7 Октября 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 629

30 September 2013



Photojournalist arrested for “having no permanent registration” in Murmansk Region

By Boris Timoshenko, GDF Monitoring Service head

The Leninsky district court in Murmansk on 26 September arrested photographer Denis Sinyakov, who was taking pictures of a Greenpeace action near the oil platform Prirazlomnaya in the Barents Sea.

According to media reports, a group of activists on outboard motorboats from The Arctic Sunrise icebreaker sailed to the platform and attempted to climb onto it, but Russian coast guards prevented them from doing so and then towed the icebreaker to Murmansk, detaining everyone aboard.

The RF Investigative Committee, having checked the facts, started proceedings under Criminal Code Article 227.3 (“Piracy committed by an organised group”), and the Leninsky district court ordered Sinyakov’s arrest for two months.

During the hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to place the photographer under arrest because, “if released, he may destroy material evidence and resume his criminal activity”, as well as “hide away from the investigators, because he has a foreign passport and no registration in the Murmansk Region”. The defendant said he has no plans of hiding away – he has a wife and a child, and his foreign passport has been seized by the investigators along with all his photo equipment. He called the court’s attention to the fact he had been aboard the ship as an invited photo correspondent – he was taking pictures of the developments without taking any part in them.

“My ‘criminal activity’ is my work as a journalist,” the FlashNord news agency cited Sinyakov as saying. Yet the court satisfied the prosecutor’s request and ordered the photographer’s arrest until 24 November.

The Journalists’ Union of Russia (JUR) on 26 September demanded Sinyakov’s release. “Since he did not breach the law and only covered the [Greenpeace] action, we need to do our best for the Prosecutor-General’s Office to interfere and defend the man,” JUR President Vsevolod Bogdanov told the RIA Novosti news agency. The media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), too, demanded the journalist’s release. Russian media editors and reporters have published an open letter in support of Sinyakov, and photographers, journalists and bloggers have held a series of picketing actions in Moscow to express solidarity with their colleague. Contrary to many people’s expectations, not a single activist was detained.

As became known late on 27 September, another journalist from The Arctic Sunrise – British freelance videographer Kieron Bryan – was arrested on a court warrant in Murmansk, Johann Bihr, head of RSF Europe and Former USSR Bureau, told the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. “Bryan… was fulfilling his journalistic duty and did not do anything unlawful,” Bihr said. “He is not a member of Greenpeace and takes no part in the latter’s actions. (Yet) Brian has been arrested for two months.”

It may as well be added that Denis Sinyakov is a renowned Russian photojournalist, who cooperated with Agence France Presse, Reuters, Kommersant Daily and Lenta.ru at different times. Kieron Bryan earlier worked for The Times and The Mirror (Britain), and for Current TV (the United States).



Two campaigners sue district newspaper for belying them during run-up to September’s elections in Voronezh Region

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Two legal claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation have been lodged against the district newspaper Ostrogozhskaya Zhizn (OZ) in connection with its publications on the eve of the 8 September elections in the Voronezh Region.

One was filed with the Ostrogozhsky district court by Tatyana Netyosova, who ran for a seat on the district Council and exercised her right to appeal to electors by addressing them via the media free of charge. But the text she presented to OZ for publishing was changed without her consent. Specifically, a sentence was added, reading as follows: “In contrast to other candidates, I am a young specialist with a university degree, and I am starting my career in my native village.”

Actually, Netyosova’s career began back in 1974, and the woman sees the added sentence as insulting mockery at her venerable age. Moreover, she believes the phrase had a negative effect on her campaign inasmuch as it undermined electors’ trust in what she was saying. The plaintiff wants the publication to be qualified as not true and an encroachment on her electoral rights. She demands 50,000 roubles in moral damages from the newspaper.

The second claim was lodged by businessman Sergei Logvin, another ex-candidate for a seat on the district Council, who claims offended by one of OZ’s August publications that said he was expelled from the local branch of the ruling United Russia party by a unanimous vote of party members “for actions running counter to the party’s political interests”. Actually, he resigned of his own free will, which means the publication was untrue, damaging to his honour, dignity, reputation, and campaigning success, Logvin says. He wants the newspaper to publish a disclaimer.

The defendant in both cases is the Voronezh-based media holding RIA Voronezh, the owner of the newspaper Ostrogozhskaya Zhizn.

Bank’s 5-million-rouble legal claim against news website turned down in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The management of IT-Bank has lost its judicial dispute with the editors of the news website SuperOmsk. Originally, the bankers claimed a record 5 million roubles in moral damages from the online media outlet for publishing information about the bank’s staffers and clients “being under unlawful non-stop surveillance” (see digest 603), as reported by Yuri Skurikhin, a former security service chief at the bank. Surveillance cameras were installed almost everywhere on the premises by the firm OOO Profi-TV, which reportedly was related to the national secret services, Skurikhin said.

During the hearings at the regional court of arbitration, the plaintiffs reduced the claimed compensation amount to 300,000 roubles – payable collectively by SuperOmsk, the article’s author Natalia Kalinina, and their ex-colleague Skurikhin. The proceedings lasted for nearly 7 months until the court finally turned the legal claim down in full, requiring the bank to pay the defendants 45,000 roubles in reimbursement of their judicial expenses. The court ruling has not yet come into full legal force and may be challenged before a higher-standing judicial authority.

Insult: How much is it in Stavropol Region?

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

As we have reported, Yelena Suslova, a Mineralniye Vody correspondent for the independent regional newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta, has filed an honour-and-dignity protection claim against her colleague Tatyana Malysheva from the Cossack newspaper Lik Kavkaza in connection with her publishing a story titled “Detailed Instructions on How to Write Smearing Stuff” (see digest 615).

Disagreeing with Suslova’s critical assessment of the allegedly improper privatisation by Cossacks of land in the famous spa region of Stavropol, Malysheva forgot all about professional solidarity and resorted in her publication to really insulting phrases and figures of speech, such as “a cesspool filled with slops”, “a journalist’s prostitution urge”, “paranoid reporter’s imagination”, “crazy paranoiac”, “those venal journalists, Judas’ offspring”, and the like.

A linguistic study carried out by Y. Yemelyanova at the North Caucasian Regional Forensic Studies Centre did not find “any insulting content” in Malysheva’s “Instructions…”, prompting Judge Anna Suprunova of a district court in Zheleznovodsk to reject Suslova’s claim and require the plaintiff to pay 95,000 roubles for that “expert study”.

Yet Suslova, unwilling to be labelled “a paranoiac” and “Judas’ offspring”, challenged that ruling before the regional court of appeals, where Judge A. Savin cancelled the primary court’s decision and passed a new one – to satisfy Suslova’s claim partially, requiring the defendant to pay her 15,000 roubles in moral damages and in reimbursement of the costs of her hiring a lawyer.

But that did not mark the end of the conflict. The same issue of the Cossack newspaper featured a commentary to the “Instructions…” written by a local Cossack leader, Ataman Valery Pomatov, who, too, characterised the independent journalist Suslova in an extremely rude and insulting way. Again, the first-instance court found “nothing humiliating” about those characteristics, and so did the regional court of appeals. But the overseeing authority, the Regional Court Presidium, did qualify the ataman’s words as an insult, returning the case to the regional appellate court for review. Yelena Suslova is hoping the regional judges will pay heed to what the Presidium said and finally decide the case in her favour.

Yet another print media outlet shut down in Sverdlovsk Region

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Yet another print media outlet in being shut down in Yekaterinburg – the ABAK-Press media holding’s TeleShow magazine, which until recently positioned itself as “Russia’s sole regional glossy TV guide for well-to-do audiences”.

Chief editor Natalya Panasenko has officially confirmed to the Ura.ru news agency the fact of the magazine’s closure. “This in nothing out of the ordinary,” she said. “Our publisher has just decided that, in view of the current situation on the media market, continued financing of TeleShow would be inexpedient.”

TeleShow was established in 2005 – in the format of a glossy magazine from the very beginning. This enabled the new TV guide to stand out against the background of rival publications, most of which were newspapers. As regards its content, the magazine was conceived from the outset as a provider of not only TV listings and announcements but also of “easy” reading stuff and a score of additional information services.

Upon learning about the media outlet’s closure, Svetlana Lebedeva, the first editor of the TV guide, commented: “We sought to make a European-level product for Yekaterinburg, and I think we succeeded in making our plans come true: the city did find our product good, and the entire team felt really happy watching the magazine’s print run grow by 1,000-2,000 copies a week. Over a year’s time, it increased from 5,000 to 50,000 copies per week – I can’t remember any other print media outlet show a comparable sales growth.”

All the staffers have been offered alternative jobs with the media holding’s other projects.



Reporter detained while observing cotton harvesting

Journalist Sergei Naumov has been detained in the Khorezm Region of Uzbekistan – on robbery charges, according to unofficial sources. Several police officers came to his home on Saturday, 21 September, saying they had received a complaint from a woman who said he attempted to tear a gold chain off her neck, the Uzmetronom news agency reported.

Naumov’s colleagues and local human rights defenders reject those accusations as groundless. According to one unofficial source, the authorities may be seeking to “isolate” the journalist until the cotton harvesting is over (he is said to have shown an interest in that topic and gathered information about the reported use of forced labour on cotton plantations). Local authorities have often used perjured testimony of “victims” to put pressure on journalists, rights activists and oppositionists, according to Ferghana.uz.

Naumov earlier was more than once threatened by law enforcement officials, Central Asian News cited the Human Rights in Central Asia organisation as saying.

Sergei Naumov has Uzbek citizenship and contributes reports to Ferghana.uz, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the Uzbek publication “Ecological Security and Civil Initiative”, and the Russian-language Politzhurnal magazine. A few years ago, he won in a creative competition among journalists covering Uzbek-Russian relations.

[Forbes report, 24 September]



Novosti Donbassa correspondent targeted

The regional prosecutor’s office in Donetsk, Ukraine, has started criminal proceedings against those targeting Vitaly Sizov, a correspondent for the Novosti Donbassa (NB) news website. The “city police department in Donetsk has been put in charge of the pre-trial investigation,” the prosecutor’s office’s press service said.

Sizov, for his part, has reported he detected several unknown men following him and NB editor Alexei Matsuka since end-August, i.e., since the time they started reporting on alleged corrupt practices within local government bodies. On 16 September, he filed a report with Donetsk Region Prosecutor Oleg Syusyailo, Sizov said, but “no one has summoned me for questioning” in connection with the content of his report, and it was not until today, after a phone call to the prosecutor’s office, that he learned that “as early as 17 September the prosecutors started criminal proceedings on preliminary charges of interference with journalists’ lawful professional work (Article 171.2 of the Criminal Code)”.

As he was covering the 24 September visit to the city of Gorlovka by Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Minister Oleg Proskuryakov, three unidentified men in black jackets attempted to break into the NB office, causing Editor Matsuka to call the police. Law enforcement officers and a security expert examined the office door and questioned the staffers. The editor does not know who those unidentified men might be, but he links the door-breaking attempt with the surveillance to which he and Sizov were subjected.

“I think any reporter feels insecure in Donetsk,” Matsuka said commenting on the incident. “Those who followed us throughout last week seem to be switching to aggressive actions now.”

[UNIAN report, 25 September]



GDF, JUR and Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre protest against photojournalist’s arrest on “piracy” charges

The Media Rights Centre, the Journalists’ Union of Russia and the Glasnost Defence Foundation share the journalistic community’s concerns over photographer Denis Sinyakov’s 26 September placement under arrest for two months on suspicion of “piracy”. The photojournalist was covering a Greenpeace action aboard The Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace-owned vessel, on an editorial assignment from the news website Lenta.ru; his report was posted on the website a few days before his arrest. Although Sinyakov acted as a freelance reporter, he had the very same status as any staff journalist would have, pursuant to Articles 2 and 47 of the RF Media Law.

A journalist attending a public action for purposes of covering it is not a participant in such an action; his is a different goal – to record the proceedings and report thereon to the audience. Clearly, journalists working in different situations, including in conflict zones, are entitled to be present at the scenes of mass actions, catastrophes, etc., and they are imbued with special rights in line with the Media Law. What is allowed to a journalist is not always allowed to an action participant: a reporter may cover, for example, an unauthorised rally, an armed conflict and other actions going beyond the format of an authorised public event, participation in which is potentially punishable.

May everyone be reminded that, in accordance with Article 49.4 of the RF Media Law, “The state shall guarantee to a journalist performing his professional work the protection of his honour, dignity, health, life and property as a person performing a public duty.” By ruling for photojournalist Denis Sinyakov to be placed under arrest for two months on an absurd suspicion of “piracy”, the Russian judiciary demonstrated a lack of impartiality and of respect for everyone’ right to be informed, as well as elementary disregard for the laws regulating the work of the press. A journalist shall not be considered a participant in an action he is covering; he is a person performing a public duty, guarding public interests and acting as society’s “eyes” and “ears”. His job is to report to the public about ongoing events as quickly as possible. Violations of journalists’ rights of access to information and of doing their professional work normally automatically violate the right of hundreds of thousands of Russians to be kept informed in real time about ongoing developments in the country.

GDF congratulations to Dosh magazine on 10th anniversary

As is known, Dosh (“Word”) was at the very beginning; it has been that way for 10 years now. We have watched – with invariable respect, sometimes with delight, and very often with anxiety – your consistent attempts to debunk myths about “the wild, evil-minded Chechens”, and to write the truth about them with reliance on facts and historical documents.

You’ve gone through difficult, sometimes very gloomy, times of intimidation and threats. Yet for all these years, you’ve stayed true to the most important things – love for your mother country and the feeling of human dignity. Throughout those years, we’ve loved you and felt proud to have you among our friends – take our dosh (word) for it!

GDF Team


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

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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