Дайджест
31 Октября 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 681

27 October 2014


RUSSIA

1. Vice-mayor of Chebarkul claims 1 million roubles in moral damages from news agency

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Alexei Safonov, acting mayor of the city of Chebarkul, Chelyabinsk Region, has lodged a legal claim against the online news agency Ura.ru, demanding 1 million roubles in moral and reputational damages.

The official claims hurt by an interview granted to Ura.ru by Chebarkul resident Aleksandr Kuznetsov, who has now been involved in the case as a co-defendant. Safonov said the interview “undermined my image in the eyes of members of the city administration and residents of the Chelyabinsk Region, and this… is a factor seriously complicating my professional work which I value so much”.

In his interview, Kuznetsov harshly criticised Safonov, as well as his boss (the mayor of Chebarkul) and the city administration as a whole, for letting negligent community service providers put the city on the verge of decay. His purely evaluative opinion was recorded on a Dictaphone, and the man is ready to repeat it in court.

Meanwhile, journalists have stressed the point that Safonov’s business reputation which he “values so much” includes three convictions. In March 1992 he was convicted under Criminal Code Article 158 (“Theft”), pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of correctional labour. In 1998, he was put on trial again: together with a friend, Safonov, threatening a creditor with violence, stole his car along with its documents in broad daylight. That time, he managed to get away with impunity due to an amnesty. In 2006, as director of the Alternativa housing management company, he was sentenced to one year in a penal colony for underpaying more than 4 million roubles in taxes.

Despite his criminal record, he was invited to work as an official with the Chebarkul administration. The prosecutor’s office tried to get him fired, but Mayor Andrei Orlov himself dismissed Safonov – and instantly re-employed him to fill the acting vice-mayor’s vacancy. 

Over the past month and a half, two criminal cases have been started against Safonov on charges of bribe-taking – 700,000 roubles in one episode, and 3.5 million in the other. Police detained him and tried to put him into a pre-trial prison, but he was released on 1-million-rouble bail. And now, with three past convictions and new likely trials on corruption charges ahead, the mayoral official is not hesitating to file a legal claim in defence of his “impeccable” business reputation! Evidently, he sees this as a way to recover the million roubles he had to pay in bail. 

Photojournalist’s work obstructed outside Moscow mayor’s office

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

As activists were holding a picketing action outside the Moscow mayor’s office on 22 October to protest the launch of a “point construction” project at 4, Dmitrovsky Proyezd, journalist Dmitry Florin came to report on the event. When a lady protester, a placard in hand, took a place near the central entrance to the mayoral headquarters and Florin started taking photo pictures of her, some police officers walked up to him and ordered that he switch the camera off.

One officer said special authorisation was required to take pictures of the mayor’s office. Moreover, he said, a Bulgarian delegation was visiting the mayor at the moment, and Florin was forbidden to photograph it, too, because he might be “up to something nasty”. The officer concluded his “lecture” by warning the journalist about his legal liability for disobeying a law enforcer’s orders.

It was only with the help of Yabloko Party leader Sergei Mitrokhin who was attending the protest action that Florin could finally calm the policemen down. Together with Mitrokhin, he asked the officers to show written documents prohibiting photography of the mayor’s office from the direction of Tverskaya Street.

To put an end to the bickering, Florin switched on his camera and demanded that the officers explain to everybody what was going on. The policemen hastened to bury their faces in their collars and walked away. They did not disturb the reporter anymore.

On the following day, Florin had a phone call from someone who presented himself as Yevgeny Loshak and said that Florin’s photo report about the protest action, posted on Yabloko’s website, included a picture of civic activist Alyona Popova.

According to Loshak, Popova stood at the mayor’s headquarters entrance as a participant in another action – against the unlawful evacuation of cars by police from Moscow streets; therefore, Florin had to remove her photo from the website, the caller said.

“If he’d asked me politely to remove the photo, I’d have done that for him,” Florin told the GDF. “But since he talked to me, for some unclear reason, in a commanding tone and pretty rudely, I will not take away any photo pictures from the website – especially now, 24 hours after they were posted.”

The caller threatened to sue, but heard in reply that Popova was a participant in a socially significant event held in a public place, while Florin was doing his job as a reporter in full compliance with the Media Law; therefore, he would not make any changes to his photo report, the more so after as rude demands as those he had heard from Loshak, and that he was ready to see the man in court.

Regional branch of Roskomnadzor again loses in court to OmskPravo news portal

See digest 670

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Omsk Region department of Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications] has again failed to prove in court that the news portal OmskPravo unlawfully disclosed confidential information. As reported in digest 670, the oversight authority attempted to get administrative proceedings started against the website owner, Aleksandr Grass, in the wake of his publishing an article about orphan children whose uncle at the time was under investigation on suspicion of committing a serious crime against the kids.

Their full names were mentioned in the text with the consent of their other relatives (an aunt and her mother); OmskPravo also insisted that there was no reason for accusing the uncle, which view was later confirmed by a court of law that pronounced the defendant not guilty, noting that the charges against him were entirely based on the testimony of the children’s grandfather, who had been their tutor for the previous six years, all the while pocketing the government support money paid to the orphans.

Without digging deep into the situation, Roskomnadzor issued an official warning to OmskPravo and initiated administrative proceedings against its owner and author for his alleged violation of Article 4.6 of the Media Law, which stipulates that “A media outlet shall not have the right to disclose… information leading to the identification of minors who have suffered as a result of felonious maltreatment”. The oversight agency, however, turned a blind eye to the reservation below: “…unless the disclosure of such information aims to protect the rights and lawful interests of the minors concerned”.

A justice of the peace found that OmskPravo’s publication fell under the effects of that exception, since the author’s goal was to return the children from an orphanage where they had been sent by mistake into their family. Yet Roskomnadzor challenged the decision before the Central district court, which reviewed and rejected its appeal a few days ago. The prior ruling thus entered into full legal force.

Now OmskPravo’s lawyers have every reason to challenge the official warning issued by Roskomnadzor.


BELARUS

Journalists Ales Lyubenchuk and Maria Artsybasheva detained in Minsk

Journalists Aleksandr (Ales) Lyubenchuk and Maria Artsybasheva were detained as they were shooting a televised interview with politician Vladimir Neklyayev in Minsk’s Melezh Street at about 2 p.m. on 21 September, the Belarussian Journalists’ Association’s press service reported.

“A police officer who happened to be passing by overheard Neklyayev speaking Belarussian, decided to ‘show vigilance’, and demanded that we all present our documents,” Lyubenchuk said.

According to him, the three detainees were then taken to the Sovetsky district police station, where officers again checked their documents and claimed to view the footage they had shot.

After an hour at the police station, the politician and the reporters were released, with no protocols of offence made against them.

[BelNovosti news agency report, 21 October]

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OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Law enforcers in Vanino, Far East, deliberately shield lawbreakers

By Tatyana Sedykh, editor, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye, Vanino township, Khabarovsk Region

After I appealed to President Putin at a news conference in December 2013, a targeted persecution campaign was organized against me in the media, subjecting me as a physically challenged person to deliberate insults and mockery. 

An action group involving supporters of those law enforcement officials and members of the Khabarovsk Region administration whose performance I critically characterised at the presidential news conference has created a special website to discuss my appeal to the president, my behaviour, and my work as a journalist – in a manner that flagrantly violates all thinkable ethical norms, using insulting statements and black humour jokes to jeer at my disability; they even invited a mock psychiatrist to “analyse” my behaviour. All those unseemly activities have been conducted online anonymously. 

I complained to the “K” division of the regional Interior Ministry Department asking to identify the website contributors so I could file a legal claim against them, but several months have passed and my complaint is still lying unanswered. Meanwhile, I have received a reply from the regional prosecutor’s office reading as follows: “As established, the FSB Department for the Khabarovsk Region has studied materials pertaining to your complaint about some persons circulating online statements that allegedly ‘insult’ and ‘smear’ you. Analysis shows that the web domain you mentioned, which is hosted from Moscow, was registered in the name of an individual. Identifying those administering that Internet resource and controlling its content would be impossible without carrying out a set of operative search measures. However, in line with Article 7 of the Federal Law “On Operative Search Activities” of 12 August 2014, there are no legal grounds for ordering such measures in your case.”

Despite this evident red tape and the authorities’ unwillingness to publicly name the perpetrators, I am determined to insist that the necessary operative search measures be carried out, after all. I want this done not only to protect my own honour and dignity but also to bring to justice those who – by jeering and scoffing at me – humiliate all the disabled people, for whom every new day marks a new stage in their fight for the right to live a full-fledged life, whatever ordeals they may meet.

Three regional branches of Russian Journalists’ Union meet in St. Petersburg to discuss plans for the future

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The heads of three regional Journalists’ Unions – of Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Krasnodar Region – met with colleagues, politicians and public activists in Russia’s “northern capital” on 21 October to discuss the continued “creeping offensive” against freedom of expression in this country.

A frank and open exchange of opinions revealed that many journalists are frustrated to see a lack of solidarity within the media community that thwarts reporters’ efforts to resist the growing government pressure.

Going beyond self-criticism and government-blaming, the conferees suggested specific steps to improve the situation. First, agreeing that inaction leads nowhere, they suggested establishing an association of regional journalistic organisations that – in contrast to the all-Russia Union of Journalists – would effectively lobby professional interests in the process of interaction with government bodies.

Second, with the help of media-friendly regional MPs (specifically, members of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly), they could initiate abolishing or amending some of the media-repressing laws passed recently. Moreover, St. Petersburg MPs Marina Shishkina and Maxim Reznik have already prepared three such amendments with the help of regional journalists, have had them verified by parliamentary legal experts and heard by the Culture Committee. The draft amendments are to be put to the vote shortly, although, as both parliamentarians and journalists agree, expecting them to be passed by the Legislative Assembly would be too optimistic. Yet doing nothing would be still worse.

Third, journalists voiced to the representatives of [media oversight agency] Roskomnadzor who came to attend the conference their disagreement with some of the agency’s actions. Officials “habitually” responded that theirs is the function of “media oversight, not media assistance”. Yet the parties agreed to boost their bilateral information exchanges.


NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” draws to a close

The 2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is drawing to a close. The deadline for submitting works for this year’s contest 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.

ICFJ offers two-week study course for Russian journalists

The Russia-U.S. Young Media Professionals Program, organised by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), offers Russian journalists a two-week program of internship with American media. A group of eleven trainees will be formed on a competitive basis to participate in the program, which is sponsored by the Press and Culture Department of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and will take place in the United States on 9-27 February 2015. The program’s goals include developing professional relationships, friendship and mutual understanding among journalists in different countries.

For further details, please contact Bob Tinsley (btinsley@icfj.org) or Alan Morro (amorro@icfj.org).

Applications will be accepted until 16 November. To fill out the application form, click on www.tfaforms.com.


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