13 Августа 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 669

11 August 2014


General Prosecutor’s Office and Roskomnadzor ban social media’s commenting on “Federalisation March” in Siberia

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Federal oversight agencies have taken steps to prevent any online discussion of “Siberia’s Federalisation March”, a civic action originally scheduled for 17 August but banned by the General Prosecutor’s office and Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications] as one allegedly “undermining the Russian Federation’s constitutional system and territorial integrity”. The prosecutors ordered the blocking of the action-dedicated web pages in the VKontakte and Facebook social networks, while Roskomdanzor warned 14 web news sites that had carried announcements of the planned march about their potential “liability for involvement in extremist activity”, after which those ads were erased.

This ban on information drew even greater public attention than the action itself: the topic was picked up and passed on by other media in Russia and Ukraine, with the latter attempting to present it all as Siberian people’s decision to break away from Russia. The march’s organisers then had to explain that they were pursuing goals that had nothing to do with separatism – on the contrary, they wanted to “bully” the authorities supporting acts of extremism in Lugansk and Donetsk. Besides holding up Russia’s propaganda rhetoric to derision, they also wanted, quite seriously, to remind the authorities and fellow citizens that this country, in line with its constitution, is a federal state, in which the regions are entitled to political independence; and to “highlight flaws in the established system of budgetary fund distribution among the regions”, activists told the news agency SibInfo.

The organising committee of the cancelled march included artists and musicians renowned for their creativity and social activeness, among them Artyom Loskutov (initiator of widely-known “monstrations” [fancy-dress street marches with placards featuring outwardly absurd phrases that often convey ironic and critical messages – Translator.]), Konstantin Yeryomenko, Sayan Andrianov and others, who have long cherished the idea of a “Siberian autonomy” – but strictly within the Russian Federation borders, which, as they’ve repeatedly stressed, rules out any talk of “law-breaking” or “separatism”.

Bloggers have described the federal agencies’ reaction as excessive. “In a word, it’s schizophrenia, pure and simple… Looking at all this, one may think Siberia is really pressing for separation. Nothing of the kind! In a country called ‘the Russian Federation’, guys were just planning a march calling for federalisation – that is, for more money to stay in, and more power to be delegated to, their region,” blogger Alexei Navalny commented.

Quite unexpectedly, Viktor Kozodoi, a former vice-governor of the Novosibirsk Region, agreed with them by writing in Twitter: “By taking ‘administrative measures’ against the march’s organisers and online media, officials again have blown a topic up to the whole of Russia, showing our city in an unfavourable light… This makes me want to repeat the well-known question: ‘What’s this – stupidity or treachery?’”.

As expected, the Novosibirsk mayor’s office banned the proposed march, citing a need to “secure the inviolability of the constitutional system, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian Federation”.


Media holding in Maritime Region disables news-comment apps on its news websites

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

PrimaMedia, the largest news agency in Russia’s Far East, disabled the news-comment applications on all of its news websites on 1 August, the day when the so-called Bloggers Act entered into full legal force. PC users, though, are still able to post their comments in social networks.

PrimaMedia’s legal adviser Galina Antonets commented: “Our media holding removed the news-commenting options from its websites in line with the so-called Bloggers Act (Federal Law No.97-FZ of 5 May 2014, ‘On Amendments to the Law on Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection’), which took effect on 1 August. It requires the web servers to keep all user data for a period of six months, and to submit these data to the police at its request in cases where comments with illegal content are found. Therefore, many web resources have chosen to shut down their chat forums and eliminate the news-commenting capacities in order to protect themselves and their readers. Not only does the new law define who a blogger is and what their rights and liabilities are – it also introduces a new notion, ‘operator of web-circulated information’. This category embraces those web-based periodicals and online media which are technically equipped to receive feedback from readers in the form of real-time comments posted on their websites and on related chat forums. At that, the news outlets are required to collect and keep information on the users posting comments on servers based in the Russian Federation, and to submit this information to competent agencies on demand.”

“However, PrimaMedia readers can always post their news-related comments using social networks,” Antonets noted reassuringly.

The new law also requires bloggers with daily readerships over 3,000 to comply with a set of restrictions similar to those established for the media. For example, popular bloggers and blog servers will have to register with Roskomnadzor or with law enforcement agencies, if required to.

So far, not all of the Maritime Region media, including online ones, have shut their chat forums down.

District court in Rostov starts reviewing three criminal cases against journalist and blogger Sergei Reznik

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Reznik is facing charges of filing an a priori false report with the police about Maj. Glinkin of OBEP, special police force against economic crime, and of insulting two other officials – Mr Klimov, a Rostov Region former deputy prosecutor, and Maj. Ishchenko, deputy chief of the regional police department’s unit “E” (for countering economic crime) (see digest 665). The Leninsky district court in Rostov on 11 August held a preliminary hearing, closing the door to the public and the press. The indictment is to be read out at the next hearing, the date of which is still unknown.

In July, Reznik became part of an international human rights action in support of prisoners of conscience, held in Cottbus, East Germany.

“The organisers made iron cages symbolising prison cells, with attached photo portraits and case stories of jailed rights defenders, and put those structures along the street leading to the former GDR detention centre for political prisoners, now rebuilt into a memorial,” the blogger’s wife, Natalya Reznik, told the Bloknot-Rostov news agency. “A human rights activist sat locked inside each cage; they thus expressed their solidarity with jailed colleagues. One activist, Mr Hafen, spent several hours in a cage in defence of Sergei Reznik.”

Meanwhile, another criminal story has been unfolding in Rostov in connection with Reznik. An investigator with the Leninsky district police department has refused to start legal proceedings against a man suspected of stealing money raised via the internet in assistance for the blogger’s family and in payment for his lawyers’ services.

Voluntary donations were transferred to a special bank account, but one of Reznik’s former colleagues, Maxim Afonin, in whose name the account was opened, never handed the money over to the journalist’s wife. This fact was reported to the police by one of the contributors, human rights activist Ms Tolmacheva, who transferred to the bank account the 3,000 roubles she and her friends and colleagues had chipped in. Her personal contribution was only 400 roubles; this gave the investigator the opportunity to play it cool, saying that the threshold amount of damage for starting criminal proceedings on suspicion of fraud was 2,500 roubles. Tolmacheva has already complained about this to the district prosecutor’s office.

Perm FSB’s attempt to prosecute edit or for “extremism” entitles him to claim exoneration

See digests 621, 651, 653, 656, 665, 666, 667

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Sergei Trushnikov, chief editor of the regional newspaper Zvezda, is entitled to claim full exoneration and damages from the authorities now that an official decision has surfaced, dated 26 May 2014 and signed by Sergei Vodyanenko, a senior investigator with the Perm Region FSB’s investigative department, “lifting all charges” against Trushnikov in view of his “having committed no crime” falling under Criminal Code Articles 280.2 or 282.1.

As can be gathered from that decision, criminal proceedings against Trushnikov (No. 9021-13) were started on 29 July 2013, ten days after his newspaper carried the story “A Fit of Hysteria, Pugachev-Style”, whose author Roman Yushkov, an assistant professor with the State Scientific Research University of Perm, was later accused under the very same two code articles, which envisage criminal liability for calls for acts of extremism and for using media to instigate hatred or enmity, or to disparage human dignity (see digests 621, 651. 653, 656, 665, 666 and 667).

The five-volume case files included a protocol of Trushnikov’s questioning as a witness, dated 5 August 2013. “I personally edited the original text of the article,” Trushnikov was recorded as saying. “I changed the title and edited out a few harsh-worded phrases. No one else edited the text… I bear full responsibility for that publication both as editor and as a journalist.”

Another document directly concerning Zvezda’s leader is the above-mentioned decision by police Capt. Sergei Vodyanenko. A passage on page 2 reads as follows: “There is no evidence convincingly proving that Trushnikov was aware either of Yushkov’s intentions or of the content of his article. It has not been established for certain that Trushnikov ever read the text of Yushkov’s article in full, understood its meaning, and deliberately decided to act feloniously. Based on the presumption of innocence, which prompts to interpret all doubtful points in favour of the person in question, and in view of no evidence obtained during the preliminary investigation that would be sufficient for bringing charges against him, this Criminal Case No. 9021-13 against Trushnikov shall be closed as provided for by Article 24.1.2 of the RF Code of Criminal Procedure – in view of no constituent elements of offence in his behaviour.”

The GDF’s turning to Zvezda‘s chief editor for comments caught Sergei Trushnikov by surprise. He said he knew nothing about such a decision, and asked if he could have a copy of it for himself.

Putting aside the fairly important question of how a witness can at all be turned into one under criminal prosecution, let us read Chapter 18 (“Exoneration”) of the RF Code of Criminal Procedure. Article 133.5 is dedicated to “other cases of moral damage compensation, subject to handling by civil law courts”. Since Trushnikov was never involved in Yushkov’s case as a suspect, accused, defendant, or convict, he is now in a position to lodge a civil claim against Russia and demand material and moral damage compensation, as well as an apology from the prosecutors for their having unduly handled him as a criminal in the dock.

Rostov-based newspaper accused of libel after publishing critical open letter

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Rostov-on-Don is reviewing a legal claim in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation lodged against the newspaper Molot by Alexei Yermakov, director of the regional Centre for Animal Disease Treatment. The claim was filed in the wake of Molot’s publishing an open letter in which a group of Rostov-based veterinarians highlighted some problem areas in the regional veterinary medicine, described specific problems and their causes, suggested possible solutions, and explained potential threats to the region’s population.

The newspaper decided to publish the letter, considering it to be important not only to veterinary specialists but also to the regional public at large. Exercising the media’s right to keep their sources confidential, the editor decided not to disclose the authors’ names.

The claimant wants Molot to disclaim a number of passages in the publication – specifically, descriptions of some actions that the authors say he took as Centre director, and their allegations about his being “the ‘face in picture’ in dog food commercials”, “the owner of [numerous] centres and clinics for pedigree dogs”, and one who “rejects livestock breeding in the Rostov Region as a ‘futile’ business”. Also, Yermakov claims a symbolic 1 rouble in moral damages.

The court hearings started on 5 August.


2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The jury of the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues accepting works submitted for this year’s contest. The deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2013 and October 15, 2014 in Russian print or online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

For further details about the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, click on www.gdf.ru.

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637-4947.

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