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12 Февраля 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 742

8 February 2016

STORY OF THE WEEK

Labour inspectorate in Rostov-on-Don resumes Media Law observance

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Less than a week after we reported in digest 741 about the Rostov Region Labour Inspectorate’s refusal to reply to an inquiry filed by the newspaper Bolshoi Rostov, that agency reviewed its policy of interaction with the media.

It all began with staffers of several utility companies in the Kirovsky district complaining to Bolshoi Rostov about their management’s wage arrears to them, into which the labour inspectorate had already looked by that time. The newspaper requested information about the check-up’s result, but the inspectorate refused to provide it, citing the Personal Data Protection Law as the reason. The refusal was signed by the agency’s lawyer Yulia Semchuk. Yet as early as 5 February, Bolshoi Rostov received another, this time appropriate, reply signed by the region’s chief labour inspector, Nikolai Fedyanin, who, “having additionally considered the newspaper’s request and the publication in the GDF digest”, reported that the check-up of utility workers’ complaints had resulted in their management fined a total of 85,000 roubles for different violations of labour legislation.

Better late than never, as the old saying goes, the more so because if they had already carried out an inspection and identified – and even punished – the violators, why conceal this information from the public?


EVENT OF THE WEEK

Court in Rostov Region refuses to release blogger Sergei Reznik on parole

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Kamensky district court in the Rostov Region on 2 February rejected jailed journalist and blogger Sergei Reznik’s plea to be released on parole. A Federal Penal Service official told the court that Reznik had “not yet been fully set back on the right track” and had behaved “non-positively”.

Lawyer Oleg Frolov said the defence would appeal, because the court had taken a purely formal stance on the issue and had committed some procedural violations. Specifically, the defence had not been offered the case files for study, which made it impossible for the defence lawyer to find out what specific objections the penal colony management had to the defendant.

The Kamensky court decision and the Penal Service’s position caused a wave of protests both from the news agencies that published the news report, and in social media. Most commentators, by way of comparison, highlighted the case of Valery Budayev, a former judge and division head at the regional administration, who was amnestied in honour of the 70th anniversary of the World War II Victory after running his car in a state of intoxication over Dr Vladislav Smirnov, a professor of the Institute of Philology, Journalism and Intercultural Communication at Southern Federal University, who died in that road accident.

“One has to run somebody over amid a crowd of watchers, or plunder half an army – then they’ll probably give him a medal as well,” one of the most “politically correct” commentators wrote on a chat forum. “Hold on, Sergei! Very many people here sincerely want to see you out of prison, and soon!”


RUSSIA

Head of mayoral Information Policy Department in Magadan sues Twitter user

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

As it turns out, exchanging views in social networks may result in a lawsuit lodged against a person – but only if that person is a journalist.

Magadan resident Natalya Alekseyeva took part in online debates over the personality of Oleg Dudnik, former director of one of local institutes, who is rumoured to have established, with assistance from a regional MP, a “conveyor” system to issue forged diplomas for individuals who do not wish to attend classes but are ready to pay. Since this group purportedly includes hundreds (sic!) of municipal and law enforcement officials, judges, etc., no legal proceedings have ever been started against the former director.

Although several persons participated in that Twitter chatting, Mr Dudnik, who is incumbent head of the Information Policy Department in Magadan, sued only Alekseyeva, evidently because she is a reporter for the newspaper Argumenty I Fakty-Magadan.

Word for word, the passage which made the official’s blood boil read: “I can’t get it how a person who has embezzled millions of roubles can be head of the Public Chamber. I refer to Dudnik, who has already been replaced as institute director, but the investigation is not yet over.”

As can be gathered from that quote, Oleg Dudnik combines the department head’s position with that of the head of the city’s Public Chamber. He was one of its co-founders, has been re-elected four times, and has even been awarded with the Gold of Magadan honorary badge as a token of public recognition of his “significant contribution to civil society development”.

The GDR will closely follow the developments.


Son of English lord loses in court to Perm-based Kompanyon Publishers’

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region Court of Arbitration on 3 February turned down a legal claim lodged by the Port of Perm against Kompanyon Publishers’ Ltd., asking to declare several phrases published by the latter in the newspaper Novyi Kompanyon and on the NewsKo website as “untrue, smearing, and damaging to the claimant’s reputation”.

The river port in Perm is believed to actually belong to Charles Butler, a British subject to whom journalists refer as “son of an English lord”. The company he controls started litigating with the publishing house after the publications “Perm to Be Left without Its Port in Two Years” and “Nearly Run Ashore”, of which we reported in digests 726 and 729. The plaintiff claimed offended by news reports about big money transfers from Russia to the Czech Republic, the sale of ships, the non-payment of wages and taxes, violations of the Foreign Investments Law, and working week reductions accompanied by a swelling of top managers’ earnings.

Dmitry Fyodorov, general director of OOO EuroInvestGroup, was involved in the case as a co-defendant whose “libellous and smearing” statements were cited in the publications. After linguists provided expert opinions regarding the texts, the river port reduced the amount of claimed compensation and dropped two phrases from the number of those challenged.

The arbitration court found the remaining phrases well-substantiated and legally acceptable, and rejected the port’s claim in full. This outcome may play a role as Butler’s personal claim against the same defendant comes under review. Hearings in the Leninsky district court of Perm are scheduled for 25 February.


KAZAKHSTAN

Report by Adil Soz press freedom watchdog released

The Adil Soz Foundation, an international press freedom defence group monitoring violations of freedom of expression in Kazakhstan, has published its analytical report “The Situation with Freedom of Expression in Kazakhstan in 2015”. The lengthy document, posted on the foundation’s website on 2 February, features exhaustive data about media freedom restrictions and attacks on journalists and human rights activists in the republic.

There were no murders related to freedom of expression in Kazakhstan last year, the report says. Yet nine journalists became the targets of attacks, and legislative restrictions on media freedom grew tougher. After a new criminal code was enacted on 1 January 2015, the number of legal charges against people exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to the search for and circulation of information, doubled from 38 in 2014 to 77 last year.

The high-resonance criminal cases listed in the report include the ADAM magazine case; and legal charges against staffers of the opposition publication Nakanune.Kz, against Amangeldy Batyrbekov, civil activist and leader of the Adilet (Justice) group, and against Pavlodar-based journalist Yaroslav Golyshkin. The report provides detailed descriptions of numerous violations of journalists’ right to freely gather and disseminate socially significant information.

Special attention in the report is given to restrictions on the use of the Internet. Specifically, “There were instances of restricted access not only to websites circulating illegal content, but also to perfectly legal sites such as that of the international news agency Fergana or the LiveJournal blogging platform”, and access to many Kazakhstani websites not featuring any illegal content but displaying pro-opposition or alternative orientation was impossible without special proxy servers, the report says.

The authors stress the point that increased repressive tendencies in media regulation are justified by “fears of potential infiltration of terrorism into the country” and by false claims that “stability can be preserved only through rights restrictions”. Another factor is a lack of professionalism on the part of law enforcers, publishers, and Internet users.

For the full text of the report, see www.adilsoz.kz

[Fergana news agency report, 2 February]


UKRAINE

Parliament gives journalists additional protections

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) on 4 February adopted a law approving “Ukraine Criminal Code Provisions Additionally Protecting Journalists’ Professional Work” (Bill No. 1630).

The approval was supported by 240 MPs, according to the UkrInform news agency.

The amended version of Criminal Code Article 171 stipulates that the illegal seizure of material gathered, processed and prepared for publishing by a journalist, as well as technical means he/she employs in the line of duty, or illegal bans on the coverage of certain topics or portrayal of certain individuals, or on criticism of public officials, as well as other deliberate obstructions of a journalist’s lawful professional work, shall be punishable by a fine of 50 untaxed minimum salaries or by arrest for up to six months, or by freedom restrictions for up to three years.

Item 2 of the same article now stipulates that any pressure put on a journalist with a view to preventing him/her from doing their professional work, or their harassment in the line of duty, shall be punishable by a fine of 200 untaxed minimum salaries or by arrest for up to six months, or by freedom restrictions for up to four years.

Actions mentioned in Article 171.2 committed by officials abusing their powers, or by a group of persons acting in collusion, shall be punishable by a fine of 200 to 500 untaxed minimum salaries or by freedom restrictions for up to five years, with or without a ban on their holding certain official posts or engaging in certain activities for up to three years.

[UkrInform report, 5 February]


GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in January 2016

Instances of censorship – 2 (Life78 TV channel, St. Petersburg; NTV, Moscow)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers – 1 (Rafis Kashapov, blogger, Tatarstan)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 3 (Irina Iskorneva, director, municipal newspaper Pechenga, Murmansk Region; Tatyana Britskaya, newsroom editor, newspaper Murmanskiy Vestnik, Murmansk; Oksana Riznich, chief editor, newspaper Na Rubezhe, Sakhalin Region)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 4 (Zair Akadyrov, freelance journalist, Simferopol; Kirill Formanchuk, blogger, Yekaterinburg; Esa Tuominen, Finnish freelancer, detained in Petrozavodsk, Karelia; Yuri Ushakov, freelancer, Penza)

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.) – 15

Threats against journalists and media – 4 (Alexei Venediktov, chief editor, radio station Ekho Moskvy, Moscow; radio station Ekho Moskvy, Moscow; Yana Yanovskaya, founder, newspaper Parma-Novosti, Perm Region; Anton Popkovich, editor, district newspaper Znamya Truda, Chelyabinsk Region)

Closure of media – 3 (newspaper Tverskaya, 13, Moscow; newspaper Nastoyashcheye Vremya-Analitika, Dagestan; Yugra-Inform news agency, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region)

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run – 1 (newspaper Pravda, Vladimir)

Interference with internet publications – 5 (news website of Novaya Gazeta v Sankt-Peterburge, St. Petersburg; news websites Dialogweb.ru and Soldat-polevskoy.ru, both based in Sverdlovsk Region; webite of REN TV, Moscow, twice)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 29


OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Nominations for Gerd Bucerius 2016 Free Media Award invited

The Fritt Ord Foundation and the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius hereby invite nominations of journalists, bloggers, Internet media and newspapers for the 2016 Free Media Award.

The Free Media Award will be awarded to journalists and media outlets from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The Fritt Ord Foundation and the ZEIT Foundation are interested in identifying candidates worthy of recognition for their work, and we need your help. Nominations will be accepted until 26 February 2016, and should include an explanation of why the journalist or media outlet is considered to be a good candidate for the Free Media Award. Nominations should include reasons for why candidates deserve recognition based on the quality of their work, and the relevance of the content. The nomination statement should be 1 to 2 pages long, and include a short biography and links to articles, where relevant.

To qualify for nomination, journalists and media outlets must have demonstrated a commitment to democracy, and freedom of expression.

Please contact Fritt Ord if you have any questions about the nomination process.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Please send nominations by e-mail to hanne.vorland@frittord.no.

Kind regards,
Hanne Vorland
Seniorrådgiver/Senior Advisor


“Roskomnadzor’s Dirty Dances”: media regulator puts hard pressure on Stavropol-based independent newspaper

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

An article titled “Roskomnadzor’s Dirty Dances”, signed by chief editor Lyudmila Leontyeva, appeared in the latest issue of Stavropol-based Otkrytaya Gazeta, describing long-time attacks on the independent newspaper by the regional department of the media regulator Roskomnadzor, which clearly has protected the interests of individuals feeling unhappy about journalistic revelations rather than state interests. Otkrytaya is famous for its challenging each accusation of an administrative offence lodged against it, and for winning all of the cases (sic!) in court so far. Yet its indefatigable censors are trying to sue it again and again, paying the judicial costs from the state budget.

Even a brief account of the regulator’s encroachments on the newspaper in the past three years looks impressive. But just imagine how much time and effort it takes for Otrkrytaya to ward off those stupid accusations! For example, officials see it as an “offence” that the newspaper’s output data (address and telephone numbers) does not include the word “publishers’” – although no publishing house is located there. Another charge is that Otkrytaya “misleads” its readers by “not indicating the date” each number is issued. Yet this date is written in black and white on the first page, right under the newspaper’s name, both in figures and in words: “Issued on Wednesdays”, just the way all the weeklies throughout the country do. Speaking in court, Roskomnadzor representatives failed to clearly explain whose rights or how Otkrytaya had infringed.

As soon as the newspaper published a story affecting someone’s commercial interests, a clearly pre-ordered alleged “offence” charge would instantly pop up, revealing the hopeless silliness of Roskomnadzor’s “objections”. The GDF has more than once reported about Otkrytaya’s litigations with S. Fomina, head of the regional settlements centre (see, for example, digest 687), into which Roskomnadzor got involved by charging the chief editor with “disclosing the personal data” of one of the characters of critical articles who at the time was on trial for alleged embezzlement of public funds. The newspaper reported on open court hearings in the course of which Fomina claimed that unmasking publications had “undermined her mental health”. It was a report about her mental problems that Roskomnadzor attempted to impute to Otkrytaya as “disclosure” of her personal data. The regulator rushed to “check” Fomina’s complaint even while the critical editor was away on a business trip, and it tried hard to get the regional prosecutor’s office involved – but to no avail.

One of Roskomnadzor’s silliest attacks was its charging the newspaper with “propagandizing illegal drugs” in two phrases they picked out from the article “A Lift to Hell”, written in the form of a junkie’s confession. Hastiness played a nasty joke on them. They were too late to learn that the story’s author (using a pen name) was a regional MP representing the ruling United Russia Party, who was also a researcher with the State Drugs Control Committee, a member of the Anti-Drug Commission under the auspices of the regional governor, and the founder of a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts. Moreover, that story contained quotes from numerous sources, and even for this reason alone the newspaper could never be held liable under the law.

We shall once again stress that not a single charge advanced by Roskomnadzor against Otkrytaya has ever been confirmed in court. So let us name those who launch those shameful attacks which are doomed to failure from the outset while plundering the state budget. They are Dmitry Polyanichev, head of the Roskomnadzor department for the North Caucasian Federal District, and his deputy Maxim Novikov. The first is a former police officer, the second a school of journalism graduate instantly turned an administration official.


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