Дайджест
7 Августа 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 716

3 August 2015

RUSSIA

Parliament speaker in Jewish Autonomous Region threatens journalist with violence

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Anatoly Tikhomirov, chairman of the Jewish Autonomous Region (JAR) Legislative Assembly and leader of the regional branch of the ruling United Russia party, has threatened with violence a journalist performing his professional duties.

Here is what Vladimir Sakharovsky, editor of and reporter with the newspaper Golos Birobijana, recalls about that incident:

“When a regular session of the JAR Legislative Assembly is over, an MP traditionally comes out to meet with the journalists gathered in the lobby near the grand hall on the third floor of the regional administration headquarters. As a rule, the MP would be a representative of the ruling party; actually, in 90% of cases, he would be none other than Mr Tikhomirov himself. The event is called the ‘press approach’ in the journalists’ slang. Each reporter is supposedly free to ask the interviewee any question about Assembly work. Indeed, it would be silly to neglect the opportunity to ask the regional parliament speaker some interesting question in front of the working cameras and voice recorders. That is why I always try to attend Anatoly Tikhomirov’s ‘approaches’ to the press. There’s one problem, though: the Assembly chairman has demonstratively ignored my questions since November 2013. He just won’t answer, and that’s that! The other attendees from the number of my so-called fellow journalists will keep mum in such situations, forgetting all about professional solidarity. As for me, I consistently attend each of those journalistic ‘get-togethers’ with Tikhomirov to ask him questions! I just go there and ask! And, of course, I make recordings and notes, doing this outwardly senseless work at least to keep my conscience clear. If all the others are keeping silent, there must be someone to ask ‘inconvenient’, sensitive questions. This time, I asked Tikhomirov: ‘When will the people regain their right to elect the city mayor?’”

It was this question, repeated by Sakharovsky several times, which caused the speaker to fly into a rage. The journalist did not get any answer. The briefing was declared closed, and already in the corridor, Sakharovsky heard Tikhomirov swearing badly behind his back and growling, “You’re lucky I haven’t changed my office yet. Otherwise, you’d be lame in both legs… Look here, I will make you a cripple!”

“I won’t sue Mr Tikhomirov for threatening me because I wasn’t too polite to him, either,” Vladimir Sakharovsky told the GDF. “I took the liberty of commenting on his manner of ignoring certain questions and called his meetings with the press ‘get-togethers’… Actually, I was partially to blame for provoking his outburst of rage… I’ve punished him in a different way by telling this story in my newspaper and by posting it on the website, with an attached recording and transcript of his threats. For many a year, the local press he controls has done its best to create an irresistibly brilliant image of Mr Tikhomirov. Let the people see his real face now.”

Court in Tomsk leaves blogger Vadim Tyumentsev in pre-trial detention for yet another month

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Kirovsky district court in Tomsk has again extended the term of arrest for blogger Vadim Tyumentsev, who already has spent three months in a pre-trial detention centre and is to stay there until 28 August as a minimum.

Tyumentsev, a highly popular frequenter of local chat forums and social networks, is accused of “public calls for acts of extremism” (Criminal Code Article 280) and “instigation of hatred or enmity” (Article 282). The charges against him were advanced back in February, after the regional FSB department and Investigative Committee identified as “instigating” two of his video addresses posted on Youtube – one calling for “expulsion of Lugansk and Donetsk refugees from Tomsk”, the other for “a peaceful blockade of city streets in protest against the lawless behaviour of fixed-route taxi drivers”. Faced with two lawsuits started against him, he wrote in his LiveJournal blog: “I deeply regret the form in which I expressed otherwise sensible ideas”.

As we reported earlier (see digest 707-708), the court later toughened the restraints imposed on Tyumentsev – from a written pledge not to leave town to custodial placement. His defence lawyer Anton Ivanov insists law enforcement was not justified in extending Tyumentsev’s pre-trial custody term which expired in April, because in line with the criminal code, that is possible “only in the event of a particularly difficult investigation process”, which is not the case here, since there is only one accused person, two or three witnesses (Tyumentsev’s roommates in a rented flat), and no victim at all. Nor has the blogger harmed anyone by his chat forum postings, except, as it turns out, himself.

The investigators, however, failed to finish analysing the content of his two 3-minute video addresses within the 3-month time limit established by law; first, they claimed two additional months, then three, then four more. A linguistic expert conclusion Ivanov received on 29 July said that “The texts under study contain statements calling for hostile action against groups of persons designated as ‘the ruling circles’, ‘faggot MPs’, and ‘Lugansk and Donetsk region residents’; as well as negative assessments of the Tomsk Region governor, Tomsk mayor, and ‘the person referred to as the President of Russia’.”

In his blog in the social network VKontakte, Anton Ivanov also published the results of Tyumentsev’s examination by psychologists and psychiatrists, who concluded that the patient is mentally sound, while “displaying some signs of a mixed identity disorder”. During his time in custody, Tyumentsev has spent 25 days in an isolation ward because of a conflict with the prison administration. Currently he is busy reading the case files.

Former regional prosecutor in Stavropol accuses journalist of libel

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The reason for Valery Kalugin, a former regional prosecutor turned MP, to file a libel lawsuit against journalist Anton Chablin was the latter’s report on the Kavpolit.ru news website about the resumption of legal proceedings against Kalugin in connection with a three-year-old traffic fatality.

Kalugin ran his car over tractor driver Pavel Kazarin, 57, on Kavkaz Highway three years ago, and escaped from the scene of the accident. His damaged car was soon found parked near his mansion in Kislovodsk. The car owner, taking some time to contrive a version, claimed he hadn’t seen the victim and thought he had knocked down a dog. That notwithstanding, he was accused under Criminal Code Article 264.3 of a traffic rule violation that by inadvertence ended lethally. The regional Investigative Committee thrice suspended the criminal proceedings, but each time the regional prosecutors insisted on their resumption. Finally, in February 2014, the investigators said the ex-prosecutor was not to blame for the fatal accident because of “limited visibility and the absence of road signs prescribing the drivers to slow down” on the relevant section of the highway. The Leninsky district court in Stavropol earlier this year declared the prosecutor’s office’s latest decision [on keeping the investigation going] null and void and closed the proceedings against Kalugin altogether. Yet the higher-standing regional court cancelled that ruling and ordered re-opening the criminal case.

Satisfied that the regional judges mustered up enough courage to acknowledge and rectify their mistake, journalist Anton Chablin wrote an article reminding the readers of what federal and regional media had written about Kalugin over the years: why he was dismissed from service and how he then became a regional Duma deputy elected from the United Russia party’s list of nominees; that he never repented as an inadvertent killer and never apologized to the victim’s widow; how he continued leading the Duma’s Committee on Legitimacy until its members threatened to resign in protest against having to work under a guilt-stained boss; how stubbornly he clutched at his post and wouldn’t allow the signboard with his name to be removed from his office door; and how United Russia’s Political Council expelled him from the party ranks, after all. In conclusion, the journalist cited the Stavropol Region governor as saying about Kalugin: “He’s been urged a dozen times to give up his mandate. What has Kalugin been actually doing? He’s been undermining and discrediting our government system!”

Although the article featured virtually no new information, MP Kalugin filed a legal claim with the Investigative Committee accusing Chablin of libel. The committee started a check-up, requiring the Kavpolit.ru chief editor to provide full information about the author, including his employment status, employer’s references, Chablin’s address and phone number, as well as “the actual time and place of the article’s posting, with the IP address specified” and with “details about how and where Mr Chablin gathered information, and how it was subsequently verified”.

If only law enforcement would show comparable zeal in identifying high-ranking officials guilty of causing traffic fatalities!

Ex-MP in Perm claims 14 million roubles for “misuse” of his photo and video images

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Konstantin Okunev, director of the management company Dobrynya, is also known in Perm as the founder and a former co-owner of the same-name shopping network. In 2011, he resigned as a shareholder in ZAO Dobrynya, a company uniting 17 shopping malls in Perm and elsewhere, and in 2014 another firm, RS-Dobrynya, was registered at the former company’s address, with Okunev’s son, Igor, figuring as one of its co-founders. Since the beginning of 2015, the company has been shutting down its shops and firing personnel. When the UralInform TV broadcaster gave a group of laid-off workers a chance to speak live on the air, some said it was Konstantin Okunev who was to blame for the shopping network’s disintegration.

Okunev Sr., who is an ex-deputy of the regional Legislative Assembly, instantly turned to the prosecutor’s office demanding the start of legal proceedings against UralInform on libel charges, and filed against the journalists a legal claim in defence of his honour and dignity. The Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm has already held two hearings, during which the plaintiff’s lawyer Victoria Butorina has twice corrected the amount of claimed compensation upwards, raising it on 28 July to a total of 14 million roubles. She argued that the TV/radio company had unlawfully used K. Okunev’s photo images made during a news conference, and video footage he had posted on his page in Facebook.

“Starting on 26 May, the defendant has harassed Okunev on a weekly basis, linking his name to problems with which he had nothing at all to do, and using his images in connection with events absolutely unrelated to Okunev,” Butorina said.

Konstantin Okunev is a public figure, Dmitry Kazhin, UralInform deputy director in charge of legal affairs, noted, reminding the court that the news conference at which the disputed video sequences had been shot was held to highlight the Okunev’s establishment of a public group called Vybor (Choice). “The footage shows that the group’s leader, Mr Okunev, clearly has nothing against posing for the cameras,” Kazhin said. “By posting his photos in Facebook, he actually issued a ‘global license’ to use his images.”

Having heard both parties’ arguments, Judge Tatyana Oprya allowed time for the defendant to react to the plaintiff’s expanded claim, and appointed the next hearing for 21 September.

A meaningful detail: K. Okunev’s newly-established group involves Viktor Begun, ex-mayor of the town of Osa, who was sentenced in 2011 to a suspended 30-month term of imprisonment for masterminding, and for aiding and abetting, an attempt to set on fire the home of a local journalist, Pavel Verenkin, whose comments for the television channel KTV-Inform on Begun’s mayoral race the would-be mayor happened to dislike. Still as a mayoral candidate, Begun hired an arsonist, a certain Yevgeny Shibayev, in the city of Tchaikovsky for 5,000 roubles, drove him in his personal car to Verenkin’s house, and picked him up after the place went ablaze. Fortunately for the journalist, a taxi driver who happened to be driving by spotted the fire early enough to call the fire brigade and thwart a graver misfortune.

Magazine editor in Khabarovsk, before dying, blamed all his misfortunes on regional Press Committee

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Konstantin Kostevsky, a man well known in and beyond the Khabarovsk Region, died of a heart attack on 6 July. A prose writer and poet, author of the anthem of Khabarovsk, a scholar of regional history and member of the Russian Geographic Society, he was a professional journalist and chief editor of the Far East’s first-ever tourist magazine, Turne, which could be found in many Far Eastern airliners and trains, at government presentations, and at international exhibitions. The magazine was more than once issued in Chinese, Japanese, and English.

Thanks to its high status, the publication in 2013 received from the regional administration a grant for the release of some promotional material. However, that money – which the editor said he had worked off with a vengeance – turned out to be fatal for Kostevsky and his periodical. Claiming that the grant recipient had failed to fulfil his contractual obligations in full, the regional Press and Mass Communications Committee started a litigation to claim back its funds.

According to the late journalist, who was a committed Christian, the Press Committee simply deceived him: it asked Kostevsky – orally – to make a special edition dedicated to the 2013 Student Games, but after it was released (Turne, No. 6 (62), on 123 pages of A4 format), the editor was shown the official contract which did not mention any special edition at all. As a result, he was held liable with all of his property, including his apartment and car. Finding himself without the money even to rent a flat in Khabarovsk in a bid to stay and try to start his business anew, Kostevsky left for his birthplace, Crimea, to live in a shelter for poor people. His friends continued defending his interests in Khabarovsk courts. He wrote an appeal to the judges, but his defence lawyers were denied the chance to read it out in court. It still circulates in social networks and is perceived as Kostevsky’s posthumous plea. The former editor wrote that he had devoted his whole life to serving his homeland and fellow citizens as an educationalist and enlightener, as confirmed by the numerous awards he received from Governor Ishayev, regional Culture Minister Fedosov, and Mark, the Metropolitan of Khabarovsk and Amur Region. Yet the Press and Communications Committee represented by its chairman, Mr Chernyshov, and its deputy chairman, Mr Grigoryev, dealt a lethal blow to his business reputation by trumping up charges against him and thereby turning him into a pauper with no family, he wrote.

The first-instance court upheld the Press Committee’s claim, and the Far Eastern Arbitration Court turned Kostenko’s appeal down.

GDF has already written about passions flying high over promotional grants in the Khabarovsk Region (see digest 713-714). Rigma.info editor Ksenya Isayeva, who lost her case in a first-instance court, is still hoping for success in an appellate court, while Amurburg editor Oleg Potapenko, upon losing in a court of primary jurisdiction, fled to the United States, where he requested political asylum. More recently, police searched the regional Press Committee headquarters and the home of its chairman Vladimir Chernyshov. According to one version, they looked for documents related to the Khabarovsk Regional Printing House, whose director is suspected of involvement in a major fraud scheme. Chernyshov’s committee is registered as that company’s founder.

The Khabarovsk Region administration has so far refrained from commenting on the situation.

Radioactive furniture seller’s moral damage compensation claim turned down in Kursk

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Kursk Region Court of Arbitration has passed a ruling on a legal claim lodged against ZAO Golos Zheleznogorska, publisher of the newspaper Ekho Nedeli. As we have reported, the newspaper carried a February article, “Poisonous Furniture Harms Family”, which said that experts found a source of increased gamma-ray emission in a furniture set that Zheleznogorsk resident Nina Kurnosikova had purchased in a private shop run by businesswoman Klavdiya Tolsykh. The claimant believes that her daughter’s and her own health problems, as well as her husband’s sudden death, have all resulted from this radioactive irradiation. A magistrate court recently reviewed Kurnosikova’s claim and awarded her 60,000 roubles in compensation from Tolstykh (see digest 709).

Ekho Nedeli’s article appeared already after the magistrate court decision entered into full legal force, and yet Tolstykh, finding the publication “untrue and smearing”, demanded its removal from the news website, a disclaimer, and a total of 500,000 roubles in moral damages from the defendants.

The arbitration court, however, found that the statements challenged by the claimant were either true to fact or evaluative. Some paragraphs in the article did not directly relate to Tolstykh and hence could not be identified as damaging to the furniture seller’s business reputation. The court rejected Tolstykh’s claim in full on 2 July.


GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in June 2015

Journalists’ deaths – 1 (Yevgeny Morin, Ukraina.ru correspondent, died in Moscow Region)

Attacks on journalists – 3 (Revizorro film crew, attacked in Omsk; Irina Buchelnikova, member of MVD press pool, and Yevgeny Lobanov, 66.ru correspondent, both of Yekaterinburg; Lyubov Korsakova, chief editor, Lugansk-based newspaper Voskhod, Rostov Region)

Attacks on media offices, TV stations – 1 (newspaper Rodnaya Niva, Ivanovo Region)

Instances of censorship – 3 (website of radio station Ekho Moskvy, Moscow, censored twice; newspaper Chekhov Segodnya, Moscow Region)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers – 2 (Ilya Azovsky, chief editor, newspaper Pravda Severo-Zapada and news agency Pravda Severa, Arkhangelsk; Irina Girsh, chief editor, analytical news bulletin Realnaya Khakassiya, Abakan).

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 1 (Konstantin Goldenzweig, NTV correspondent, Moscow)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 8 (Ilya Azovsky, chief editor, newspaper Pravda Severo-Zapada and news agency Pravda Severa, Arkhangelsk; Viktor Korb, chief editor, PolitOmsk.ru news website, Omsk, detained twice; Denis Styazhkin, freelance photographer, Moscow; Natalya Zotova, Novaya Gazeta journalist, Moscow; Grigory Pasko, director, Investigative Journalism Support Centre, detained in Kaliningrad Region; Irina Girsh, chief editor, analytical news bulletin Realnaya Khakassiya, Abakan; Anna Gritsevich, Caucasian Knot news agency correspondent, detained in Sochi, Krasnodar Region)

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 31

Threats against journalists and media – 4 (Yelena Milashina, Novaya Gazeta observer, Moscow; staff of Biznes-Kursk weekly, Omsk; Alexei Frolov, editor, Novaya Gazeta office in Ryazan; Andrei Murinovich, general producer, Realny Tagil TV channel, Sverdlovsk Region)

Disruption of TV and radio broadcasts – 1 (Ekho Peterburga radio station, St. Petersburg)

Interference with internet publications – 4 (website of Ekho Moskvy radio station, Moscow; website of St. Petersburg Union of Journalists, St. Petersburg; news websites Forpost and SevNews, both based in Sevastopol)

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video and audio apparatus and computers – 1 (video camera of Revizorro film crew, in Omsk)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 37


OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Karelia Supreme Court questions federal Media Law

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

What does a journalist do when having a point to bring up with the authorities? He goes to the relevant government agency and asks questions orally or lodges a written inquiry – this is the ABC of journalism. The right to inquire for information is guaranteed by Article 47 of the RF Media Law, which entitles journalists to search for, request, receive, and impart information. It would seem with a law provision formulated as clearly as that, there is nothing to argue about, the less so to file legal claims over. Yet Antonina Kramskikh, a journalist with the newspaper TVR-Panorama, quite unexpectedly for herself and, as it turns out now, for her colleagues as well, recently found herself in a dispute with judges who called her right to request information

into question.

It all began with the Legislative Assembly speaker’s failure to duly answer her inquiry about the distribution of housing provided by Karelia’s parliament for its deputies. His purely formal reply did not suit either Kramskikh or her editor. When she asked the speaker the same question again, the “housing topic” started turning into a completely different theme, creating a situation in which the journalist was compelled to defend her professional right to seek information.

The impasse lasted for about six months. Having failed to receive the requested information from parliament or find justice at the republican prosecutor’s office, the journalist turned to the Petrozavodsk court in a bid to defend her rights, but her legal claim was rejected, which decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Karelia, whose judges did not find that an official body’s refusal to provide information at a journalist’s request constituted a violation of the Russian Media Law. Kramskikh’s inquiry, they argued, was typewritten on her newspaper’s official letterhead, which meant only her media outlet, not the reporter herself, might claim hurt, even though the inquiry was signed by Kramskikh in person.

By the judges’ logic, she acted on behalf of her newspaper (as confirmed by the letterhead), and therefore, any personal claim on her part was irrelevant as one filed by “an outsider”. Actually, the Supreme Court confirmed the Petrozavodsk court’s ruling denying Kramskikh a right to go to law on her own behalf, without a power of attorney issued specially for the purpose by her newspaper’s management.

In stating so, the Supreme Court actually deprived the journalists of their right to file inquiries or, if need be, to personally defend their professional interests in court. In our view, such an interpretation of the Media Law, formalized as a court decision, is a violation of federal legislation and an encroachment upon the journalists’ lawful rights. The law does not specify that journalists must request information or defend their right to receive it only indirectly, through their media outlets. On the contrary, the Media Law article establishing the relevant norm is titled appropriately: “The Journalists’ Rights”.

Antonina Kramskikh now intends to challenge the decision passed by Karelia’s Supreme Court, with all of her newspaper’s staffers fully supporting her.


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