Дайджест
27 Декабря 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 641

STORY OF THE WEEK

International human rights groups about crimes against journalists

In its traditional year-end report presented in Paris on 18 December, the international human rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) put the number of journalists killed worldwide in connection with their work in 2013 at 71, which is fewer than last year. The number of journalist abductions, conversely, increased twofold to 87. A total of 178 journalists were in prison, and 2,160 reporters suffered assaults.

Syria was the most dangerous country to report from in 2013, with 10 professional journalists and 35 bloggers killed there. Other countries listed as dangerous included India, Pakistan, Somalia and the Philippines.

Also on 18 December, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a report estimating the number of imprisoned journalists worldwide at 211 as per 1 December 2013, with the majority of them kept behind bars in Turkey (40), Iran (35) and China (32). The list of top 10 worst jailers of journalists was rounded out by Eritrea, Vietnam, Syria, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Uzbekistan.

 

Countries that appeared on the 2013 prison census after jailing no journalists in the 2012 survey were Jordan, Russia, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Macedonia, Pakistan, and Republic of Congo, in addition to Egypt and the U.S, the report said.

Most journalists were jailed on charges of subversion or terrorism. Over one half of them worked online, and about one-third were freelancers, CPJ reported. The organisation has sent letters expressing its serious concerns to each country that has imprisoned a journalist.

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Mastermind of journalist’s killing goes to jail

The Lyublinsky district court in Moscow on 20 December sentenced Pavel Sopot to 7 years in a tight-security penal colony for having been behind the lethal assault on Novaya Gazeta reporter Igor Domnikov. Also, the court partially satisfied the moral damage compensation claim lodged against Sopot by Domnikov’s widow, awarding her 1 million roubles.

 

According to information posted on the RF Investigative Committee’s official website, the motive behind the attack was as follows. Sopot needed the regional administration’s consent to carry out a business deal successfully. Domnikov was known as a sharp critic of the administration. Fearing that this criticism might lead to an administration reshuffle that might impede the decision of his financial problems, Sopot asked a friend, Eduard Tagiryanov, leader of a local crime ring, “to intimidate” the critical journalist.

“The evidence gathered by the Moscow Investigative Committee was found by the court to be sufficient for Pavel Sopot to be convicted under Criminal Code Articles 33.4 and 111.3a of inciting the deliberate infliction of grievous bodily damage on the victim in connection with his professional work,” the Committee reported.

 

RUSSIA

Police officer’s legal claim against newspaper turned down in Sverdlovsk Region

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Orjonikidzevsky district court in Yekaterinburg on 19 December rejected a legal claim lodged by Vladimir Shkayev, chief of the police in the town of Kamyshlov, Sverdlovsk Region, against the newspaper MK-Ural for a critical publication.

Based on the results of an independent investigation, the story’s author exposed machinations with real property in Kamyshlov, and criticised the city police for inaction, which Shkayev did not like at all. He was even more enraged by MK-Ural’s reporting about the fact of a villa being under construction for Shkayev’s son in an elite residential area of the city. Actually, the police chief was personally questioned by the regional Investigative Committee about the ongoing construction recently, acknowledging that the land plot on which the house stands was allotted to his wife, and that local businessmen in 2009-2013 rooted out trees, drove away stumps, branches and other garbage from the construction site, and dug out the foundation pit at Shayev’s request – and all this free of charge, for some vague reason. The journalists only reported the truth – why worry as much as he did?

Judge Rumiya Kalygina turned down the high-ranking police officer’s honour-, dignity- and reputation-protection claim in full.

Since conflicts of so high a level are subject to control by the regional police chief, Mikhail Borodin, who personally reports to Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev in Moscow, the judicial dispute caused an inspection of the Kamyshlov police department’s performance, resulting in disciplinary action taken in respect of Shkayev by the regional police command.

Karelia’s leader ready to cooperate with journalists, although selectively

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

In response to recent calls from high rostrums for governments at all levels to “more closely cooperate” with the public, Karelia’s leader Alexander Hudilainen, too, has decided to come a step closer to the media community by suggesting the establishment of a republican Club of Media Editors. Addressing a recent conference of republican and district editors, he said his goal was “to promote dialogue and interaction between the regional authorities and representatives of Karelia’s media community”.

If so, another logical step would be to establish cooperative ties also with such a professional organisation as the Journalists’ Union of Karelia. Yet the governor does not seem to favour such cooperation.

By inviting editors to strike up a dialogue, Hudilainen evidently wanted to give them access to first-hand information – i.e., information coming from him and from members of his government. He did not say anything, though, about whether or not he, too, needed truthful reports about the real state of things in Karelia, as described by journalists and media at would-be club meetings.

Speaking repeatedly during the past few months about media coverage of his activities, the governor has kept saying only 5-10% of those media reports are “truthful”, while the rest are “inaccurate”. This assessment is very biased, although well understandable: the republic is in a state of deep crisis, and snowballing social problems require the media to honestly reflect the status quo. The resulting picture looks gloomy enough for Hudilainen to start worrying and to urge chief editors to contact him personally for “first-hand” – less harrowing – information. While the proposed establishment of a club of editors is by all means a welcome development, the governor’s selective approach to its membership cannot but give rise to concerns.

Court of appeals in Omsk rejects bank’s 5-million-rouble claim against news website

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

IT Bank has failed in persuading two courts of law that revelations of its former chief security officer, posted on the SuperOmsk news website, were not true to life. As we reported earlier, the security officer, Yuri Skurikhin, said the bank had secretly kept its clients and personnel under surveillance. Three years ago, he said, “several dozen cameras worth a total of 2.1 million roubles were installed throughout the bank premises – some of them openly, others disguised as motion or fire sensors” (see digest 629).

The installation work was carried out by Profi TV Ltd., a company led by whom Skurikhin believes to be a former secret service agent.

Initially, IT Bank claimed a record 5 million roubles in moral damages from the newspaper, which amount was later slashed to 300,000 roubles, with legal claims lodged against the SuperOmsk management, the interviewer and the interviewee.

After nearly 7-month-long hearings, the regional Court of Arbitration rejected the plaintiffs’ claims in full – a decision that was later challenged before the Eighth Arbitration Court of Appeals, which upheld the first-instance court’s ruling and required IT Bank to pay the defendants 45,000 roubles in judicial cost compensation.

Antimonopoly Service levies fine on Omsk-based newspaper that mentioned “beer” by mistake

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

One careless word printed in the weekly newspaper Biznes-Kurs (BK) may cost the media outlet 100,000 roubles, if the relevant court decision enters into full legal force. The Omsk branch of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) fined BK “for inappropriate advertising aimed to draw public attention to alcohol”. Reading an ad placed by Kolchak Restaurant on a BK page, the newspaper’s most vigilant readers – officers from a competent “oversight” agency – found the seditious word “beer” printed there in black and white!

The prosecutor’s office claimed 500,000 roubles from Biznes-Kurs in fine.

Could a newspaper with a circulation of 3,000, distributed among businesspeople and government officials, possibly harm youth conscience in a serious way by using that word? “Both the prosecutors and the FAS know all too well it was a pure mistake, not a deliberate law violation,” Sergei Suslikov, president of TRIES Publishers’, commented. “The ad’s makeup was prepared by an agency servicing the restaurant. It arrived late, when the BK issue was already being signed for printing. The head manager had already gone home by that time, hoping the proof-reader would do his job well.”

A proof-reader’s salary at BK is about 10,000 roubles a month, since an independent newspaper, unlike a subsidised pro-government one, can hardly afford paying more to staffers. An ad that brought about as much into the newspaper’s budget may lead to the loss of 10 times as large an amount if the penalty is to be paid.

TRIES challenged the FAS decision before the regional Arbitration Court, but its arguments about honest competition, the inadmissibility of pressure on media and business, the potentially wrong interpretation by FAS of the notion “advertising campaign”, etc. were disregarded, and the first ruling was upheld, showing once again that a word in independent media is worth – literally – a lot.

The publishing company intends to challenge the two rulings before an appellate court.

Activists in Rostov rally for freedom of expression and release of two jailed critical journalists

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

An authorised rally in defence of journalists and freedom of expression was held in Rostov’s Teatralnaya Square on 21 December, bringing together more than 100 activists who held placards reading “YES to Freedom of Expression!” and “NO to Police Repression and Judicial Arbitrariness!”

The group of protesters included the wives of imprisoned journalists Aleksandr Tolmachev and Sergei Reznik. Speakers pointed to the fact that the two journalists have been targeted by the authorities deliberately. Tolmachev, who has been awaiting trial in detention since December 2011, and Reznik, who was recently sentenced to two years in a general-regime penal colony, are both known for their critical publications and independent investigations of corrupt and unlawful schemes.

Initially, the rally was planned as an action in defence of Tolmachev, editor of the newspaper Upolnomochen Zayavit’, to mark the second anniversary of his arrest. But then the organisers decided to stage an action of protest against the government and law enforcement’s targeting of all journalists who publish critical stuff in media and blogs.

“We, participants in the rally in support of Don Area journalists, hereby express our serious concern about the freedom-of-expression situation in the region, where journalists have been finding themselves openly targeted,” activists wrote in a unanimously adopted resolution. “Don Area journalists have been subject to close attention from prosecutors, police and investigators… In the past few years, the Rostov Region has become an area that is dangerous for honest reporters. Many journalists revealing facts of arbitrariness or corruption have received threats, become victims of assaults and beating, faced criminal charges and even been sentenced to real prison terms.”

The protesters delegated a group of activists to meet with Governor Vassily Golubev and share with him their concerns about continuing encroachments on freedom of expression in the Rostov Region. Copies of the resolution will be also sent to President Putin, Premier Medvedev and General Prosecutor Chaika.

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Adil Soz Foundation’s freedom-of-expression monitor for November 2013

The Adil Soz Foundation, a Kazakhstan-based international freedom-of-expression watchdog, registered a total of 83 reports in its monitor in November 2013, including:

  • The sentence passed in the case of those who attempted to kill journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov entered into full legal force;
  • The court in Aktobe commenced hearings of the case of Igor Larra, a journalist who suffered an attack;
  • Valery Surganov, director of the Insiderman internet project, is suspected of defaming a judge;
  • The Supreme Court turned down a motion to review a prior court ruling on the closure of the multi-profile media outlet Respublika; and
  • Online media may be deprived of licenses for violating the law “On Languages in the Republic of Kazakhstan”.

Since January, a total of 71 legal claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation have been lodged against media and individual citizens in connection with their exercising the right to freedom of expression and to receipt and circulation of information; and 14 persons have been charged with defamation and insult.

For details, see the Adil Soz website at www.adilsoz.kz/

 

UKRAINE

Georgian TV reporter barred from entering Ukraine

The Rustavi-2 television company is urging the Ukrainian authorities to explain their decision to ban Georgian journalist David Kakuliya from entering Ukraine. “By prohibiting Kakuliya to enter Ukraine for one year, the Ukrainian side deterred the journalist – quite unreasonably – from doing his work,” a company statement said.

“The Ukrainian side thereby violated not only bilateral agreements but also international legislation,” the ITAR-TASS news agency cited Rustavi-2 as saying. “The company awaits explanations from Ukraine and urges the Georgian Interior Ministry leadership to respond to the entry ban appropriately.”

As we have reported, Kakuliya, who had covered Ukrainian developments since late November, was not allowed into Kiev on 20 December. “Border guards at the Kiev airport told me I was blacklisted and banned from entering the country,” Kakuliya said, adding that they showed him a document saying he had “violated Ukrainian legislation” during his work as a reporter in Kiev; that is why “Ukraine’s Security Service put” his name “on the non grata list”.

[Lenizdat report, 20 December]

 

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.

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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