11 Августа 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 531

August 8, 2011



Provocation against independent newspaper

The Glasnost Defence Foundation has received a curious document, sent in by the editor of an independent regional newspaper that some groups attempted at one time to accuse of distortion, and later of libel.

A message to the editor, printed out on a letterhead of a company calling itself AlphaMedia Publishers’, says that, according to the sender’s information, the editor’s newspaper “is on the list of media outlets whose operation is to be forcibly terminated shortly through administrative leverage”. AlphaMedia then offers its support within the framework of a project called “Motherland’s Loyal Pens”, which will cost him RUR 480,000.

The sender makes no secret of the fact that “the money will be transferred to those at the helm for purposes of ensuring your newspaper’s stable work”. Part of the sum, though, will be spent on a project participant’s personal package that will include “high-quality fake photos featuring you in the company of high-ranking government officials, and a top official’s (e.g. the governor’s) most favourable references about you and your newspaper”, written in a manner replicating such official’s personal style. “The package will be distributed by means of a closed subscription among regional administration officials and handed to you for representative purposes, which will secure their loyalty and support,” the message says. In addition, the editor will receive six honorary diplomas and letters of appreciation signed by “top-ranking federal leaders”.

In conclusion, the author asks the addressee to consider the proposal “with understanding” and keep it confidential. “Otherwise, we reserve the right to raise the issue of getting your newspaper closed,” the message says.

It is possible that this message only signals someone’s attempt to swindle the disfavoured editor, as a member of a potential “target group of simpletons”, out of his money. But considering the addressee’s complicated relations with authorities, AlphaMedia’s proposed support may well be regarded as a provocation.

If anything, AlphaMedia’s letter shows how commercial bribery cases can be trumped up. It is this kind of charges that has ever more often been advanced against journalists instead of extortion charges that were more difficult to prove in court…

The letterhead indicated AlphaMedia’s address: 64, Bauman St., Office 9, 344001 Rostov-on-Don, Russia. It also featured the bank requisites for money transfers, and the director’s signature. But a check-up showed that the said building is currently occupied by an advertising firm totally unrelated to that publishing house. AlphaMedia moved elsewhere a whole two years ago. One is left to wonder whether it has changed its bank requisites, too, since then. “It looked like a decent publishing company that issued expensive colourful books like ‘The Don Region’s Celebrities’, ‘The Don Region’s Famous Women’, etc.,” workers from nearby offices in Bauman Street told the GDF correspondent.

Meanwhile, the notorious letter’s addressee (who lives, by the way, in another region of Russia) has reported the provocation to the law enforcement agencies which have launched an investigation.

The GDF will closely follow the developments.



Newspaper editor fired

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

An enlarged meeting of the regional branch of the RF Journalists’ Union was urgently called on August 4 to discuss the dismissal two days earlier of Irina Vassilyeva, editor and director of the newspaper Novocherkasskiye Novosti. Her work agreement was terminated (“in a wink”, as Vassilyeva put it) by the city administration’s Property Management Committee – allegedly, “in line with Article 278.2 of the RF Labour Code”. Prior to that, the editor had not received a single warning, reprimand or any other disciplinary penalty in connection with her work.

The newspaper has four founders: the municipal administration, the City Duma, the Rostov Region Internal Affairs and Information Policy Ministry, and its own labour staff. Valery Goncharov of RosKomNadzor (federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications) openly asked Novocherkassk Deputy Mayor Vyacheslav Zhuravlyov, who attended the meeting, why the mayor’s office had fired the editor by an individual decision, without asking the other founders’ opinion. The answer was brief and frank: “We didn’t think that necessary.”

“The mayor’s office is dissatisfied with our newspaper because we carry critical materials about the poor performance of utility service companies and other municipal service providers,” Vassilyeva told the GDF correspondent.

She noted, though, that her newspaper has long ceased criticising the mayor or his deputies, and has never called for changes within the municipal government – she has worked long enough to learn to avoid conflicts. Eighteen months ago, as the then mayor, Gen. Volkov, a United Russia party nominee, was running for a second term in office, he pressed on the editor to publish “residents’ letters” in his support. Yet the alleged authors of those letters, presumably workers of large industrial enterprises in Novocherkassk, turned out to be only ghost figures. After Vassilyeva refused to publish the fakes, she narrowly escaped dismissal: the unpopular general missed by a mile in the mayoral election, stepping down to Mr. Kondratenko, a Polytechnic Institute professor, with whom Vassilyeva again fell into disfavour.

The fired editor has filed complaints with the prosecutor’s office, a law court and the labour inspectorate in hopes to be reinstated, as was the case in July with Perekryostok newspaper editor Svetlana Alipova of Belaya Kalitva, Rostov Region, for whom Governor Vassily Golubev in person stood up.



Kostroma. Journalists complain of being pressured

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Olga Drobysheva, general director of Bui-TV, a private TV/radio network, has made public a statement indicating that her company has been subject to administrative pressure in the form of “ever more frequent sudden inspections by different controlling agencies since January 2011” and “threats of violence against staffers”.

In March, Bui-TV was inspected by the Kostroma Region administration’s administrative and technical oversight unit, and in June it was searched by the police (Division K) for suspected use of pirate software. The search resulted in the seizure of the server system unit, which suspended the company’s work process for some time.

In May, Bui-TV operator Andrei Khitrov had a phone call from an unidentified man who threatened him with violence. General director Drobysheva had two such calls – in May and June.

Journalists link this pressure campaign with their professional activities and see it as municipal authorities’ reaction to criticism.


Omsk. Independent press reporters barred from meetings with United Russia nominees

By Georgy Borodyansky,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Vladimir Repin, executive director of the Omsk branch of the Business Russia movement, and Vladimir Vinogradov, leader of the regional branch of the Pillars of Russia business association, have appealed to Vladimir Putin as Chairman of the All-Russia Popular Front (RPF) to inform him that freelance journalists have not been admitted to locations where United Russia party (URP) primaries are held – and this despite the regional RPF Coordinating Council’s ruling that all media reporters without exception shall be free to attend.

Holding media reporters beyond the regional government’s control at arm’s length enables election organisers to commit innumerable law violations, according to primaries participants not affiliated with the URP, which view is shared also by former Omsk Vice-Governor Andrei Golushko, a member of the State Duma’s United Russia faction.

Specifically, “the number of attending electors does not correspond, as a rule, to the number of ballot papers handed out,” the authors said, noting that this brings about election returns that are “psychologically difficult to explain”. Thus, on the first voting day, Governor Leonid Polezhayev fell far behind Deputy Irina Rodnina at the polling station in the Krasnaya Gvardiya cultural centre, but scored a landslide same-day victory in the Baranov Steel Works’ cultural centre, where “vote counting lasted an hour and a half longer than usual, with not even reporters for loyal, pro-government media admitted there as observers under a decision by the RPF Coordinating Council,” Repin and Vinogradov pointed out.

“Moscow is well aware of how primaries’ returns are forged in the Omsk Region,” Deputy Golushko said in an interview for the SuperOmsk website.


Khabarovsk. Hearings of legal claim against journalists: bailiffs called to oust “redundant” attendees

Continued from Digest 529

By Olga Vassilyeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The opening of hearings of Gen. Khrizman’s legal claim against journalists Irina Kharitonova and Konstantin Pronyakin at the Central District court in Khabarovsk on July 3 was delayed because the courtroom proved too small for the 30-odd residents who had come to attend the open event. Judge Yelena Iskom asked everyone out and proceeded to let people through by calling the roll. When those left outside started to protest, the judge called the bailiffs to restore law and order.

Reporters complained to the court chairman and asked him to see to it that court proceedings of major public interest, like the present one, be held next time in more spacious courtrooms, for anyone wishing to attend to be able to find a seat, as prescribed for open hearings by Article 10 of the RF Code of Civil Procedure.

The July 3 hearings, though, were closed right after the opening, in view of the absence of the plaintiff – Lt.-Gen. Yuri Khrizman, head of the Far Eastern Special Construction Department and president of the Amur ice hockey club. His lawyer Yuri Kuleshov said his client asked to adjourn the hearings until he returned to Khabarovsk from a business trip.

That was the first hearing in a series of six legal claims (each worth RUR 500,000 in terms of claimed moral compensation) lodged by five persons in the wake of a 13 April 2011 Khabarovsky Express publication entitled “The Power Tree of Presidential Envoy Viktor Ishayev”. As regards the main character himself, V. Ishayev does not seem to be in a hurry to sue journalists “who’ve bitten more than they could chew”. Why bother, if there are so many zealous helpers around?


Perm. Presumption of innocence explained to life-term prisoner by way of media example

By Mikhail Lobanov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Dosye 02 newspaper, just as the other media, is not imbued with prosecutive functions and could not possibly breach the criminal law notion of “presumption of innocence”, a law court in Perm decided while considering a legal claim lodged by Sergey Galanov who is serving a life term for a triple killing.

The regional court in Perm condemned Galanov on 21 February 2007 to imprisonment for life for his deliberate, violent killing of three persons and for setting their home aflame. A month later, the police weekly Dosye 02, which is released in Perm, published a story entitled “A Lifer” that featured a repentant narration by the killer, interviews with his brother and witnesses, and a judge’s commentary. On June 4, the RF Supreme Court turned Galanov’s appeal down, leaving the sentence in full legal force. Three years later, Galanov, who is doing it all in a correctional colony in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region, filed a legal claim demanding RUR 50,000 from the weekly in moral damage compensation. He said the journalists should not have published any information about his criminal case until the sentence came into force, which means “they breached the presumption of innocence principle”. Reading the article, he said, “caused me to feel extremely agitated and indignant; I lost my inward peace”. The Dosye editor rejected his claim, pointing to the fact that the horrific crime story was based on evidence from the case files. He also noted that, as it happened, the convict had “lost his inward peace” not because of the triple murder he had committed but because of someone’s writing about it.

After the Motovilikhinsky District court in Perm turned his claim down, Galanov complained to the higher-standing regional court, which left the ruling unchanged on June 29. The panel led by Judge Olga Muzmakova passed a judgment the importance of which goes beyond the framework of this particular case. It said, “Article 49.1 of the RF Constitution proclaims the presumption of innocence as an expression of a defendant’s objective legal status, not the way it is seen by anyone handling the relevant criminal case. This means the defendant is perceived as innocent under the law, which links the possibility of his conviction with the necessity of conducting a prior judicial investigation. Only after such investigation has taken place and a convictive sentence passed by the court has taken full legal effect shall the state take upon itself the responsibility for the correctness of such defendant’s accusation and conviction. The first-instance court pointed out reasonably that ‘presumption of innocence’ is a criminal law notion that is actualized in the process of criminal investigation and criminal case hearings in court. Since the media, including the weekly Dosye 02, are not participants in criminal proceedings and not imbued with prosecutive functions, they could not possibly infringe upon the defendant’s presumption of innocence because they could not bring criminal charges against him in the order prescribed under the law.”

GDF lawyer Svetlana Zemskova comments:

“The media shall be held liable for circulating information about a convicted person only in the event of such person’s exoneration.”


Chelyabinsk. Journalist seeks full exoneration

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

German Galkin, editor-in-chief of the Lentachel.ru website, has appealed to the board of the Chelyabinsk Region branch of the RF Journalists’ Union asking to support his plea for full exoneration and annulment of his prior conviction.

In 2003, Galkin was convicted of libel and defamation (Articles 129 and 130 of the RF Criminal Code) in the wake of a series of publications criticising then Governor Pyotr Sumin and his subordinates. He spent 90 days in a pre-trial detention facility. Although his conviction has now been written off, Galkin insists he was convicted wrongfully and intends to press for full exoneration.

“My imprisonment marked the first ever instance of a journalist placed behind bars for political motives,” he said.

The Union board decided to support a colleague after probing deep into the details of his case. Galkin himself says he wants in the first place to restore his good name in the eyes of the public.



Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in June-July 2011

Deaths of journalists – 2 (Anatoly Bitkov, editor-in-chief, Kolyma Plus TV Channel, Magadan; Garun Kurbanov, head of Information Policy and Press Office Department under President of Dagestan, Makhachkala).

Attacks on journalists – 9 (Denis Postolsky, Tatar-Inform news agency staff correspondent in Khabarovsk; Sergey Kurikhin, founder of Vzglyad media holding, Saratov; Alexandra Shilova, TVC video operator, Moscow; Alexander Redin, reporter, newspaper Rabochaya Pravda, Moscow Region; James Brown, reporter, Russia Today TV Channel, Chelyabinsk; Vladislav Malyshev, publisher of newspaper Rezonans, Saratov; Vladimir Gusev, freelance journalist, Sverdlovsk Region; Dmitry Ternovsky, blogger, Moscow; Vyacheslav Martynov, reporter, newspaper Anapa, Krasnodar Region).

Attacks on media offices, TV stations – 2 (newspaper Zemlya Vyatskaya, Kirov Region; radio/TV centre in Tsumadin District of Dagestan).

Instances of censorship – 1 (Bolshaya Semya TV show, Moscow).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 12 (Yuri Yegorov, blogger, Kazan; Lyudmila Boldyreva, editor-in-chief and co-owner, newspaper Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda, Khabarovsk; Rustam Fakhretdinov, freelance journalist, Tyumen; Lyudmila Mezentseva, editor, district newspaper Selskaya Pravda, Kurgan Region; Vladislav Nikitenko, newspaper Amursky Letopisets, Blagoveshchensk – 5 times; Igor Grishchenko, editor-in-chief, newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets v Yakutii, Yakutsk; Irina Aleksandrova, editor, and Sergey Krasilnikov, journalist, both of Ulyanovsk Online web portal, Ulyanovsk).

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 7 (Valentina Matyukhina, editor, newspaper Nasha Zhizn, Kaliningrad Region; Svetlana Alipova, editor, newspaper Perekryostok, Rostov Region; Georgy Popov, editor-in-chief, newspaperVecherny Volgograd, Volgograd; Olga Dubrovina, editor, newspaper Stepniye Izvestia, Samara Region; Yelena Orlova, director/editor-in-chief, newspaper Iskra, Perm Region; Nikolai Troitsky, political observer, RIA Novosti news agency, Moscow; Lyudmila Mezentseva, editor, district newspaper Selskaya Pravda, Kurgan Region).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 18 (Tatyana Sedykh, editor-in-chief, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye, Khabarovsk Region; Alexei Sokhovich, blogger, Yekaterinburg; crew of reporters, NeSekretno website, Perm; Abubakar Rizvanov, head of Dagestan’s Khuda-Media news agency, Makhachkala; Dmitry Zhvaniya, editor-in-chief, sensusnovus.ru web portal, St. Petersburg; Natalia Romanova, correspondent, and Akhmet Mudarisov, cameraman, both of REN-TV, detained in Ulyanovsk Region; Vladimir Komissarov, cameraman, Dozhd TV Channel, and Allexander Fyodorov, cameraman, Russian Travel Guide TV Channel, both of Moscow; Yuri Soshin, APN correspondent, Karachai-Cherkess Republic; Yevgeny Feldman, photo correspondent, newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Moscow - twice; Mikhail Kirtser, journalist, newspaper Kommersant, Moscow; Andrei Gorbunov, correspondent, Life.news, and Alexander Rodionov, Novy Region news agency, both of Yekaterinburg; crew of reporters for Volga TV Company, Nizhny Novgorod; Igor Grishchenko, editor-in-chief, newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets v Yakutii, Yakutia; Ilya Varlamov, photo blogger, and REN-TV crew of reporters, all of Moscow).

Legal claims against journalists and media – 38, worth a total of RUR 54,770,000, including A. Chapman’s 10-million-rouble claim against Life.news.

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 66.

Threats against journalists and media – 8 (Amir Amirov, cameraman, Russia Today TV Channel, Republic of North Ossetia; Vladimir Grechaninov, freelance journalist, Moscow; Sergey Kuznetsov, freelance journalist, Yekaterinburg; Irina Granik, observer, newspaper Kommersant, Moscow; Vadim Rechkalov, journalist, newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets, Moscow; crew of reporters for Volga TV Company, Nizhny Novgorod; Vladimir Gusev, freelance journalist, Sverdlovsk Region; Vyacheslav Ubushiyev, correspondent, newspaper Sovremennaya Kalmykia, Elista).

Refusal to print (or distribute) media – 1 (Spasayem Gorod bulletin, Krasnodar Region).

Disruption of TV, radio broadcasts – 2 (Radio Roks, St. Petersburg; Irtyash TV/Radio Company, Chelyabinsk Region).

Closure of media – 2 (regional supplement to federal newspaper Izvestia, Yekaterinburg; Finans magazine, Moscow).

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run – 7 (newspaper Versiya, Rostov Region; newspaper Stavropolsky Reporter, Stavropol Region; newspaper Samarskoye Obozreniye and Delo magazine, in Samara; Kommersant-Vlast magazine, in St. Petersburg; newspaper Sovremennaya Kalmykia, Elista; newspaper Izvestia Kaliningrada, Kaliningrad).

Interference with web publications – 6 (RIA Novosti blog; website of Khabarovsk Region branch of United Russia party; LiveJoirnal, twice; website of RF Higher Qualification College of Judges; website of newspaper Anapa, Krasnodar Region).

Release of duplicate, i.e. rival, publications – 1 (newspaper Spravedlivaya Rossiya-Altaisky Krai, Barnaul).

Confiscation of/ damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 1 (photo camera of Ruslan Alibekov, correspondent for Chernovik weekly, Makhachkala).

Administrative pressure (unplanned inspections by sanitary, fire and tax services) – 4 (newspaper Yarkovosti, Tyumen Region, twice; newspaper Stepniye Izvestia, Samara Region; newspaper Anapa, Krasnodar Region).

Economic pressure – 1 (newspaper Anapa, Krasnodar Region).

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 38.


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



Entertaining linguistics

By Mikhail Lobanov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Russian courts of three different levels have found the Russian equivalent of the curse word “f…k” to be an obscene interjection bearing no insulting connotations, which conclusion became the legal basis for the acquittal of Oksana Frolova of Solikamsk, who was accused of infringing upon a person’s honour and dignity.

In a 5 May 2010 hearing at Magistracy No. 75 in Solikamsk of a criminal case involving the deliberate infliction of light bodily damage on a person, Frolova, 42, was posing as the victim. When one of the two defendants claimed he had had nothing at all to do with her beating, she flew into a temper and cried out, “I’ll tear your f...king head off!”, which phrase was written down into the protocol, giving rise to a new litigation: the defendant accused the victim of disparaging his honour and dignity. In line with Article 130.1 (“Insult”) of the RF Criminal Code, Frolova might be in for a fine of RUR 40,000, or correctional labour for up to six months, or up to 1 year under arrest. However, Judge Irina Baiderina of Magistracy No. 141 acquitted the woman on 7 December 2010, which decision was confirmed by Judge Margarita Tsyrulyova of the Solikamsk city court on 28 April 2011 and by the regional court in Perm on 23 June 2011.

The regional court based its ruling on the findings of a forensic linguistic study, which differentiated between “f…k” as part of an address to an interlocutor (in which case it indeed is deemed to be insulting in meaning and obscene in form) and “f…k” as nothing more than an obscene interjection. Having heard out the parties and their witnesses, a college of judges led by Yuri Kovalchuk concluded that the word had been used by Frolova as an interjection enhancing the negative meaning of her exclamation – i.e., expressing indignation, contempt, irritation and other emotions that constituted a spontaneous reaction to the defendant’s behaviour. Although clearly aggressive in tonality, the phrase on the whole was not meant to insult the man, the court decided.


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

We appreciate the support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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, Pyotr Polonitsky  – head of GDF regional network, 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:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни