.

The claimant asked the court to dismiss as "unverified rumours" actually the entire content of the publication, including the Gazprom head's appeal, the opinion of hydrogeology specialists at OAO Kavkasgidrogeologiye, the results of research carried out on the basis of the Interregional Veterinary Laboratory in Stavropol, and the regional Natural Resource Ministry's requirement not to start building the refuse dump without prior coordination with the competent agencies.

To the garbage kings' utter dissatisfaction, a primary judicial authority reviewed the newspaper-supplied documents in every detail, evaluated them accordingly, and rejected the lawsuit, causing the losing party to challenge the ruling in the 16th Arbitration Court of Appeals.

That is where strange things started happening. Maria Korobko, the chief editor of SR, discovered that all the documents earlier presented in the first-instance court were missing from the case files, although it was them that had caused the judge to find in favour of the critical newspaper. Significantly enough, the panel of judges reviewing the appeal - Oleg Marchenko, Yulia Lugovaya and Irina Yegorchenko - did not have a single question to ask about the missing documents. "Did they think their [lower-standing] colleagues had passed their decision by tossing a coin?" the newspaper wondered.

The editorial board presented copies of those documents again the day the following regular hearing was held. The panel and Eco-City's lawyer took "only two hours" to read them, and still SR was reproached for "dragging out" the process. Finally, the ruling was read out: the regional arbitration court decision shall be cancelled, Eco-City's legal claim satisfied, and the article "Weapons of mass contamination" declared as libellous. Also, the court required SR to publish a disclaimer and reimburse the claimant for his judicial costs - return him the 49,000 roubles he had paid for an expert study and in state fee.

When the trial was over, the SR staffers learned that the presiding judge, Oleg Marchenko, had weighty reasons to feel hostile toward their newspaper: it had repeatedly written critical stuff about his brother Vyacheslav Marchenko, at one time the regional minister of agriculture, whose career ended after the journalists found out - and reported in SR - that the minister had a forged university diploma. As a result, Vyacheslav Marchenko had to step down.

Of course, some may allege Judge Marchenko knew nothing about his brother's problems - but few would believe that. And yet, if he did know, he should have recused himself.

Stavropolskiy Reporter now intends to persuade the higher-standing judicial authority that we are able to prove each fact reported in our article with supporting documents in hand, the newspaper wrote.

Reporters forbidden to interview trial participants inside Petrozavodsk court building in Karelia?

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

Existing restrictions on reporters' work in the courtroom are well understandable: the law clearly defines the professional opportunities available to journalists who should be able to cover trials while not hindering the course of judicial proceedings. Yet until recently no one prevented reporters from interviewing trial participants if the latter were willing to speak outside the courtroom, that is, in court corridors.

Now the heads of the city court in Petrozavodsk are banning journalists from putting questions to conflicting parties inside the court building. They did so for the first time when reviewing a family conflict between parents who could not decide who their children should stay with. Corridor interviews with the couple were prohibited. Since the hearings were held behind closed doors, it was clear that speaking person-to-person to the father and mother was the only way for correspondents to gather at least some information about the trial.

The imposition of that ban caused the Journalists' Union of Karelia to file an inquiry with City Court Chairman A. Sudakov asking him to comment on the conflict and evaluate it in legal terms.

Acting Court Chairwoman M. Nosova sent back a reply, although a pretty dubious one. Being aware that her comments would be cited in public, she showed willingness to comply with the law and informed the Union - here is a quote: "Media representatives are not prohibited to get comments from trial participants in the court corridors," evidently meaning that the previously-imposed administrative restrictions on reporters were unlawful. That would probably be enough to consider the conflict settled, unless one other phrase in Nosova's reply message that read as follows: "In the process, no barriers should be placed in visitors' way as regards their free movement inside the court building". A pretty queer addition, was it not? Why write that, and to whom was it addressed? Journalists definitely do not create traffic jams in court corridors. Maybe that was a way for Judge Nosova to clear her colleagues of any responsibility for violations of reporters' rights and thus justify the likely imposition of more such bans in the future? What in particular can hinder other people's free movement around the court?

It looks like a similar story may happen again. The rules of visitors' behaviour inside the city court in Petrozavodsk do not describe any possible "barriers" to other citizens' walking along the court corridors. This matter is left at the discretion of judges and security guards.


Information paralysis in Dagestan

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

An article under this heading has been carried by the newspaper Chernovik which analyzes the state of glasnost in the republic.

The author, Ruslan Magomedov, reminded the readers with reference to GDF monitoring data that Dagestan until 2013 had been a region with relatively free media (fully free media could not be found anywhere in Russia at all at the time, according to GDF research). Dagestan could boast an independent (private) press, including the newspapers Chernovik, Novoye Delo, Svobodnaya Respublika, and Nastoyashcheye Vremya (the latter is no longer released). They expressed their own views, did not depend on the authorities, competed with one another, and searched for new ways of involving their readers in public debates.

The media controlled by the government of Dagestan, on the other hand, have always operated in different conditions, existed in a certain parallel reality, and thought it to be their duty not so much to keep the readers truthfully informed as to persuade them how successfully the incumbent republican leaders have worked and how much they have achieved.

Yet as early as September 2013, analyzing the situation in Dagestan, Chernovik stated:

"The government's current media policy can frankly be described as a setback! Despite the fairly frequent appearance of Dagestan's leader and members of his administration at different media forums, the independent media are finding themselves in a kind of information vacuum. Nor is there a distinct pattern of republican authorities' interaction with either independent media in Dagestan or with federal media. The government prefers to dictate to them in what form and how to report, which the `federals' definitely do not like. By and large, that concerns government requests for hushing up crime. A fresh example: Maxim Shevchenko, who made Dagestan's problems known at the very top level, has turned into an enemy of the republic's state-controlled media.

"The brief period (2013-2015), when the Dagestan authorities seemingly improved their contact with federal media (the State TV/Radio Company `Dagestan' launched a talk show, `Glavnaya Tema' (`The Main Topic') hosted by Alexei Kazak, where people from all walks of life frankly discussed their problems and troubles and asked officials direct questions), quickly ended. Moreover, after election-related scandals in 2015 and 2016, the situation with freedom of expression worsened drastically. The television project `Otkrytaya Vlast' (`Transparent Power'), where Ramazan Abdulatipov, surrounded by reporters, answered questions from ordinary citizens whose phone calls had got through, was shut down, as was the show Glavnaya Tema. The independent press fell into disfavour. During the rupture of Russia's relations with Turkey, Chernovik and Novoye Delo, at Dagestan's leadership's initiative, were declared nearly as `enemy publications betraying state interests'. A year later, in 2016, after truthful reporting about elections to the State Duma and Dagestan's Legislative Assembly, the two newspapers' correspondents were barred from attending meetings of the new Assembly body, allegedly because of changes to the rules of accreditation.

"The major tasks of the state media machine, which includes a variety of republican as well as municipal newspapers, magazines and online media, consists in conducting unbridled PR for the authorities. And this machine is inefficient, as shown by lack of objective reporting in difficult situations, such as the collapse of public transport or mass poisoning of residents with tap water.

"One other `minus' of the info machine, as the author sees it, consists in red tape brightly reflected in Dagestan's government programme `Mass media development in the Republic of Dagestan in 2015-2020'. The list of programme goals, specifically, includes `creating high-quality info products and making them available in a guaranteed way to the republic's population'. Yet those goals rotate around quantitative indicators only: increasing the duration of TV and radio shows; increasing the number of readers - attention! - of the news website of the state broadcaster `Dagestan', as well as average one-time print runs of newspapers, magazines and books made available to ever broader sections of the population. If the state programme of media development is to be trusted, print runs should increase due to the release of full-colour publications! If a reader habitually refused to purchase a newspaper that was of no interest to him in terms of content, would he rush to buy it after it became a full-colour one?"

For the full text of the article, see


Russian, Ukrainian and Moldavian journalists take part in media schools in Berlin, Leipzig

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Germany on 31 October-9 November hosted an autumn school titled "Journalists and media standards influenced by politics and society", which brought together delegations of reporters and media experts from Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. The event was sponsored by Moldova Institut Leipzig with assistance from the German Foreign Ministry.

Students spent ten days studying German experience in media self-regulation and media-society-government interaction, and discussing professional issues facing Germany and the three guest countries. The syllabus included more than 20 meetings and discussions in various institutions in Berlin and Leipzig.

Programme events could be conventionally divided into three groups: visits to government institutions, meetings with experts, and visits to media offices and journalistic organisations. For example, trainees visited the German Foreign Ministry, the Federal Press Service, and Saxonia's state authority for private broadcasting and new media, where they learned how the system of state media regulation works in the country. Visiting the Press Council and the German Union of Journalists helped them see which self-regulation mechanisms Germany employs to settle conflicts in the media sphere.

When visiting the newsrooms of the public television broadcaster ZDF and the daily newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung, they discussed media relations with audiences and political institutions, with special focus on part of the German population's mistrust of the mass media fuelled in the past few years by anti-migrant sentiments. This issue was raised also during meetings with experts and researchers from Leipzig University and the European Centre on Press and Mass Media Freedom. In the offices of the Berlin branch of Reporters Without Borders and the Deutsche Welle Akademie, school participants learned about existing programmes to educate and protect journalists.

Not only did representatives of German organisations describe local experience in detail, they also actively inquired the guests about the media situation in Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. "Our problems seem minor points to me as compared to yours," Leipziger Volkszeitung journalist Anita Keke admitted after one such expertise-sharing session.

Safeguarding journalist security, resisting pressure from authorities and business groups, covering warfare, audiences' distrust of the media, regulation and self-regulation were all topics for discussion during the media school, whose students could learn how Germany tackles such problems, while also comparing the media position and professional standards of journalism in their home countries.

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