Дайджест
15 Марта 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 561

12 March 2012

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Journalists pressured during elections

As had been expected, media reporters had a hard time covering the 4 March presidential elections. They were closely watched by electoral committee members, police officers and unidentified characters; driven from polling stations, detained, bussed to polling stations elsewhere, forbidden to use cameras, required to erase photo images and video footage, attacked, and deprived of their photo and TV equipment …

Most commonly, officials claimed that journalists were “encroaching upon voters’ personal data”; “offering resistance to the police”; or “calling to vote against United Russia”. Other pretexts cited included “data secrecy”; “there are other reporters at the polling station already”; “there’s no one at the station”; or simply “the journalists are hampering electoral committee work”.

As a more “exotic” occurrence, a Novaya Gazeta correspondent in Krasnodar was required to present the text of the RF Media Law in addition to his press card. And in St. Petersburg, reporters were asked to show a stamped copy of their charter and a notarized copy of their newspaper’s registration certificate – and this despite City Electoral Committee Chairman Alexander Krasnyansky’s previous-day announcement that a journalist would be admitted to a polling station at the show of his or her press card or editorial assignment.

Journalists attempting to record different law violations were pressured especially hard.

At one polling station in Vologda, a film crew for the Vologda-Portal news agency was attacked by unidentified persons. Seeing a man being pushed into a police vehicle, the reporters switched the TV camera on and attempted to go through into the station to find out what was happening, journalist Natalia Shekhireva said. “Instead, we were attacked, our cameraman was beaten and his and the photographer’s cameras nearly got smashed,” she said. “Observers have told us the atmosphere here has been strangely tense since the early morning, so we are trying to figure out what’s going on.”

At a polling station in Bryansk, Alexander Mikhalenkov of the opposition newspaper Bryanskoye Obozreniye, too, got beaten for video-recording procedural violations. To the law enforcers’ merit, the young man in camouflage uniform who attacked the journalist was detained. In Krasnodar, Novaya Gazeta’s Yevgeny Titov was pushed off his feet and hauled out of the polling station by electoral committee head Alexander Ragulin and a police officer. In St. Petersburg, Albina Abubakirova, a correspondent for the newspaper Grazhdansky Golos, was beaten by electoral committee members while shooting video sequences of the proceedings.

“Non-violent” detentions and removals of journalists from polling stations occurred in Kirov, Central Russia (Alexander Robotinsky, a freelance reporter for the newspaper Bloknot, a witness of procedural violations, was detained); in Moscow (Moskovskiye Novosti correspondent was turned out for “unauthorised” talking to observers); and in Alagir, North Ossetia (Rostov-based journalist Pyotr Bychkov was detained). Correspondents for the civil rights newspaper Grazhdansky Golos (GG) found themselves treated particularly toughly: its reporter Yuri Cherkasov was taken to the police station in Chelyabinsk, Anton Voronin in Nizhny Novgorod, and Regina Sabirzyanova in Kazan. Other GG reporters were ousted from polling stations in Barnaul, Siberia; Zheleznodorozhny, Moscow Region; and St. Petersburg.

The use of photo and video cameras was forbidden throughout Russia, but duty policemen in Bryansk displayed “extra vigilance”, banning the cameras not only inside but also near the polling stations.

In St. Petersburg, electoral law violations were witnessed by representatives of at least 15 media outlets, including the newspapers Kommersant v Peterburge, Grazhdansky Golos, Moy Rayon, and Komsomolskaya Pravda; the web journals Shum.ru, Russkiy Reporter and Fontanka.ru; the web radio station Rupor; the Internet portal Gorod Pushkin.info; the regional newspaper Koltushi; Seans magazine; the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat; and the Communist party newspaper Piterskaya Pravda and Yabloko party newspaper Yabloko Rossii, the Lenizdat web portal reported adding that “this is by far not an exhaustive list of the media that found themselves pressured”.

As we see, the vote was marked by a high degree of activity, and it seemed the authorities did have something – evidently, quite a lot – to hide from public eyes…

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Law enforcers crack down on protesters again

Just one day after the presidential vote, the police again cracked down on activists as toughly as they had done before. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, media reporters were detained and beaten along with media reporters covering street protests. The law enforcers, as usual, paid little attention to the press cards or other journalistic IDs shown to them.

In the Northern capital, though, rubber clubs were not used extensively. Novaya Gazeta correspondent Boris Vishnevsky and the prominent journalist and historian Lev Lourier were released from police custody shortly after their detention, due to the Journalists’ Union interference.

In contrast, Moscow police raids were really tough. During the dispersal of an unauthorised nationalist march along Tverskaya and Bolshaya Nikitskaya Streets, Alexander Borzenko of the Ekho Moskvy radio station was beaten by unidentified persons while reporting live on the air. Luckily, a traffic police officer interfered early enough to save the journalist from still graver bodily harm.

OMON (police task force) officers cracked down on protesters full weight, apprehending not only opposition leaders during a forcible dispersal of a rally in Pushkinskaya Square but also journalists Ilya Barabanov of The New Times and Vladimir Romensky of Ekho Moskvy, and blogger Danila Lindele.

Kommersant FM radio reporter Ulyana Malashenko was detained in Lubyanka Square while covering an unauthorised opposition action, and taken to the police station together with a group of other journalists, among them Maria Klimova of the Ridus civil journalism agency; RIA Novosti photo correspondent Andrei Stenin; Novaya Gazeta’s Arkady Babchenko; Kommersant photo correspondent Gleb Shchelkunov; and Moskovskiye Novosti’s Pavel Nikulin. The latter was beaten up during the detention despite his telling the policemen he was a journalist fulfilling an editorial assignment and attempting in vain to present his press card – they wrung his hands behind his back and pushed him into a police bus, hitting his head against the bus steps and then beating him severely (for details, see the RUSSIA section below).

In connection with the police raids in Moscow, RF Journalists’ Union head Vsevolod Bogdanov appealed to Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin with a message reading, “Journalists performing their professional duty of covering street rallies were again detained by Moscow police on 5 March despite their presenting all the required documents. In the process, some of them (Moskovskiye Novosti correspondent P. Nikulin, RIA Novosti correspondent A. Stenin) were beaten up. We hope the Investigative Committee will see to it that these incidents, which we believe fall under the effects of the revised Article 144.3 of the RF Criminal Code, are duly investigated. Impunity for the lawbreaking law-enforcement officers cannot be tolerated.”

 

RUSSIA

Moscow. Journalist beaten while covering protest rally

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Pavel Nikulin, a Moskovskiye Novosti (MN) correspondent, was sent by his editor to cover the 5 March protests in Lubyanka Square. As he was reporting on the proceedings back to the office, the police started pressing rally participants out of the street and into the nearby metro station. “People were pushed – actually thrown – down the granite steps to stumble and crumple on one another,” Nikulin said.

An OMON serviceman grabbed Pavel by the hand and dragged him toward a parked police bus. The journalist told him he was fulfilling an editorial assignment and tried with his other hand to pull out his press card and certificate of accreditation with the Moscow Police Department – but another policeman twisted his arm behind his back. His attempts to explain he was a reporter, not a protester, caused zero reaction on the part of the police. He was crammed into the bus, where other policemen started beating him. With bruises on his chest and tailbone, and a cut eyebrow, Nikulin was brought to the police station at Yakimanka, where a protocol was made, identifying him as a protest action participant.

Nikulin told the policemen of his intention to report the beating; officers said if he didn’t, they would release him – otherwise he would spend the rest of the day at the police station. Pavel managed to phone his newspaper’s office, and a lawyer was sent over to get him out of custody. As a result, after checking his documents and his editorial assignment, the police allowed the journalist to go home.

On the following day, he was to be tried for suspected involvement in the protest rally. Pavel arrived in court together with Moskovskiye Novosti editor Vladimir Gurevich, MN website deputy editor Nikita Petukhov, and crime news unit head Yekaterina Butorina, but the trial was adjourned indefinitely in view of police failure to duly deliver his case file to court…

St. Petersburg. “Honest” elections?

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The latest presidential vote was marked with a surprisingly large number of barriers placed in the way of journalists covering the voting process. No one had really expected the press to receive a warm welcome at the polls, particularly in the light of December’s parliamentary elections which showed the opposite.

But the reality beat the boldest expectations, since electoral committee officials proved even more “vigilant” than the police. The electoral committee head at polling station No. 520 in the Kirovsky district hampered the work of BaltInfo photo correspondent Valentin Ilyushin. “I cast the ballot and then walked up to the chairwoman’s desk to register as a journalist,” he said. “Everything seemed O.K. until I switched my camera on. The chairwoman jumped on me with accusations and prohibited me to take pictures.” She objected to his photographing people register and cast their ballots – and this despite the police officer on duty at the station having nothing against his using the camera, Ilyushin said.

Reporters for the Moy Rayon (MR) newspaper were banned from taking pictures at polling station No. 1492 in the Primorsky district, according to MR’s Irina Kovalchuk. Their references to effective legislation were disregarded by electoral commission members. At other precincts, the situation was similar, another MR correspondent, Yelizaveta Vyazmenskaya, said.

Bans on photography were also reported by Komsomolskaya Pravda’s Yuri Sokolov; Shum.ru photo correspondent Valentin Yegoshin; Gorod Pushkin.info chief editor Maria Lyutaya; and Moy Rayon correspondent Yelena Barkovskaya. The use of cameras was prohibited at all of the polling stations in the Petrogradsky district she managed to visit, Barkovskaya noted.

Most often, though, the press simply wouldn’t be let in. Where journalists did succeed in going through into well-guarded polling stations, they would be turned out on any plausible pretext.

Reporter Anneli Aulikki Ahonen and photo correspondent Nikolai Gontar of the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat were barred from precinct No.19; Kommersant photographer Alexander Koryakov – from precinct No.30; and no journalists at all were allowed into polling station No.174, according to Moy Rayon’s Dmitry Kirilyuk. Anastasia Klevets and her colleagues from the Grazhdansky Golos newspaper were left outside polling stations No.16 and No.30 again.

Journalists were turned out from precincts Nos. 1427 (for talking to electoral committee members), 332, 488, 1231 and 1777… Many were ousted from polling stations in the Admiralteisky, Vyborgsky, Kalininsky, Kirovsky and other districts of St. Petersburg.

All those incidents were reported via a hotline set up by the St. Petersburg Journalists’ Union.

The authorities had promised us honest and fair elections – Russia’s top-ranking leaders had repeatedly claimed this was an “absolute must”. The question arises as to why instructions to this effect failed to reach the polling stations. Why keep the press at arm’s length if the vote was indeed honest?

Voronezh. Administrative censorship

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A scandal broke out in the office of the newspaper Voronezhsky Kuryer (VK) after one of its authors, Yelena Ruzanova, wrote on her Facebook page on 7 March, “As of today, as a protest action, I stop contributing reports to Voronezhsky Kuryer.” She explained her move by the chief editor’s clipping out her colleague Yulia Reprintseva’s story about electoral law violations in the region, and his rewriting her own report about protest rallies in Voronezh. She suspends her work for the newspaper until the chief editor provides explanations, Ruzanova said.

As became known from unofficial sources, the editor was fulfilling instructions from the Voronezh Region administration, the newspaper’s founder.

It is not the first conflict around VK. In 2010, the staffers protested against the founder’s decision to replace their editor-in-chief, signalling an instance of administrative meddling into the journalists’ work. Although the city’s journalistic community upheld that protest, nothing could be changed at the time.

Rostov Region. Authorities seek to close independent TV/radio station

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Puls TV/Radio Company established in the city of Azov 22 years ago has appealed to the public complaining of administrative pressure exerted on it ever since it joined the Voters’ League and launched a new project, “Azov Public Television”. The company incorporates four legal entities – a cable TV network, an Internet service provider, a conventional TV/radio station, and an advertising agency. Right after its new project was announced on 18 January, Puls became the subject of incessant inspections – the prosecutor’s office started scanning its broadcasts for potential “extremist” statements; the police task force against economic crime came to check its compliance with the terms of cable TV operation; and Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing public communications] launched a comprehensive inspection of all directions of Puls activity. To be sure, the fire marshal and Rospotrebnadzor [sanitary and consumer rights protection] officials soon popped up, too.

The company management’s complaint to the prosecutor’s office about this unjustified pressure was left unnoticed. On the voting day, the League founders’ telephones were blocked, evidently by an automatic call rejector, leaving the Azov branch’s work uncoordinated. The traffic police stopped observers en route to the polling station and kept them for 40 minutes, to prevent them from arriving in time to watch the sealing of the ballot boxes. Web cameras later showed the boxes were sealed without due inspection.

On the very next day, the same inspectors came to start checking the company’s performance all over again. To crown it all, the lessor notified Puls of his early termination of the agreement on the lease of transmitting equipment, which froze the company’s operation.

Speaking at a protest rally in Moscow on 10 March, Puls chief editor Alexei Sklyarov said his company was the sole independent TV/radio broadcaster in southern Russia. “The authorities must have simply disregarded us, since ours is a small city,” he said. “But once we attempted to take action in defence of honest elections, they instantly became aware of our existence and moved to get our company shut down and make our audiences forget us soon.”

Sklyarov is to hold a news conference at Moscow’s Independent Press Centre on 14 March.

Khabarovsk Region. Campaign wonders

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Nikolai Ponomar, the newly elected mayor of Bikin, Khabarovsk Region, has urged the district prosecutor to investigate a strange thing that happened to the local newspaper Bikinsky Vestnik on the eve of the presidential/mayoral vote.

A regular issue of BV was signed for printing on one and the same day (29 February) and at one and the same time (5 p.m.) with a thick supplement attached to it. In the main part of the issue, City Council deputy Yaroslav Osadchuk, who had withdrawn from the mayoral race, urged residents to vote instead for the Liberal Democratic party nominee, Ponomar. The same-day supplement featured an angry comment on the deputy’s public appeal, and next to it, an article praising an alternative candidate – Lyudmila Prosyanik of the United Russia party.

Needless to say, in order to comment on a publication, one has to read it first. Does this mean that newspaper page proofs in Bikin are submitted prior to printing to the district administration for approval? Then what about the law which bans censorship?

“It is up to the prosecutor’s office to sort these things out,” Ponomar wrote in his appeal, “the more so no one ever knew anything – until the very voting day – about the supplement released simultaneously with the main newspaper. The supplement had 28 pages, although the output data on the last page said it had 16 pages. As it turned out, the middle part simply wasn’t paginated. Also, there was a front-page photo of Khabarovsk Region Governor Vyacheslav Shport posing next to then presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, to give it all an appearance of importance.”

It may as well be noted that the 4 March early mayoral election in Bikin resulted in LDPR’s Nikolai Ponomar defeating United Russia’s nominee Lyudmila Prosyanik.

Perm. Senator’s daughter claims 1 million roubles from newspaper that mentioned her “family relationships”

See Digests 541, 560

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Olga Shubina, daughter of Perm ex-senator Igor Shubin, now a member of the United Russia faction at the RF Federation Council, is claiming 1 million roubles in moral damages from the regional newspaper Zvezda for mentioning her “family relationships” in a publication dated 1 March 2011.

As we reported in Digests 541 and 560, the publication was about the criminal record of Shubina’s ex-husband Artyom Lukin, 30, who has already served over 7 years in jail after trial (on 22 March 1999) on charges of group robbery involving violence, and another one (on 6 March 2000) on charges of deliberate grievous bodily harm to a person resulting in the victim’s reckless killing. On top of it all, on 15 December 2008 he was arrested after nearly 7 months of being on the wanted list; on 30 November 2009 sentenced to 6 more years for serious fraud; and finally released on probation this winter after more than half the term served.

On 14 March, the Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm is to hold a preliminary hearing of Lukin’s legal claim of half a million roubles in moral damages from Zvezda for its mention (in the above-named article of 1 March 2011) of the Sverdlovsky district court decision to resume investigation into a third alleged episode of fraud that is deemed to have resulted in Lukin’s misappropriation of 10.7 million roubles. The plaintiff frowned at the newspaper for publishing that information without his consent.

And on 16 March, the same (Motovilikhinsky) district court is to hear a legal claim by Olga Shubina, 28, who performed as a public counsel for the defence during the trials over her former husband. In her view, the newspaper’s mention of the fact of her being Lukin’s ex-wife and Senator Shubin’s daughter constituted – in the context of the article – an instance of Zvezda’s spreading “false information about my family, my father and my former husband” – a passage difficult to comprehend and clearly needing no comment.

Just as her ex-husband had, Shubina demanded that the court “prohibit the defendant and other persons to take any action to circulate the article ‘Criminal Record’ or disseminate the a priori false information it contains … in order to protect me from suffering further serious damage”.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation is taking this case under special control.

7. Yekaterinburg. Internet TV on the march

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

ETV, one of the web-based news agencies and TV networks that have mushroomed in Yekaterinburg lately, was conceived not merely as a television channel in the Internet, but rather as a discussion pad and a venue for evening talk shows with numerous participants, Vladimir Zlokazov, general director of Studio-41, said. Guest speakers in the studios can discuss “burning” municipal problems via Skype with netizens around the world, he said. The first such talk show has already been held, focusing on social networks.

Meanwhile, journalist Maxim Borodin and cameraman Maxim Izgagin have been detained by police while shooting a report for another web-based TV channel, E2E4.tv, about how much the government residence at Maly Istok village costs the taxpayers. A security guard came up, saying the use of cameras was prohibited; he seized the reporters’ documents and detained both, after which they were taken to the police station in Latviyskaya Street, where they were required to provide explanations in writing.

They did not breach any laws, Borodin told the Ura.ru news agency. “We did not venture onto the premises behind the fence; we were just shooting some sequences from afar, which was perfectly lawful, in my view,” he said. The police, for their part, are convinced they, too, acted lawfully. “They should have requested authorisation to take pictures of this specially guarded site,” they said referring to the journalists.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Round table with judges in Krasnodar

A round table was held in the regional court in Krasnodar on 5 March under a GDF-developed programme to regulate the procedure for ordering, applying and interpreting expert opinions that the courts need as a “must” when hearing cases involving charges of extremism, and legal claims in defence of honour and dignity.

The most heated debates flared up over whether or not expert study orders have become for many judges a kind of substitute for their own, independent views on the issue of justice administration.

We are happy to note that the team of top-ranking judges at the Krasnodar court, led by Chairman Alexander Chernov, displayed a live interest in the topic under debate and not only spent 3 hours discussing it at length but also came up with a reciprocal proposal – on organising a workshop in Gelendzhik in June, involving as many judges as possible from all over the Krasnodar Region.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation was represented by its President, Alexei Simonov; Legal Service head Svetlana Zemskova; and GDF analyst in charge of this project, Prof. E. I Galyashina, deputy head of the Forensic Studies Department at the O. Kutafin State Law Academy in Moscow.

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least twice in the Internet, specifically at:

 

OUR PARTNERS

Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations reports attempt to censor newspaper in Perm Region

By Sergey Plotnikov, CJES analyst in Yekaterinburg

Late last year, Vyacheslav Shakirov, acting head of Osinsky township administration in the region of Perm, sent an official letter (No.01-18/2122) to the Osinsky Information Centre, which was entitled “On Coordinating News Materials”.

He demanded that the page proofs of the newspaper Osinskiye Vesti, issued by the Centre, be submitted to him “for coordination” prior to printing. Putting Information Centre Director Vladimir Alekseyev in charge of the organisational matters, the district head reserved “the right to coordinate news materials” for himself.

Despite their clear unlawfulness, those demands did not come as a surprise either to the newspaper editor or to the Centre director.

The CJES analyst, too, was aware of the conflict between the authorities and journalists.

A preliminary investigation has been held, the results of which are described at http://www.gdf.ru/lenta/item/1/952.

GOLOS Association about presidential elections

At a 5 March news conference at Moscow’s Independent Press Centre, the public association “GOLOS” (“Voice”) described the previous-day presidential vote as “not free or fair, and failing to comply with Russia’s legislation and international electoral standards”.

GOLOS analysts concluded that this year’s presidential elections were in some aspects different from December’s parliamentary vote.

First, the campaign focus had been shifted from the United Russia party to the Government led by Vladimir Putin. While staying at the helm in United Russia, the main candidate deliberately distanced himself from the party to present himself as the national leader relying on the Popular Front established specially for the purpose as early as last summer.

Second, the campaign proceeded under the slogan “For honest elections and a political liberalisation”, which signalled power’s reaction to the civil protests that took place in the wake of the parliamentary elections. The authorities announced plans to carry out some radical reforms in the area of party building and elections; besides, they saw through a costly campaign to have nearly all the polling stations equipped with web cameras (to monitor the voting process). Thus, traditional propaganda, which consists in emphasising the incumbent administration’s current successes and decisions on the provision of government assistance to different groups of the population, was complemented with promises of fair elections and pending political reforms.

Third, propagandistic activity at the level of local administrations decreased and assumed more cautious forms to avoid unwanted publicity and major scandals. Law enforcement’s influence on the campaign was not pronounced.

This notwithstanding, the presidential race was marked by such “traditionally Russian” specifics as reliance by one of the candidates on his official position as head of the Russian government throughout the campaign, and on mass agitation disguised as “keeping the public informed”. This means that official statements concerning honest elections referred exclusively to the voting day and vote count.

­

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

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, Svetlana Zemskova  – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy  – translator.

 

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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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:
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