Дайджест
15 Ноября 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 635

11 November 2013

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Pre-Olympiad “hospitality”: Sochi police hampers Norwegian film crew’s work

A TV2 film crew (from Norway) officially accredited to cover the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi has faced problems shooting a report about ongoing preparations for the Olympiad: local police actively hampered their work for three days in a row.

En route from Maikop to Sochi in a rented car on 31 October – 2 November, reporter Eistein Bogen and videographer Oge Eyun were stopped by police six times. Those stopovers thrice resulted in the journalists’ detention and delivery to the police station, where officials urged them to “disclose the real goals” of their trip, asked about their education, religion and private life, as well as about the names of people they had met with or were planning to meet. Police officers threatened them with arrest, coerced them into taking medical tests for suspected drug abuse, and denied them the opportunity to call the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow. Moreover, they finger-printed the reporters and scanned their cell phones for “illegal” content.

Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov later said the Norwegians’ detention was caused by “care for their security”; he promised no encounters with the police would happen again – as if the journalists were absolutely protected now.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has admitted the police officials went beyond the range of their authority by detaining the journalists and by threatening them with arrest. “We apologise to Mr Bogen and Mr Eyun in that connection”, a 6 November ministry statement said. “As established, the incident was caused by a technical mistake… This situation will be carefully analysed at inter-agency level, and those responsible will be held to account.”

Journalists covering preparations for the forthcoming Olympics are known to have faced problems for quite a long time. Dealing with domestic reporters is pretty easy: the authorities can “explain things” to them by ordering, for example, a search of their media offices, or by suing them for “smearing” publications, or simply by firing them. The municipal administration in Sochi has established an Information Analysis Department that has scanned media publications for critical reports about the Olympiad, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported.

But since this routine “system” is unworkable with foreigners, more radical measures have been taken in respect of them time and again, for which the Foreign Ministry has had to apologise…

 

RUSSIA

Journalists barred from administration headquarters in Chelyabinsk Region

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

In Chelyabinsk, two reporters for the news agency Itogi74.ru have been detained by police for entering a “specially guarded site” without passes or special authorisation.

According to journalists Stanislav Vakhrushev and Sergei Zhigalin, they arrived at the governor’s and municipal administration headquarters for a working meeting with one of the officials, but a security guard did not let them through because they had not “coordinated the meeting with the administration’s press service”.

Showing him their passports and press cards, the reporters told the guard the existing rules of entry to a government building required them only to notify the authorities, but not to seek prior authorisation or coordinate the goals or programmes of their visits with anyone. One of the journalists went upstairs to the office of the acting chief of gubernatorial staff, Andrei Komarov, but the latter could not say anything definite about the effective entry rules, delegating all questions to the regional government’s Internal Affairs Department and its press service. He called two policemen to escort Zhigalin back to the entrance.

The journalists demanded a meeting with the police officers’ superior and insisted that the fact of police interference with their lawful professional work should be duly documented. A third police officer appeared, declining to identify himself or show his service ID. He told the reporters to switch off the camera – allegedly, such were the rules at the “specially guarded” site. He did not show any written instructions or documents determining the entry regime or the boundaries of the guarded zone. The journalists were nearly kicked out into the street, and one of them was taken to the police station.

To justify that kind of behaviour, the regional police department urgently published a press release reading as follows:

“The officer-on-duty at the Chelyabinsk Region Interior Ministry Department on 28 October received an alarm signal from one of the guarded sites, the regional government headquarters. A check-up showed that an unidentified man, who presented him as a reporter for one of the local newspapers, attempted to enter the building without a special pass, which constituted a violation of the established rules of entry. He ignored a police officer’s warning, thereby committing an administrative offence. The man was taken to Police Station No.5 in Chelyabinsk for questioning about the incident. A protocol of administrative offence was made against him in accordance with Article 20.17 of the RF Administrative Code (‘Violation of the Rules of Entry to a Guarded Site’). The police officers behaved in full compliance with effective legislation.”

Another incident occurred in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region, where correspondents for a local media outlet were ousted from a working meeting at the city administration headquarters. Mayoral spokeswoman Natalia Aleksyuk told them, “You don’t represent a municipal media outlet (that is, your newspaper doesn’t have a contract with us), so you can’t be present here.” When one of the reporters reproached her for poor knowledge of the Media Law provisions, she simply ignored his remark.

It’s no one’s secret the media in the Chelyabinsk Region are subject to severe censorship, and reporters for the few independent media that still operate did not even venture into the corridors of power until recently: they knew they would be thrown out anyway. Yet, feeling it was wrong for taxpayers not to know alternative views about the performance of government bodies, and relying on the Media Law provision allowing the press to freely attend government conferences, the reporters went to the city administration headquarters “to provoke a conflict”, as the local government’s political technologists assessed their action later.

Two newspapers in Karelia accused of advertising alcohol

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

After two district newspapers illustrated their commercial ads with shop floor pictures, the Republic of Karelia’s Antimonopoly Service Department decided that the newspapers Vestnik Ladozhsky Krai and Sut’ S thereby breached the law and should be fined for advertising alcohol. Indeed, the illustrations featured liquor shop counters in the background.

Still, the two newspapers insisted they did not advertise alcohol. Finally, they were spared the payment of fines, but only because the poor quality of the photos – typically seen as an irritating flaw – played into their hands this time. While definitely showing liquor shop counters, the images were so dim and obscure that no one could see what particular brands of alcohol they featured. As a result, the Antimonopoly Service withdrew its claims, officially acknowledging that it was impossible to classify the illustrations as alcohol ads.

It does so happen sometimes: the worse, the better…

Former MP facing charges of embezzlement sues newspaper in Perm for reporting arrest of his property

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Andrei Agishev, a former deputy of the Perm Region Legislative Assembly, former general director of PermRegionGaz Co. and former member of the ruling United Russia Party, has lodged a legal claim against the weekly newspaper Novyi Kompanyon (NK), demanding an apology and a disclaimer of one of its publications.

On 24 September, the newspaper reported that Agishev was under prosecution for his suspected embezzlement of 55.5 million roubles of company and budgetary money through office abuse and group fraud. PermRegionGaz and the Perm Region represented by the regional government are posing as victims in the criminal proceedings started against him. Executing a court ruling, police on 31 July arrested 12 real property items and 13 company stakes that belonged to the accused, including 5 apartments, among them an 8-room apartment in downtown Perm. Those assets were seized to secure Agishev’s repayment of debts to the victims under the administrative claims they had lodged against him.

His defence lawyer Yulia Nesterenko sent NK on her client’s behalf a message saying that the list of seized property published by the newspaper was “not true to life”. Noting that Agishev had not consented to the “disclosure of his personal data or facts about his private life”, she suggested NK should not repeat these law violations in the future and should ask her client’s permission for publishing any further information about him.

Meanwhile, the disputed article, with reference to Agishev’s testimony at the Leninsky district court, said that the accused considered the tax collectors’ data about the size of his holdings in business companies outdated. On the day of the NK publication, the regional court in Perm reviewed the prior ruling of the primary court, excluding from the list of properties slated for arrest 7 companies in which Agishev no longer had stakes. The appellate court, just as the district court, held open hearings to consider a police motion and a complaint filed by the accused, and reported thereon in the Internet – on the website of the RF State Automated System “Justice” – for everyone to know.

NK Chief Editor Igor Lobanov has told the GDF he sees no reason “for disclaiming an accurate report that was based on officially circulated information, or for apologising to Agishev”.

Ex-mayor claims 2 million roubles from district newspaper in Moscow Region

A legal claim in defence of honour and dignity has been lodged against the district newspaper Novaya Zhizn (NZ), Yelena Aligozhina, chief editor of the Mozhaisk News Agency (based near Moscow) told the GDF.

The plaintiff, the city of Mozhaisk ex-Mayor Gennady Yeryomenko, maintains that NZ’s 28 August article “Running Round in Circles, or They Sometimes Return” featured “libellous and smearing” information, such as statements about his “failure to save the decaying district industry”; his “kick-starting mass privatisation”, “closing medical service stations and kindergartens” on a mass scale, and his “having nearly killed the district” by the end of his mayoral term.

Yeryomenko asked the court to declare those statements untrue and require the defendant to publish a disclaimer and pay him 2 million roubles in moral damages.

The GDF will closely follow the proceedings and will help NZ to effectively defend itself in court.

Print media subscriptions on decline in Maritime Region

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Subscriptions to all newspapers in the Maritime Region have been shrinking, which trend the postal service sees as “natural” and “predictable” in view of the growing role of the Internet as a public news spreader. Yet analysts see the shrinkage of subscriptions and, consequently, of print runs also as a result of the establishment of the Inter-regional Subscription Agency (MAP), which has taken all print media subscriptions throughout Russia under its monopolistic control.

When the subscription reform was just starting, Maritime editors predicted a drastic fall in print runs even in case of zero rivalry from the Internet. Such an outcome became imminent after major cuts in the number of post offices and their personnel were announced.

Irina Grebneva, chief editor of the Maritime newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti (AV), has sent the federal and local leaders of MAP a complaint (with a copy to the public communications oversight agency Roskomnadzor) about flaws in, and a lack of information on, the ongoing subscription reform and irregularities in the work of local post offices. The message read as follows:

“Since this year began, we have been receiving scores of complaints about the poor work of post offices in Vladivostok and other localities throughout the region. Subscribers are citing a drastic worsening of the quality of services, going as far as denials of subscription to the federal newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti on various, sometimes really outrageous, pretexts. Delivering the newspaper with long delays, or not delivering it at all, postmen have pointed to ‘non-release’ of relevant issues as the reason, although we have released AV strictly according to schedule, regardless of red-letter days and holidays, for ten years already…

“This kind of postal service behaviour has resulted in a drastic fall in AV subscriptions throughout the Maritime Region this year, as compared to all the previous years. Meanwhile, the readers’ interest in our newspaper has been growing, and Arsenyevskiye Vesti has been in great demand – and in deficit – in retail trade. This adds to the importance of subscription campaigns, both as regards the people’s right to receive socially significant information and a newspaper’s right to circulate such information and derive profit. In case the basic subscription fails through your fault again, I may be compelled to claim lost-profit compensation from you.”

Journalists in St. Petersburg express solidarity with RosBalt news agency targeted by authorities

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The Green Lamp press club in St. Petersburg has hosted an action in support of colleagues from the RosBalt news agency which a court of law has stripped of its media status after two warnings from Roskomnadzor (see the previous news item).

More than 30 journalists gathered at the press club on 6 November to discuss the Moscow City Court decision cancelling RosBalt’s certificate of registration as a media outlet, which signalled Roskomnadzor’s struggle against one of this country’s leading news agencies (see digest 630) entering a new phase.

RosBalt representatives, among them Yevgeny Zubarev, who had decided to post on YouTube video clips allegedly containing foul language (it is those clips that gave rise to the two warnings from the oversight authority), described the absurdities that had accompanied court proceedings. Specifically, a judge of the peace who reviewed RosBalt’s protest against the city court decision rushed to rubber-stamp that decision without listening to the journalists’ argumentation, and the Moscow City Court itself moved to act without waiting for that judge’s ruling to come – at least formally – into full legal force. The evidence which Roskomnadzor presented in court looks really ridiculous: screenshots of Internet pages have not been notarized as required by law, and the disputed video clips have been downloaded not from the RosBalt website but directly from YouTube, with one of the recordings damaged so severely that it cannot be played…

The conferees agreed that the situation is so alarming that it calls for holding joint actions of solidarity with the RosBalt colleagues. One may be to post on media websites a banner urging an end to the news agency’s targeting. Such a banner has already been designed and is available on request at Lenizdat.ru – the web portal of the media community of St. Petersburg.

GDF correspondent Roman Zakharov took the floor to note that this is by far not the first crackdown on RosBalt, a news agency that is large and respectable enough to cause federal-level repercussions. We need to explain to the public that RosBalt is actually being pressed out into the “gray”, semi-legal, zone, now that Roskomnadzor has suggested the agency should re-register “simply as a website”, Zakharov said. The Glasnost Defence Foundation is closely following the developments in St. Petersburg and is ready to offer its support, including legal consulting, to RosBalt.

 

UKRAINE

Media rights watchdog reports 74 attacks on journalists so far this year

Based on freedom-of-expression monitoring in January-October this year, the Kiev-based Mass Media Institute (MMI) registered 74 attacks on, and threats against, journalists; 115 instances of interference with journalists’ lawful professional activities; 40 instances of censorship and 39 attempts to put political or economic pressure on media outlets.

“Specifically, October saw 15 instances of meddling in journalists’ lawful professional work, 5 threats against journalists, 5 beatings and other attacks on reporters… and 3 instances of censorship,” MMI reported.

Police and Berkut (Golden Eagle) special task force units were particularly active among those who used force against journalists. For example, during an opposition action outside the Kiev City Council, a “1+1” Channel cameraman working amid a crowd of protesters received an elbow blow in the stomach from a sturdy young man; and in Yevropeiskaya Square, a police major pushed Novyi Region reporter Sergei Rulev down the parapet from which he was shooting a concert staged by the Party of Regions.

Most instances of interference with journalists’ work in September consisted in reporters’ non-admission to various official events and bans on the use of photo and video cameras.

[Day.kiev.ua report, 5 November]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

RIA Voronezh news agency: Alexei Simonov in Voronezh: “I deserve being treated as more than son of a renowned writer”

Parkgagarina.info: Suspected killer of Novaya Gazeta journalist Igor Domnikov recants his testimony

Lenizdat.ru: Roman Zakharov: Media are being pressed out into “gray zone”

Novaya Gazeta: Two women, one squeal

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Blogger in Kemerovo detained by FSB for reposting leaflet

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Law enforcers in Kemerovo are reputed to be among “the most vigilant” in Russia: they “see” security threats to the state and individual government officials “from afar” and “remove” them even before they arise – when evil-doers are just starting to plot their criminal schemes, or even before it occurs to them to do something nasty…

It is still unclear if blogger Stanislav Kalinichenko was plotting a coup d’etat when a leaflet with the call “Stop Attending Rallies – Start Acting!” caught his eye in the Internet. Someone nicknamed @letokot posted in his microblog a photo picture of it, allegedly taken near the Patriarch’s Ponds in Moscow. The leaflet, issued by some “insurgent detachment”, called for “subversive acts against the government”, according to a Grani.ru report.

Very prudently, @letokot explained to his blog’s visitors: “I am not calling for anything – I’m just sharing a photo picture.” Kalinichenko followed suit by reposting the picture – without any comment, though. His careless move caught the all-seeing eye of a “competent agency” whose officials, led by Justice Major Dmitry Kartukov, detained the blogger at the entrance to his apartment house, pushed him into a vehicle and drove him to the FSB office, as reported by the civic group Golos Kemerova (The Voice of Kemerovo).

His detention was preceded by a search of Kalinichenko’s apartment by five officers of the “E” Centre, who seized all the electronic equipment they found. “The circle closed up – now all of Putin and [Governor] Tuleev’s ‘fans’ in the Kuznetsk Basin Region have had their homes searched,” journalist Dmitry Shipilov, a friend of Kalinichenko’s, noted sarcastically. Shipilov himself a year and a half ago was convicted of insulting a government official (under Article 319 of the RF Criminal Code) and sentenced to 11 months of correctional labour for a LiveJournal posting criticising the regional leader. Prior to that, another critic of Governor Tuleev, journalist Aleksandr Kosvintsev, requested and received political asylum in Ukraine in view of his possible imprisonment for criticism.

Blogger Kalinichenko has been placed in a pre-trial detention facility. His family reported this to the regional police department which, however, preferred not to interfere with the actions of a “more competent” agency. The secret services in Kemerovo have created what the independent media are describing as “a dangerous precedent”: Russia’s first ever arrest of a blogger for a repost in Twitter. Kalinichenko has been charged with public calls for acts of extremism (under Criminal Code Article 280) and may be in for 3 to 5 years in jail – and this despite the fact that “The leaflet, which Stanislav so carelessly re-Twittered, is not on the government-approved list of extremist publications!” Shipilov noted.

Newspaper Veskyd Syorni’s print run seized in Komi Republic

By Nikolai Bratenkov, Izhma village, Republic of Komi

Veskyd Syorni (VS) is an officially registered, fully legal newspaper, and in line with the Media Law, no one has the right to seize its print run, in full or in part. Yet the authorities have made several absolutely unlawful attempts to stifle this media outlet.

First, they tried to engage law enforcement in seizing the newspaper’s print run. In one incident, a vehicle carrying VS from Irayol found itself chased by a traffic police car with a switched-on horn all the way to a filling station, where the police officers told the driver to open the boot, since “they’d been tipped the VS vehicle might be carrying dangerous cargo”. The driver tactfully reminded them they could only search his car on a prosecutor’s warrant, which they did not have; yet he kindly opened the boot and allowed the policemen to peep in. It was empty: the newspaper stacks had already been unloaded.

In another incident, law enforcers confiscated VS issues at the airport from civilians who had volunteered to deliver the newspaper to Nyashabozh, Brykalansk and Kipiyevo villages on the Pechora River. A policewoman flying to Nyashabozh noticed the newspapers changing hands and immediately alerted the local police department. One passenger phoned to the VS office to report the confiscation. Journalists complained to the prosecutor’s office about the police outrage, but the prosecutors didn’t budge to enforce law and order.

A while later, a United Russia Party functionary was seen following the VS delivery car and removing the newspaper stacks from the shops.

After a local URP activist, V. Orlov, stepped in to replace him, the journalists again complained to the district police about his repeated seizures of Veskyd Syorni from shops. This time, police did their job well: they questioned each of the shop owners in Izhma village and found one who confirmed that Orlov had indeed twice come to his shop this year to remove VS issues from the counter.

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
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