Дайджест10 Декабря 2015 года
Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 734
7 December 2015
Story of the week
Event of the week
Glasnost defence foundation
News from partners
STORY OF THE WEEK
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 4 December passed a judgment in the case of Roman Zakharov, Glasnost Defence Foundation correspondent in St. Petersburg and the North-Western Federal District, who asked the Court to declare the Russian system of secret interception of telephone communications and e-mail correspondence (SORM-2) as being incompatible with European standards and norms.
One reason Zakharov turned to the ECHR for fair trial was that reporters’ sources might be disclosed to third parties (including law enforcement agencies), which practice is inadmissible in journalism. The Glasnost Defence Foundation presents an excerpt from an analytical feature by the Legal Information Agency (API) discussing that issue:
“The Russian constitution guarantees the confidentiality of communications and prohibits any violation thereof without a court warrant; other federal legislation contains provisions to the same effect. Actually, though, these provisions are ignored, since internal directives issued by the Ministry of Communications require all operators to install special equipment, SORM (operative search systems), enabling the police and the Federal Security Service (FSB) to eavesdrop – in an uncontrolled manner – on any telephone conversation, check e-mail correspondence, etc. Getting SORM installed is a mandatory prerequisite for an operator to obtain a license to provide any kind of communication service. Significantly, the operator itself is not informed about who or when law enforcement eavesdrops on as it accesses the provider’s equipment with the help of remote-control interception devices.
“In 2003, GDF correspondent Roman Zakharov lodged legal claims against three mobile phone operators – Megafon, Vympel Communications (Beeline) and St. Petersburg Telecom (TELE2). He demanded that they disconnect him from the interception system they were not in control of, and stop violating the confidentiality of communications without first obtaining all the relevant authorisations. In court, representatives of the operators and the regional FSB department (involved in the case as a co-defendant) did not deny that with SORM already installed, law enforcers were in a position to secretly control communication channels. They argued, though, that the claimant would not be able to prove the fact that his rights were ever infringed, since the technology they used ruled out the detection of such violations.
“At a full-time court sitting in Strasbourg in September 2014, Russia’s representatives again pointed to the lack of evidence in the case. Yet the ECHR Grand Chamber acknowledged the claimant’s right to defend his rights even if he was unable to prove the fact of eavesdropping, since any mobile phone operator’s customer might in theory become the subject of secret surveillance. In the judgment it passed, the ECHR stated its conclusion that the interception technology introduced in Russia gave law enforcement the opportunity to bug citizens’ mobile phones without a court warrant, i.e., in violation of the established legal procedure.
“The Court concluded that the Russian legal provisions governing interception of communications did not provide for adequate and effective guarantees against arbitrariness and the risk of abuse which was inherent in any system of secret surveillance, and which was particularly high in a system such as in Russia where the secret services and the police had direct access, by technical means, to all mobile telephone communications.”
For further details, see the API publication at: www.legalpress.ru/view/141
EVENT OF THE WEEK
The results of the 2015 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” were summed up in Moscow on 5 December. The Sakharov Award 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 annual competition was held for the 15th time this year. Earlier, the awards went to Elvira Goryukhina (Novosibirsk), Anna Politkovskaya (Moscow), Galina Kovalskaya (Moscow), Mikhail Afanasyev (Abakan), Igor Naidyonov (Moscow), Anna Lebedeva (Rostov-on-Don), Yevgeny Sholokh (Vladivostok), Tamara Proskuryakova (Kamyshin), Tatyana Sedykh (Khabarovsk Region), Vladimir Voronov (Moscow), Georgy Borodyansky (Omsk), Viktor Shostko (Rostov Region), Yulia Suntsova (Izhevsk), and Igor Tsagoyev (Nalchik).The Jury named the 9 finalists of this year’s competition, among them:
The nominees and winner of this year’s award, selected from the above list of finalists, will be named at a ceremony to honour the laureates, to be held at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow (8a, Nikitinsky Boulevard, Arbatskaya metro station) on 15 December.The 2015 competition attracted journalists from dozens of areas across the Russian Federation, including Siberia, the Far East, the Caucasus, the Volga Region, the Urals, and the Northwest. The winner and nominees will be sent special invitations to attend the festive ceremony in Moscow, where they will receive prizes and diplomas. The Jury’s diplomas will be handed (to those living outside Moscow, will be sent by mail) to each finalist and each media outlet that published the winner’s and nominees’ writings.
By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District
The Leninsky district court in Voronezh on 30 November finished reviewing the Mass Media Defence Centre (MMDC)’s claim against the Ministry of Justice over its listing the Centre as an “NGO performing the functions of a foreign agent”. MMDC representatives tried to prove that their organisation had never engaged in politics, and therefore, its blacklisting as a “foreign agent” was irrelevant.
During the proceedings, which started in August, many media editors, political scientists and linguists testified as witnesses, describing MMDC activities and explaining that the Centre engaged in legal consulting and educational work, but never in politics. Also, an expert study of statements by MMDC Director Galina Arapova was ordered, which was carried out by political scientists and psychologists from Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don.
All supportive evidence notwithstanding, the court upheld the position of the defence and left the MMDC on the “foreign agent” list.
By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District
For the past two years, the Stavropol-based regional newspaper Otkrytaya has regularly published the findings of journalistic investigations into numerous machinations with utility bills by the Stavropol Settlements Centre (SSC) which charged tens of thousands of roubles to impoverished retirees in alleged debts. Due to the newspaper’s efforts, actually all general-jurisdiction courts that reviewed legal claims filed by deceived citizens passed decisions in favour of the victims.
The court which considered a ruinous legal claim lodged against Otkrytaya by SSC Director Svetlana Fomina, who demanded an astronomic amount in moral damages from the newspaper which had allegedly injured her honour and dignity, confirmed the full accuracy of the facts reported by Otkrytaya. Fomina then turned to a court of arbitration, whose judges Aleksandr Churilov and Nadezhda Gladskikh finally awarded her half a million roubles (sic!) in “moral damage compensation”.
Yet the money-thirsty “utility gangsters” and their secret supporters are unlikely to ruin Otkrytaya, whose readers have launched a fundraising campaign to support investigative journalists. Comments on the newspaper’s chat forum include the following:
Otkrytaya staffers have no objections to the fundraising campaign and have promised to report back to the readers on how every donated rouble was spent.
Chief physician of provincial clinic in Chelyabinsk Region claims moral damages from persons suggesting she should give up doctor’s diploma
By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District
Nina Voronina, chief physician of the city hospital in Karabash, Chelyabinsk Region, has lodged an honour-and-dignity protection claim against the newspaper Karabashskiy Rabochiy over its editorial “Optimization, My Foot!”, which the claimant sees as discrediting and demands a disclaimer and 100,000 roubles in moral damages.
Voronina was cited in the editorial as saying in a comment on the results of a campaign to optimize local health care: “As a gynecologist by training, I think shutting down the maternity hospital in Karabash was a very wise thing to do. Prospective mothers should deliver in good, well-equipped hospitals that are staffed with good physicians. Our local hospital equipment is badly worn out, while getting new apparatus is unlikely. And we need nurses working round the clock, but we can’t afford that right now.”
Two weeks later, on 2 October, Karabashskiy Rabochiy published a column in which a group of local MPs responded – quite emotionally – to Voronina’s comment, disagreeing with her assessment of the results of the health care reform.
“It’s odd for a gynecologist to say our women in labour should go somewhere else to deliver, because obstetricians are allegedly better there,” one MP said. Another recommended that Voronina should give up her medical diploma, and a third one recalled “quite a few instances when patients from Karabash were refused medical assistance at other hospitals, or were sent home to bring their own pillows or folding beds”.
Claiming offended by those evaluative judgments, the chief physician went to law. Now the journalists who only cited different opinions for the sake of objectivity will have to waste time attending court hearings.
By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District
Early in November, the city court in Petrozavodsk fined blogger Vadim Shtepa 1,000 roubles for posting on his page in the VKontakte social network a Nazi swastika and a visiting card of the leader of Pravy Sektor, a Ukrainian ultra-right organisation outlawed in Russia. Public demonstration of Nazi symbols or paraphernalia is an offence punishable under Article 20.3 of the RF Administrative Code. Shtepa pleaded guilty and promised to remove the illegal content from his web page.
A month after, the Karelian Interior Ministry’s centre for combating extremism again found “illegal content” on Shtepa’s page in another social network, Facebook. This time, the blogger posted a photo picture of a 19th-century hand-made table cloth featuring solar signs resembling the swastika but actually having nothing to do with it. By the way, his previous posting in VKontakte was an image of hakaristi, the official symbol of the Finnish Air Force, which only outwardly resembled the swastika of the German Third Reich. In Facebook, next to the table cloth, Shtepa posted a photo of a black boy holding the same symbol which is banned in Russia. “They may put me in jail for this,” the blogger guessed – and he guessed correctly. After the clearly provocative publication, he was brought before a court of law that ruled for him to be held under administrative arrest for one day.
During the hearing, Shtepa kept repeating that by posting Nazi-like symbols, he had not meant to promote Nazi ideology and that his note about his possible arrest was ironic. He told the court he had removed his previous post from the VKontakte page (although police claimed the opposite), and that when publishing texts and photos in Facebook, he did not know that the US-based social network, too, fell under Russia’s jurisdiction.
After 24 hours under arrest, the Petrozavodsk-based blogger flew to Berlin to attend a seminar, telling journalists he had not yet decided whether or not it was worth returning to Russia.
By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District
One of several legal claims lodged by the well-known Far Eastern news agency PrimaMedia against Maria Solovyenko, editor and owner of the Maritime newspaper Narodnoye Veche (NV), has been satisfied. The claimant wanted the NV article “On the Media’s Pseudo Fight against Pseudo Corruption and on Abuses of Journalists’ Rights” to be declared as “untrue and smearing”, with 1 million roubles charged to the defendant in moral damages.
Solovyenko challenged the claim by presenting additional evidence and asking the court to question new witnesses and request from the Maritime Region prosecutor’s office additional proofs of PrimaMedia’s unfair and dishonest actions. The court turned her requests down. The defendant further insisted that the facts presented by the claimant remained unproven, while the disputed passages in her publication actually cited the opinions of the readers (who originally appealed to her newspaper for help), so she should not be held liable for publishing this kind of information. Yet the Maritime Region Court of Arbitration concluded that the claim should be satisfied because “the circulation of information challenged by the claimant is deemed a proven fact… that the defendant has not denied”.
The court acknowledged that the author’s statements did contain assertions “negatively affecting PrimaMedia’s reputation and contributing to readers’ negative perception of the news agency as a legal entity that violates the law or employs improper, unethical methods of work that in the final analysis, too, testify to its non-professionalism”. All the texts contained the word “lies”, the court noted.
The court satisfied PrimaMedia’s legal claim by declaring the NV publication untrue and smearing, and by awarding the claimant 70,000 roubles in what it deemed to be “necessary and sufficient” moral damage compensation. It rejected the news agency’s additional claim of 50,000 roubles in judicial cost reimbursement.
GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION
Attacks on journalists and bloggers – 4 (film crew with Pyatnitsa TV channel, St. Petersburg; film crew with TV21 channel, Murmansk; Andrei Temnov, deputy chief editor, BABR news portal, attacked in Irkutsk Region; Aleksandr Kholodov, anchorman, FontankaOffice show, St. Petersburg)
Instances of censorship – 3 (Debri-TV website, Khabarovsk; Channel One, Moscow; Komsomolskaya Pravda website, Moscow)
Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers – 1 (Yekaterina Vologzheninova, blogger, Yekaterinburg)
Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 7 (Maksim Kostyushin, photojournalist, PenzaNews agency, Penza; David Frenkel, photographer with Yod web publication, St. Petersburg; Vladimir Romensky, reporter, Dozhd TV channel, Moscow; Nighina Beroyeva, freelancer, Moscow; Grigory Tumanov, reporter, and Dmitry Korotayev, photographer, both with newspaper Kommersant, detained in Makhachkala; Vladimir Sevrinovsky, freelancer, and National Geographic film crew, detained in North Ossetia; film crew with Ukrainian TV channel STB, detained in Voronezh)
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.) – 34
Threats against journalists, bloggers and media – 3 (Anton Skald, blogger, Nizhny Novgorod; Andrei Temnov, deputy chief editor, BABR news portal, threatened in Irkutsk Region; Aleksandr Sologub, reporter, Delovoy Peterburg, St. Petersburg)
Disruption of TV and radio broadcasts – 1 (Ukrainian media in northern Crimea)
Closure of media – 3 (newspapers Novoye Znamya and Verkhoturskaya Nedelya, both based in Sverdlovsk Region; newspaper Molodoy Dalnevostochnik, Khabarovsk)
Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run – 1 (newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets na Kubani, Krasnodar Region)
Interference with internet publications – 1 (Babr.ru news portal, Irkutsk)
Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video and audio apparatus and computers – 2 (computers of ATR channel, Simferopol; computers of 15 Minut website, Simferopol)
Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 52
By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District
Oleg Novozhenin, a blogger based in Surgut, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, has been convicted of publicly supporting Pravy Sektor, a Ukrainian radical group banned in the Russian Federation, as well as two other “ultra-right Ukrainian nationalist armed groups, Misanthropic Division and the Azov punitive battalion of volunteers,” the Interfax news agency reported with reference to the press office of the Tyumen Region FSB Department. As established by FSB investigators, his page in the VKontakte social network featured extremist videos and an audio file that “promoted racism, violence, and separatist-revolutionary sentiments among youth”. It is not clear, though, how a young hyperborean could become a supporter of this kind of ideology.
As is known, his peers in Surgut lean more toward the Sovest (Conscience) movement that reportedly unites about a thousand locals. Time and again, Urals news websites, among them Ura.ru, report about attacks by Sovest members on “persons with non-Slavic faces”, and some 18 months ago they stirred up a mass fist-fight with North Caucasians that started near a downtown supermarket and ended up in a trauma centre where a wounded Dagestani youth was rushed by an ambulance. Unofficial reports say a total of 15 persons received injuries of different gravity in that incident. The media suggested that the fist-fight might have been a continuation of another one, which occurred five days earlier, between police and North Caucasians, involving about 30 men on both sides.
Although Sovest has more than once claimed to be a supporter of the Russian president’s policies, the Khanty-Mansi District authorities have treated the group more than cautiously of late: in September, they banned its proposed “rally in support of Putin and Crimea”, and on 16 November, “plain-clothes men” drove eight Sovest activists to a police station a few hours before a planned flash mob “against police arbitrariness”. “Law enforcement’s offspring has got out of control,” an Ura.ru source commented.
Whether Oleg Novozhenin fell prey to nationalist ideology by chance or chose it deliberately remains unknown. The city court in Surgut found him guilty under Criminal Code Article 282.1 (“Instigation of hate or enmity, as well as disparagement of a group of people’s dignity based on ethnicity”) and sentenced him to one year in a penal colony. He was detained right in the courtroom. “It is the first time a Russian goes to jail in real terms for social network posts,” Ura.ru noted.
NEWS FROM PARTNERS
The Russian PEN Centre is well acquainted with the work of the Glasnost Defence Foundation, established in 1991 and led by Alexei Simonov ever since, and sees this work as noble, patriotic and constructive.
The ill-conceived, voluntaristic decision to give the Foundation the insulting status of a “foreign agent” encroaches on freedom of expression, which is guaranteed to all citizens of this country by the RF constitution, detracts from Russia’s prestige in the current internal and external situation, complex as it is, and undermines trust in the state. In our view, this wrongful decision, which harms our country, should be immediately cancelled.
We all must unite to meet the new life challenges that our generation has come to face, rather than stick political or ideological labels on one another, thereby sowing enmity among differently-thinking people who love their motherland, wish it the best of prosperity, and do whatever they can to make their wish come true.
Russian PEN Centre’s Executive Committee
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.
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:
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