Дайджест
27 Декабря 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 597

24 December 2012

EVENT OF THE WEEK

A journalist’s monograph on Chechnya labelled extremist in Nizhny Novgorod Region

The Dzerzhinsky district court in the region of Nizhny Novgorod is considering the city prosecutor’s request for having the monograph “An International Tribunal for Chechnya” identified as an “extremist” publication.

Its author Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, a journalist and human rights activist of whom we have repeatedly written in our digests, was already once sentenced to a suspended term of imprisonment on charges of extremism, and the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society he had established was closed in line with a court decision five years ago. Before advancing criminal charges against him, law enforcers had at least read his writings at the time – unlike now, because, as it turned out during the 18 December 2012 hearing in court, neither the prosecutor nor the Justice Ministry representative supporting him have ever read Dmitriyevsky’s monograph; they only read expert conclusions (replicating the format of an indictment) regarding his book.

Judge O. Khaidukova granted the defence’s request for Larisa Teslenko and Svetlana Filimonova, specialists in indictment analysis, to be invited to the next court hearing, due in January.

We would also recommend inviting at least one prosecutor who has read Dmitriyevsky’s monograph in real terms; this might help the court understand why the law enforcers accusing the author of extremism keep referring to his book as a “leaflet”.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the proceedings in Nizhny Novgorod.

 

RUSSIA

Investigative journalist from Ukraine detained in Moscow

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Valentin Khaletsky, a reporter for the Ukrainian newspaper Slavyanskiye Novosti, was detained by police in Moscow on 17 December and placed in a pre-trial detention facility.

He was arrested in response to an inquiry filed by the Kiev police department’s unit for combating organised crime. Earlier, the journalist had been declared wanted by Ukrainian and international police. He is officially charged with fraud and document forging, but Ukrainian colleagues say he may be targeted for his publications about alleged office abuses by Kiev officials.

Khaletsky has been accredited with the RF Foreign Ministry for more than a year now, and Russian police holds nothing against him.

The journalist has written much about the need for Ukraine’s integration with Russia and Belarus. He is a co-author of the “Charter of Reunification of the Peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia” recently posted in the Internet – a document suggesting the establishment of a tripartite interstate confederation, Lenta.ru reported. Also, he is said to be a co-founder of the Russian People’s Majority, a movement working to unify public organisations in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

After Khaletsky’s reported filing of a request for political asylum in Russia, Slavyanskiye Novosti appealed to Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to help the journalist get the asylum.

New criminal charges brought against Khakassian journalist Mikhail Afanasyev

The Abakan inter-district branch of Khakassia’s Investigative Department on 21 December started proceedings under Articles 128.1.3 (“Libel”) and 319 (“Insult to a government official”) of the RF Criminal Code against Mikhail Afanasyev, chief editor of the Internet magazine Novy Fokus (NF).

The criminal case was opened in response to a complaint by Abakan deputy police chief Aleksandr Zlotnikov about NF’s publishing an article entitled “You Are a Liar, Col. Zlotnikov!” After questioning Afanasyev on 21 December, police searched his house, car and office on the following day, seizing his personal and office computers, memory sticks and CDs, and thereby bringing NF’s operation to a standstill.

The legal grounds for the start of criminal proceedings by Khakassia’s Investigative Committee may be a novelty in the conduct of preliminary investigations that may create a dangerous precedent for Russian journalism: it is the content of an Abakan magistrate decision in full legal force that was found “libellous”.

Testifying in court during hearings of an earlier administrative case against Afanasyev, Zlotnikov accused the editor of a “provocation” – of “pushing two pregnant women under the wheels of a police vehicle transporting a detainee”. To clarify the circumstances and evaluate the journalist’s actions, the court summoned the two women for questioning, during which they resolutely denied any aggressiveness on the part of Afanasyev, and said he had only videotaped policemen convoying a young detainee to the paddy wagon, which had led to his own arrest together with two colleagues, and to his video camera being smashed in the process.

Finding Afanasyev not guilty of any rude treatment of the two pregnant women, the court explicitly stated this in its decision.

It was Zlotnikov’s testimony to the contrary that caused Afanasyev to call the colonel a liar in the story he posted on the NF website, providing details about, and critically assessing, the police deputy chief’s statements in court.

Although the story cited a court decision in full legal force, i.e. a perfectly reliable source, the investigators promptly satisfied Zlotnikov’s request for criminal proceedings to be started against the editor on libel charges. Curiously enough, they identified Afanasyev in the process as an “official” who “abused” his official position by publishing a material that “smeared and insulted” A. Zlotnikov.

Omsk-based bloggers defend their right to criticize public officials

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The head of the Omsk Region’s Small- and Medium-Sized Business Support Fund (BSF), who claimed over 5 million roubles from a blogger for a critical commentary to an Internet publication, will now himself have to pay him a compensatory amount, although one a hundred thousand times smaller than what he wanted from his opponent.

The regional court in Omsk has acknowledged blogger Aleksandr Vyun’s right to publicly express his opinion about any official, regardless of his position, wherever he wants. Litigation between BSF head Vyacheslav Fedyunin and the blogger lasted nearly a year, with the plaintiff claiming insulted by Vyun’s writing in a chat forum commentary to a story posted on the OmskPress website, “The top manager there is a real swank! You’d better ask him how much money he’s received in kickbacks this year!”

Fedyunin estimated the damage done to his honour, dignity and business reputation by those two phrases at 5.4 million (sic!) roubles – i.e., 10-odd times as much as ex-Governor Leonid Polezhayev used to claim in moral damages from his opponents (for example, 500,000 roubles from human rights activist Valentin Kuznetsov, who said at a public rally that Polezhayev “must go to jail”; both a district court and the regional court turned that claim down – for details, see Digest 560).

The Central district court in Omsk in October satisfied Fedyunin’s claim partially, reducing the claimed compensatory amount 360 times to only 1,500 roubles, which the plaintiff found not enough.

Vyun’s interests were represented in court by another blogger, Viktor Korb, a prominent civil society activist, who told the GDF correspondent that “the verdict returned by Judge Shcheglakov gives it to be understood that any government official or politician is entitled to claim compensation for any comment written anywhere, be it even on a fence”. That, in Korb’s view, creates a “dangerous precedent allowing the authorities to gag participants of any public debate, no matter where it takes place”.

The reason for this is that the district court ignored a number of Supreme Court resolutions (for example, of 19 December 2003) stipulating that the Russian courts considering claims in defence of honour and dignity must be guided by the European Human Rights Convention and decisions passed by the European Court of Human Rights, which clearly differentiate between, on the one hand, private individuals, and, on the other, public officials or persons claiming a place at the helm. The latter, in accordance with European law norms, shall be subject to close civil society control and, hence, must me less susceptible to public criticism. Mr Fedyunin is definitely one of them, considering his former positions of a mayoral official and even candidate mayor, which place him among persons claiming a role in regional politics.

Taking these circumstances into account, the civil law board of the regional court ruled that it is Fedyunin who must pay compensation to Vyun, not vice versa. It cancelled the first-instance court’s decision and passed a new one, requiring the plaintiff to compensate the defendant’s judicial expenses amounting to 50 roubles.

Now Viktor Korb is to defend his own self in similar judicial proceedings against the regional police department, which claims hurt by his comments on the chat forum of the Omsk Politichesky website, in which he used the German word polizei in a derogatory sense [as used in Russian during World War Two to express contempt for domestic collaborators with Nazis – Translator.] in respect of the local police. The plaintiff wants a disclaimer and compensation of judicial expenses in the amount of 12,036 roubles – evidently, the cost of the linguistic study of his comments which the police department ordered.

Korb intends to present to the court as weighty arguments as those he used in the Fedyunin vs. Vyun trial. “I’ve more than once written in my blog that I use the word polizei only with respect to police officers breaking the law, not to the entire police force,” he said.

Europe Plus Sakhalin Co. resumes TV and radio broadcasting

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

As we reported on 1 October, the bailiffs, in the presence of witnesses and representatives of the claimant company, seized office equipment and furniture of the debtor company Europe Plus Sakhalin which owed to its former head manager over 1.6 million roubles in wage arrears, unpaid compensation for a holiday he had never actually taken, and penalty for the early termination of his work contract at employer’s initiative.

After Europe Plus repaid its debt in full, the seized equipment was returned and reinstalled, and the company has resumed its TV and radio broadcasting, the regional bailiffs said.

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Adil Soz Foundation’s report on media freedom violations in November 2012

The Adil Soz Foundation, an international freedom-of-expression watchdog, has released a report on media freedom violations in Kazakhstan in November 2012.

Attacks on journalists and media

In the city of Temirtau, Karaganda Region, on 7 November, unidentified persons threw Molotov cocktail bottles into the office of a local private newspaper, Zerkalo. The resulting fire destroyed a computer, some documents and part of the furniture in the chief editor’s office and newsroom. Staffers link the incident with their professional work. The city police have started criminal proceedings under Article 188.2 of the Kazakhstani Criminal Code – deliberate destruction of, or damage to, other parties’ property through arson. The Temirtau prosecutor’s office has taken the investigation under its oversight.

Media closure claims

The Almaty prosecutor’s office on 20 November filed several legal claims, asking courts of law to have eight newspapers – Golos Respubliki-Kaleidoskop Sobytiy Nedeli; Respublika-Delovoye Obozreniye-Dubl 2; Moya Respublika-Fakty, Sobytiya, Lyudi; Respublika-NEW-Informatsionno-Analiticheskiy Yezhenedelnik; Vsya Respublika; Moy Dom Respublika-Obzor Sobytiy Nedeli; Respublika-2030-Delovaya Gazeta; and Respublikanskiye Vesti-Delovoye Obozreniye, together with their web resources – recognised as one media outlet, Respublika, which is to be closed, with the circulation of its products to be banned within the borders of Kazakhstan.

Also, the prosecutors asked for the closure, and a ban on the circulation on Kazakhstani soil of the products of, the newspaper Vzglyad and the media resources duplicating it; the TV channel K+ with the duplicating media resources; and the foreign-based video web portal Stan.tv.

Kazakhstani legislation has no provisions to justify the mandatory unification of different legal entities’ assets.

To secure the prosecutors’ claims throughout the period of final decisions pending, the district courts concerned on 21 November suspended the release of the eight newspapers operating under the name of Respublika, and of the newspaper Vzglyad – together with their web resources.

Legal claims against journalists

Seven new civil claims against media and journalists were registered, including the following:

1. The city court in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Eastern Kazakhstan, is considering an honour, dignity and business reputation protection claim filed against the newspaper Ustinka Plus and its author Anastasia Strokova by Elgiza Sivanbayeva, head of the Glubokovsky district education department, in the wake of a publication (“Swinish Attitude”, Ustinka Plus, 27 September 2012) about some teachers’ neglect for inmates of a local children’s home. Sivanbayeva is a former director of that orphanage. She is claiming 100,000 tenge in moral damages (100 tenge ~ 20.5 roubles or US $0.67).

2. Court No. 2 in the Kazybekbiysky district of Karaganda on 6 November accepted for scrutiny a legal claim in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation lodged by Danat Tleulenov, a traffic police officer at public security unit No. 2 of the regional police department, against the newspaper Vechernyaya Karaganda and its correspondent Makkhabbat Yensebayeva, author of the story “Traffic Policemen Turn into Internet Stars” (Vechernyaya Karaganda, 27 June 2012) which, with reference to the Association in Support of Motorists, described inspector Tleulenov’s actions as unlawful. Performing as co-defendants in the case are Association head Ruslan Lazuta, who posted on YouTube a video that showed Tleulenov breaching motorists’ rights, and a participant in a dispute with the inspector, driver Taras Pomazai. The plaintiff is claiming 1 million tenge in moral damages.

3. Baurzhan Imashev, chief of staff of the Taskalin district administration, lodged with court No.2 in the city of Uralsk, Western Kazakhstan, a legal claim against the newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya and its author Lukpan Akhmedyarov in connection with the publication “History Repeats Itself” (of 27 July 2012), which said that a surviving witness of the killing of prominent athlete Oralbek Kuzhageldin 13 years ago has identified three participants in that crime as incumbent members of the regional administration, among them B. Imashev. The plaintiff claims 8 million tenge. The court on 16 November summoned one of the killing’s witnesses, Makhambet Koneyev, to testify as a third party on the defendant’s side.

4. Tynyshtyk Alazova, director of the North Kazakhstani branch of the Alatau insurance company, turned to court No.2 in the city of Petropavlovsk filing an honour-and-dignity protection claim against Talgat Aidarkhanov, editor of the newspaper Kvartal and owner of Mass Media 2006 Ltd., and journalist Viktor Miroshnichenko, in connection with the publication “Uninsurable Risk” (Kvartal, 23 February 2012), which said the company director has been seen beating her staffers. The plaintiff wants a disclaimer and 150,000 tenge in moral damages.

Since January 2012, a total of 16 criminal charges have been brought against media and journalists, and 81 legal claims have been filed, with 4,432,100,000 tenge wanted in moral damages.

In January-November, journalists reported 230 instances of denials of, or other restrictions on access to, socially significant information.

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

Radio Ekho Moskvy: Joking aside

Delovaya Gazeta-Yug: A journalist who survived a shooting attack asks Putin a question

Park Gagarina: Andrei Sakharov Awards presented in Moscow

Park Gagarina: How I Got to Lubyanka, or A Business Traveller’s Diary

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

State Duma considers URP-proposed bill on closing courts of law to the press

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

It was on my way to court to attend a hearing that I read a report about the United Russia Party (URP) parliamentary faction’s proposing a bill that would restrict not only freedom of expression but also the transparency of judicial proceedings. If the State Duma (in which the URP is known to have the absolute majority) were to pass this bill, judges – to their utter satisfaction – would get the right to bar reporters from attending court sittings. Actually, they have done so at the first opportunity as it is.

A judge may claim a journalist has failed to get accredited in due time, meaning he failed to bring the editor’s written request for the reporter to be admitted to a particular court hearing. While this formality is being fulfilled, the sitting is likely to close, leaving the public uninformed as to what the proceedings were all about. Having myself been barred in this manner from one court hearing, I learned to play this little trick: come a bit earlier, go right into the courtroom and occupy any vacant seat. Once the hearing gets under way, the judge will see there’s a stranger attending, and will ask me who I am. “I represent the public,” I’ll answer.

This usually is an unobjectionable argument, since any Russian citizen is allowed under the law to attend an open court hearing. So I always bring my passport to show it to the guards at the entrance, and I always know for sure what case is to be heard and who the judge is, because the guards often ask that. By the way, in the event of a case with broad public repercussions, too many reporters may wish to attend, and the courtroom may prove to be too tight to seat them all. (Judges often choose small courtrooms deliberately, to make sure as few reporters as possible are attending.) So I often have to forget about manners, elbowing my way into the courtroom to be among the first to occupy a seat.

What if the URP proceeds with another bill – one to ban “the public” from the courtroom altogether, in addition to the press? Do they really aim to do away, once and for all, with one of the latest achievements of Russian democracy – the openness of judicial proceedings? Or would they like the practice of troika trials of Stalin’s times to be restored? It so happened that the court hearing I was going to attend as I read the report about United Russia’s new initiative attracted no press at all, except me and a colleague from a district newspaper, although the underlying criminal story had caused a broad resonance throughout Russia. The country will never know this trial’s outcome if my colleague and I fail to publish at least some information about it.

Paradoxically, the State Duma is about to consider this socially dangerous bill right at the time when a plenary meeting of the RF Supreme Court has just passed a resolution on the openness and transparency of judicial proceedings! The authors of the resolution insist that the courtroom must be large enough to accommodate all those wishing to attend a hearing, and if it isn’t, then live reporting from the courtroom must be organised. Another “must” is allowing all journalists – with or without accreditation – to be present. Other measures to ensure greater transparency of justice administration include cancelling the verdicts returned in trials where the press was unlawfully asked out.

The question now arises as to who will take the upper hand in this clash of two different approaches to glasnost: the URP majority in parliament or the Russian Supreme Court…

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

NGO Press Emblem Campaign releases report on journalist killings worldwide

In Geneva on 17 December, the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) non-governmental organisation presented a report saying that at least 139 journalists in 29 countries were killed in the course of 2012 while doing their professional work.

The death toll represents a 30-percent increase over last year’s figures, and on the whole, 2012 is described as the bloodiest year since the World War Two times. PEC Secretary-General Blaise Lempen noted that the large number of media casualties is directly connected with the crisis in Syria, where 36 journalists, among them working for foreign media, were killed since January. The conflict is particularly difficult to cover due to the intensity of fighting in urban zones and the inability to distinguish between civilians and the military; besides, a number of journalists have been targeted by both sides in this conflict, Lempen said.

The situation in Somalia has deteriorated dramatically, with 19 journalists killed; Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for media work, with 12 killed there since January, the report said.

Next come Mexico and Brazil (each with 11 journalists killed); Honduras and the Philippines (6 deaths in each); Bangladesh (4 killings); Iraq, Eritrea, India, Nigeria and Gaza (each with 3 journalists killed); and Afghanistan, Bolivia and Colombia (each with 2 killings). One journalist was killed in each of the following countries: Bahrain, Cambodia, Ecuador, Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Nepal, Uganda, Panama, Russia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Thailand.

“By region, the Middle East was severely hit in 2012 with 44 journalists killed, Latin America in second position with 35 victims. Asia 31, Africa 28. Only one casualty was registered in Europe,” the PEC report said.

The PEC, headquartered in Geneva, was established in 2004 by a group of journalists from different countries. In September this year, the PEC called on the international community to sign a convention and set up a commission to work toward ending impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against media workers.

[Based on Newsru.com reports]

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