Дайджест
22 Октября 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 677-678

13 October 2014


EVENT OF THE WEEK

International conference in Macedonia discusses journalist security

A conference held in Skopje, Macedonia, on 6-7 October under the auspices of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) discussed ways of strengthening journalist security and ensuring effective protection of journalists’ rights.

The event brought together representatives of journalistic associations from Belarus, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The conferees discussed security issues and methods of protecting journalists’ rights, with special focus on eastern Ukraine, where reporters’ work has become exceedingly risky because of the ongoing military conflict. The participants stood in a minute of silence to pay tribute to all those killed in that conflict.

The conference also discussed the situation resulting from the departure of some journalists from the sphere of reporting to that of propaganda. Speakers noted this trend has been observed not only in Russia but in neighbouring countries, too.

The discussion revealed that journalists all across Eastern Europe are facing similar problems: censorship, threats against journalists, their prosecution and targeting. In this connection, the conferees pointed to the need for using existing databases on media rights violations in order to substantiate campaigns to protect the press. They were presented the “Media Conflicts in Russia” database compiled by the pooled efforts of the Glasnost Defence Foundation, the Russian Journalists’ Union, and the IFJ (see mediaconflictsinrussia.org).

The participants acknowledged the need to unite efforts in defence of the journalists targeted for violence, and stressed the importance of permanent action against impunity which encourages further crimes against media workers, and the need to call law enforcement’s attention to instances of pressure on reporters, including by filing official inquiries with the relevant agencies in different countries.

As part of the conference programme, the conferees held an action of solidarity with Macedonian journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, who has been held under house arrest for disclosure of “classified” data. They signed a petition calling for the journalist’s release.

Also, representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the IFJ agreed to carry out joint research into how the conflict in eastern Ukraine impacts journalists’ work in our countries, and to jointly release a journalist security guide.


RUSSIA

Court in Omsk cancels media holding manager’s orders depriving journalists of the right to work

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Dmitry Pominov, general director of the media holding Omskaya Pravda, after finding himself unable to “optimise” the company’s work by firing the staffers who feel unhappy about his management policies, has decided to reduce the presence of each of those people in the office to a minimum – one hour a day instead of the normal eight hours. He cut down their salaries proportionately – to about one-eighth of the usual pay rate.

Specifically, his orders amending existing work agreements say that correspondent Yevgeny Orlov, for example, must work from 2 to 3 p.m., and website editor Yevgenia Karasyova, from 9 to 10 a.m., without the right to stay longer. During that working hour, they are allowed to fulfil tasks set by the management, and in the event of no such tasks set, to not do anything at all. To save their boss the trouble of meeting them in person, they must send him memos asking for instructions as to the day’s – or rather, the hour’s – work load, and wait during the same hour for official orders to be issued and signed by the media holding head.

This has been the work mode at the region’s largest newspaper for the past two months for four staffers from the number of those who openly protested against Pominov’s innovations which we described in digests 647 and 657. Specifically, with Pominov’s coming to the company, many new positions appeared on the payroll, such as “content manager”, “general division head”, “contract manager”, “information support service head”, “information support service specialist”, “PR director”, etc. While performing rather vague functions, all those managers received much higher pay than writing journalists did. The company’s trade union managed to prevent the dissenters’ firing, while attempts to fire union activists were disrupted by lawyers from the regional trade union council. The media holding director then decided to deprive his opponents of the right to work.

They responded by filing a legal claim against Pominov, and a court of law a few days ago found his orders to be unlawful, because they “artificially reduced the work load” and “made it impossible for the staffers concerned to fulfil their duties”. The decision, though, has not yet come into effect and may be challenged before the higher-standing regional court.

Film crew attacked in Vladivostok

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Maritime Public Television (OTV) reporters have been attacked by a Lexus driver who threatened one journalist with murder and attempted to use force against him.

As an OTV film crew was returning to the office after fulfilling an editorial assignment, they came across a Lexus off-road vehicle parked right across one of the city’s busiest streets, on a pedestrian crossing. Undisciplined driving being an acute problem in Vladivostok, OTV covers it on a permanents basis, and this time, too, the journalists decided to act there and then. When OTV newsroom chief Daniil Makarychev reprimanded the Lexus driver for creating a traffic jam, the man reacted inadequately.

“He drove after our office car, which carried the film crew, all the way to the OTV premises; once there, he got out of the Lexus and walked up to our group, threatening me with murder and the others with ‘burying them’ that same evening,” Makarychev told the GDF. “Then he attempted to start a fistfight, swearing badly at us. Naturally, we reported the incident to the police, asking to start criminal proceedings against that driver.”

Everything that was happening, along with the Lexus’ licence plates and the stranger’s face, was recorded by OTV security cameras.

Maritime Journalists’ Union President Viktor Sukhanov sent Maritime Region Prosecutor Sergei Besschasny a message reading as follows:

“Regrettably, instances of aggression against journalists are not rare today. Reporters are subjected to both psychological and physical pressure. We have already asked the prosecutor’s office to take this case under special oversight, because the circumstances of what happened – a murder threat and unprovoked aggression against a film crew while on an editorial assignment – make this conflict a particularly dangerous anti-social deed.”

That was by far not the first attack on journalists working for PrimaMedia, OTV and AutoRadio. In a similar situation in 2011, a PrimaMedia reporter was attacked by a Toyota Land Cruiser driver, who beat him up and attempted to break his camera only because the journalist had taken a picture of his vehicle. A columnist with the business newspaper Zolotoi Rog had a Molotov cocktail bottle thrown at him. And a VBC radio journalist Alexei Sadykov was ruthlessly beaten up. Yet, according to GDF research, in most cases of these kinds, charges of interference with journalists’ professional work are later re-qualified as less serious criminal offences or else end in nothing, as happened in the case of a Moscow riot police squad that has never been brought to justice for beating journalists and breaking their equipment on the eve of New Year holidays in Vladivostok’s central square in 2008.

Discussing the latest attack live on OTV a few days later, journalists and lawyers agreed that the main thing is to make sure cases of these kinds go all the way to court in order to prevent those encroaching on journalists’ rights from getting away with impunity.

Journalist in Sverdlovsk Region remains staunch in the face of threats

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

After Maxim Rumyantsev, a special reporter for KRIK-TV and head of public relations at the Public Centre “Business against Corruption”, had his private bathhouse set on fire and burnt down, he alleged this criminal act might be linked with his investigation of the performance of Vladimir Morozov, mayor of the township of Atig.

As the Ura.ru news agency has reported, Morozov already had a conflict with Rumyantsev last December, when a film crew was working outside the local administration headquarters, shooting video sequences of one of the streets that the authorities had ordered to plough up with a tractor to prevent dacha owners from accessing their cottages. Morozov at the time refused to give any comment and scurried away from the cameras.

It should be noted that local residents have many questions to the mayor. One is why Morozov ordered to spend budgetary savings on the purchase of a truck for carrying metal, worth 3.5 million roubles. It is really not clear why buy such equipment for a township with a population of 3,500, where the yearly budget does not exceed 18 million to 20 million roubles.

The Nizhneserginsky district prosecutor’s office has asked for legal proceedings to be started under Criminal Code Article 119 (“Threatening a person with murder or grievous bodily damage”). The reference is to chat forum messages (“You’re a dead man”, “We’ll burn you”, etc.) addressed to Maxim Rumyantsev. The prosecutors challenged the police refusal to start criminal proceedings and demanded that an additional check-up of the facts be carried out. The local police department repeatedly refused to start an investigation even despite the conclusions provided by the Special Technical Procedures Bureau at the Sverdlovsk Region Interior Ministry Department, which traced down the author of those insults and threats.

“The account of the user nicknamed ‘Kirill’ was administered from the IP address issued in the name of V. Strunin, but administration officials have not even been questioned in connection with the local chat forum publications which originated from IP addresses at the administration headquarters in Verkhniye Sergi,” the results of the check-up revealed. Yet the Nizhneserginsky district police chief has not searched for the suspected offender’s whereabouts since February. And he needn’t do so: everyone knows that Vladimir Vitalyevich Strunin is the Verkhniye Sergi township head of administration, whose unseemly deeds Rumyantsev has repeatedly highlighted in his media reports.

[Based on Ura.ru news agency reports]

Court in Kursk Region partially satisfies MP’s legal claim against newspaper

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Rylsky district court in the region of Kursk has completed the hearings of a legal claim lodged by Vladimir Klevtsov, speaker of the City Duma and director of a road construction and repairs company, against the local newspaper Rayonnyye Budni and its chief editor Valentin Ketsmanov.

Klevtsov and the company he owns, Rylskoye DRSU, lodged their claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation after a series of critical publications carried by the newspaper. Klevtsov filed his claim with the local district court in March, and the company with the regional court of arbitration in April. The amount the claimants wanted to be paid to them in moral and reputational damages totalled 8 million roubles.

The arbitration court in August turned DRSU’s claim down (see digest 670), and shortly afterward the Rylsky district court considered Klevtsov’s personal claim (worth 4 million roubles). Of all the phrases challenged by the claimant, the court designated as “untrue and smearing” only one: “It’s common knowledge that DRSU director V. N. Klevtsov issued orders banning the movement of OOO Spika’s heavy equipment to assist the city’s community services.”

In line with the court decision, Rayonnyye Budni is to pay Klevtsov 20,000 roubles in moral damages for that phrase, and for the words princeling and Klevtsovism which “disparaged the plaintiff’s honour and dignity”.

Court in Rostov-on-Don sides with whistle-blowing local newspaper

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Rostov-on-Don on 6 October concluded the hearings of a legal claim lodged by Alexei Yermakov, general director of the regional Centre for Animal Disease Treatment, against the local newspaper Molot which published an open letter in which a group of Rostov-based veterinarians criticised Yermakov.

The letter’s authors highlighted some problem areas in the regional veterinary medicine and warned about the potential consequences of inaction. Seeing the publication as “untrue and smearing”, Yermakov demanded a disclaimer and a symbolic 1 rouble in moral damages (see digest 669).

Yet the court took the defendant’s side, describing the critical publication as one of major interest to the public, and stating that all the passages being challenged by the claimant were either well-justified or evaluative. Yermakov’s claim was rejected in full.

The defendant’s interests were represented in court by defence lawyer Olga Voronova from the Voronezh-based Media Defence Centre.

Mayor of Petrozavodsk, Karelia, at law with journalists

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

The media outlets which mentioned Petrozavodsk Mayor Galina Shirshina among those who allegedly had access to “black money” during elections will have to stand before a court of law for spreading the “sensational news”.

Toward the end of September’s election campaign, Nikolai Tarakanov, a candidate for a seat on the City Council of Petrozavodsk, called a news conference to make public “financial documents” pertaining to last year’s elections of the city head. From the documents presented to the press, it followed that in 2013, as she was running for the mayoral post, Shirshina allegedly had access to a “black fund” handled by a local businessman, Vassily Popov, who was also the leader of the republic’s branch of the Yabloko Party and then-head of Shirshina’s election campaign team.

Journalists wrote reports about the news conference, and one media outlet published the “black books” received from Tarakanov. The list of persons who allegedly received money from the illegal fund was rather lengthy, and Shirshina’s name was on it, too. Yet in contrast to others, Shirshina, who had won the mayoral elections, immediately turned to the city court in Petrozavodsk to lodge a legal claim against Tarakanov, who had “belied” her, and against two online news outlets, Karelinform and Respublika, which had felt free to “spread rumours” undermining her public image. She demanded 1 million roubles in moral damages from each of the defendants, and that the media concerned should publish disclaimers and remove the “libellous” publications from their website archives.

Commenting on the situation to journalists, Popov said this judicial story would likely have a continuation, with more suspected users of the “black fund” identified. Asked by the GDF if he could confirm the authenticity of the fiscal documents he presented, Tarakanov said he intended to do that in court. Hearings are scheduled to begin later this week.

Trade centres not entitled to ban use of cameras by reporters (Karelia)

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

A public group acting as a civil rights watchdog in Petrozavodsk, while conducting a public investigation, was shooting video sequences at the Sigma hypermarket. Upon seeing this, the market management attempted to stop the recording and forbade the use of photo and video cameras inside the hypermarket under the threat of using force against the activists.

The latter complained to the city prosecutor’s office, which checked the facts and decided that the market administration was not empowered to ban the use of cameras. Sigma’s general director received an official warning. The prosecutors announced that in line with the RF Civil Code and the laws “On information, informational technologies and information protection” and “On the protection of consumer rights”, anyone is allowed to take photo pictures and shoot video sequences inside trade centres throughout Russia.


BELARUS

Freelance reporter to pay 5-odd million Belarussian roubles in fine

Belarussian freelancer Andrei Meleshko has been sentenced to a fine in Grodno for “illegally issuing and distributing information products”.

The Grodnensky district court on 7 October found Meleshko guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 22.9.2 (“Illegal issuance and distribution of information products”) and sentenced him to 5,250,000 Belarussian roubles in fine, the Belarussian Association of Journalists (BAJ)’s press service reported.

This is already a second administrative case opened against Meleshko this year. In June, the Oktyabrsky district court in Grodno fined him 4,500,000 Belarussian roubles for a material he contributed to Radio Racyia, a Polish radio station beaming to Belarus.

The BAJ made public a statement last week, pointing out that it is already the ninth instance this year of a journalist held liable for work for a foreign-based media outlet without accreditation. Six other journalists have received official prosecutorial warnings for similar practices. The BAJ urged the authorities to discontinue administrative proceedings against the freelance journalists concerned, and to stop putting pressure on them for contributing to foreign-based media.

[Salidarnasts newspaper report, 7 October]


GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

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

Attacks on journalists – 11 (Artyom Aleksandrov, ZAKS.ru news agency reporter, St. Petersburg; film crew with Revizorro TV news show, attacked in Krasnodar Region; Yuri Romanov, editor, Sibirskiy Gorod newspaper, Irkutsk Region; Ilya Onegin, Vzglyad-Info correspondent, Saratov; Ksenya Batanova, chief producer and anchorwoman, Dozhd TV channel, Moscow; film crew with Precedent TV show, Novosibirsk; film crew with BBC Moscow office, attacked in Astrakhan; Damil Makarychev, newsroom head, Maritime Public Television, Vladivostok; Viktor Tarasov, reporter, Voskresensk.ru news portal, Moscow Region; Dmitry Florin, freelance journalist, Moscow; Dmitry Kiselyov, cameraman, Super.ru news portal, Moscow).

Instances of censorship – 6 (Mayak newspaper, Vladimir Region; Lada FM radio station, Samara Region; Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda newspaper, Khabarovsk, censored twice; CTC channel, Moscow; Novy Region news agency, Yekaterinburg).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 8 (Sergei Kovalchenko, chief editor, Telegraf news agency, St. Petersburg; Aleksandra Skochilenko, correspondent, NGO Nablyudateli Peterburga, St. Petersburg, detained twice; Dmitry Shipilov, Newskuzbass.ru news website correspondent, detained in Moscow Region; Aleksandr Sotnik and Maria Orlovskaya, freelance journalists, Moscow; Mikhail Fedorov and Yelena Zabolotnykh, correspondents, Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge newspaper, St. Petersburg; Orkhan Jemal, Forbes correspondent, detained at Domodedovo Airport, Moscow; Anton Naumlyuk, correspondent, Versiya-Saratov news agency, Saratov).

Refusals to provide information – 89 (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).

Threats against journalists and media – 7 (Raufa Rakhimova, publisher, Bonus newspaper, Ufa; Igor Tupalsky, founder, Telegraf news agency, St. Petersburg; Ilya Onegin, correspondent, Vzglyad-Info news agency, Saratov; film crew with Vesti-Novosibirsk news show, Novosibirsk; Mikhail Fedorov and Yelena Zabolotnykh, correspondents, Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge newspaper, St. Petersburg; film crew with Maritime Public Television, Vladivostok; Dmitry Kiselev, cameraman, Super.ru news portal, Moscow).

Ejection of publication etc. from its premises – 1 (newspaper Avdet, Crimean Republic).

Closure of media – 1 (VOT TV channel, St. Petersburg).

Interference with internet publications – 6 (Zavuch.info, Moy Rayon, Nablyudateli Peterburga, Zaks.ru websites, all based in St. Petersburg; Russia Today website; Vladtime.ru website).

Release of duplicate, i.e., rival, newspapers – 1 (Ploshchad Mira newspaper, Moscow Region).

Confiscation of/ damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 6 (video camera of Revizorro TV show, Krasnodar Region; computers of Listok newspaper, Gorno-Altaisk; photo camera of Ilya Onegin, reporter for Vzglyad-Info news agency, Saratov; video camera of Precedent TV show, Novosibirsk; video camera of BBC Moscow Office, damaged in Astrakhan; video camera of Voskresensk.ru news portal, Moscow Region).

Administrative pressure (unplanned inspections by sanitary, fire, tax inspectors, etc.) - 1 (Sintez-TV television/radio company, Krasnodar).

Other forms of pressure/ infringement of journalists’ rights – 26


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
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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