5 Декабря 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 638

2 December 2013



Jury names finalists of Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”

The results of the 2013 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” were summed up in Moscow on 1 December. The Sakharov Award 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 annual competition was held for the 13th time this year. Earlier, the awards went to Elvira Goryukhina (Novosibirsk), Anna Politkovskaya (Moscow), Galina Kovalskaya (Moscow), Mikhail Afanasyev (Abakan), Igor Naidyonov (Moscow), Anna Lebedeva (Rostov-on-Don), Yevgeny Sholokh (Vladivostok), Tamara Proskuryakova (Kamyshin), Tatyana Sedykh (Khabarovsk Region), Vladimir Voronov (Moscow), Georgy Borodyansky (Omsk), and Viktor Shostko (Rostov Region).

The Jury named the 14 finalists of this year’s competition, among them:

Abdulla Duduyev, Dosh magazine (Grozny-Moscow); Yelena Suslova, newspaper Otkrytaya Dlya Vsekh I Kazhdogo (Mineralniye Vody, Stavropol Region); Varvara Siyanova, newspaper Amurskaya Pravda (Blagoveshchensk); Roman Khakhalin, web publication Park Gagarina (Samara); Yulia Suntsova, newspaper Den (Izhevsk); Olga Gordeyeva, newspaper Okno (Kolpino, Leningrad Region); Marina Zavadskaya and Natalya Fonina, newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti (Vladivostok); Sergei Sorokin, newspaper Krasnoye Znamya (Syktyvkar); Vladimir Vorsobin, newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda (Moscow); Natalya Ostrovskaya, newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda (Voadivoskot); Dmitry Florin, news website InterKavkaz (Moscow); Yelena Vlasenko, newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno (Moscow); and Sergei Sokolov, newspaper Novaya Gazeta (Moscow).

The Jury conferred a special diploma on Victoria Gil (Noginsk, Moscow Region).

The nominees and winner of this year’s award, selected from the above list of finalists, will be named at a ceremony to honour the laureates, to be held at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow (8a, Nikitinsky Boulevard, Arbatskaya metro station) on 15 December.

The 2013 competition attracted journalists from dozens of areas across the Russian Federation, including Siberia, the Far East, the Caucasus, the Volga Region and the Urals. The winner and nominees will be sent special invitations to attend the festive ceremony in Moscow, where they will receive prizes and diplomas. The Jury’s diplomas will be handed (to those living outside Moscow, will be sent by mail) to each finalist and each media outlet that published the winner’s and nominees’ writings.



Prominent journalist and blogger Sergei Reznik sentenced to real prison term in Rostov

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Pervomaiskiy district court in Rostov on 26 November passed a convictive sentence in the case of Sergei Reznik. The prominent journalist and blogger was found guilty of giving a bribe, insulting a government official, and filing an a priori false report with the police. The court considered the journalist’s guilt proven and the testimony given by Reznik and the witnesses for the defence “insufficiently convincing and intended to whitewash the defendant”.

The prosecutor asked for a three-year term in a general-regime penal colony for Reznik. However, the judge, taking into account such mitigating circumstances as the absence of prior criminal record, positive references from the defendant’s employer, and Reznik’s having a minor son to support, reduced the punishment to one year in jail each for the bribe-giving and false reporting, and to 10 months of corrective labour for the insult to a government official. The resulting sentence amounted to 18 months in a minimum-security penal colony. The convict was taken under arrest right in the courtroom.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) resolutely condemned the court ruling, labelling it as “a graphic instance of censorship”. “The decision passed in Reznik’s case is a shameful reminder that Russia doesn’t welcome criticism, despite its repeated claims from high rostrums about its being a criticism-friendly and press-freedom-committed nation,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. In an official statement posted on its website, CPJ urged the Russian authorities to review Reznik’s case and to find and bring to justice those who attacked him in October.

Many of those who followed the judicial proceedings were bewildered, to put it mildly, by the verdict. The “bribe” imputed to Reznik boiled down to his giving 2,000 roubles (approx. US$60) to a service station mechanic for certifying that his car was in good order and fit for driving. Even if so, Russia wouldn’t have enough prison space to accommodate all those acquiring car service certificates exactly the same way. The “false reporting” charge brought against Reznik is still more absurd, as shown by the testimony of a certain Mr Solodovnikov, who acknowledged in court it was he who had called Reznik on the phone, threatening him and his family with physical violence. When Reznik reported this to the police and asked law enforcement to find the caller, investigators did trace down the phone call to Solodovnikov, but evidently put pressure on him to tell the court Reznik himself had asked Solodovnikov to threaten him – “to make others think he was being targeted”.

Solodovnikov also – quite unexpectedly – confessed in court that back in 2011 he and a friend, after a couple of drinks, had called the news service of the Rostov-based popular news site 161.ru to “report” about a bomb planted somewhere in the city. Editor Yelena Dorovskikh, testifying in court, confirmed that she had indeed had a call from unknown persons about the bomb. She said she had alerted the police, who later pointed to the same Solodovnikov as one of the callers. As it happened, characters who should themselves have been prosecuted for falsely reporting about a terrorist act were accusing a renowned journalist two years later of his filing an a priori false report…

As regards insulting a government official – specifically, the chairwoman of the regional court of arbitration – Reznik did allow himself to write in his blog disrespectfully about her performance. Yet sending him to jail for that is too severe a measure, indeed. It seems the district court judge decided to give Reznik a “public whipping” to teach a good lesson to other independent bloggers and journalists.

Reznik’s defence lawyers have already appealed to a higher-standing judicial authority to cancel the ruling passed by the first-instance court.



Journalist’s killer goes to jail in Krasnoyarsk Region

A court in Lesosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk Region, has sentenced a local resident to 9.5 years in a tight-security penal colony for killing a journalist.

As Konstantin Bauer, a reporter for the local TV/radio company, was returning home late on 29 March, he happened to quarrel with a man he came across. In a fistfight that followed (which occurred at about 1 a.m., according to eyewitnesses), he was badly hit on the head and taken to the A&E department of the central city hospital.

Police started criminal proceedings under Criminal Code Article 111 (“Deliberate infliction of grievous bodily harm on a person”), and a special operative group of veteran police detectives, district police officers and investigators promptly found some eyewitnesses, made a photofit picture of the suspect, and detained the alleged attacker within less than a week. He turned out to be a young man, 23, with a prior criminal record and, still worse, on the police wanted list as a suspected thief. The man confessed to having had a fistfight with Bauer but denied any deliberate intention to beat him as badly as he did, regional police spokesman Vladimir Yurchenko said.

Meanwhile, Bauer’s condition kept growing worse. After more than a month in a state of coma, he died in hospital on 7 May.

The case went all the way to court. “A Lesosibirsk resident has been found guilty of inflicting grave bodily harm on another, leading to the victim’s death”, and sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment, the regional police department’s press service reported on 26 November.

Moscow judges sue Novaya Gazeta and its author for libel

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Two judges of the Moscow City Court have filed with Moscow’s Basmanny district court an honour-and-dignity protection claim against the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (NG) and its correspondent Nikita Girin. The plaintiffs, Yuri Bespalov and Dmitry Gordeyuk, are insisting that the NG story “Is This Your Plagiarism, Your Honour?” contained “libellous and smearing” statements – specifically, it suggested that a few passages in Gordeyuk’s dissertation had been “ripped off” from publications by his scientific adviser, Bespalov. Besides, they are claiming insulted by the statement, “Those (textual) matches… don’t seem accidental, if only because there are five-page-long identical excerpts… that indicate the authors’ ethical stand may not be altogether irreproachable.”

The plaintiffs want a disclaimer and 300,000 roubles in moral damages from the defendants.

NG representatives are ready to meet with the city court judges at the Basmanny district court in Moscow. “We will not insist – contrary to many lawyers’ advice – that the handling of the case be assigned to a court elsewhere in the Russian Federation,” an NG spokesman said.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will follow the proceedings with special interest.


Independent media outlet in Krasnodar Region “killed financially”

By Georgy Tashmatov, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Nikolai Tereshchenko, a landholder from Zarozhdeniye village in the Dinskoy district, Krasnodar Region, has turned to the Dinskoy district court lodging a legal claim against Natalya Nesterenko, editor of the local independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta Rayona (NGR). The move followed NGR’s carrying a 26 July publication, “Present-Day Marquises of Carabas”, whose author likened the landholder to the well-known character of Charles Perraults’ fairy tale and called him a “feudal lord” and a “versatile man with an impressive biography” [evidently a hint at Tereshchenko’s dubious past – Translator.].

Presiding Judge Yuri Semenikhin ruled to satisfy the businessman’s claim in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation, and awarded Tereshchenko 500,000 roubles in moral damage compensation payable by Nesterenko.

Seeing this as “a way to kill an independent media outlet financially”, the NGR chief editor intends to challenge the Dinskoy court ruling before a higher-standing judicial authority.

Two legal claims lodged against independent newspaper in Voronezh Region

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Two legal claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation have been lodged in Semiluki, Voronezh Region, against the publishing house issuing the municipal newspaper Semilukskiy Vestnik (SV).

The first plaintiff, local MP Alexei Prochanov, is claiming to have been hurt in May by a “libellous and smearing” SV publication in which he was called a “werewolf” and characterised as a contributor “to the decay of sports in Semiluki” and “to the mass privatisation of public property that is known to have turned into plunder”.

The second claim was lodged by the autonomous enterprise “Multifunctional State and Municipal Services Centre” in the wake of an August story, “Venal Power”, reporting that the enterprise leases 500 sq. m of floor space to a local shopping mall for 21 million roubles a year. The plaintiff insists its rental revenue is actually 10 times smaller; disagrees with the author’s hint at potentially corrupt behaviour of “decision-makers establishing our local rent rates”; and wants a disclaimer and 100,000 roubles in reputational damage compensation.

The defendant’s interests are represented in court by lawyer Yekaterina Mikheyeva of the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre.

Police freeze news agency’s operation in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Police spent 4 hours on 28 November searching the offices of the SakhalinMedia news agency, a structural unit within the media holding PrimaMedia. The search ended in the seizure of documents, all hard discs, notebook PCs and other data carriers.

In the process, police prohibited the staffers to call their lawyers or superiors on the phone, come near the computers, or use their video or photo cameras to record the proceedings. The police officers did not explain to the journalists why they were taking away all the computers; a senior lady investigator refused to speak on the phone to the company’s legal adviser or attorney.

As it turned out, the raid on SakhalinMedia was caused by a collective letter to President Putin, in which residents of Ozyorsky village in the Korsakovskiy district, Sakhalin Region, had asked the head of state to “protect” them “from Senator Aleksandr Verkhovsky”, the country’s largest fisheries tycoon. It was a report about that appeal, posted on the news agency’s website, which doomed the journalists to the office searches and humiliation.

Seeing the report as an attempt “to disparage” his honour and dignity, the senator, defying effective legislation, specifically the RF Media Law, initiated the start of proceedings against SakhalinMedia under Criminal Code Article 128.1 (“Defamation”), and police went searching for the original text of the villagers’ appeal to the president, together with its electronic version. They did not find either of those, but seized all the data carriers just in case, and then flew to Vladivostok to search the PrimaMedia offices and to question the media holding’s staff.

Most observers agree that this raid on journalists was unlawful. Some, though, maintain that by publishing its report, SakhalinMedia aimed to “destabilise the political situation in the Sakhalin Region”. Why police rushed to meet the senator’s requests as eagerly and zealously as they did is a separate question.

“They are searching SakhalinMedia today, and tomorrow they may set out to search other media, thereby adding to the triumph of impunity,” Vladimir Sorochan, chief editor of the newspaper Sovetskiy Sakhalin, commented, calling the police crackdown on the journalists “an outrage” and “a clear instance of authority abuse” that should not be allowed to repeat in the future.

“Journalism is becoming an increasingly risky profession,” PrimaMedia General Director Viktor Sukhanov told the GDF. “Writing the truth and providing honest and impartial coverage of developments both in big cities and in small villages somewhere on remote Far Eastern islands has been turning – strange as it may be – into a pretty dangerous occupation. Quite often, journalists championing ordinary people’s interests and defending justice have found themselves targeted by law enforcement.”

“I hate to think that the police, supposed to serve the people and defend their interests, has been turning into an instrument of repression in the hands of richer representatives of the so-called ‘people’s servants’,” Sukhanov said. “We think the simultaneous searches of our two media offices in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Vladivostok were unlawful, and we will ask the oversight agencies to check the legality of behaviour of the police officers concerned, who frightened our staffers, seized our equipment and paralysed the two media outlets’ operation. Ten officers from different police units were sent to search those media offices, take expensive trips to Vladivostok to stay there for several days carrying out operative assignments, and to seize our apparatus – and all this in response to a complaint filed by a senator! Can anyone remember them working as hard as that in response to an ordinary citizen’s complaint? I can’t.”



Adil Soz Foundation’s freedom-of-expression monitor’s report for October 2013

In October 2013 the Adil Soz Foundation, a Kazakhstan-based international freedom-of-expression watchdog, registered a total of 74 reports, among them:

  • A court of law in Petropavlovsk terminated the proceedings “Iskandarov family vs. journalists Yekaterina Nazarenko and Olga Vaitovich” on charges of defamation and insult;
  • An appellate court upheld the decision of an administrative court in Almaty to suspend the operation of the independent newspapers Tribuna: Ashyk Alan and Pravda Kazakhstana;
  • An Astana resident claimed 15 million KZT in compensation from the newspaper Novaya and one of its authors;
  • The General Prosecutor’s Office warned about toughened liability for the spread of insulting or libellous information online;
  • The 20-Shy Bap Coalition appealed to MPs about the new draft Criminal Code of Kazakhstan submitted to parliament for approval. (The coalition was formed by NGOs for the purpose of reforming effective media legislation, as allowed under Article 20 of the Constitution of Kazakhstan).

Since this year began, a total of 64 legal claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation, and 11 lawsuits on defamation and insult charges, have been lodged against media and individual citizens in Kazakhstan.

[For details, see www.adilsoz.kz]



Pressure on media has increased under President Yanukovicgh, RSF says

Since President Viktor Yanukovich came to power in Ukraine, official pressure on the media has increased significantly, as stated by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiéres, RSF) in Berlin.

The number of attacks on journalists grew from 30 in 2011 to 80 in 2012, and Ukraine fell in the RSF Press Freedom Index from 89th place (in 2009) to 126th. Reporters Without Borders has urged the European Union to raise this issue at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.

Influential Ukrainian media are in the hands of politicians or businessmen, which reduces weighed news coverage to a minimum, according to RSF. Early this year, a 20-percent stake in Inter Media Group, which incorporates the popular television channel Inter, was purchased by Sergei Lyovochkin, the presidential chief of staff. The ownership structure behind TBi – formerly the single most popular critical TV channel – remains obscure. Ever since Yanukovich won in the presidential race, the channel has faced increasingly serious problems in connection with its objective news coverage.

It is typical for Ukraine to blur the structural patterns of its media ownership by mixing domestic owners with foreign ones in very odd ways.

[Ukrainskaya Pravda report, 27 November]



Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in November 2013

Deaths of journalists – 1 (Konstantin Bauer, journalist, Lesosibirsk municipal TV/radio company, Krasnoyarsk Region)

Attacks on journalists – 5 (Life News film crew, Moscow; Andrei Petrov, correspondent, and Pyotr Lukashin, cameraman, V1.ru news portal, Volgograd; Irina Gubareva and Vitaly Gannashchuk, journalists, Biznes-Kurs weekly magazine, Omsk; REN-TV film crew, Moscow; TVC film crew, Moscow)

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 3 (Stanislav Kalinichenko, independent journalist and blogger, Kemerovo; Chetvyortaya Vlast newspaper, Saratov; Valery Uskov, ex-editor, and Vyacheslav Baidariko, journalist, Pravda Goroda Zlatousta newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 8 (Aleksandr Yermakov, correspondent, Fontanka.ru, St. Petersburg; Stanislav Kalinichenko, independent journalist and blogger, Kemerovo; Eistein Bogen, reporter, and Oge Eyun, TV2 Channel, Norway – detained in Krasnodar Region, thrice; Yekaterina Lukyanova, freelance journalist – detained in Krasnodar Region; Valery Uskov, ex-editor, and Vyacheslav Baidariko, journalist, Pravda Goroda Zlatousta newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region; Andrei Novichkov, correspondent, Grani.ru, Moscow)

Refusals to provide information (including bans on use of audio recorders and video/photo cameras; refusals to provide accreditation; restrictions on admittance to official events held by government bodies, industrial enterprises or state institutions) – 31

Threats against journalists and media – 4 (Pavel Yashchenkov, observer, Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, Moscow; Life News film crew, Moscow; Vladislav Stepanov, editor, Wolsk.ru, Saratov Region; staffers of Kopeiskiy Rabochiy newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region).

Closure of media – 1 (print version of Zolotoye Koltso newspaper, Yaroslavl).

Withdrawal, purchase or seizure of print run – 4 (Veskyd Syorni newspaper, Republic of Komi – 4 times).

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 10 (video camera of Life News film crew, Moscow; photo camera of Vladislav Stepanov, editor, Wolsk.ru news portal, Saratov Region; computers of Sergei Reznik, correspondent, Yuzhny Federalny newspaper, Rostov-on-Don - twice; video camera and computers of Pravda Goroda Zlatousta newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region - thrice; video camera of TVC film crew, Moscow; computers of SakhalinMedia news agency, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk; computers of PrimaMedia news agency, Vladivostok)

Other forms of pressure/ infringement of journalist rights – 38


Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the Internet, including at:

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: “Don’t Let Them Speak”

Ekho Moskvy: “Shoot the Reporter or How to Escape Getting Blacklisted by FSO”

Novaya Gazeta: “The Defender”



Court in Tyumen declares an anarcho-communist magazine’s publications extremist

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Law enforcers in Tyumen have demonstrated exemplary vigilance by finding signs of extremism that hitherto remained obscure to their less attentive – or negligent – colleagues in the many regions of Russia where Avtonom magazine has been in circulation for quite a long time now. The magazine, established by the anarcho-communist movement Avtonomnoye Deistviye (Autonomous Action), has been released in Moscow since 2005 (before that, it was issued in Krasnodar).

After hitting the press stalls in Tyumen, Avtonom caught the watchful eyes of the regional FSB department and the Leninsky district prosecutor’s office. The magazine’s very cover looked suspicious enough, “featuring young men against a background of flame or with burning torches in hand, as if ready to set something on fire,” Deputy Prosecutor Anton Chernov told the GDF.

Avtonom texts alerted the oversight agencies even more. “But it wasn’t we, it’s psychologists and linguists at the Justice Ministry’s Urals Forensic Studies Centre, assigned to provide expert conclusions about the magazine’s content, who found those texts to be extremist,” Chernov said.

As seen by the experts, five Avtonom articles published in different years “leaned toward justification of terrorism”. For example, the story “Vanya: Monday Notes” (Avtonom issue No. 32, 2011), “attempted to justify the use of violence in respect of right-wing radicals,” professional linguists and psychologists concluded, while pointing to the article “On Anarchism and Violence: Revenge as an Important Human Right” as the most ideologically hazardous one, “justifying violence against any human, even against someone not belonging to a particular group”. Curiously enough, the article’s authorship is ascribed to Vladislav Surkov, former deputy chief of staff in the Russian president’s administration, according to the news website Nakanune.ru.

Avtonomnoye Deistviye representatives resolutely disagree with the expert conclusions and will challenge these in court. “The charges advanced by the prosecutors are absurd to say the least,” activist Ivan Nikolayev wrote in a comment posted on the movement’s website. “Of course, it’s the fashion today to stick the ‘terrorism’ tag on anything that the authorities happen to dislike. But isn’t this the limit?”

His movement, on the contrary, calls for reducing violence in society to a minimum, Nikolayev wrote. “But if the use of force against neo-Nazis is seen as ‘terrorism’, we might as well start holding trials over [World War II] veterans and banning any books on the Great Patriotic War that cite the slogan ‘Down with the Fascists!’.” Still more absurd, in his view, is the ban on “a positive reaction to anything that causes negative attitudes within society”. “We aren’t supposed today to say ‘good’ about anything that the majority thinks to be ‘bad’, are we?” Nikolayev wrote. “Must we all march in columns like soldiers?”

The other Avtonom publications officially labelled extremist “are no more ‘extremist’ than works by philosophers of the 19th-20th centuries,” he summed up.

This notwithstanding, the Leninsky district court in Tyumen upheld the prosecutors’ position by satisfying their legal claim in full. Unless Avtonomnoye Deistviye succeeds in having this decision cancelled, all of the disfavoured Avtonom publications will be put on the Federal List of Extremist Materials.

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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