Дайджест
10 Марта 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 745

RUSSIA

Moscow journalist beaten up for his publications

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Sergei Vinokurov, a political news reporter at the weekly newspaper Sobesednik, was attacked near his office late on 25 February on his way home from work. An unknown man jumped at him and shouting, "Here, get what you deserve for your writings!", proceeded to beat him. Vinokurov did his best to dodge the blows and managed to make it back into the office building where security guards and colleagues rushed to his rescue. They managed to cut short the fistfight and to detain the attacker until police arrived.

A police patrol appeared rather quickly to take the assailant away to the Tverskoy police department along with the victim. Once there, Vinokurov filed a report describing the attack, while his opponent was locked into an isolation ward. Police started investigating.

According to the journalist, prior to the beating he had repeatedly received menacing SMS messages but ignored them because, in his view, he had never written anything "that might cause as violent a reaction as that". The latest such message came about a month ago, RFE/RL reported.

Now it's up to the law enforcers to decide. The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely watch the developments.

Karelian MP claims compensation from journalist who mentioned him as figuring in criminal case

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

Vitaly Krasulin, a member of Karelia's Legislative Assembly representing the ruling United Russia party, has sued Sergei Myatukhin, a reporter at the Petrozavodsk Govorit news website, for mentioning him in a crime report as a person "figuring in the lawsuit".

Claiming that the publication was "damaging" to his reputation as a parliamentarian, the MP demanded a disclaimer, the report's removal from the website, and 200,000 from the author in moral damages.

In the course of judicial proceedings, the defendants proved, with reference to the case files, that Krasulin, a former entrepreneur, had indeed figured in a fraud suit, which meant the author wrote the truth. Judge K. Mamonov of the Petrozavodsky court, who reviewed the claim, noted in his decision that Krasulin's status as an MP required him, on the contrary, to be more tolerant to media criticism, as prescribed by international and Russian law. "A public official," the decision said, "should be ready to accept critical assessments of his work by electors".

The court found Myatukhin to have been fully justified in using the verb "figure" when describing Krasulin's role in the criminal case: "The word bears no negative evaluative connotations because the process at the stage of investigation involves other persons as well, such as witnesses, experts, etc." As a result, the court turned the deputy's legal claim down.

Rights activists in Yekaterinburg give convicted blogger notebook PC instead of confiscated one

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The convictive sentence passed in the case of Yekaterina Vologzheninova, a blogger who reposted pro-Ukrainian articles and pressed "like" icons under similar publications, and the seizure and destruction of her notebook PC along with the mouse (see digest 744, [1] ), have caused activists of the "Yekaterinburg for Freedom!" public movement to launch a fundraising campaign in support of the convicted colleague. On 26 February, only a week after the Zheleznodorozhny court passed its decision, activists handed to Vologzheninova's 12-year-old daughter Veronica a brand-new notebook PC - deliberately to the girl, not to her mother, to prevent law enforcers from attempting another confiscation.

The blogger thanked the activists and told them she was preparing to challenge what she described as "this unfair" ruling. As we reported, the court also sentenced her to 320 hours of correctional labour. The trial caused broad public repercussions, including in foreign media. Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights Development, reportedly plans to meet with Vologzheninova as a Council session is to be held in Yekaterinburg later this month.

The GDF is closely following the developments.

Court closes open trial to the press and public

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The bailiffs have barred a cameraman with the Park72.ru news portal from entering the Leninsky district court building in Tyumen - and this despite a prior notice duly filed in the court chairman's name in advance, as confirmed by the relevant entry in the book of outgoing postings.

The court had three days to consider the notice and to either allow or prohibit the videoing of the pending court sitting. Not a single court in Tyumen had ever objected until then to her film crew's using the camera in the courtroom, Park72 journalist Larissa Nekrasova told the GDF.

The case under review - lawyer Yuri Ryabtsev's claim against RF Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika - definitely involves no state secrets. The claimant is challenging the inaction of his colleague over a claim filed one year ago that similarly challenged lack of response from RF Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin to the undue behaviour of his subordinate Mikhail Boginsky, head of the regional Investigative Department in Tyumen, who had failed to start legal proceedings against another prosecutor whose signature featured under official conclusions allegedly giving grounds for Ryabtsev to be unparented in respect of his minor son, Yegor. The conclusions, though, were based on a priori false data mentioned in an official inquiry filed by the same Leninsky district court with the municipal Parental Guardianship Board: the document featured an address at which Ryabtsev had never been registered or actually lived; yet board members came to that address to inspect his son's living conditions and concluded that "Ryabtsev's rights as a father should be annulled".

Maybe it is because the lawsuit brought by Ryabtsev involves too many high-ranking lawyers and the whole story closes up around her district court that Judge Svetlana Lomakina chose to compress the space of glasnost to a minimum. Although the trial was officially planned as an open one, it was held not in a courtroom as prescribed by Russian law, but in the judge's stuffy office, where in addition to the chair for "Her Honour", there were only three more chairs - one for the claimant, another for his lawyer, and a third one for journalist Larissa Nekrasova. All the other potential attendees, including media reporters, were asked out.

The judge turned down the pleas made by the plaintiff - to move the hearing to one of the two courtrooms that happened to be vacant at the time; and to admit press reporters and public activists to the trial. Thereby the judge breached Article 123 of the RF Constitution, Article 6 of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 10.1 of the RF Code of Civil Procedure, Article 24.3.1 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, Article 241.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and Article 12 of the Access to Information Law, Nekrasova said. All those law provisions prohibit "holding open court hearings on premises that rule out the possibility of attendance for persons who are not involved in the judicial process" - a point additionally confirmed by Supreme Court Plenum Decision No. 35 of 13 December 2012.

The film crew's videographer, too, was banned from the place. Formally, the judge was entitled to prohibit the use of cameras in the courtroom - in this case, in her own office - but not beyond it, i.e. not in the corridor, on stairways, in the lobby and elsewhere inside the court, where anyone, not even a media correspondent, is free to shoot any video sequences they like. Thus the bailiffs flagrantly violated the law by not letting through the cameraman with his apparatus into the court building.

On the whole, this situation is a vivid example of how law enforcement and the judiciary (which quite often act as one) actively defend their own interests to the detriment of the citizens from whose pockets they are financed.

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Moya Informatsionnaya Gazeta (MIG) shut down in Serpukhov near Moscow

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The last issue of MIG-Yuzhnoye Podmoskovye came out late in December 2015. Today, the office is closed and the staffers are dismissed. The brand's owner Yelena Leonova plans to sell it, according to local media reports.

Moya Informatsionnaya Gazeta was established in 1998 and managed to win over a large audience in just a few months. Its circulation was larger than those of all the other city newspapers taken together. Actually, all of its 12,000 copies were distributed by subscription. For many years, MIG was an effective instrument of shaping public opinion. In 2000, its staffers staged an unheard-of action - they went on a hunger strike in protest against abuses by the local authorities and vote-rigging by the electoral committee. All PR textbooks describe the so-called "Serpukhov effect" caused by MIG publications, when the majority of city residents voted against all candidates during a mayoral election.

In 2000, part of the staff resigned because of a conflict with the investor and established their own newspaper under the same name. As a result, for quite a long time, Serpukhov saw two MIG newspapers released - the genuine one with a red heading, and the other one, which illegally used the well-publicized brand, with a blue heading. People used to call them accordingly - Blue Mig and Red MIG, while deciphering the abbreviations differently: the first as "Moya Informatsionnaya Gazeta" (My Informational Newspaper), the second as "My i Gorod" (We and the City).

Red Mig's fate can hardly be envied: the media outlet has been set on fire, raided, etc., and currently it belongs to a group of oligarchs who distribute the newspaper free of charge while devoting most of the page space to commercial ads and to self-advertising articles.

As we have reported, a variety of both well-known and less-known newspapers have been shut down in Serpukhov in the past ten years, including Sovet, Molva, Sut da Delo, Nash Serpukhov, Lyubimyi Gorod, Bolshevik, Doloi, Zevs News, Narodnyi Nablyudatel Podmoskovya, and now MIG, too...

The few regional media that still operate have turned into weeklies starting this year. The last to abandon the status of a tri-weekly was Serpukhovskiye Vesti (former Kommunist), controlled by the regional authorities to keep up the governor's "positive image". All news stories, even accounts of cultural events, are necessarily sent to Moscow "for checking" along with weekly reports on how many times and in what connection Governor Vorobyov's name was mentioned during the past week. This is what they call "work under the aegis of the Main Information Department of the Moscow Region Government". The newspaper editor lives in another city and appears in the office by far not every day.

Generally, journalists' life has been getting exceedingly difficult. Meanwhile, the press pool of Serpukhov Mayor Dmitry Zharikov has been growing in size, and the larger it becomes, the harder it is for media reporters to get access to information: their phone calls to officials remain unanswered, and no one is willing to comment on anything. Even if you file a list of questions with the mayoral press service in advance and in writing, you are not guaranteed you will get a reply. The mayor himself goes as far as flaunting his inaccessibility to the press: at one of the conferences, he prohibited journalists "to come nearer than 2 meters" to him: "You're encroaching upon my living space!"

Perm-based newspaper Zvezda on verge of bankruptcy

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region Court of Arbitration has ruled to withhold more than 955,000 roubles from the region's oldest (est. 1917) newspaper, Zvezda, in payment arrears for services provided by the printing house of the same name. Meanwhile, since the autumn of 2014, the newspaper - the former mouthpiece of the regional Communist Party committee - has actually belonged to dollar millionaire Andrei Agishev, whose purchase of Zvezda coincided in time with his standing trial on charges of embezzling a total of 55.5 million roubles of public funds, including 30 million roubles from the regional budget.

According to local media reports, entrepreneur Agishev purchased Zvezda from his friend Sergei Trushnikov, the then chief editor and general director of the newspaper, who has been an ordinary retiree since October 2014. Zvezda, registered in the name of a company under Agishev's control, ZAO Project Financing, has taken upon itself his defence and has published in its supplement Kapital-Weekly a series of articles attempting to whitewash its new owner.

Previously, on 11 December 2012, the Leninsky district court in Perm sentenced former Legislative Assembly member Agishev to a suspended 2-year term of imprisonment for illegal business activity: in 2002-2009, without registering as a private entrepreneur, he collected 29 million roubles as a lessor of non-residential premises. During his two-year stay on parole, he was to report to the local parole administrator on a monthly basis, but on 2 September 2013 he agreed to an amnesty with his conviction deemed expunged.

On 4 August 2014, the same district court started hearings of a new criminal lawsuit against Agishev, this time in connection with Basketball Club Ural-Great. While concurrently acting as head of OOO PermRegionGaz and Ural-Great, he offered the private basketball club on behalf of the state-run gas company two a priori non-repayable grants worth 25.5 million roubles, of which the recipient instantly transferred 19.7 million to the bank account of OOO Konfidens actually belonging to Agishev, which, together with another company under his control, Printing House Lazur, using bills of exchange, allegedly provided charity assistance to Ural-Great, submitting forged reports on the "operation" to the regional government. The latter provided 30 million roubles from the regional treasury in co-financing for the basketball club, which sum Agishev happily stole. On 17 July 2015, the court sentenced the ex-MP and ex-member of the United Russia party for that fraud scheme to a suspended 5-year term of imprisonment with 1 million roubles payable in fine.

Perm-based media have suggested Zvezda may be expected to share the ill fate of Ural-Great, a sports club well known in Russia and Europe. The media outlet is unable to pay the rent, as well as printing service and car-parking bills, for 2014-2015. Agishev did not even send his representative to the arbitration trial, over on 16 February, to voice his objections to the claim lodged against his newspaper; so it is not clear whether Zvezda will last long enough to mark its centenary in 2017.

What is clear is that Agishev the convict used glasnost and the brand of the media outlet under his control in an attempt to justify the serious crimes he had committed.

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