Дайджест
21 Марта 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 607

18 March 2013

STORY OF THE WEEK

Independent journalist continues to be targeted in Khakassia

The Glasnost Defence Foundation on 15 March received a reply from the prosecutor’s office of Khakassia to an appeal we had filed GDF in connection with yet another criminal case opened against Mikhail Afanasyev, chief editor of the Novy Fokus web magazine, on charges of insult to a government official on duty.

The investigators say Afanasyev “smeared and offended” Abakan City Deputy Police Chief Aleksandr Zlotnikov by calling him a liar in an article that 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 brought against Afanasyev.

The GDF sent a message to the prosecutor’s office of Khakassia that read 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 of ensuring that the other agencies concerned, too, 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.”

The prosecutors’ reply, signed by Abakan Prosecutor O. Bauer, looks purely formal and makes little sense, only saying that “The prosecutor’s office has checked the lawfulness and validity of the decision to start criminal proceedings, and has not found any legal ground for cancelling it.”

Very regrettable it has not: there are several reasons it should have. First, the deputy police chief testified in court as a witness; he was not performing his official duty at the time, although the prosecutor’s office seems to think differently. Second, the decision passed in that case confirmed that the journalist’s report was accurate. And finally, the prosecutors failed to answer the question of whether Col. Zlotnikov did lie to the judge, and if so, whether he has suffered any punishment for that. Either Bauer failed to duly sort things out or else his check-up was purely formal, which additionally confirms that different agencies within law enforcement are united by a roll-my-log-and-I’ll-roll-yours kind of relationship.

Meanwhile, as became known on 14 March, the Abakan Inter-district Investigative Division of Khakassia’s Investigative Department accused Mikhail Afanasyev of belying and insulting a government official (Articles 128.1.3 and 319 of the RF Criminal Code).

The GDF will closely follow the developments in Abakan and will do its best to help the independent journalist.

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

RSF special report “Enemies of the Internet” published

Marking World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiers, RSF) released its 2013 Enemies of the Internet special report on 12 March.

“Governments are increasingly using technology that monitors online activity and intercepts electronic communication in order to arrest journalists, citizen-journalists and dissidents,” the report says. “Around 180 netizens worldwide are currently in prison for providing news and information online.”

The report identifies five “spy” states that “conduct systematic online surveillance that results in serious human rights violations” – Syria, China, Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam.

“Online surveillance is a growing danger for journalists, citizen-journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders,” RSR Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “Regimes seeking to control news and information increasingly prefer to act discreetly. Rather than resort to content blocking that generates bad publicity and is early circumvented, they prefer subtle forms of censorship and surveillance that their targets are often unaware of.”

Russia is listed among the countries where the Internet is not free. According to RSF, politicians in this country control the cyberspace by exerting pressure on Internet service providers and on different media platforms in the blogosphere and social networks. “This is simpler (than banning the circulation of information altogether), because the Vkontakte social network and the LiveJournal space have been purchased by oligarchs rumoured to be close to the power circles,” the Russia section of the report says.

Further details

 

RUSSIA

More about impunity: cameraman’s attacker sentenced to nominal punishment in Ryazan Region

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Mikhailovsky district court in the region of Ryazan has reviewed a criminal case opened in the wake of an assault on a crew of reporters for the Vesti-Ryazan TV news show. Businessman Mikhail Porotikov was in the dock for crushing a video camera on the cameraman’s head.

In October 2011, a Vesti film crew was touring the Mikhailovsky district in the company of a Rosselkhoznadzor [federal service for veterinary and phyto-sanitary oversight] official to shoot a report on unlawful black-soil trading. Near Poyarkovo village, they spotted several graders scraping off the fertile soil layer. Hardly had the journalists started video-recording the proceedings, when a car pulled over and a man got out to crack down on cameraman Yuri Kosorotov. The attack resulted in the cameraman’s turning to a first-aid station for medical help in connection with a concussion.

Although the attacker quickly drove away, he was soon tracked down by police and identified as Mikhail Porotikov, a local businessman. The incident caused broad public repercussions; Governor Oleg Kovalev personally urged the law enforcement command to thoroughly investigate the case and bring the guilty persons to justice. Police advanced criminal charges against Porotikov.

The case went all the way to court, but District Judge Igor Vaghin qualified the injuries suffered by Kosorotov as “light bodily harm not endangering the victim’s health or reducing his working ability”. The TV company, too, was found to have suffered “negligible” property damage, which was a reference to the broken camera. The court found Porotikov guilty of inflicting light bodily harm on Kosorotov and sentenced him (under Article 115.1 of the RF Criminal Code) to four months of correctional labour with 10% of his salary withheld. Also, the court cleared Porotikov of hooliganism charges (Article 213) in view of “no elements of crime in his actions”, although requiring him to pay for the victim’s medical rehabilitation (two-thirds of the claimed compensation amount).

Actually, the Mikhailovsky district court once again proved that persons attempting to stop journalists from doing their professional work can easily get away with it.

Police in Perm returns seized print run

By Olga Loskutova, chairwoman, Perm Region branch of Russian Journalists’ Union

In the run-up to the City Duma election in Perm, police seized part of the Permskiye Sosedi (PS) newspaper’s print run for what was described as an “attempt to unlawfully circulate campaigning materials”.

Such was the decision of the Industrialny district electoral committee, which asked a court of law to warrant the seizure of the print run, although the police officers executing that decision did not present any documents qualifying the newspaper’s actions as unlawful. Nor did they make a protocol of the seizure. The electoral committee frowned at PS for its featuring a campaign leaflet upside down (as an example of “black” PR), although the editor had duly removed the candidate’s name and blackened his face to prevent his identification. The committee members banned the publication just because they felt it was “wrong”.

A note posted on the regional police department’s website said “the publication negatively characterised the Perm Region government and several political parties”, but as a PS representative stressed in court later, “The regional administration is not participating in any election campaign, so the journalists are fully justified in carrying any – even if negative or critical – information about it. The law allows them to keep the readers informed about the elections, so they set forth the full state of affairs on the eve of the vote, with detailed analysis of available information about the candidates. The picture they drew was full and objective, without any positive or negative bias toward any of the candidates.”

As a result, a justice of the peace honoured Permskiye Sosedi’s claim and closed the case, ruling for the seized part of the print run to be returned to the owner.

Cossacks threaten independent radio station reporter in Krasnodar Region

By Yegor Tashmatov, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Electron FM radio station in Krymsk, Krasnodar Region, on 6 March received a message from the Council of Atamans of the Krymsk District Cossack Association of the Kuban Cossack Army, whose members demanded that radio show anchor Valery Donskoy be replaced.

“Your staffers, specifically someone named V. Donskoy,” the message said, “have constantly presented distorted information about Cossacks and Russian Orthodox priests, which we see as an unforgiveable insult. […] In the event of your failure to meet the well-justified demand of members of the Taman Cossack Division, we reserve the right to act in accordance with the established Cossack tradition.”

Donskoy, chief editor of the Electron FM radio station, sees this as a clear threat – a hint that he might be publicly whipped, which practice, although unlawful, is fairly widespread in the Kuban River area. He intends to report the threat to the police shortly.

Meanwhile, Cossacks on 13 March stormed into the radio station’s lobby to hold a flash rally demanding Donskoy’s replacement.

“They started shouting out unjustified claims,” Donskoy told the GDF. “I went out into the lobby to start reporting live on what was going on. None of the Cossacks identified himself. We tried to talk to the protesters to find out what exactly they wanted. We even invited them to voice their demands live on the air, but they refused outright.” As far as he could understand, they accused the radio station and its chief editor of distorting information about the Cossacks, Donskoy said.

“As a station staffer urged them to leave, one Cossack snapped at her, ‘Hey lady, this is our town!’” Electron FM said in a Twitter message. “The editor was showered with bad names and threats. ‘You mug are sure to get it hot, and soon!’ someone was heard crying out.”

It is not for the first time that Electron FM comes under pressure from government-controlled groups. Just a few days after the devastating high flood in Krymsk, Labour Department officials came to the radio station to carry out a “sudden” inspection. The staffers say such close attention to their company on the part of the authorities was caused by their principled unwillingness to colour the truth: during those tragic days Electron FM remained the sole operating media outlet in the flooded city.

Fair Russia Party representative claims 100,000 roubles from Omsk-based web newspaper

By Gerogy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Lawyers at the SuperOmsk regional news agency are in for a difficult litigation: Yelena Sveshnikova, a prominent local human rights activist and a Fair Russia Party nominee for a seat on the City Council, has filed a legal claim against their company.

She wants SuperOmsk to disclaim a publication that featured her name alongside those of some well-known holders of fake academic ranks and degrees. The publication said the plaintiff’s “campaign leaflets emphasise the fact of her having graduated from two institutions of higher learning, one of them a law school”.

The SuperOmsk author, with reference to information provided by the city electoral committee, wrote that “she holds only one degree, in economics, which she got in 1991; in the law sphere, she only took a retraining course at a law school in 2011”.

She did not deceive electors or forge any documents, Sveshnikova wrote in her claim. She does hold two university diplomas – one in economics, the other in law, which she received “due in part, indeed, to going through a retraining course at the Omsk Institute of Economics”. She asked the court to qualify the SuperOmsk publication as “damaging to my honour, dignity and business reputation”, and claimed 100,000 roubles in moral damages from the defendant.

Since the article was published before the 17 March election, and the court hearings are to be held after that date, the court decision will not affect the election returns in any way. But then, things like that are fairly common during election campaigns: if a candidate represents a party other than the ruling United Russia Party, his or her good name would likely be restored after a delay. Better late than never, though.

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Federal Antimonopoly Service holds conference for media editors in Voronezh

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

An 11 March conference organised by the regional Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) department at Voronezh State University’s school of journalism brought together the editors and PR directors of Voronezh-based media and local newspapers from all across the region.

The conference discussed media compliance with the federal law “On Advertising”. Vitaly Popov, deputy head of the regional FAS branch, reported on the most typical law violations committed by journalists, and cited statistics on last year’s administrative proceedings against local TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers and magazines.

The event attracted Voronezh Media Rights Defence Centre representatives, who provided analysis of the most widespread errors in advertisements of medical and financial services, notably editors’ persistent failure to mark the relevant ads as such. Popov therefore specially stressed the need to fight the practice of disguising commercial advertisements as journalistic reports. Two such instances gave rise a couple of weeks ago to the start of legal proceedings against the regional branch of VGTRK TV/Radio Company and the regional TV Studio Guberniya.

Vladimir Tulupov, dean of the school of journalism, described a set of methods worked out by his institution to differentiate a journalistic report from a commercial ad. Toward the end of the conference, question time was allowed.

This is already the second conference on compliance with advertising regulations the regional FAS department has organised for media representatives. The previous one was held at the same school of journalism at the end of 2011.

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

Fritt Ord Foundation and ZEIT Foundation Press Prizes for 2013

This year’s Fritt Ord Foundation (Sweden) and ZEIT Foundation (Germany) Press Prizes go to two journalists and one newspaper in Russia, a journalist in Ukraine and a reporter and a photo correspondent in Azerbaijan.

The Press Prizes are awarded to journalists and media outlets that defy censorship, resist self-censorship, and seek to strengthen media independence in spite of repression and financial difficulties.

The 2013 group of laureates includes Russia’s Yelena Kostyuchenko of Novaya Gazeta, Alexander Golts (Yezhednevny Zhurnal), and the newspaper Yakutsk Vecherny (Republic of Yakutia); Ukraine’s investigative journalist Sergei Leshchenko of Ukrainskaya Pravda; and Azerbaijani journalists Tahmina Tagizade and Mehman Huseynov.

“Yelena Kostyuchenko is one of the most talented younger investigative journalists in Russia,” the Fritt Ord/ZEIT press release said. “She covers an impressive variety of topics, ranging from the case of Mikhail Beketov and the Khimki Forest to the massacre at Kushchevskaya. […] By covering cases that draw attention to the link between organised crime and corrupt authorities, she moves through dangerous territory. She has been both assaulted and arrested for her journalistic activities.”

“The weekly newspaper Yakutsk Vecherny […] under the leadership of Editor-in-chief Maria Ivanova […] covers both environmental destruction and corruption,” the release said, specially stressing that “the newspaper opposed raising a memorial to Stalin”. Yakutsk Vecherny “is embroiled in several court cases, and its journalists are used to State agencies’ attempts to control them.”

Alexander Golts was awarded the prize as “an outstanding communicator on issues involving armament and the armed forces, which is sensitive terrain for a journalist to navigate in Russia”.

For details, see www.fritt-ord.no

The Glasnost Defence Foundation congratulates colleagues on their outstanding success!

 

Letters

Ban on information or censorship?

Open letter by Andrei Belkovsky, chief editor of newspaper Berega Klyazmy

For your information, Berega Klyazmy (BK) is a regional independent newspaper, released since 2003. It covers a whole range of topics, including journalistic investigations, the fight against corruption, environmental protection, and ordinary people’s life. The newspaper’s special focus is on protecting the Klyazma River basin; this is an area where the journalists cooperate with ecologists in the regions of Moscow and Vladimir.

Alexei Noskov has been facing active resistance by authorities in Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod, to his activities as a BK reporter.

The residents of the three regions through which the Klyazma flows – Moscow, Vladimir and Nizhny Novgorod – are seriously concerned with the environmental situation in that part of Russia. We see it as our professional and constitutional duty to provide comprehensive information for people who are set apart by existing administrative divisions but united by common history and a future that seems very unsafe from the ecological point of view. That is why we eagerly accepted Noskov’s proposal to be our correspondent in the lower reaches of the Klyazma River. Knowing all too well about repeated law and human rights violations by local administrators, I sent an official message printed out on the BK letterhead to the bureaucrats in Dzerzhinsk, asking for our correspondent to be duly accredited – although a simple notice to the City Information Department would suffice. The reply I received from the department head, Mr Martynov, saying, “No accreditation is required… and we are ready to cooperate with your newspaper in covering the work of the Dzerzhinsk self-government,” seemed very inspiring to me.

But just a couple of weeks later I read on the Dzerzhinsk Political Forum’s website that “Journalist Alexei Noskov was barred from attending the traditional ‘Hour with the Press’ on 18 February. The administration official in charge of information policy, Tatyana Andrianova, explained her refusal to admit the reporter to an open event by citing ‘no opportunity to keep track of the reports he writes’. Noskov, who represents a newspaper released in another city, duly submitted all the documents required under the law to be eligible to attend all events organised by the Dzerzhinsk administration.”

To keep track of a correspondent’s reports (sic!) is definitely a requirement that can only be put forward by someone claiming to censor media information prior to publishing.

With my deep respect for the residents of Dzerzhinsk,
A. Belkovsky, member of the Russian Journalists’ Union

 

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.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

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 Monitring 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 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

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