Дайджест
6 Марта 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 650

3 March 2014

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Reporters – again – detained along with protesters

A series of rallies were held in Moscow and St. Petersburg early last week to protest the conviction of participants in the 6 May 2012 riots in Bolotnaya Square. Most of the accused were sentenced to real terms of imprisonment.

Naturally, police detained people expressing sympathy for the “Bolotnaya prisoners”. In Moscow alone on 24 February, about 600 activists were seized; in line with the sad tradition, police officers pushed protesters into paddy wagons along with reporters covering the action. Most detentions occurred outside the Zamoskvoretsky district court and during a spontaneous rally in Manezhnaya Square – but also in Tverskaya Street and on Bolshoi Kammenny Bridge.

“Police were seizing people rather indiscriminately, although not everyone within reach,” Dmitry Golubovsky, chief editor of Esquire magazine, who was detained twice – near the court building and in Manezhnaya Square, told the newspaper Noviye Izvestia. “At first, they targeted activists carrying the Russian flag; then they started seizing people at random – apparently to ‘thin out’ the crowd, so to say.”

The group of detainees included RBK correspondent Aleksandr Litoy – despite his showing his press card to law enforcers; Dozhd TV channel reporter Vladimir Romensky; Grani.ru correspondent Andrei Novichkov; Kasparov.ru staffers Alexei Bachinsky and Yevgeny Ukhmylin; Vedomosti journalist Alexei Zakharov; Ekho Moskvy radio station correspondent Andrei Poznyakov; Gazeta.ru correspondent Yevgeny Safronov; journalists Olga Romanova, Yevgeny Levkovich, and others, including a REN TV reporter and a Belarussian TV cameraman, according to an Ekho Moskvy report.

Journalist Sergei Parkhomenko was apprehended outside the Zamoskvoretsky court but shortly released due to having a subpoena to appear in the same court for another hearing: he had already been detained earlier – on 21 February – along with journalists Filipp Dzyadko, Veronica Kutsyllo, Yelena Kostyuchenko, Kommersant TV reporter Pyotr Parkhomenko, and Dozhd channel correspondent Maria Baronova, who was reporting live on the developments outside the court building. According to Dozhd, asked why he was detaining her, a police officer told Baronova, “Such are the times!”

Similar media worker detentions occurred during an unauthorised rally in St. Petersburg. Dozhd correspondent Anatoly Buzinsky and a group of other reporters were seized in Malaya Sadovaya Street. Riot police turned a deaf ear to their references to Media Law provisions, BaltInfo said. The number of detainees in St. Petersburg totalled 10, according to confirmed reports.

Although most journalists were released after identity checks, the show of their press cards had failed to protect them from detention.

On 2 March, participants in an anti-war rally in Moscow were likewise detained along with press reporters covering the event. “You’re a journalist? So what? I don’t give a f***!” a riot policeman snapped at Lenta.ru special reporter Daniil Turovsky while detaining him. And Dozhd correspondent Semyon Zakruzhny was seized by police despite showing his press card to the officers, Ekho Moskvy said.

The authorities don’t like crowds of protesters in the streets – evidently, out of fear that a protest may grow into a Maidan-like action [a hint at the Market Square unrests in Kiev – Translator.]; that’s why they are apt to seize whoever they can grab by the collar. But why detain journalists who are doing their professional work?

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Organizers of Viktor Yanukovich’s news conference in Rostov-on-Don took pains to reduce attendance to a minimum

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

News agency reports about a news conference to be held by Viktor Yanukovich in Rostov-on-Don appeared late on Thursday, 27 February. On Friday morning, journalists started calling the local office of Interfax, where most press conferences are usually held, to ask about the date and time but only to hear they should turn to the governor’s press service for information. Yet polite girls from the gubernatorial press pool said they did not know where or when the news conference would take place, and gave the callers an e-mail address to be used for filing accreditation applications.

Having applied as directed, the journalists started waiting for accreditations – but in vain. In the afternoon, word went round that Yanukovich would answer reporters’ questions at the Don Area State Technical University at 5 p.m., so the press rushed there, but some Moscow colleagues, who had just arrived in Rostov by plane, advised them to head for RosVetrol Company’s exhibition centre instead.

The bush telegraph and corporate solidarity worked well once again: the most determined reporters did make it to the exhibition centre by 5 p.m. – only to find out no one had ever compiled any accreditation lists. After careful screening, security let through everyone who had managed to learn somehow or other about the conference’s venue and had been fast enough to be in time for the beginning. The online application announcement must have been a red herring…

The news conference lasted for only an hour, although Yanukovich seemed to be in the mood to answer all the questions. Yet moderator Mikhail Gusman, deputy general director of the ITAR-TASS news agency, apparently adhering to a pre-approved scenario, rounded the event out quickly, leaving most reporters’ questions unanswered. He had given the mike mostly to reporters he knew personally, and to East Ukrainian media representatives who, though, failed to justify his trust by starting to ask “awkward” questions.

Clearly, the press conference in Rostov-on-Don was originally not designed as a questions-and-answers event. Yanukovich wanted to make a number of resounding statements, which he actually did under the guard of Don Area police, “thick as blackberries in September”.

 

RUSSIA

Opposition journalist arrested in Chelyabinsk Region

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The city court in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region, has sentenced opposition journalist Valery Uskov, a correspondent for the newspaper Pravda Goroda Zlatousta and leader of the People of Steel movement, to two months of arrest.

The trial followed a complaint lodged by a trade union activist notorious for his eagerness to cooperate with the municipal authorities in a variety of “mutually beneficial” undertakings.

Uskov’s supporters reportedly came to grips with local communist leader Aleksandr Negrebetskikh in a People’s Chamber office a month ago, and allegedly threatened him with violence. After a long pause, the MP complained to the police about a “murder threat” he had received.

Meanwhile, Uskov has posted online an appeal to the regional Acting Governor Boris Dubrovsky, describing the criminal charges brought against him as trumped up by “a bunch of blackmailers and provocateurs who have usurped power in Zlatoust” and are now attempting to intimidate him while pursuing their narrow selfish interests. “I know my arrest is imminent, since the investigators are acting in collusion with the judges and prosecutors,” Uskov wrote in his address to the governor. “But justice and my personal fate are not really the points that I want to bring up with you here. My message is that the local administration led by V. A. Zhilin is not only thievish but also incapable: it’s been lying to residents and to the regional authorities about its ‘trying to help’ the laid-off metallurgy workers, while doing nothing to help them in real terms. Unwilling to listen anymore to empty talk and to be fooled around by the local leadership, people have been compelled to stage street protests in hopes the authorities will finally pay heed and start changing the situation in the dying city.”

Earlier Uskov had spent 70 days in a pre-trial prison for his criticism of the previous governor Mikhail Yurevich and the Zlatoust administration before he was acquitted by a court of law.

District administration in Karelia refrains from circulating information about cancelled mayoral elections

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

The authorities in the Kem district of Karelia have been persuading people to drop the idea of electing local government heads through direct and universal elections. Democratic elections of city mayors and district leaders have already been cancelled everywhere in the republic except in the city of Petrozavodsk and the Kem district. That’s where “activist groups” have popped up, determined to “save” the local people “the trouble” of choosing among several candidates. Translating this initiative into reality involves the fulfilment of some formal requirements, including the mandatory holding of public hearings. The district administration’s newspaper has published the official information required in such cases – without, however, explaining anything or initiating public debates over whether or not the local people should be deprived of their right to elect the district head.

The editor of an alternative private newspaper, Vsyo O Zhizni Kemskogo Rayona, positioning itself as an independent media outlet, decided to correct the municipal newspaper’s “forced blunder” and prepared a publication offering a range of views regarding the proposed cancelling of elections. Most “people’s experts” from the number of local residents assessed the district administration’s initiative critically and said they wanted to retain their freedom of choice.

This outwardly “harmless” publication caused a commotion within the district administration, which had sought to keep quiet about the abrogation of elections, at best allowing this topic to be discussed in social networks that exclude senior citizens, who are traditionally seen as the most active voters. Evidently, the district leaders discussed the publication with the municipal authorities in Kem, and the private newspaper’s owner – a local businessman who also happens to be chairman of the City Council – decided to ban the newspaper’s distribution. He did not think it necessary to discuss his decision with the chief editor, which resulted in a conflict and the editor’s quitting work.

The text of the banned publication was posted in a social network, and the very fact of its banning became a topic for a broad public discussion.

The mandatory “public hearings” were held according to the district administration’s scenario again: specially selected people (municipal clerks and employees of government-financed organisations) said they did not want the district head to be elected in the course of direct and universal elections. Their opponents responded by launching a campaign to collect signatures under a petition in support of the democratic election model. The local press has kept silent about that public action …

Tomsk investigators search office of opposition journalist’s wife

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Officials of the Tomsk Region Investigative Department have searched the offices of the company where the wife of Andrei Volkov, a prominent oppositionist and editor of the Novo-tomsk.ru news portal, works.

They were looking for the computer which had been used for posting online a publication that outraged the law enforcers – a story about their framing up three young men for having allegedly beaten and robbed a prosecutor, Volkov told the GDF. They hushed up the fact that the prosecutor had been drunk and bullied the men, thus provoking the attack. “Leaning about this, I decided to make that information known to the public,” the journalist said.

The way Volkov looks at it, the investigators are searching for evidence of defamation, as requested by the above-mentioned prosecutor, who has claimed “insulted”. “They’ve come [to the company] twice, examined all the computers, made protocols of the searches, and walked away finding nothing,” the journalist said. “Now they are taking away computers for a closer study, including the one on which the accounting documents and sales databases are stored – the computer on which the company’s Moscow representative works.”

Volkov sees this as an attempt to put psychological pressure on him.

The Investigative Department has confirmed the fact of searches, calling these “part of an investigation into a criminal case started in connection with an online publication that was damaging to a prosecutor’s honour and dignity”.

 

Computer seized during police search of journalist’s apartment in Rostov Region six months ago may be returned – in 2015

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Olga Melnikova, head of the Belokalitvensky district administration, claimed hurt by a report posted by an unknown author on the Webkalitva.ru news site last summer, which said Melnikova had allegedly replaced the head of a local clinic to make a vacancy for her own husband, whom she had ever since supported and promoted. She reported the publication to the district police department, which identified a suspect, journalist Sergei Azarov, and accused him of defamation under Criminal Code Article 128. On 1 July 2013, police searched Azarov’s apartment for potential evidence.

Belaya Kalitva is a small city, where no newspaper takes the liberty of criticising the district authorities; local journalists prone to criticism publish their writings either in Rostov-based media or in the internet. Azarov contributed to the newspaper Upolnomochen Zayavit, whose editor Aleksandr Tolmachev is now under prosecution (his case is handled by the Kushchevsky district court in the Krasnodar Region), and stories signed by Azarov appeared from time to time on the Webkalitva.ru site. This turned out to be sufficient for the search of the alleged author’s home.

“They seized the system unit of my PC, along with some memory cards and CDs,” Azarov told the GDF. “They have not brought any official charges against me, but the police investigators have not returned my computer up until now. I was questioned by investigator Fateyeva six months ago and told her it wasn’t I who had written the anonymous report posted on Webkalitva.ru. When I turned to the district police for explanations earlier this year, they told me the city police department in Rostov had ‘too many orders’ for expert examinations of computers, so my system unit might at best be examined and returned to me in 2015.”

Meanwhile, Webkalitva.ru has ceased operating as an independent district web newspaper, and the popular web address is now used for publishing private and commercial ads.

Sayanogorsk MPs grow more tolerant to independent press?

By Erik Shikhman, Sayanogorsk, Khakassia

After the Glasnost Defence Foundation listed Khakassia among Russia’s “problem regions” interfering with journalists’ professional work, the situation in the republic has notably improved, and journalists have felt fairly free during the past three years.

However, a recent session of the City Council in Sayanogorsk narrowly escaped falling into disrepute for making yet another attempt to restrict freedom of expression. The council head, Vitaly Sitnikov, urged Erik Chernyshev, editor of the newspaper Karatosh who was covering the session, to switch off his camera – allegedly because his media outlet was not on the list of accredited media.

When Chernyshev reminded the chairman that a journalist needs no accreditation to engage in professional work, Sitnikov raised a protest and asked the editor out.

“You would have to use force to get me out, Mr Sitnikov,” Chernyshev warned.

“Well, what shall we do – call the riot police?” the chairman asked the MPs.

Whether common sense prevailed or if it was due to Sitnikov’s suddenly remembering the governor’s recommendation to treat the press with due respect, but the session continued with the independent journalist’s camera staying switched on – a real show of tolerance to the press by the Sayanogorsk people’s deputies with Mr Sitnikov at the head.

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Adil Soz Foundation’s freedom-of-expression monitor for January 2014

The Adil Soz Foundation, a Kazakhstan-based international freedom-of-expression watchdog, registered a total of 77 reports in its January 2014 monitor, including:

  • Trial began in Uralsk over the suspected mastermind of an attempt on the life of journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov;
  • A prosecutor demanded that the newspaper Pravdivaya Gazeta be closed for alleged administrative law violations;
  • Journalist Zhanna Zuyeva’s acquittal of libel entered into full legal force;
  • Journalist Aleksandr Kharlamov urged a court of law to clear him of the charges of instigating religious strife;
  • A legal claim worth 3 million tenge was lodged against the newspaper Tribuna-Sayasat Ulany.

 

A total of 7 legal claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation were lodged against media and individual citizens in connection with their exercising the rights to freedom of expression and to gather and impart information.

[Adil Soz Monitoring Service report, 27 February]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in February 2014

Attacks on journalists – 3 (Anastasia Mironova, Ekho Moskvy radio station journalist, St. Petersburg; Yekaterina Karakulina, reporter, Chastny Interes newspaper, Perm Region; Nikolai Polyakov, reporter, Pravda Goroda Zlatousta newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region)

Instances of censorship – 9 (Za Doblestnyi Trud newspaper, Kaliningrad Region; Znamya district newspaper, Kurgan Region; Channel One, Rossiya 1, NTV, RIA Novosti, Rossiya 24 television channels, Moscow; Interfax news agency, Moscow; Vsyo O Zhizni Kemskogo Rayona newspaper, Republic of Karelia).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 4 (Dmitry Remizov, RosBalt news agency correspondent, Rostov-on-Don; Andrei Chelnokov, chairman, Novosibirgk Region Journalists’ Union, Novosibirsk; Valery Uskov, journalist, Pravda Goroda Zlatousta newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region; Musa Abadiyev, freelance journalist, Ingushetia).

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 1 (Olga Kuzminykh, chief editor, Znamya district newspaper, Kurgan Region).

Detention by police (FSB, etc.) – 28 (Valery Nechai, Arseny Vesnin and Maksim Yarygin, reporters for Ekho Peterburga radio station, St. Petersburg; Dmitry Zykov, Grani.ru correspondent, Moscow; Olga Zazulya, correspondent, Yabloko na Kubani newspaper, Krasnodar; Andrei Novichkov, Grani.ru correspondent, Moscow; Andrei Zubets, freelance journalist, Moscow; Yevgeny Feldman, Novaya Gazeta photo correspondent, and Anastasia Kirilenko, Radio Liberty reporter – both of Krasnodar Region; Sergei Parkhomenko, Filipp Dzyadko and Veronica Kutsyllo, freelance journalists, Pyotr Parkhomenko, Kommersant FM correspondent, Maria Baronova, Dozhd TV channel reporter, and Yelena Kostyuchenko, Novaya Gazeta correspondent – all six of Moscow; Aleksandr Litoy, RBK correspondent, and Vladimir Romensky, Dozhd TV channel reporter – both of Moscow; Andrei Novichkov, Grani.ru correspondent, Alexei Bachinsky and Yevgeny Ukhmylin, Kasparov.ru staffers – all three of Moscow; Alexei Zakharov, Vedomosti correspondent, Yevgeny Levkovich and Sergei Parkhomenko, freelance journalists – all three of Moscow; Yevgeny Babushkin, newsroom head with Snob magazine – detained in Krasnodar Region; Valery Uskov, reporter, Pravda Goroda Zlatousta newspaper, Chelyabinsk Region; Anatoly Buzinsky, Dozhd TV channel correspondent, St. Petersburg; Andrei Poznyakov, Ekho Moskvy correspondent, Yevgeny Safronov, Gazeta.ru correspondent, and Olga Romanova, freelance journalist – all three of Moscow; Dmitry Golubovsky, chief editor, Esquire magazine, Moscow – detained twice).

Refusals to provide information (including bans on use of audio recorders and video/photo cameras; refusals to provide accreditation; restrictions on admittance to official events held by government bodies, industrial enterprises or state institutions) – 49.

Threats against journalists and media – 1 (CNN office in Moscow).

Disruption of radio/TV broadcasts – 4 (Dozhd TV channel – switched off in Moscow, Blagoveshchensk, Irkutsk and Khabarovsk).

Closure of media – 2 (print edition of Bolshoi Gorod magazine, Moscow; Itogi magazine, Moscow).

Interference with internet publications – 1 (LifeNews TV channel’s website).

Confiscation of/ damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 1 (PC of Dmitry Remizov, RosBalt news agency correspondent, Rostov-on-Don).

Other forms of pressure/ infringement of journalists’ rights – 25.

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Karelian MPs prefer to discuss political issues behind closed doors

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

At the latest session of Karelia’s Legislative Assembly, MP V. Krasulin, a member of the United Russia party, suggested marking the parliamentary factions’ political statements “Miscellaneous” and delaying them until the very end of the session. He explained his suggestion rather unexpectedly, saying that “By that time, almost no reporters will have stayed in the conference room, so we won’t have to worry about someone’s hearing those ‘bitter diatribes’ (usually uttered from the rostrum by United Russia opponents).”

His initiative – which sounded strange, to say the least – might have been left unnoticed but for the active support it received from Governor Aleksandr Hudilainen, who was attending the session. It turned out the governor, too, would prefer political issues to be discussed in the absence of the press.

It should be noted that Karelia’s head has been invariably critical of the republican media’s performance. In few of his public speeches has he left the journalists uncensured for what Hudilainen sees as “the spread of misinformation”, which, in his view, “dominates” the media reports. But then, he has never before gone as far as suggesting that the doors of parliamentary conference rooms be closed to the press altogether.

But then again, this is hardly ever feasible, because Assembly sessions are shown live online (and stored in the parliamentary website’s archives), and because the Government of Karelia, too, shows its sessions in the internet, though without the option of having a recording replayed. In other words, if access to official information were to be restricted, live coverage would have to be terminated – a move Karelia’s authorities would never dare to make because it would run counter to the federally proclaimed course toward greater openness of state and municipal power.

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

Russian Journalists’ Union statement about developments in Ukraine

The Russian Journalists’ Union expresses solidarity with the journalists in Ukraine and supports the Ukrainian Journalists’ Union and the Independent Trade Union of Urkainian Media Workers in calling for the immediate identification and punishment of all those responsible for the violence against journalists which has occurred in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities in the past weeks. Media worker rights violations have reached an unprecedentedly high level: one journalist has been killed, 167 injured, and dozens of others have suffered various attacks; the show of press cards or “Press” breast signs did not protect them from attacks or damage to their professional equipment.

Over that time, journalists from many countries and many media have been beaten up or attacked. It is very important for their colleagues to stand up immediately in their defence, regardless of their citizenship or political positions of their media outlets. One such act of real solidarity was the statement made by Ukrainian professional associations following a Russian correspondent’s beating in Kiev.

We are convinced that everyone responsible for the various forms of violence against journalists will be publicly named and brought to justice. Also, we hope that our professional solidarity and respect for the profession will help us to prevent further violations of journalist rights and to effectively protect media workers regardless of their citizenship, language, or the type of media they work for.

[RJU Secretariat, 26 February]

 

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