Дайджест
27 Марта 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 653

24 March 2014

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Roskomnadzor at war with Russian language

In its 18 March official warning to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (NG) about the need to comply with effective Russian legislation, Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing the sphere of public communications] described a recent NG publication, “Proxy [Server]: A Dodge to Evade Oversight”, as one – sic! – “containing information capable of provoking people to take unlawful action aimed at unblocking access to web resources featuring calls for public unrests, acts of extremism and participation in mass public events, as well as other information banned for circulation by the laws of the Russian Federation”.

One is left to wonder whether Mr M. Ksenzov, who signed this astounding document, can himself make out what it is all about.

Irritation aside, one who were able to force one’s way through this labyrinth of bureaucratic gobbledygook, might finally come to see the main point: Roskomnadzor, which “is empowered to take preventive and repressive action”, wants the story to be removed from the newspaper’s website.

In other words, should an oversight agency official get an impression that some or other publication’s content is “provocative”, he might feel free to take on a censor’s functions.

 

RUSSIA

Accused journalist banned from courtroom in Rostov until end of pleadings

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal Region

During a recent assize sitting of the Kushchevsky district court (Krasnodar Region) in Rostov to hear the case of Aleksandr Tolmachev, editor and publisher of the Rostov-based newspaper Upolnomochen Zayavit, Judge Victoria Ananich upheld the prosecutor’s motion to order the accused out of courtroom.

As reported earlier, Tolmachev, who has stayed under arrest since December 2011, is facing charges of extortion, although he believes the case against him has been framed up in revenge for his numerous publications criticising the region’s law enforcement and judiciary (see digest 580). The RF Supreme Court has passed a decision withdrawing journalist’s case from the Novocherkassk (Rostov Region) city court’s jurisdiction and delegating it to the court of Kushchevskaya village (Krasnodar Region) for handling. This was done at the personal request of the defendant, who doubts the impartiality of Rostov judges. Yet the latest hearing took place at the Leninsky district court of Rostov, where a panel of judges and a prosecutor arrived from Kushchevskaya.

Tolmachev’s defence lawyer, Sergei Yemelyanov, has been on a sick leave for quite some time now, so an alternative lawyer has been formally appointed to represent the defendant’s interests; in reality, however, Tolmachev has been defending his rights himself – and very actively. During each hearing, he has made up to a dozen different motions, accompanying each with a lengthy denunciatory speech. All of his motions have been rejected by the judge, but the trial has found itself dragged out, with not a single witness questioned so far.

Those attending the latest sitting were surprised to hear Maria Vukolova, lawyer for the other two defendants, Galagan and Morozova, suggesting that Tolmachev be sent to Krasnodar for examination by forensic psychiatrists together with his motions and the protocols of court hearings. After prosecutor Kozinov resolutely spoke out against such a move, the judge turned Vukolova’s motion down.

Judge Victoria Ananich had many times reprimanded and warned Tolmachev for his “disorderly conduct” and “contempt of court”. During the latest session, she went as far as ordering the defendant out of courtroom until the end of the parties’ pleadings; she said Tolmachev had “abused his right of self-defence”.

This means the defendant will be re-admitted to the courtroom only to make his last plea.

New legal charges brought against Perm-based newspaper and its author

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

New criminal proceedings have been started in connection with the newspaper Zvezda’s 19 July 2013 publication “A Fit of Hysteria, Pugachev-style” – this time, under Criminal Code Article 282.1 (“Instigation of hatred or hostility, or disparagement of human dignity using the media”).

As reported in digests 621 and 651 , that story by Roman Yushkov expressed the author’s view that “action is needed” to curb the illegal activity of North Caucasian crime rings. On 29 July 2013, the local FSB department started criminal proceedings under Article 280.1 (“Public calls in the media for acts of extremism”) in connection with that publication. On 5 February 2014, Perm Region deputy prosecutor Aleksandr Deryshov asked a court of law to qualify the controversial text as an extremist publication.

Testifying in the Motovilikhinsky district court of Perm on 19 March, Yushkov, who holds a Candidate of Sciences’ degree in geography, said he had never called for extremist actions and only made public the conclusions he had drawn on the basis of his research into the activities of the Vainakh communities (of North Caucasian origin) in the Karagai and Yurla districts of the Perm Region. In response, district deputy prosecutor Marina Sevastyanova suggested reading out a 13 March decision by the Motovililkhinsky Investigative Department on the opening of the new criminal case, which came as a shock to both the defendant and those present in the courtroom. She said the decision was taken based on the results of two forensic linguistic studies carried out by the by the FSB Special Technology Institute in Moscow and the Justice Ministry’s Urals Region Forensic Studies Centre in Yekaterinburg, which both concluded “the publication amounted to public calls for acts of extremism”.

Veronica Trapeznikova, representative of the regional Roskomnadzor department, requested attaching to the case files the results of a legal and linguistic study carried out by the Community of Experts of Moscow’s O. Kutafin State Academy of Law. At the same time, Judge Marina Vyazovskaya upheld a motion by Yushkov and Zvezda defence lawyer Arkady Ivanov to order an alternative study by independent experts. Pending the latter’s conclusions the hearings were adjourned until 10 April for the parties to agree on the choice of experts and the questions to be put to them.

Although both criminal cases were started not against a particular individual but in connection with a publication, some media hastened to call Roman Yushkov a “suspect”, and even “the accused”. Such mistakes are common, since the 19 March hearing was attended, besides the GDF correspondent, by only one reporter. Evidently, most journalists believe they are unlikely to find themselves in the dock – an erroneous assumption, considering the fact that the expert conclusions attached to the case files followed instructions and methodological recommendations worked out by the FSB Institute of Criminalistics and the Office of the RF Prosecutor General. Apparently, the local offensive against glasnost is being coordinated by those at the helm.

Colleagues stand up for their chief editor in Stavropol

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The Board of the Stavropol Region branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union (RJU) has appealed to law enforcement in connection with the recent torching of the car of Alekskandr Yemstov, chief editor of the newspaper Stavropolskiye Gubernskiye Vedomosti.

The appeal says, in part: “The Board declares its solidarity with our colleague. In his publications, Mr Yemtsov has repeatedly and seriously affected the interests of lawbreakers of different levels and ranks. We do not exclude… that the unlawful action against him may be linked to his professional work. The Board of the Stavropol branch of RJU hopes that the investigation of this outrageous action will be entrusted to responsible and qualified law enforcement officials; we will closely follow the process.”

As reported earlier [see digest 652 (rus)], an unidentified man set Yemtsov’s care on fire on 14 March. Police have started criminal proceedings. The victim – winner of the 2013 regional Herman Lopatin Award Competition (nomination “The Best Journalistic Investigation”) – confidently links the criminal attack with his professional activity.

The torching of the editor’s car drew the regional governor’s attention. As he was opening a regular session of the regional anti-terrorism commission a few days ago, Acting Governor Vladimir Vladimirov said, “Some may not like what a journalist is saying. But setting his car on fire is not a way to have the matter out with him. We don’t want a relapse of the [criminal outrage of the] 1990s – we won’t have any of that again. This incident must be promptly investigated.”

 

KAZAKHSTAN

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

The Adil Soz Foundation, a Kazakhstan-based international freedom-of-expression watchdog, registered a total of 91 reports in its February 2014 monitor, including:

  • Newspaper Pravdivaya Gazeta was shut down under a court decision;
  • Channel 5 journalists Lyudmila Batyushkina and Svetlana Dement were accused of defamation;
  • A 3 –million-tenge claim was lodged against newspaper Zerkalo;
  • 20-Shi Bap NGO Coalition appealed to parliament over repressive trends in freedom-of-expression regulation.

Since this year began, a total of 18 legal claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation, and 4 defamation claims have been 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]

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

PDI conference in Siberia: Journalists needn’t feel ashamed of being called “marginal”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The latest conference of the Press Development Institute (PDI), held at the health resort of Sosnovka near Novosibirsk, brought together journalists, public figures and civic activists from many parts of the country to discuss some of the journalistic community’s “burning” problems, such as instruments of fighting corruption; civil society’s potential in controlling the performance of government agencies; the principles of society-NGO-media cooperation in countering corrupt practices, etc.

As public and journalistic investigations were presented, the GDF correspondent in the Siberian Federal District, too, was given the floor. Any genuinely independent investigation, he said, doesn’t start with analysis of statistics or compromising facts, nor with description of some “special” methods of searching for secret information – rather, it starts with ordinary people’s life stories, sometimes really horrific, like the extraction of soldiers’ organs for transplantation. Almost always, it starts with a journalist’s meetings with people who have sought justice for years but have failed to find it – because in this country there is no law enforcement in real terms, and no justice system capable of effectively protecting the man in the street. And as you start digging deeper into these outwardly “private” problems, it turns out there is a well-adjusted system behind them – a system for suppressing and humiliating ordinary people by “government servants” who are presumed to be always right.

Even Novaya Gazeta’s probe into the Magnitsky case – an investigation of a larger scale than any of the most celebrated corruption cases or political scandals of recent years – began with the story of a little-known lawyer brought to death in jail.

An honest investigative journalist in Russia, whether he wants it or not, is compelled to combine his professional work with a human rights defender’s functions, the GDF correspondent noted.

“In my home town of Tomsk,” journalist Zinaida Kuritsyna said, “serious folk laugh softly at human rights activists, calling them holy fools. How should we behave not to be labelled marginal?”

“Nothing to feel ashamed of,” Manana Aslamazyan, a prominent public activist and co-founder of the Press Development Institute, commented. “Indeed, that’s high praise by today’s criteria.”

A reporter’s job therefore is pretty simple: to tell the truth fearing nothing and not thinking about what critics might say or what local “trolls” might write on chat forums. Time will put everything and everyone in their respective places.

Problems facing journalism in Maritime Region

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

For the first time in many years, media community representatives, among them publishers, editors, journalists and press service officials from all across the Far East, met in Vladivostok on 21 March to discuss the agenda of a big media summit scheduled to be held in the Maritime Region capital on 15-16 May.

The issues to be placed on the summit’s agenda were to be selected by the conferees from a wide range of problems facing the Far Eastern media community: ways and means of surviving – a particular challenge for provincial media outlets; how to increase earnings; maintaining a dialogue with the authorities; legal problems attending media performance; social security; corporate ethics; networking methods; mastering new technologies, etc.

The summit is expected to bring together about 600 delegates, more than half of them from the Maritime Region provinces. “It would be impossible to draft an agenda without their participation,” Andrei Ostrovsky, chief editor of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta vo Vladivostoke, said. “Local media’s opinion is important to us, so we’ll appreciate any ideas they may come up with.”

Representatives of district newspapers pointed to funding shortages and understaffing as two major hurdles. “Provincial media have been plagued with all sorts of problems, the worst of them facing the [difficult-of-access northern] district of Terney,” Yuri Shadrin, editor of the newspaper Vestnik Terneya, said bitterly. “Funding shortages are a real scourge: earning money is extremely difficult – no production, no advertisers. The local authorities, too, have stopped working with local newspapers lately.”

“Journalists in the Maritime Region’s north feel isolated from the larger world, so it’s essential to call a meeting of media representatives from throughout the region,” Zhanna Chikrizova, publisher and chief editor of the newspaper Puls-Severnoye Primorye based in the city of Kavalerovo, said. “We are looking to discuss the declining prestige of our profession: for many private media, journalism is just a way to earn money. Of course, understaffing and legal matters need to be discussed, too. And there’s an issue that is crucial to all – how to enhance financial sustainability. We’d be eager to share experience with colleagues to see who earns money and how despite the current difficulties.”

“I as a district newspaper editor am very concerned about local newspapers’ survival and, generally, about whether they are needed at all,” said Yelena Mozerova, chief editor of the Nashe Vremya newspaper based in the village of Chuguyevka. “Surviving without additional funding is very difficult: everything depends on money. Also, we have big problems with personnel, since young journalists don’t want to go to the provinces, so we often fail to find a specialist with the level of training we need.”

Prominent journalist Valery Bakshin, who is now director of the Higher School of Television at Vladivostok State University of Economics and Services, suggested discussing subscription-related problems and the future of local TV.

Those are only some of the issues highlighted by Far Eastern journalists as part of preparations for the first-in-many-years big media summit in the Maritime Region.

Former government official who knew about preparations for Armenian journalist’s killing arrested in Turkey

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Armenian newspaper Asbarez has carried an article about the arrest in Turkey of Ramazan Akyurek, former intelligence chief with the Istanbul police, who, law enforcement believes, knew about the would-be killing of Agos editor Hrant Dink but concealed that information and did nothing to prevent the murder.

As established in the course of a full-scale investigation carried out by police intelligence officers, during his tenure as intelligence head (in 2006-2009) Akyurek erased some very important information from police computers, including a warning about preparations for Dink’s assassination. Earlier (since 2004) he had been police chief in the city of Trabzon and, according to Asbarez, had known that Erhan Tundjel was an accomplice in the crime but had concealed that fact and turned him into a police informer.

Hrant Dink, editor of the bilingual (Armenian-Turkish) newspaper Agos published in Turkey, was shot and killed outside his newspaper’s office in Istanbul on 19 January 2007. On 17 January 2012, an Istanbul court passed a verdict acquitting and releasing 18 suspects in the case; it found their involvement with an armed terrorist group’s plotting and executing Dink’s murder unproven. The main suspect, Yasin Hayal, was sentenced to imprisonment for life, while Erhan Tundjel, charged with guiding the terrorists and planning the journalist’s killing, was acquitted. The direct killer, Ogyun Samast, still an underage youth at the time of the crime, was taken under arrest one day after the murder, and later sentenced to 22 years in jail. Two other suspected planners of the killing – Ersin Yolju and Ahmet Iskender – were convicted along with him, each getting a 12-and-a-half-year imprisonment sentence. Many, however, still believe that the real masterminds of Dink’s assassination managed to get away with impunity.

[Based on NovostiNK.ru reports]

 

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.

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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:
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