23 Сентября 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 627

16 September 2013



Review of electoral law violations committed during 8 September vote

Yet another election campaign in Russia is over. Almost for the first time, no violence was used against journalists, although minor incidents did occur here and there.

Traditionally, electoral committee officials placed barriers in journalists’ way to hamper their work: they prohibited the use of cameras, threatened reporters with using force, or simply ousted them from polling stations. For example, at Polling Station No. 67 in Saratov, the electoral committee chairman “actively meddled in journalists’ work and loudly urged reporters to go away,” according to SaratovInfo. At Polling Station No. 1176 in the city of Marx, Saratov Region, another reporter for the same news agency was told to keep his camera switched off under the threat of “getting taken away by force”.

In Ryazan, representatives of local and federal media complained to the Golos Association [vote-monitoring NGO] about bans on the use of photo and video cameras at polling stations, and about a local TV channel’s film crew not being let through at all. In Ufa, journalists were ousted for perceived violations of the rules of procedure, and photo and video cameras were banned altogether. Specifically, a Proufu.ru photographer was driven out from Polling Station No. 406; at Station No. 148 journalists were not allowed to move from one place to another, ask questions or use cameras; and at Station No. 155, Proufu.ru and Bonus correspondents were first disallowed to take pictures and then were shown the door.

Duplicate (fake) newspapers were issued: Sovershenno Sekretno in the city of Sovetskaya Gavan, Khabarovsk Region, harshly criticising a candidate for a district leader’s post, and Komsomolskaya Pravda on the other end of the country, in Kaliningrad, compromising one of the campaigners.

In Sverdlovsk Region, the print runs of the newspapers Mayak, Kachkanarsky Rabochiy and Kachkanarsky Chetverg were removed from the newspaper stalls through wholesale purchases.

And in Moscow, Gazeta.ru Chief Editor Svetlana Lolayeva was simply fired on the voting day and replaced with Svetlana Babayeva, a former member of the presidential press pool. The management told Lolayeva they had no claims to the way she’d run the media outlet, but they “had long been looking for another person to do the job”... Radio Liberty, citing independent observers, has noted that “Lolayeva may have been replaced because of the Kremlin’s dissatisfaction with the way her news website covered the elections”.

“By demonstratively firing on the voting day the head of a leading liberal media outlet, who has shown herself as an efficient manager, and by replacing her with a pro-government appointee, the oligarchs who are rumoured to be close to the ruling elite – and the authorities themselves – gave society a clear signal of what kind of freedom of expression Russia may hope to have after the elections,” Yabloko Party leader Sergei Mitrokhin commented.

Yet it did not come to blows with reporters on the voting day, and even the post-election rally in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square went rather smoothly: police at least didn’t push journalists into paddy wagons by the dozen, unlike many times before.

The reasons for this relatively quiet atmosphere during the vote are difficult to tell for certain, but it looks like the general public, including journalists, has lost much of its former interest in Russian elections because of their full predictability leaving little room for intrigue.



Local TV cable channel seized by raiders in Khimki

Local administration officials in the city of Khimki near Moscow have continued targeting independent media.

Early on 9 September, five members of ex-Mayor Vladimir Strelchenko’s team stormed into the office of Khimki-SMI Ltd., the owner of the Khimki-TV cable television channel, according to a Moscow Region Journalists’ Union report. The action involved Deputy Mayor Alexei Valov, former Mayoral Security Chief Yevgeny Piterimov and Sverlana Zaporozhets, ex-director of Khimki-SMI. They told Khimki-TV Director Tatyana Revenkova she was fired and that Zaporozhets, who headed the mother company under ex-Mayor Strelchenko, would act in her stead.

The “management reshuffle” left Revenkova with a concussion and several bruises, as diagnosed by medics at the Central City Clinic, who prescribed the patient staying in bed.

According to the victim, the administration officials dismissed the guards, broke into her room, cut off the telephone line and told her, “You aren’t director here anymore; don’t even try to argue – sign the papers and beat it!”

Revenkova declined to sign anything, took her notebook PC and attempted to leave, but in vain.

“As I made for the door, carrying my notebook, they caught up with me and attempted to tear away my PC,” she told the BBC Russian Service. “I clutched at the computer and pressed it hard to my chest: any director’s correspondence – agreements, various other legal documents, and so on – is highly valued sensitive information, you know. At that point, Piterimov pushed me hard; I stumbled and hit the door.”

“Nothing of the kind,” Zaporozhets contended. “She went off into hysterics. Actually, I didn’t see that for myself – I was in the [next] room; I only heard her crying.”

Anyway, Revenkova managed to get back her computer only after the police arrived.

“All this looks very much like the tactics used by the Khimki administration prior to its ex-head’s replacement,” Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the movement “In Defence of the Khimki Forest”, commented to the BBC Russian Service. “Strelchenko’s methods were very well known. As long as he stayed in power, his team didn’t hesitate to deal shortly with any ‘inconvenient’ journalist. I was concerned to see Mr Valov, Strelchenko’s right-hand man, return to the administration. His official position doesn’t really matter – what matters is that he continues behaving like he did before. The whole team that clamped down at different times on [journalists and public activists] Beketov, Fetisov, Dmitriyev and Yurov remains in place…”

Local colleagues link the raid on the TV channel in Khimki with Revenkova’s discovery of 12 million roubles of budgetary funds embezzled by the previous management: the money was deflected through fictitious salary payments to straw persons, of whom some didn’t even suspect someone used their passports for the purpose.

It seems this criminal outrage in Khimki is unlikely to end, ever.



Trial in Nalchik: Journalist Igor Tsagoyev released in courtroom

By Natalia Yusupova, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The city court in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, has announced the sentence passed in the case of Igor Tsagoyev, correspondent for the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets v KBR. As we have reported, the verdict was to be read out one day earlier, but the management of the pre-trial detention centre failed to duly assign a convoy to escort the journalist, who was facing robbery charges, to the courtroom (see digest 625). He actually had to go on hunger strike to be taken to court; in the morning on 3 September, the guards were still saying his delivery hadn’t been officially requested. Or had they become so attached to Tsagoyev over the four months of his stay under arrest that they felt reluctant to part with him?

After nearly a week of reflection in the retiring room, Judge Ghid Sunshev took a decision that the prosecution might call a trade-off. He fully cleared the defendant of the charges of robbery. Also, he ruled to consider the “infliction of trivial injury on the victim” as part of separate proceedings, which he then terminated in view of the limitation period expiry. As regards the alleged theft of money, the court found it “well-proven” and sentenced Tsagoyev to one year in prison (in view of mitigating circumstances that the investigators had not found at all), with the defendant’s release there and then – because of the limitation period expiry again. Until the sentence enters into full legal force, Tsagoyev shall be required not to leave town.

In the judge’s view, the “deliberate theft” was “objectively confirmed” by the testimony of the victim, Madina U., her brother and sister, and other witnesses (of whom not a single one appeared in the courtroom), as well as by case file materials. The court disregarded the fact that the few witnesses for the prosecution – the victim’s relatives and friends – had learned about the incident as told by Madina herself. The evidential contradictions to which the defence lawyers pointed were dismissed as insignificant. The court qualified the investigators’ inaction as regards the search for evidence directly confirming or disproving the fact of theft as an omission on the part of police operatives.

Tsagoyev will challenge the sentence before a higher-standing judicial authority, although the outcome is difficult to predict. Yet his doing so out of prison can definitely be called his first victory.

Court in Stavropol satisfies utility company’s legal claim against critical newspaper

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The Stavropol Region Arbitration Court chaired by Yelena Gintovt has satisfied a legal claim lodged by the utility company NPO Inzhenernyye Sistemy (Engineering Systems Ltd.) against the newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta and its freelance author Alla Gorshkova.

Back in March 2011, the newspaper carried an article by a Stavropol resident (condominium chairwoman) about the said company’s “earning a good bit extra” on a municipal energy-saving programme by installing expensive heat meters in a shabby apartment house with leaking pipes while neglecting to reconstruct the local heating plant and replace the worn-out heater. In the process, the company flagrantly violated both the technology of meter installation and effective legislation. Half of the money (nearly 500,000 roubles) allocated for the project implementation vanished without a trace.

According to the author, she was approached by utility company managers asking her as the condo chairwoman to sign a useless scrap of paper they called “acceptance statement”, but she declined to – in view of the numerous technical blunders and half of the funds missing. This notwithstanding, other programme participants, including the Municipal Economy Committee, did sign that fake paper, and after tenants complained to the regional Housing and Communal Services Ministry, they received a purely formal and meaningless reply.

A year after the publication, Engineering Systems suddenly filed a reputation-protection claim, initially demanding a total of 300,000 roubles in moral damages from the newspaper and author, but subsequently reducing that amount to only a tenth.

The plaintiffs failed to disprove a single figure, or a single item from the list of unfulfilled or poorly-done jobs cited in Gorshkova’s article; actually, they agreed the report was fully accurate. Yet they insisted on the newspaper’s disclaiming a short paragraph in the text that had nothing to do with the main point – that the utility company’s managers did line their pockets by carrying out this dubious “modernisation” project.

Otkrytaya Gazeta intends to appeal to the higher-standing judicial authority.

Chelyabinsk governor intends to sue news organisations for criticism

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Chelyabinsk Region Governor Mikhail Yurevich will not permit any criticism of his administration, as can be gathered from a restrained-tone rendition of his recent comment on the performance of the local STS television channel, posted on his official website:

“Talking to the press, Mikhail Yurevich answered a question about some print and online media’s recently publishing statements directly accusing the regional government and the governor in person [of inefficiency],” the report said. “Yurevich replied, ‘We’ve gone through this many times before. In some cases, we will file lawsuits; in other cases, we’ll ignore those publications; and sometimes, we will explain where such materials come from, and why.’” (For details, see gubernator74.ru).

Anyone knowing the incumbent gubernatorial team’s methods well enough will hardly be deceived by the reserved tone of the official report which shows that the administration’s PR specialists and political technologists are seriously concerned about publications in “regional and federal media presenting the Chelyabinsk Region governor and administration in an unfavourable light”.

The list of activities for which Yurevich has been criticised in the press is fairly long: it includes, specifically, his “selective” crackdowns on metallurgy, for the most part reduced to attacks on the owners of the Chelyabinsk Electrometallurgy Works (CEMW). Although the city is polluted by a score of industrial monster plants, the governor’s press pool is always pinning the blame on the CEMW management alone.

The latter are compelled to fight back using nearly the only media resource available to them – the STS television channel. To counter charges of bringing the city’s environment to a point of decay, they have employed this and a few other independent TV channels to publish information about excessive “dot construction” of housing in downtown Chelyabinsk; the felling of trees to build yet another governor-sponsored trade-and-entertainment centre (which practice deals a real blow to the natural environment); Yurevich’s monopolistic grip on housing construction in the city; his allocation of land among the governor-controlled companies only, etc.

Coverage of all those topics by regional and federal media, along with Yurevich’s rumoured plans to resign as the region’s leader, is pushing up tensions in the South Urals political and business circles, administration-hired political scientists say. “Leaks of such information to the media, including federal media, may aim to destabilise the situation in the region; they most likely are financed from one and the same source,” they guess, which assumption leads them to the decision to sue.

Just a few years ago, a “retaliatory information strike” could hardly ever occur in the region of Chelyabinsk in principle: the municipal administration’s political analysts worked in an environment of full government control over the media. Now the situation has changed, and judging by the authorities’ angry reaction, representatives of the STS television channel and some web-based media may well expect to receive subpoenas to appear in court.



Mikhail Afanasyev’s acquittal is our common victory

By Nadezhda Azhgikhina, Vice-President, European Federation of Journalists

A justice of the peace in Abakan on 6 September finally cleared Mikhail Afanasyev, editor of the Novy Fokus web magazine, of the dual charges of libel and insult to a government official he was facing.

The journalist and blogger’s prosecution for publications criticising regional law enforcement kept the journalistic community and media lawyers throughout Russia in suspense for several months. It seemed not a single other lawsuit brought against a journalist in the past few years could demonstrate as vividly how much government authorities hate the very possibility of becoming targets for criticism. In the six-odd months of the legal proceedings, some fellow journalists, far from offering their help to Afanasyev (who might go to jail in real terms), actually went over to the prosecution’s side, once again showing a lack of professional solidarity and the high degree of fear plaguing the media community.

The Journalists’ Union of Russia (JUR) repeatedly appealed for help to heads of the Human Rights Council and deputies of the State Duma, and engaged experts in the work to provide support for the journalist in distress. Specialists at the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre played a special role by furnishing expert conclusions that helped persuade the court to acquit Afanasyev.

The centre’s director Galina Arapova sees the decision passed in Afanasyev’s case as a very important precedent for other journalists facing similar charges. “Many didn’t take the re-criminalisation of libel seriously, thinking that a journalist carefully checking the reported facts isn’t in for any trouble,” she said. “Yet the charges brought against Khakassian journalist Mikhail Afanasyev clearly showed that the relevant law provision can be applied for [punitive] purposes, and that many honest reporters may find themselves victimised if they venture to criticise authorities.”

“Afanasyev’s defence lawyers – Pyotr Lysenko of Abakan and legal advisers from the Media Rights Centre in Voronezh – did their best to break the repressive trend and secure the defendant’s acquittal,” Arapova said. “His case might have turned into the first instance of a journalist’s conviction after libel’s re-qualification as a criminal offence; it’s good to think the trial had a happy ending. We managed to prove in court the irrelevancy and biased nature of the conclusions drawn by the linguistic expert hired by the prosecution [to analyse Afanasyev’s texts].”

“The originally appointed judge was replaced by another one in the course of the hearings; we really did a lot to have the journalist effectively protected,” Arapova went on to say. “But what really matters is not even the fate of an individual reporter, Mr Afanasyev, whose future might have been spoilt by some evil-wishers, who have long targeted and attacked him as it is for his independent stand as a journalist defending public interests. Most important, we succeeded in breaking down the stereotype of having journalists convicted for their critical publications; in making ourselves heard by the authorities; and in stopping the flywheel of unlawful restriction of people’s right to freely express their opinion.”

I cannot but agree with Galina Arapova on this point: Afanasyev’s acquittal is our common victory, on which I congratulate all colleagues, friends and anyone who values freedom of expression and honest journalism. Let’s keep up the good work!



2013 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The Jury of the 2013 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues accepting journalists’ works for this year’s contest. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2012 and October 15, 2013 in Russian print and online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637-4947

Further details about the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”


Press release by Norwegian Helsinki Committee

For the NHC press release “Fair elections with a potential for improvement: A summary of comments by 33 observers from 11 countries, invited by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee to attend the vote in Norway”



Dear colleagues:

My name is Yevgenia Leontyeva, and I am a Krasnoyarsk-based journalist and JUR member since 1990. I have worked in the media for 20 years, conducting independent investigations and helping many people to defend their rights and stay away from trouble. Some of my publications were about abuses committed by law enforcement officers. Now I myself am in need of help.

The Investigative Committee in Krasnoyarsk has spent two years framing up a criminal case against my son Oleg Leontyev, who, too, is a journalist (at one time, a RIA Novosti news agency correspondent). They are trumping up very bad charges against him – charges of exhibitionism.

Please don’t shudder – my son is a mentally sound man, not prone to perversion, as numerous medical examinations have confirmed. What really matters is that at the moment when some other young man was revealing his genitals to an 11-year-old girl in an elevator, Oleg was elsewhere, covering a picketing action in support of fair elections. There are eyewitnesses and four video recordings, including one made by Police Task Force “K”, proving my son’s innocence. But by the moment such evidence was gathered and presented, my son had already spent some time in a pre-trial detention facility.

It’s with a view to proving the lawfulness of his detention and imprisonment that the Investigative Committee started this fact-juggling campaign. It has thrice changed the time of the crime in the protocol. After the victim admitted she had made a mistake by pointing to Oleg as the suspect, investigators kept her testimony secret for some time. As the news about this leaked out to the public, friends and ordinary city residents took to the streets to hold pickets in support of my son. Protest rallies were simultaneously held in other cities as well, including Irkutsk, Tomsk, Novosibirsk and Kazan.

Thanks to the conflict’s extensive coverage by both local and federal media last year, the Investigative Committee had to close the case in view of Oleg’s non-participation in the crime. It was the media-caused broad public repercussions that prevented the Committee from ruining my son’s whole life; we won the case in court at the time. But “The System” is simply unable to acknowledge its mistakes. Esprit de corps prevailed over common sense at the Krasnoyarsk Investigative Committee, which re-started the criminal proceedings a month later, in which my son again poses as the accused. Earlier today, I wrote an open letter to Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin in Moscow, complaining that our local investigators are now threatening not only Oleg but me, too, with criminal prosecution.

I very much hope the GDF will interfere to prevent my son from falling prey to prosecutorial ambitions.

And here’s the latest article by Aleksandr Tarasov, a Novaya Gazeta correspondent, who himself has been questioned by Investigation Committee officials in connection with his coverage of this theme.

Sincerely, Yevgenia Leontyeva


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.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 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

Все новости

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