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24 Января 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 599

21 January 2013

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Freedom House “Freedom in the World” report released

The US-based Freedom House human rights watchdog published on 16 January its annual survey of political rights and civil liberties worldwide.

FH Freedom in the World reports have been released since 1972, dividing the countries into “free”, “partly free” and “not free”, based on a set of criteria such as civil society status, the human rights situation, freedom of expression, internet freedom, freedom of conscience, democratic/non-democratic governance system, free/not free elections, etc.

This is the seventh consecutive year showing more declines than gains worldwide, Freedom in the World 2013 said, citing “notable declines” in 27 countries versus “notable gains” in only 16 countries in 2012. Specifically, noteworthy declines were recorded for Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

The nine-strong “worst of the worst” group of countries identified by Freedom House includes Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The Russian Federation, again, was placed among the “not free” countries.

“The return of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency ushered in a new period of accelerated repression,” the FH report said. “Since his inauguration in May, Putin has moved in a calculated way to stifle independent political and civic activity, pushing through a series of laws meant to restrict public protest, limit the work of NGOs, and inhibit free expression on the internet.”

Also, according to the authors, “Eurasia… now rivals the Middle East as one of the most repressive areas on the globe … given the entrenchment of autocrats in most of its countries.”

In the group of ex-Soviet countries, the FH report rates Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as “not free”; Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Ukraine as “partly free”; and the three Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – as “free”.

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Moscow TV journalist Vladimir Posner under parliamentary pressure

The renowned TV journalist Vladimir Posner lately has found himself the subject of increasingly strong attention from members of Russian parliament.

To begin with, MP Ilya Kostunov, a representative of the ruling United Russia Party, appealed to Channel One Director-General Konstantin Ernst to fire Posner for criticising the Russian judiciary and Investigative Committee. Although the journalist had not said anything essentially new in his televised statements, Kostunov insisted that “Posner and his likes try to persuade society that ours is a poor system of justice administration” – an attitude that the MP sees as a good reason for Posner to be given the sack.

In late December, MPs representing four different party factions in the State Duma followed suit by sending Posner a letter warning him of their intent to shortly propose a bill that would seal access to the federal TV channels to any foreigners “attempting to discredit Russia by their statements”. That fairly strange letter was signed by Mikhail Starshinov (United Russia Party), first deputy chairman of the Interethnic Affairs Committee; Oleg Denisenko (Communist Party), deputy chairman of the Committee on Security and the Fight against Corruption; Igor Zotov (Fair Russia Party), a member of the Defence Committee; and Andrei Lugovoy (Liberal-Democratic Party), deputy chairman of the Committee on Security and the Fight against Corruption. The signatories also took the liberty of giving Posner what they thought was “a wise piece of advice” – to consult his “American or French colleagues” about his potential alternative employment. Watching the four officials start doing others’ work as vigorously as they did, one might think erroneously that all of Russia’s interethnic, defence, security, and corruption-related problems had already been effectively solved by that time.

After the end of New Year’s vacations, when passions had calmed down a little, word went round again that a revised and improved version of the “anti-Posner bill” would shortly be passed…

And then Starshinov came to the fore again, urging parliament to inquire Channel One about whether or not it pays Posner (who is a citizen of France, the United States and Russia) more than what any other TV show anchor would expect to be paid, provided he has only one – Russian – citizenship.

Indeed, it would be a scandal if it turned out Posner earns more – or less – or, for that matter, as much as – anyone of his colleagues.

Meanwhile, Posner has said he sees no problem with having the State Duma informed about the level of his income. “That’s okay and absolutely no secret; let them see all the relevant files and papers,” he said in an interview for the Interfax news agency.

It seems likely that seeing through his new initiative may distract Starshinov from duly performing as a parliamentary committee head.

 

RUSSIA

UNESCO adds Kabardino-Balkaria’s Kazbek Gekkiyev to list of journalists killed while on duty

By Natalia Yusupova, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

UNESCO has put Kazbek Gekkiyev’s name on the list of journalists murdered in connection with their professional activities. A news presenter for the Kabardino-Balkaria branch of the All-Russia TV and Radio Company (VGTRK), Gekkiyev was shot and killed in the republic’s capital Nalchik on 5 December, an hour after going on the air. “The murder of Kazbek Gekkiyev must not go unpunished”; journalists must have “the right to carry out their professional duties without fearing for their lives”, a UNESCO statement said.

A few days after the tragedy, investigators identified two suspects, Zeitun Boziyev and Inoyat Tabukhov, who are now wanted by the police as alleged members of an illegal armed group thought to have been behind some other crimes, too.

In November 1997, the United Nations adopted a resolution condemning violence against journalists. The martyrology of journalists killed on duty has been conducted since 2003.

Court of law in Omsk finds information circulated by local blogger and human rights activist “untrue”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Sovetsky district court in Omsk has satisfied a legal claim lodged by the regional police department against journalist and human rights activist Viktor Korb for circulating “libellous’ information.

The said information was posted on the PolitOmsk.ru website, which Korb had created to facilitate free exchanges of views among followers of different parties and movements, as well as people unaffiliated to any party at all.

The plaintiff’s main objection was to Korb’s using the word polizei in respect of the police. It may as well be noted here that he is not alone in doing so; the term has been widely used in the Internet and elsewhere ever since Russia’s militsiya was reformed into politsiya, or police. Unlike others, Korb always explains that the term [which was borrowed from German during World War II to express contempt for Russian collaborators with Nazis – Translator.] refers “not to all the police officers but only to those who breach the law while acting on orders from the PRaT” [“Party of Rogues and Thieves” – reference to the ruling United Russia Party – Translator.].

Yet linguist Yevgeny Vidanov, hired by the plaintiff to make a linguistic study of the blogger’s statements, concluded that “this lexeme, having clearly derogatory connotations, is used in Korb’s texts with reference to all Omsk police officers without exception”. Following the scholar’s logic, all officers of the Omsk police “breach the law while acting on orders from the PRaT”.

Evidently, Judge Valery Tsvetkov shared this view when passing a decision requiring Korb to pay the regional police department 12,036 roubles to recompense the cost of the linguistic study, plus pay 4,000 roubles in state duty.

“It’s for the first time that I see a state duty as large as that,” Korb told the GDF correspondent. “Usually, it’s not larger than 200 roubles.” Evidently, the court charged it in compensation for the “moral strain” it suffered while passing such a sentence, which Korb intends to challenge before the higher-standing regional court.

Karelian newspaper challenges district court decision before Supreme Court

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

The private newspaper Mestnoye Vremya (MV) based in the city of Kem, Karelia, has carried two articles written by local residents who are in conflict with the city administration over who is to manage the apartment houses they live in. Although both articles were unsigned, their authors never tried to hide and claimed ready to testify in court as co-defendants, together with MV representatives. However, the court decided that only the founder/editor of the newspaper is to be held liable.

The two articles spelt out tenants’ protests against the poor-quality services imposed on them by two housing management companies. True, some of their judgments were very expressive and might sound insulting to the city administration and the management companies co-operating with it. The Kem mayor and the company heads lodged legal claims against MV, demanding a disclaimer and 200,000 in moral damages from the editor.

Having studied the case files, the court found MV guilty of “circulating untrue information” and required the editor to pay the three plaintiffs 20,000 roubles in moral damages, plus nearly 32,000 roubles to cover the judicial costs.

The MV editor challenged this decision before Karelia’s Supreme Court, but the conflict is not yet over: the plaintiffs intend to sue the district’s sole independent newspaper for another publication that likewise happened to hurt their feelings. Thus the litigation is bound to continue.

Sudden close attention to Moscow blogger

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Earlier this year, the prominent blogger Rustem Adagamov started drawing public attention at a level he could hardly ever dream of.

First, the newspapers reported his ex-wife’s accusing him of paedophilia – sexual harassment of an underage Norwegian girl, which charge Adagamov resolutely refuted. In response to a collective appeal to the Prosecutor General’s Office and Investigative Committee, the latter on 11 January started a preliminary probe into Adagamov’s case.

On the same day, Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing public communications] required LiveJournal to block access to Adagamov’s report about a pro-Tibetan independence activist in India making a self-immolation attempt in protest against the Chinese leader’s visit to India last March. Roskomnadzor decided, for some unclear reason, that the publication advocated suicide.

Although the oversight agency denies any connection between the two events, there is a feeling Adagamov has become the target of a persecution campaign, with “sure” charges, such as paedophilia and suicide advocacy, advanced against him in an evident attempt to compromise the well-known blogger …

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Adil Soz Foundation reports on freedom of expression in Kazakhstan in December 2012

Attacks on journalists and media

Four persons were detained as suspected attackers of Uralskaya Nedelya journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov, and all of them confessed to the crime. Akhmedyarov recognised one of the detainees during a confrontation. The investigators say all four are members of an organised crime ring. The journalist was attacked near his home late on 19 April 2012, receiving several shots from a traumatic gun, several knife stabs, and a heavy blow on the head. Colleagues unequivocally link the assault to Akhmedyarov’s work as a journalist and human rights defender.

 

Closure of media

About 40 independent media outlets were shut down in Kazakhstan in December.

On 4 December, the Bostandyk district court in Almaty ruled to block access on Kazakhstani soil to the web portal www.stan.tv, in the absence of representatives of the defendant. Two days later, the court passed similar decisions in respect of the K-Plus Television Company, its websites www.kplus-tv.net and www.kplus-tv.kaz.net, as well as “other company means of periodical or continuous circulation of information, among them the web resources used for the purpose”. No representatives of the defendant were present at the hearing, either. On 25 December, Judge Gulmira Beisenova of the Medeu district court ruled to close 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 23 websites, including Facebook and Twitter pages. On 20 December, Judge Tatyana Chernysh of the Bostandyk district court in Almaty ruled to close the newspaper Vzglyad and its two websites.

Criminal charges against journalists

On 5 December, the Petropavlovsk city court in the North Kazakhstani Region passed a decision in the case of Kazakh-Zerno news agency owner Mansur Rasulov and its editor Sergei Bukatov, tried on charges of libel. The court acquitted Rasulov in view of no elements of crime in his actions, but found Bukatov guilty and sentenced him to one year in prison.

New civil claims against media and journalists – 4

(1) Representatives of police officer Almas Abdrakhmanov urged the newspaper Menin Olkem, based in Ust-Kamenogorsk, to publish a disclaimer of the article “Five Orphans Left” (Menin Olkem, 25 October 2012) describing a traffic accident that involved Abdrakhmanov. The police officer saw the publication as libellous and the appended diagrams of the traffic accident as “disclosure of classified state and service information”. He cited the “biased” character of the publication as the main reason for his filing the legal claim. The newspaper’s editor declined to meet Abdrakhmanov’s demands.

(2) Roman Iltyo, PR manager at ArselorMittal Temirtau, demanded that the newspaper Karavan publish a disclaimer of Svetlana Mogai’s article “A Problem for Mittal” (Karavan, 30 November 2012) reporting the French authorities’ intent to break off with Lakshmi Mittal’s metallurgical company. The story also gave some details about problems within ArselorMittal Temirtau. The plaintiff refuted Karavan’s information as false, but the newspaper refused to publish a disclaimer, while describing Mogai’s article as “accurate and unbiased”.

(3) Zamzagul Aitzhanova filed a legal claim against the Moy Gorod newspaper released in Western Kazakhstan, in the wake of Pyotr Trotsenko’s publication “Pedestrian Run Over by Driving School Instructor” (Moy Gorod, No. 43(69) of 24 October 2012), with a front-page announcement entitled “Pedestrians Die Like Flies”. The plaintiff claimed hurt by the report about her mother’s death in a traffic accident, illustrated by a few photographs – and this despite the newspaper’s not mentioning either her own or her mother’s name, and despite recognition of the victim on the photos being impossible.

(4) Mr. Balkebayev, director of Green House Best’s sales office in Ust-Kamenogorsk (selling Bonduelle products), urged the local newspaper Moy Gorod – as part of a prejudicial settlement – to disclaim what he described as “reputation-ruining” information contained in Yelena Suprunova’s story “GMO Blacklist”, reporting the results of an epidemiological study that had found genetically modified organisms (GMO) in six samples of food products, including in a tin of Bonduelle corn. The editor refused to meet Balkebayev’s demand on the grounds that the article cited an official report by Kazakhstan’s health ministry.

Since January 2012, a total of 16 criminal charges were brought against media and journalists in Kazakhstan, and 84 legal claims were filed, with 4,437,200,000 tenge (100 tenge ~ 20.5 roubles or US $0.67) wanted in moral damages.

Over the same period, journalists reported 251 instances of denials of, or other restrictions on access to, socially significant information.

 

UKRAINE

Police start criminal proceedings in connection with threats against editor

The police in Ukraine have started criminal proceedings in connection with Irina Sedova, editor of the Kerch.fm website, reporting insults and threats being posted on her page in the Vkontakte social network – an offence punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment.

The proceedings were started under Article 129 (“Murder threat”) of the Ukrainian criminal code. The investigation involves officers of the anti-cybercrime unit of the Ukrainian Security Service.

The threats have come from 29 different accounts, Sedova said.

“Insulting and threatening statements first appeared on my Vkontakte page on 10 January in the afternoon,” she said. “I am sure they are directly linked to my professional work as a journalist and editor. I had to temporarily ban and conceal all comments on my ‘wall’ by using the appropriate privacy setup, to avoid reading more of those foul-language postings.”

Unidentified cyber-attackers also posted on her web page some pornographic video clips and attempted to mar her photo images featuring there. On the following day, the lady journalist reported those actions as well as threats to her health and life to the police and the anti-cybercrime unit, and was officially assigned victim status in the criminal case.

Sedova suspects this cyber-attack may be a reaction to her latest publication “Who and Why Taught Kerch Teenagers to Mete Out Justice?”, about a group of young men sending out email messages signed with schoolgirls’ nicknames to lure local paedophiles out on “dates” and punish them the way they see fair.

“In that article, I didn’t try to take sides – I just wrote that the struggle against such grave criminal offenders as paedophiles should proceed in full compliance with effective Ukrainian legislation,” Sedova said.

[Novy Region-Crimea report, 15 January]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

Dagestanskaya Pravda: In defence of a journalist’s rights

Big Caucasus: When freedom and non-freedom have the same roots

Park Gagarina: Law enforcement again left no chance to put pressure on media and journalists

Argumenty Nedeli: First-night show of films about Yuri Shchekochikhin and journalist killings held in Dagestan

 

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