Дайджест
14 Ноября 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 591

12 November 2012

 

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Journalist in Arkhangelsk tried on charges of “extremism”

Ivan Moseyev, former editor of the newspaper Biznes-Klass Arkhangelsk turned Sozvezdiye Review magazine correspondent and director of the Coastal Institute of Indigenous and Smaller Peoples, is on trial in Arkhangelsk on suspicion of extremism and high treason.

Moseyev first felt himself the subject of close attention after the web newspaper Ekho Severa published commentaries to an article about a movement of Pomors, inhabitants of the White Sea and Barents Sea coasts. In the heat of an Internet debate, someone nicknamed “Pomor” wrote to his opponent, “You are millions of lowbrow; we are just 2,000 humans.” The unidentified commentator, according to police investigators, wrote this “with the intent of instigating hatred toward the Russians as a distinct nationality group, driven by his personal enmity to people of that nationality.”

A group of police officers came to search Moseyev’s home shortly afterward. Despite his claims he had never posted any chat forum comment, they seized his and his wife’s notebook PCs, his children’s desktops, along with memory cards, CDs, and archival materials and documents. “I am being targeted for my public and professional efforts to defend the indigenous Northerners – I can see no alternative reason,” Moseyev said.

He faces charges of “instigation of hatred toward the Russian nation” under Article 292 of the RF Criminal Code. From the day the criminal case was opened, law enforcement has acted rather straightforwardly, insisting, for example, that the IP address from which the chat forum was accessed is registered at Moseyev’s home – and this despite the affidavit furnished by Rostelecom, the Internet service provider, which said the address in question does not belong to Moseyev, who actually has a dynamic, not static, IP address. Also, according to Rostelecom, it has not disclosed Moseyev’s personal data or IP address to any third party, meaning that those data may have been obtained by hackers illegally, without a court warrant, and therefore cannot be regarded as evidence at all (see Digest 584).

Significantly, the above-mentioned Internet debate involved other, sharper-worded, statements. According to Newsru.com, one chat forum participant used four-letter words in characterising “the Pomor separatists”; another suggested “putting the enemies up against the wall”; and a third one called them “the Pomor herd” – but none of those statements drew any attention from the FSB.

In addition to extremism, the law enforcers attempted to accuse Moseyev of high treason under Article 275 of the Criminal Code. The investigators claimed he is guilty of destabilising the political and social situation in Russia’s northwest by insisting that the Pomors be recognised as a small people. Besides, back in his student years, Moseyev “suggested establishing a Pomor Republic as a constituent part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic” and later, according to the FSB, he “had contacts with Norwegian organisations; … participated in foreign actions during which he predicted Russia’s inevitable disintegration; established an organisation calling itself ‘The Pomor Brotherhood’, which unites Pomors from across the Barents Sea region; and issued a dictionary of the Pomor language”. All those activities are described by the FSB as “efforts to have the RF government recognise the Pomors as an indigenous small ethnic group of Northerners whose territory should be taken under international law jurisdiction, which measure might result in a violation of Russia’s territorial integrity.”

Moseyev himself told the Ekho Moskvy radio station he is not guilty and described the opening of a criminal case against him as a “Russian secret service provocation” aimed to “test the likely effects of potential amendments to the Criminal Code article on high treason”.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will continue monitoring the situation in Arkhangelsk closely.

 

RUSSIA

Independent journalist sentenced to three days of arrest for “resistance to police”

See Digest 587

By Erik Chernyshov, Sayanogorsk, Khakassia

A justice of the peace in Abakan (Republic of Khakassia, Siberia) has convicted journalist Mikhail Afanasyev – a measure long pressed-for by the city’s law enforcement.

Afanasyev, the chief editor of the Novy Focus web magazine, was detained on 8 October near a remand centre for persons suspected of committing administrative offences. According to the police, he “resisted to Abakan criminal police operatives’ delivery of a suspect to the police station”.

One day prior to his detention, Afanasyev had posted in his web magazine a report on the detention of two men whom the police suspected – for some unclear reason – of killing a third one, a friend of theirs. The author said the law enforcers pressed hard on the detainees to confess to the murder. However, the two suspects could not say anything beyond the fact that their efforts to find their missing friend had been in vain. Late on 8 October, the detainees’ parents called Afanasyev on the phone to tell him their sons were to be transported to another place, and asked him for support. The journalist arrived at the remand centre, saw a paddy wagon, a group of armed policemen and a small crowd of detainees’ relatives, and started to film the proceedings with his video camera. That’s when he himself was detained – allegedly for “resistance to the police” (see Digest 587).

During the first court sitting on 24 October, a city police department representative demanded that the press be asked out of the courtroom, which the judge promptly did, although the hearing was not to be held behind closed doors. Evidently, the police had something to hide from public scrutiny.

Afanasyev was accused of “throwing himself onto the police vehicle’s hood” in a bid to prevent the two suspects’ transportation to the police station, although the video sequences presented in court by both parties did not show him doing anything of the kind. Yet the court on 9 November sentenced Afanasyev to three days of administrative arrest for resistance to the police. Considering his prior 24-hour detention, he was kept in custody for only two more days.

“Even before the judge pronounced his sentence, we saw a police vehicle from the remand centre drive up to the court building entrance, meaning that no acquittal had to be expected,” Afanasyev’s colleagues told the Khakassiya news agency.

The journalist was taken under arrest right in the courtroom despite pleading not guilty.

Attack on journalist investigated improperly in Moscow Region

See Digest 565

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Russia’s Investigative Committee has replied to a GDF inquiry about progress in investigating an attack on Novaya Gazeta reporter Yelena Milashina.

As reported earlier, Milashina was attacked, beaten and robbed in Balashikha near Moscow on 5 April (see Digest 565). Two suspects were detained later, whom the victim, however, considers innocent. The police trumped up the charges against Averin and Khlebnikov, two drug addicts with prior criminal records, Milashina said, pointing to numerous discrepancies in the version being checked by the investigators, as well as to the fact of both suspects having alibis. The investigator never even bothered to hold a confrontation between them, she said.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation in mid-October appealed to Investigative Committee Chief Aleksandr Bastrykin with a letter of support for Milashina’s demand for a thorough investigation to be held without any fabrication of charges against innocent persons. “We hereby urge you, Mr. Bastrykin, to take the case under your personal oversight,” the GDF message said in part.

The purely formal reply received from the Committee said that GDF President Alexei Simonov’s appeal about the improper investigation of the attack on Milashina has been forwarded for a check-up of the facts to the Main Investigative Department for the Region of Moscow – i.e., as usual, to the particular authority about whose poor performance we complained in the first place. The results of the check-up will be reported to us later, the paper said.

Court of appeals in Smolensk slashes moral damage compensation payable by newspaper and its author

See Digest 582

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta (RG) and one of its authors have persuaded the regional court in Smolensk that, while making a mistake, they honestly did their job of reporting socially significant information. The court of appeals reduced the amount of moral damages awarded to a local MP by a first-instance court in response to an honour, dignity and business reputation protection claim he had filed against RG and its journalist.

The claim against RG and its correspondent Dmitry Raichev was lodged by Andrei Petrakov, a deputy of the Smolensk City Council and member of the ruling United Russia Party, who was stopped by the traffic police in January without a driver’s license, which had been seized for his drunk driving prior to that. Petrakov refused to undergo testing for alcohol; instead, he showed his parliamentary ID and demanded his immediate release. RG’s report on the incident gave rise to his filing the legal claim.

The Leninsky district court in Smolensk partially satisfied his claim in July, requiring RG to publish a disclaimer of its statements, “A justice of the peace pronounced MP Petrakov guilty of driving in a state of intoxication…” and “The people’s deputy… flaunted his parliamentary ID, behaved aggressively, and used dirty words.” Also, the court awarded the plaintiff 20,000 roubles and 5,000 roubles in moral damages from the newspaper and the report’s author, respectively (see Digest 582).

The regional court of appeals changed the first-instance court’s decision, agreeing with the defence lawyer’s argument that the first of the two statements could be regarded as evaluative – particularly in light of the video sequences showing the deputy’s detention, which partially confirmed the journalist’s assessment.

The second statement turned out more difficult to prove, since no medical certificate was available showing that Petrakov had been drunk. Formally, that meant the author had made a mistake by circulating information that could be regarded as “smearing”. At the same time, the fact of Petrakov’s intoxication had been mentioned in two police press releases and confirmed at a news conference called specially to highlight the incident. Moreover, it was stressed there that Petrakov had earlier been deprived of his driver’s licence particularly because of drunk driving. This allowed the defence to insist that the author had made no professional mistake while citing information from official sources.

The court took the defendant’s arguments into account and slashed the moral damage compensation amounts to 1,000 roubles and 500 roubles from RG and Raichev, respectively.

Sverdlovsk Region Governor invites mayors to share municipal media ownership fifty-fifty

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Sverdlovsk Region government plans to allocate 571 million roubles in 2013 in support for regional and municipal media. The regional cabinet, though, has not specified so far which particular media are to receive this substantial financial assistance, or for what particular purposes. The funds are expected to be distributed by the newly-established Press and Mass Communications Department under the gubernatorial administration.

As the Sverdlovsk Legislative Assembly’s Budget Committee was discussing these plans, MP Maksim Ryapasov asked government officials where exactly such big money would be directed, since “the amount is large enough to support not only the administration’s official newspaper Oblastnaya Gazeta and Regional TV but also a whole media holding”.

Meanwhile, Governor Yevgeny Kuivashev has urged the heads of municipal administrations to transfer 50% of their municipal media ownership to regional control, citing lack of city budgetary funds for the purpose as the reason, the UralPolit.ru news agency reported.

“Journalists earn barely enough to survive,” Kuivashev said. “When I ask (the municipal authorities) why they pay so little, they tell me they are short of money. Up until now, the media have been financed from various unofficial sources. Now I have invited all the municipalities to surrender half of their media ownership to us to secure our support. In Tyumen Region, media allocations amount to a billion and a half roubles.”

The governor stressed there are no political underpinnings in such a proposal.

Curiously enough, Federal Law FZ-131 earlier prohibited municipal ownership of TV and radio companies altogether.

 

BELARUS

Australian journalist still awaits return of his confiscated property

Journalist Amos Roberts of Australia is still waiting for the Belarussian customs service to return him the equipment and personal effects they seized nearly two months ago.

A month and a half ago he reported the seizure to the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO), but all he has got ever since is a copy of a GPO notice to the Minsk Region prosecutor’s office about his complaint being forwarded there for inspection. “I hereby ask you to inform the complaining party of the inspection results,” said the 5 October message signed by GPO Deputy Division Chief Bondarenko.

“Despite repeated SBS appeals and inquiries by the Australian embassy, the authorities have never explained why I was detained, why my equipment was seized, or when it will be returned,” Roberts said. “It seems the complaint I filed with the GPO more than a month ago has got caught in the bureaucratic carousel.”

Amos Roberts was officially accredited with the Belarussian Foreign Ministry and worked in Belarus for a week in September. He was detained at the Minsk-2 airport before boarding a plane home, and had his personal effects and equipment seized.

[Khartiya’79 report, 10 November]

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Newspaper office set on fire in Temirtau

Unidentified persons set the newspaper Zerkalo’s office in Temirtau on fire at 5:30 a.m. on 7 November, destroying the furniture and office equipment but causing no casualties. The journalists link the arson with their professional work.

The fire was first detected by the watchman on duty in a watch booth outside, and tenants of the building which houses the Zerkalo office.

Staffers came into the office to find burnt rooms, destroyed furniture and equipment, and two broken windows – in the editor’s office and in the newsroom. Half of the premises suffered grave damage, especially the editor’s room. While seeing the arson as linked with their reporting activities, the journalists cannot say for sure who might get so angry as to set the office on fire; they can only guess who.

That is not the first aggressive action against Zerkalo. In spring, staff member Natalia Vernadskaya received threats from unknown individuals: two men walked up to her outside the office to start threatening her with violence unless she stopped writing critical stuff.

The police have refrained from commenting on the incident, but the Emergency Situations Department (ESD) in Temirtau said, “It was arson beyond any doubt.”

“The Molotov cocktail bottles contained some volatile flammable liquid – it’s still unclear whether it was gasoline, kerosene or something else,” Ivan Kostin, an engineer with the Temirtau ESD investigative unit, said. “An expert study will show. We are submitting the case to the prosecutor’s office today, and from there they will likely forward it to the police. Criminal proceedings need to be started, since that was arson, you may be sure.”

Zerkalo is a weekly newspaper with a circulation of over 6,000, reporting largely on social issues.

[Radio Azattyk report, 8 November]

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Acting mayor of Ozyorsk, Chelyabinsk Region, bans critical publication

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The prosecutor’s office in the city of Ozyorsk, Chelyabinsk Region, has ordered an inspection of the work of Acting Mayor Anatoly Baranov in connection with his reported attempts to put pressure on local media. The measure follows a complaint filed by Yegor Krivenko, director of the municipal company which owns the newspaper Ozyorsky Vestnik (OV), about Baranov’s banning a critical publication by writing “To be edited out” on the made-up page featuring the would-be article, and putting his signature under the resolution.

The story boiled down to this: Chelyabinsk Governor Mikhail Yurevich is dissatisfied with the slow rate of housing construction and the high cost of housing in Ozyorsk. Fulfilling Baranov’s order, the editor was compelled to cancel the publication, causing both the OV director and the entire pro-governor media pool in the region to start angrily discussing the city head’s impermissible meddling in the work of a municipal media outlet – an action that they said required censure by the media-oversight authority, since it evidently fell under the effects of Article 144 of the RF Criminal Code, stipulating that “interference with journalists’ lawful professional work shall be punishable by up to two years of imprisonment with a ban to engage in certain kinds of activity for a term of up to three years”.

It is not for the first time in the history of Chelyabinsk journalism that the head-manager of a municipal newspaper complains about his employer’s attempts to censor media content, journalists say.

The acting mayor’s actions were condemned by the regional journalistic association head Aleksandr Yurin and the director of the Granada Press publishing holding Sergei Filichkin, who suggested that any government official attempting to impose censorship should be replaced automatically. Baranov’s demonstrative firing, they said, might be a good lesson to other bureaucrats believing, for some strange reason, that the press is only needed to promote and protect their interests.

It would seem that standing up in defence of the media is a worthy cause. Yet there’s a “but”: the governor’s team is known to have gone a long way trying to put their own nominee at the helm in Ozyorsk, and to have suggested a whole number of candidates, each of whom, however, was voted down by Ozyorsk residents and the local legislators led by Mr. Kalinin. The city has firmly stood its ground voting against gubernatorial nominees, since people can well remember that Yurevich’s previous appointee was instantly caught embezzling. They know all too well: outsiders come to Ozyorsk only to steal. Therefore, people have concluded, they need to choose city heads from their own number. The governor’s team, for its part, has resisted this practice tooth and nail, and it would be just silly if it missed the chance to play on the mistake made by Acting Mayor Baranov.

The bitter irony of the story is that it is the media from the pro-governor pool, which raised this hullaballoo over “OV’s rights trampled down”, which actually and effectively protect the interests of the governor’s business clan.

Whenever they habitually switch on self-censorship, or when censored “from above”, they forget even to mention this. One recent case is fresh on colleagues’ memory: a pro-governor newspaper devoted a whole page to a story proudly heralding “the long-awaited upturn in South Urals medicine” at a time when the regional health minister had just gone to jail for a 28-million-rouble kickback, and when patients were still lying in the corridors – not wards – of the poverty-stricken hospitals and maternity homes in Chelyabinsk…

 

Letters

Dear colleagues:

We have already written to you about the deplorable situation with our newspaper’s operation in the Republic of Bashkortostan – about community service providers and local clerks stealing copies of our newspaper from residents’ mailboxes and whole stacks from the press stalls on orders from administrators of different rank, and about access to our website being blocked in different government institutions.

After our complaint was posted in the GDF Digest and published in other media, the situation has somewhat improved, for which we are sincerely grateful to you. However, the authorities have changed the tactics of confrontation: for the third week running, people claiming to be our staff members have gone around the private organisations distributing our newspaper to collect the entire print run on the pretext that we “made an error in the text”. We have already received several reports of this being done regularly. The promptness and high level of organisation of those confiscations make us think the authorities may be involved in this, again. After we receive video recordings of such print-run seizures in the near future, we will turn to law enforcement for help.

Best regards,
The staff of the newspaper Bonus, Bashkortostan

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.

Contacts:

Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 432, 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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Архив
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