29 Мая 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 710

25 May 2015


Independent newspaper editor beaten up in Moscow Region

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The newspaper Pushkinskiy Vestnik on 20 May reported about an assault on its chief editor Mikhail Zubkov, who with numerous bruises, a broken arm and a concussion was taken to the trauma unit of the district hospital in Pushkino near Moscow.

Near his office at about 5 p.m. on 13 May, two sturdy men ran up to Zubkov, grabbed him and forced him into a car. He does not remember what happened after; he came to his senses near his home apartment late at night, severely beaten up.

Police have started a criminal probe. Pushkinskiy Vestnik journalists intend to carry out a parallel investigation, since they believe it was not a robbery case: the assailants did not take the victim’s documents, money, expensive cell phone, or gold neck chain.

Colleagues do not rule out the attack might be ordered by someone of those dissatisfied with Zubkov’s sharply critical publications about the gambling business, embezzlement of budgetary funds, and poorly performing government officials… The editor himself believes “some target of criticism” might be involved in organising the assault, municipal MP Aleksandr Nozdrovsky, who visited Zubkov in hospital, cited him as saying.

That was not the first attack on Zubkov: in October 2006 he was beaten with baseball bats, and prior to that, became the target of a knife attack. Also, he had his cars torched twice. All those crimes remain unsolved, but the chief editor does not intend to change his newspaper’s policies.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely watch the developments in Pushkino.


Two reporters ousted from district court in St. Petersburg

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

In a vexatious incident at the Smolninsky district court in St. Petersburg on 13 May, a judge ordered Fontanka.ru correspondent Aleksandr Yermakov and Nevskiye Novosti news agency reporter Kirill Chulkov out of the courtroom. Not only did zealous bailiffs oust the two journalists; they also made a protocol of administrative offence, which action surprised even the judge.

The parties describe the circumstances of the conflict differently. According to the journalists, they were required to show their press cards, with the presiding judge, Natalya Soboleva, ignoring their references to the law-required glasnost of judicial proceedings or the open character of the specific court sitting that was taking place. The bailiffs then literally booted the reporters out, demanding not only their IDs but also explanations why they had been making audio recordings in the courtroom. They kept the journalists in the bailiffs’ office declining to call the police, while making a protocol charging them with an offence falling under Article 17.3.2 of the RF Administrative Code. Both Yermakov and Chulkov said this puzzled even Judge Soboleva herself, who confirmed that the reporters had left as soon as she told them to.

An official reply to the GDF’s inquiry about the incident, signed by Smolninsky court chairman Valery Tarasov, was terse and generally calmer in its tonality. As it turns out, the judge wanted the journalists only to tell her their names, not to show their press cards – and that only because of the “great social importance of the trial” (over the general director of a tour operator company that went bankrupt last year), and to rule out the presence of witnesses in the courtroom before they gave testimony. The journalists “refused to obey the judge’s lawful order” and “behaved rudely”, Tarasov wrote.

At the same time, he, too, confirmed that the two reporters left as ordered by the judge. Regarding the bailiffs’ behaviour, he advised contacting the St. Petersburg Bailiff Service Department, because “control over their activities is beyond the court’s competence”.

“A [simple] misunderstanding occurred between the judge and the media representatives,” Tarasov wrote in a conciliatory tone toward the end of his message, but followed up – quite unexpectedly – with a fairly strange passage: while confirming the absence of any legal requirement for persons attending judicial proceedings (but not participating in them) to introduce themselves to the judge, “this does not, however, detract from the judge’s right to request such information, if need be”. He did not specify whether or not the two journalists had to answer such a question. Most likely, they might at their discretion, but they hardly were obliged to.

In conclusion, the district court chairman again charged Yermakov and Chulkov with “improper behaviour”, adding that “it is impossible to abide by the provisions of the Russian Code of Judicial Ethics if one of the parties behaves rudely”. As can be inferred from his reply, it was only the two media representatives who behaved “improperly”, which is doubtful.

It should be noted that the incident caused broad public debates in the city. Proceeding from the above-mentioned “great social importance” of the trial, Fontanka.ru has filed legal claims – both against the judge (with the Qualifying Judicial Board) and against the bailiffs.

Chief physician of cardio-surgery centre in Chelyabinsk fined for refusal to provide information

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Stanislav Vakhrushev, editor of the web publication Analiticheskiy Obozrevatel, has filed a complaint informing the prosecutors that the chief physician of the health ministry’s Cardiovascular Surgery Centre in Chelyabinsk has failed – since February – to provide information about the performance of one of the centre’s staff doctors.

In line with the RF Media Law, information must be provided within seven days after it is officially requested. In case this deadline cannot be met, a media editor must be sent a notice specifying the date when such information will be supplied. The cardio-centre’s chief physician fulfilled neither the first nor the second of those requirements.

The Central district prosecutor’s office in Chelyabinsk started proceedings against the negligent medical official under Administrative Code Article 5.39 (“Refusal to provide information”), and a magistrate court fined him 1,000 roubles.

Perm-based journalist and scholar Roman Yushkov amnestied, fully exonerated

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

After the FSB and prosecutor’s office’s nearly 2-year face-off with political writer Roman Yushkov, the Perm regional court on 21 May confirmed the defendant’s right to full exoneration, including a written letter of apology from the prosecutors, and compensation for the material and moral damage he incurred through getting unlawfully prosecuted.

An appellate board amnestied the journalist, scholar and public activist Yushkov, who earlier had been sentenced to a suspended term of imprisonment while cleared of the charges brought against him in the wake of his article “A Fit of Hysteria, Pugachev-Style” published by the regional newspaper Zvezda on 19 July 2013. The GDF reported details of that scandal in digests 621 651 653 656 665 666 and 667.

The Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm on 10 March 2015 sentenced Yushkov, who also is executive secretary with the newspaper Za Cheloveka and an assistant professor at Perm State University, to 18 months of suspended imprisonment with a two-year probation period during which he was to register with the penal service every month. As additional punishment, he was banned from working as a journalist for two years.

While finding him guilty of public calls for acts of extremism (Criminal Code Article 280), Judge Marina Azarenkova acquitted Yushkov of the hate-instigation charges (Article 282) in view of no elements of a criminal offence in his actions.

The way the FSB looked at it, Yushkov broke the law by describing in Zvezda’s “Direct Speech” rubric the circumstances of the 6 July 2013 killing of Ruslan Marzhanov in the town of Pugachev, Saratov Region, and by pointing at his alleged killer, a man born in the North Caucasus. The first criminal case (extremism) was opened on 28 July 2013, the second (instigation of hate) on 13 March 2014. At the regional prosecutor’s office’s initiative, the Motovilikhinsky district court on 30 January 2015 declared the publication extremist and required Zvezda to remove it from its website.

Both parties appealed: Yushkov and his defence lawyers asked for full exoneration, while the prosecutors insisted on cancelling his acquittal under Article 282 and on returning the case for review by a new panel of judges.

Having heard both sides’ arguments, Judge Natalya Kazakova of the regional court’s appellate panel asked Roman Yushkov what he thought about potential amnesty. His answer was short: “I plead not guilty. But if the state decided I could be amnestied, I would not object and would accept that option.”

Judge Kazakova rejected the prosecutors’ plea for cancelling Yushkov’s partial acquittal and applied to him the Victory Day amnesty provision; that was followed by the convict’s release with the expunction of his conviction. This means Asst. Prof. Roman Yushkov is deemed to have no previous convictions and will be able to continue working as a journalist.

Offences under Article 282 are not subject to amnesty, but since Yushkov was acquitted under that article, he now has the right to claim full exoneration. True, he was not sent to jail, but he stayed under a written pledge not to leave town and had to ask the court’s consent even for a trip out of Perm to lead a scientific expedition. Also, his credit card was blocked, leaving his family without bread and butter for some time, Yushkov told the GDF. Now he is entitled to claim state compensation for the hardships he was forced to go through.


Supreme Court confirms administrative sentences passed by district and regional courts against journalist Aleksandr Burakov

Burakov was accused of illegally making media products after seven police officers searched his apartment on 16 September 2014, seizing two notebook PCs belonging to his wife. A search of his parents’ apartment ended in the seizure of two more system units. The officers showed a search warrant saying Burakov co-operated with Radio Deutsche Welle’s website without accreditation. Later the journalist was accused of posting his article “On the Smuggler’s Path: Do Russian Sanctions Work in Near-Border Areas?” on the radio station’s website, which in law enforcement’s view constituted a breach of Administrative Code Article 22.9.2 (“Illegal making of media products”).

Judge Yelena Volkova of the Leninsky district court in Mogilev on 8 October found Burakov guilty of the offence imputed to him and sentenced him to a fine. On 20 November, Judge Mikhail Melnikov of the Mogilev regional court turned Burakov’s appeal down. After Igor Proshko, the regional court chairman, upheld the first two courts’ decisions as fully legal, and in his turn rejected Burakov’s complaint, the journalist on 30 March appealed to the republic’s Supreme Court.

“You as an individual engaged in gathering on the territory of the Republic of Belarus and preparing (making) an information report (material) that you distributed via … the internet, which actually means you worked as a professional journalist on a media product for a foreign-based media outlet,” Burakov read in the 14 May reply he received from Ruslan Aniskevich, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Supreme Court.

The message also said that Burakov, according to a Foreign Ministry info, was not accredited in Belarus as any foreign media outlet’s correspondent, which was found to be a formal ground for disregarding his claims about the absence of crime elements in his actions or an alleged violation of his right to impart information.

“Since no procedural violations have been found that might entail cancelling [prior] court decisions, there is no reason for cancelling any of those,” Aniskevich wrote.

Dissatisfied with the Supreme Court ruling, Burakov intends to bring a complaint before the UN Human Rights Committee. “I have gone through all the stages of strategic litigation at which I might defend my rights in the Republic of Belarus. From the very outset, I had the HRC in mind [as a potential remedy],” the journalist said.

[Khartiya’97 report, 20 May]


Karelia education ministry’s school merger order, although formally published, remains inaccessible

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

In its recent Directive No. 302, Karelia’s Ministry of Education suggested a model for reorganising 61 of the 116 secondary schools operating in villages across the republic. “Reorganisation” in this case means a merger of smaller rural schools into larger ones, offering tuition to pupils from several villages at once. For local children and their parents, this actually is a signal to end their rural life; for the education ministry, it is a way to implement the Karelia governor’s decision on saving budgetary funds. Other ministries and government agencies, too, have received orders to save a total of 1.5 billion roubles from this year’s budgetary moneys, so each has come up with its own how-to suggestions. That is how Directive No. 302 came into being.

This year’s republican budget, originally planned as running a deficit, is altogether unfeasible, of which Karelia’s government no longer makes a secret. The deficit runs up to 5 billion roubles. Lacking money can be borrowed only from commercial banks, but, one, Karelia’s state debt is close to 20 billion as it is and its servicing has long been an unbearable burden on the treasury, and, two, the economic situation in the republic is so desperate that taking on new financial obligations is simply dangerous.

In these circumstances, the government has requested financial help from the federal centre, which agreed to lend the money at the lowest possible interest (0.1% a year), but under the condition that the regional authorities would cut budgetary spending. Hence the 1.5 billion roubles that needs to be saved – on whatever possible. In return, Karelia would get nearly 4 billion in federal assistance that would put the republic in a position to fulfil its social obligations to the population.

The education ministry decided to consolidate rural schools, and to report the funds underpaid to the “optimised” ones as “savings”. The directive was signed and posted on the ministry’s website. Yet finding it there to read what it is all about is next to impossible. It is so carefully hidden within the site content that even an experienced web user would have a hard time getting it out, according to Zinaida Yeflova, Ph.D. (Pedagogy), chairwoman of the Association of Small Schools of Karelia. Although – formally – it has been published for everyone to read, learning which schools are slated for consolidation or when this process is to start is actually impossible.


Change.org news portal calls to sign petition to put Tomsk-based TV2 broadcaster back on the air as initiator of “Immortal Regiment” movement

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A group of activists in Tomsk have announced a new campaign in support of the now-closed TV2 broadcaster. The initiative came in the wake of the 9 May “Immortal Regiment” marches which took place in 1,100 cities and towns throughout Russia and in 15 other countries, including those that some government officials and their PR consultants list among “enemy nations” – in Ukraine, Germany, Britain, Israel, France, the United States, etc.

“Immortal Regiment” actions abroad involved thousands, and those in Russia, where they have become truly popular, over 12 million people. Memory marches in the regions were led by governors, and in the capital, by Russia’s top leaders, including Vladimir Putin.

Activists in Tomsk wanted to remind the authorities and public that it was TV2 journalists who initiated this “Immortal Regiment” movement, leading the first ever separate column of marchers on 9 May 2012, with over 6,000 Tomsk residents responding to the TV journalists’ call to join the action bringing portraits of their family members who fought in the Second World War.

The “Immortal Regiment” then marched through the whole of Russia and through foreign countries, and yet, TV2 was put off the air after two federal agencies – the media watchdog Roskomnadzor and the Russian Television and Radio Network – stripped it of its broadcasting license and frequencies. Tomsk activists who came out into the city streets to hold pickets and rallies of solidarity with their favourite broadcaster are sure it was shut down for political reasons. How else can they explain that the 14,000 signatures gathered in biting frost under a petition to the Russian president have been totally ignored by his administration which has failed to furnish any reply ever since (see digest 706)?

It so happens that those whose initiative has united millions are seen by the Russian authorities as “traitors of the nation” and “the fifth column”…

You are invited to sign the new petition, “Let the ‘Immortal Regiment’ Initiator Live,” on the Change.org news web portal. To date, it has been signed by nearly 1,500 internet users.

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.


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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