14 Февраля 2013 года

Glasnost Defence foundlation digest No. 602

11 February 2013


Editor in Khakassia gets back part of his seized office equipment

Mikhail Afanasyev, chief editor of the Novy Focus web magazine based in Abakan, Khakassia, has got back two computers – part of the office equipment seized by law enforcers in December during searches carried out in the framework of a criminal case opened against the journalist.

The criminal charges were brought against Afanasyev at the end of December as part of a pressure campaign waged against him in connection with his professional activities. He was accused under Articles 128.1 (“Libel”) and 319 (“Insult to a government official”) of the RF criminal code, and his apartment, office and car were searched, with his personal and office computers, as well as flash memory cards and some CD discs, confiscated.

The pretext for Afanasyev’s prosecution was a complaint filed by Abakan deputy police chief Aleksandr Zlotnikov, who claimed insulted by the Novy Focus publication entitled “You’re a Liar, Col. Zlotnikov!” The article said that in the course of prior administrative proceedings against Afanasyev, Zlotnikov stated that the journalist had breached public order by pushing two pregnant women under the wheels of a police vehicle. Yet, as both women testified in court later, no one had maltreated them like that. The court trusted their words and pronounced the police colonel’s testimony untrue. That gave rise to the above-mentioned article, which criticised Zlotnikov for lying to the judge. Although the publication was based on a court decision in full legal force, criminal charges were nevertheless advanced against Afanasyev (see Digets 597), and two linguistic studies of his text were ordered.

Now part of the seized equipment has been returned to him – after a month and a half.

This notwithstanding, the Glasnost Defence Foundation has appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office of Khakassia with a message reading as follows:

“Gentlemen, how can you possibly tolerate the advancement of libel charges against a person, in respect of whom a court decision has been passed, confirming that he told the truth? We are convinced that you, too, know the details of Mikhail Afanasyev’s criminal case well. And it is your duty as prosecutors to ensure that law is enforced correctly. We hereby insistently ask you to exercise your right to see that the other agencies concerned stringently abide by the law.”

The message also asked the prosecutor’s office “to find out, by the way, if Col. Aleksandr Zlotnikov’s testimony in court was perjurious, and if so, whether he has suffered any, even if disciplinary, punishment for that.”

Perm senator’s daughter loses in court to journalists

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Olga Shubina, daughter of Igor Shubin, a former mayor of Perm turned member of the RF Federation Council, has had her legal claim against the regional newspaper Zvezda (in which she claimed protection of her honour and dignity; protested against disclosure of her personal data; and demanded apology and moral damage compensation) finally rejected by a court of law.

As we reported in digests 541, 560, 561, 576 and 592, her litigation with Zvezda began in the wake of the 1 March 2010 publication entitled “Criminal Record” (see Digest 592), reporting about her ex-husband and Senator Shubin’s former son-in-law Artyom Lukin’s three convictions – of robbery, deliberate infliction of grievous bodily harm resulting in the victim’s death, and misappropriation of huge sums of money. Shubina and Lukin sued the journalists for libel, claiming a total of 1.5 million roubles in moral damages.

After the defendants presented to the Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm their written testimony along with documentary proofs of the accuracy of their publication, Lukin ceased attending court hearings, and his legal claim was shelved. Proceedings under Shubina’s claim were resumed and ended in the claim’s full rejection by the court on 11 December, which decision, unchallenged by the parties, has now entered into force.

Judge Anna Slavinskaya, in addition to acknowledging the factual accuracy of Zvezda’s publication, also cited the findings of a check-up carried out by the regional department of Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications], which did not reveal any law violations in the process of the story’s preparation, either.

Khabarovsk journalists appeal to European Court of Human Rights

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

It all began in 2011, when five high-ranking officials from the Khabarovsk governor’s team filed legal claims against the newspaper Khabarovsky Ekspress in the wake of its publication “Presidential Envoy Ishayev’s Power Tree”. The claims, copying one another word for word, were filed on one and the same day, with each plaintiff demanding half a million roubles in moral damages and with an expensive Khabarovsk-based lawyer representing the interests of all five in court.

The judicial proceedings turned out a dingdong battle, with amicable settlements reached on some of the claims, while two others are still awaiting scrutiny by a court of appeals. One of the plaintiffs, Aleksandr Shishkin, a United Russia Party-affiliated State Duma deputy representing the Khabarovsk Region, had his claims twice rejected by the city court and twice upheld by the higher-standing regional court. It is the decision passed in his case, which now is in full legal force, that caused journalist Konstantin Pronyakin, the article’s author, to complain to the European Court of Human Rights about the Russian court’s breaching his rights to freedom of expression and to having fair justice done to him (see Digest 569-570).

In his complaint, Pronyakin pointed out, first, that the bulk of the information contained in the article had earlier been circulated by other media and never challenged by anyone, which means, in line with Article 57 of the RF Media Law (“Exemption from liability”), that neither his newspaper nor he in person are to be held liable for circulating “libellous” information. Yet the court turned a blind eye to that, as well as to the fact that Shishkin as an active government servant was not entitled to file legal claims in defence of his honour and dignity, pursuant to Supreme Court Decision of 24 February 2005, “On Judicial Practices Pertaining to Claims in Defence of Citizens’ Honour and Dignity, and of Citizens’ and Legal Entities’ Business Reputation”.

Also, the second-instance (regional) court fully ignored existing European practices regarding criticism of public executives, to the category of which Shishkin belongs. As of the moment of his taking his office, he consciously and unavoidably put himself in a position in which his professional performance became subject to public scrutiny, discussion, and evaluation. Critical judgments must be protected even if they involve exaggeration or causticity; moreover, they do not rule out critics’ right to be mistaken, provided it is an honest mistake, the journalist stressed.

A separate paragraph in Pronyakin’s complaint was dedicated to a photograph the publishing of which struck the plaintiff as unlawful.

“We borrowed that photo picture from MP Shishkin’s page on the State Duma’s official website,” Pronyakin wrote. “Shishkin is a public figure; he was a State Duma deputy as of the dates of the article’s publication and the claim’s filing, which position exposed him to public attention and judgment by electors. Was it not surprising that he, a representative of United Russia, a party positioning itself as a ‘the people’s party’, and a member of its Political Council, should start banning photo pictures for publication?”

“I think my right to freely gather and impart information without any government interference, guaranteed by Article 10 of the (Human Rights) Convention, and my right to a fair trial, guaranteed by Article 6 of the Convention, have been violated,” Pronyakin wrote. “The way I look at it, by passing the kind of decision it did pass, the court gave me a ‘prohibition to practice’ notice. I am filing this complaint, having exhausted all effective domestic means of protecting my right to a fair trial… from violation by the second-instance court.”

Another complaint to the ECHR filed by Pronyakin was about Gen. Viktor Chechevatov, an ex-commander of the Far Eastern Military District turned rector of the Russian Customs Service Academy. All legal means of having true justice done to him in this case at home have been exhausted, too. The journalist sees it as the second judicial decision (after that passed in Shishkin’s case) “rubber-stamped” by the board of appeals of the regional court in Khabarovsk with reference to one and the same criminal code article. Two similar complaints to the European Court have been filed also by journalist Irina Kharitonova, Pronyakin’s co-author of the “Power Tree” article.

Lipetsk resident accused of paedophilia sues news website for libel

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Mr Ch., a Lipetsk resident presented in a video clip as a paedophile, is at law with the website which circulated the video.

He has filed with the Sovetsky district court in Lipetsk a legal claim in defence of his honour and dignity against INFOL Publishers’, owner of the news portal Lrnews.ru, which posted an article entitled “Lipetsk Paedophiles Search for Potential Victims on Dating Websites”, illustrated with video footage on YouTube, showing an example of “how paedophiles typically act”.

The video featured Ch. allegedly coming to meet a 14-year-old girl with whom he had made an appointment on a dating website. It showed his passport with easily readable personal data, and his full name was also printed out in subtitles.

In the text of his legal claim, Ch. explained that he had indeed registered himself on a dating website “for marital purposes”. “I made a date with a girl,” he said, stressing that “any PC user registering on such a website thereby confirms that he or she is at least 18 years old”.

The girl did not come – instead, several young men turned up, labelling Ch. a “paedophile coming to meet a 14-year-old”. Using rude force, they took away his passport, photographed it and video-recorded the entire “date”, which video then was posted on YouTube and the Lrnews.ru portal.


The plaintiff believes the website editor thus accused him of an offence (paedophilia) he has never committed, and his guilt has not been proven in court. His personal data were used without his consent, in which connection he wants a disclaimer and 100,000 roubles in moral damages.

Karelia’s governor invites journalists to send in their questions

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

Gubernatorial addresses to the deputies of Karelia’s Legislative Assembly have generally been of little interest to the republic’s population. Karelia’s new governor, Alexander Hudilainen, evidently in a bid to “shake up” both the government and the people, has invited the public to “help him prepare” his report. Specifically, he suggested that the media should select five or six “burning” social topics and, based on them, compile a list of questions that he would answer in his would-be address to parliament.

Furthering the governor’s initiative, his deputy in charge of internal affairs, A. Chazhengin, called a meeting of media editors (not all were invited, “but the government is ready to co-operate with all of you”, he said), and suggested selecting a dialogue format that would enable the governor to communicate with as many people throughout the republic as possible.

Such an initiative is worthy of praise, and media staffs have sat down to analyse readers’ letters (which practice is still alive in some media outlets). Also, residents have been encouraged to send in their questions, although one can easily guess what they will complain about in the first place – poorly organised utility services (high utility tariffs, management company negligence, etc.); bad roads and transport; and, of course, Karelia’s industrial decline.

Yet the invitation for journalists to contribute to the making of the governor’s address is a good thing as such: the media may hope to get first-hand information and, in addition, to check the republican leader’s sincerity (by comparing the content of readers’ complaints with the facts the governor will highlight in his address to parliament).



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

Attacks on journalists – 8 (Grigory Revzin, reporter, Kommersant Daily, Moscow; Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, deputy chief editor, Novoye Delo Weekly, and reporter for Caucasian Knot news agency, Dagestan; Yuri Seyidov, journalist, Gornyatskaya Pravda newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region; Anton Suchkov, journalist, Sovetsky Sport newspaper, Moscow; Igor Yashin, senior editor, Novosti TV show, Moscow; Aleksandr Rylov, director, 1st City TV Channel, Kirov; Mikhail Sazonov, correspondent, Ridus news agency, Moscow; Timofey Butenko, correspondent, Nasha Versiya newspaper, Saratov).

Instances of censorship – 6 (Channel Five, St. Petersburg; website of municipal administration in Ukhta, Komi Republic; Channel One, Moscow; LiveJournal; Internet sites in Kostroma Region; media in Chelyabinsk Region).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 2 (Olga Romanova, journalist, Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow; Vladislav Malyshev, publisher, Rezonans newspaper, Saratov).

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 3 (Edika Lyalina, correspondent, Petrovka-38 Studios, Moscow; Yegor Krivenko, chief editor, Ozyorsky Vestnik newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region; Anton Krasovsky, Kontr TV Channel, Moscow).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 3 (Andrei Sukhotin, reporter, investigations unit of Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow; Mikhail Sazonov, correspondent, Ridus news agency, Moscow; Aleksandr Komelkov, Arsenyevskiye Vesti newspaper, Vladivostok – detained in St. Petersburg).

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) – 20.

Threats against journalists and media – 2 (Vitaly Loboda, blogger, Chelyabinsk; Stanislav Mikryukov, journalist, NovoTOMSK news portal, Tomsk).

Refusals to print (or distribute) media – 2 (Den TV programme, Komi Republic, twice).

Interference with TV or radio broadcasts – 1 (Sovershenno Sekretno TV channel, Moscow).

Withdrawal, purchase or seizure of print run – 2 (Dosh magazine, in Ingushetia; Priamurskiye Vedomosti newspaper, Khabarovsk).

Confiscation/ damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 1 (photo camera of Anatoly Zhdanov, correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Moscow).

Other forms of pressure/ infringement of journalists’ rights – 28.



Karelia’s governor saves his minister from journalists

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

As Valentin Chmil, Karelia’s vice-governor and minister of economic development, addressed a recent government conference analysing the region’s social and economic development prospects, he said Karelia’s human resources were “so pitiable that no potential investor would ever agree to do business here”. On that denunciatory note, he further called the republic “a gap” or “a place in the middle of nowhere”. His speech, reported by the media, caused a shock in Karelian society.

First, this “lack of any prospect” was acknowledged by Karelia’s economic development minister, whom the new governor invited to the republic from the Leningrad Region six months ago – particularly to attract investors and to build up Karelia’s industrial potential. Moreover, Governor Aleksandr Hudilainen has repeatedly characterised Chmil as a “brilliant professional capable of working well with investors”. Second, the governor has as many times said the republic is “enormously rich” in natural resources (timber, stone, water, etc.) and highly-educated specialists, and that “potential investors are already queuing up, eager to do business with us”. So the question arises as to whom of the two government officials to trust. Third, a minister who has lived in Karelia for just a few months took the liberty of giving the republic derogatory characteristics that sounded really insulting to its residents! It takes as a cool and reserved temper as genuine northerners have to react as calmly as they do to this kind of humiliating treatment of the republic’s indigenous – Russian, Karelian, Veps and Finnish – population…

In view of continued and heated media debates on the topic (going as far as calls for Vice-Governor Chmil to resign), Governor Hudilainen had to show some kind of reaction, too. First, he claimed the reporters had distorted his deputy’s words, and threatened to order an official investigation. The media responded by publishing a lengthy quote from Chmil’s speech and by claiming ready to present an audio recording of his full speech in court. When the authorities realised they would not be able to hush up the incident anymore, Chmil made public a statement expressing his intent to resign voluntarily – but not mentioning any reasons, though. Word went round the official channels that the governor would think whether or not to accept the minister’s resignation. That immediately gave rise to suspicions that it was nothing but a tactical trick supposed to distract public attention from the economic development minister’s scandalous statements.

Several days later Hudilainen, just as expected, declined to accept his deputy’s resignation, while writing off Chmil’s derogatory pronouncements as a “nervous breakdown caused by overwork”. He even discussed with journalists, in a sympathetic manner, what possibly could be done to take part of the work load off his minister. It seemed Karelia’s administration decided the incident was thereby settled. Yet many believe the “nervously unbalanced” minister might as well apologize to the people whom he insulted. Journalists keep tactfully reminding Governor Hudilainen of that option. Will he pay heed, ever?


“Client blocking” with criminal underpinnings in Krasnodar Region

By Gerogy Tashmatov, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The NGO Golos Kubani (GK), which unites independent media throughout the Krasnodar Region, has held a conference to discuss observance of the Media Law and norms of journalistic ethics. This time, GK combined a referee’s role with that of mediator of talks between a regional businessman and a private TV/radio company preparing commercial ads for local television and radio channels.

The businessman complained of pressure exerted on him by the TV company director, who offered him services in the line of the production and placement of commercials for a price exceeding half a million roubles. In the event of his refusing to accept her proposal, she threatened to air a feature criticising his firm.

The conference, which was very emotional, lasted for more than two hours. The parties were offered to speak out, to give the conferees a clearer idea about the subject matter of the dispute. As it turned out, the TV company’s proposal failed to meet the ethical standards of professional journalism, which point somehow escaped company staffers, who honestly didn’t seem to see what was so bad about a practice they had engaged in for 15 years.

Although passions flew high, the meeting ended in an amicable settlement. Pinned down by the weighty arguments cited by the businessman’s lawyer, the TV journalists finally realised they might be held liable for extortion, and pledged not to behave like that again.

That is not for the first time that businessmen fall victim to tricks played by unscrupulous media, GK Secretary Tatyana Guselnikova noted.

“Quite often, they borrow themes for ‘revealing reports’ from chat forums in the Internet,” she said, referring to money-thirsty media jobbers. “They then approach some business company owner claiming they’ve received a complaint on the basis of which they will soon release a critical material about his firm – and they end up coercing their counterpart into placing a commercial ad about his company. In journalists’ slang, this is called ‘client blocking’. As we see, ever more words with criminal connotations are added to the commonly known ‘jinsa’ [a low-quality ad oversaturated with key words, or a pre-ordered website or blog text of a distinctly commercial or political nature – Translator.].”

Toward the end of the meeting, Galina Tashmatova, GK chairwoman and chief editor of the Novaya Gazeta Kubani newspaper, presented colleagues with a copy of the “Code of the Russian Journalist’s Professional Ethics,” once again stressing that unscrupulous behaviour undermines a journalist’s reputation irreparably.

“The word combination ‘venal journalism’ may soon hit the category of set expressions,” she said. “The journalistic community has often discussed media relations with the government and business, and seldom or never – observance by journalists themselves of professional ethical norms and effective Russian laws. One has to have the moral right to criticise others.”


BELA Foundation appeals to public for help

Dear friends,

The BELA Foundation, which provides assistance for children suffering from an extremely rare congenital skin disease, epidermolysis bullosa, hereby informs you that of the nearly 4,000 children with such a disorder registered Russia-wide, only 200 have turned to us for help so far. Our task is to find them all!

If someone of your acquaintances, relatives or neighbours suffers from that disease, please make sure they send us a message or call us on the phone!

The exceptionally sensitive skin of such children may be damaged even by a soft touch. Unfortunately, the disease is still incurable, but we are well capable of alleviating their suffering, easing them of their pain, and creating an acceptable environment for their normal development. Improving the quality of life for children suffering from epidermolysis bullosa, and, still more important, opening a special clinic for them, are the foremost goals of our Foundation. We very much hope those goals will be attained – with your participation and assistance!

Contacts: www.deti-bela.ru, info@deti-bela.ru

+7 (495) 504 5894

Eleven NGOs complain to European Court about law on “foreign agents”

Eleven Russia-based non-for-profit organisations on 6 February filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) a complaint about the enactment in Russia of Federal Law No.121-FZ of 20 June 2012, “On Amendments to Some RF Legislative Acts as Regards Regulation of the Activity of NGOs Performing Foreign Agent Functions”. The appeal was signed by ten human rights and educational organisations and one environmental protection group.

The group of signatories includes:

  • GOLOS Democracy Support Foundation (with its head office in Moscow);
  • Grazhdansky Kontrol (Civil Control) public association in defence of human rights (St. Petersburg);
  • Grazhdanskoye Sodeistviye (Civil Co-action) regional public charity organisation providing assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons (Moscow);
  • All-Russia Public Movement “For Human Rights”;
  • Inter-regional Public Organisation “Committee Against Torture” (Nizhny Novgorod);
  • Mashr autonomous non-for-profit organisation (Ingushetia);
  • International Memorial historical and educational human rights/charity association;
  • Memorial Human Rights Centre inter-regional public organisation (Moscow);
  • Moscow Helsinki Group in assistance to observance of the Helsinki agreements;
  • Ekozashchita (Environmental Protection) regional public association (Kaliningrad); and
  • Obshchestvenny Verdikt (Public Verdict) foundation in defence of human rights and civil liberties (Moscow).

The complaint was prepared by Memorial Human Rights Centre lawyer Furkat Tishayev. The signatories’ interests will be represented in ECHR by lawyers from the Memorial Human Rights Centre and the European Human Rights Centre.


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.

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 Monitoring 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 432, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
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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