Дайджест
31 Марта 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 749

28 March 2016

RUSSIA

School principal in Omsk takes journalists' visit as "terrorist threat"

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A visit to School No.95 on the outskirts of Omsk by Natalya Yakovleva, Uchitelskaya Gazeta correspondent in Siberia and a nominee for the 2015 Andrei Sakharov Award "For Journalism as an Act of Conscience", and Irina Krayevskaya, a reporter with the regional newspaper Chetverg, was assessed by the school principal, Olga Oleksina, as a "terrorist threat" (as tape-recorded word for word by the journalists).

The two reporters came to get first-hand information about an incident of which many local and federal media had reported shortly before. As it so often happens with premature "sensations", the majority of the media described the incident only as seen by one side, the school management: physical culture teacher Svetlana Savelyeva allegedly "beat a six-former with a skipping rope", for which she was instantly fired without any explanation or investigation. Moreover, the "victim's" mother complained to the Sovetsky district prosecutor's office which started criminal proceedings.

From conversations with the fired teacher and pupils from parallel classes, Yakovleva understood that what had happened was more complex and frightening than what was described in the news reports. As she was watching the class get qualifying grades in skipping over the rope, the teacher said, she noticed four boys whipping with skipping ropes on the other end of the gym their classmate - a shy, round-shouldered boy named Sergei S. (who, according to other children, is often harassed and treated as an outcast at school, of which fact the principal evidently knows nothing) - and rushed to his rescue. On seeing her approaching them, the boys scurried away. In the heat of the moment, she did reach one of them, a folded skipping rope in hand. The boy complained to his mom, she to the principal, and the latter hastened to take "retaliatory measures".

The two journalists had intended to ask Oleksina quite a few questions - specifically, whether or not she knew about Sergei S.'s being subject to harassment by his classmates, and that the fired teacher's happened to be his sole defender. They had made an appointment with the headmistress over the telephone in advance. "By the time we came, the whole management had assembled in the principal's office," Yakovleva told the GDF. "We introduced ourselves, showed our press cards and said we'd come for comments". In response, Oleksina said she had "got tired of talking this over with everyone". The reporter noted it was part of a principal's job. "How dare you speak so impertinently to me?" the headmistress exclaimed.

A subsequent fragment of the tape recording produces an impression of something unreal following. "You've stormed into my private office (Ms Oleksina evidently tends to confuse `private' with `public' - G. B.)… I take this as a terrorist threat!" After that, she pressed the button giving an alarm signal to a quick-response group in the event of a potential or real terrorist act. The guys in flak jackets and helmets, who instantly popped up, fortunately turned out adequate people who did not arrest the two lady reporters but politely asked them to provide written explanations, which they eagerly did. They also wrote reports to the police about the principal's attempt to obstruct their professional work.

And that was that, with no questions ever put to the headmistress. It remains unclear how she feels about the situation in the class where the "sensation" occurred, or whether she thinks that the "lesson" she taught to both children and adults - that standing up for the weak and defenceless is wrong - was immoral. There are questions to law enforcement as well - specifically, if they intend to probe into this instance of a pupil's collective harassment, or whether they'll feel satisfied with the sacking of the physical culture teacher who attempted to defend the boy.

Zlatoust mayor a road hog?

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

A really curious trial is under way in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region, with Mayor Vyacheslav Zhilin defending his honour and dignity allegedly damaged by the newspaper Nakanune and its editor Sergei Kostromin.

In December 2015, Nakanune carried an article titled "Incumbent Rulers' Entertainments", with the subtitle reading: "Sports School No.1 Deputy Director Nikolai Kichigin Fired by Mayor Vyacheslav Zhilin for Meddling in His Merrymaking". The story was about a Mayoral Cup ski tournament in Zlatoust - specifically about a group of snowmobile drivers suddenly appearing on the ski tracks in the middle of the contest, to speed down the slope, whooping, before the eyes of shocked skiers and coaches from 12 regions of Russia and Kazakhstan. Despite people's attempts to calm them down, the snowmobile drivers continued their wild race across the ski tracks, actually destroying them and thus making further competitions impossible.

The above-mentioned sports school deputy director, enraged, rushed after them on his own snowmobile in a bid to stop them, but in vain. Then, taking out a small hammer, he caught up with one of the hooligans and knocked him lightly on the helmet: "Hey you, come to your senses!" As the group stopped and started moving toward him, Kichigin recognized the city mayor in one of the road hogs (after the man took his helmet off). Zhilin promised to get the deputy director fired, and other VIP snowmobile drivers (relatives of federal district officials), too, threatened Kichigin with "problems".

The man who tried to stop the reckless drivers no longer works as a school deputy director today: he has been sacked along with his immediate superior. And the newspaper Nakanune is on trial for reporting about a snowmobile race organised specially for "VIP guests".

During the first hearing in court, eyewitnesses confirmed that Kostromin's article described the real events very accurately, and the phrase about the mayor and friends "riding snowmobiles amid a ski competition" could not possibly be refuted because the witnesses had recognized the mayor and seen him wearing the same outfit as the other racers. Yet the Zlatoust administration's lawyer is insisting that the very fact of Zhilin's having been among the road hogs should be disclaimed.

Judge Frolova, who is handling the case, has scheduled the next court sitting for 18 April.

Judge in Perm reprimanded for unlawful decision and haughty behaviour

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

At its 22 March sitting in Perm, the regional judge-qualifying board turned out the request of Margarita Tsyrulyova, a judge from Solikamsk, to remove the press out of the courtroom. The board was discussing disciplinary measures to be taken against Tsyrulyova for unlawfully extending the term of arrest for a 17-old boy.

As announced by the board, the judge's error had cost the teenager additional 35 days of arrest as a suspected hijacker of cars. He was detained on 6 July and placed under arrest on 10 July 2015.

Tsyrulyova definitely would like the board to confer behind closed doors. "I wouldn't like the press to be present," she said before the sitting began. Asked by board chair Nataliya Nechayeva to motivate her request, she said: "There are no particular motives". Meanwhile, as a city court judge since 5 December 2001, Tsyrulyova should know all too well that glasnost is the foundation of justice, and observing it guarantees rights protection to the defendants, among others.

To an onlooker, Tsyrulyova's behaviour in court might seem akin to the performance of a certain ritual. Yes, she did acknowledge her error attributing it to hastiness. "On December 30, I was to consider the extension of three terms of arrest, sign one arrest warrant, and review one breach-of- public-order case. On the eve of the New Year everyone was in a hurry, including defence lawyers. I've since drawn the conclusion that acting in haste is inadmissible". All the while, the lady judge was answering questions sitting on a chair, and she stood up only after Nechayeva reminded her of the need to observe court etiquette. Asked if by not doing that she wasn't demonstrating arrogance toward the court and its officials, Tsyrulyova just shrugged her shoulders.

Igor Chelombitsky, head of the Perm Region Council of Judges, upheld the representation on disciplinary measures to be taken in respect of Tsyrulyova, while suggesting that a warning might be enough. The judge-qualifying board unanimously voted for issuing an official reprimand to the judge at fault.

Newspaper Tagilskiy Rabochiy lays off personnel, grows thinner because of economic difficulties

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

For the second year running, residents of Nizhny Tagil, the Sverdlovsk Region's second most- populated city, have watched their favourite newspaper, Tagilskiy Rabochiy (est. 1906), growing thinner and thinner. Until recently, the newspaper successfully withstood competition from other regional media and was issued five times a week in an impressive number of copies. Yet since the second half of 2015 it suddenly turned into a biweekly, and its format changed to A3.

"Politics actually has nothing to do with that," deputy chief editor Boris Mineyev told the GDF. "It's all because of economic difficulties, specifically, a shrinkage of the advertising market. The city treasury only guaranteed the payment of wages to the staff, while we ourselves were supposed to bear all the other costs, including rent, newsprint, distribution, etc. So saying `no' to the `optimization' project initiated by the municipal authorities was just out of the question".

Starting July 1 this year, Tagilskiy Rabochiy is to further shrink into a weekly publication, losing 8 pages, and every staffer is aware that layoffs will go beyond the five employees already sacked last year. Some of the newspaper premises will have to be sacrificed, too.

City Duma deputies have attempted to question the "optimization plan". "Thirteen-million- rouble provisions have been made in the budget to finance [Tagilsky Rabochiy] as a biweekly, MP Vadim Raudshtein said in an interview for Oblastnaya Gazeta. "I can't see why the newspaper's opportunities have been getting more and more restricted as September's elections are approaching".

It is self-evident who the losers are in this process - the journalists and their reading audiences. The GDF will closely follow the situation in Nizhny Tagil.

BELARUS

Freelancer Konstantin Zhukovsky detained by police in Rechitsa

Police in the city of Rechitsa at about 4 p.m. on 24 March detained Gomel-based freelance journalist Konstantin Zhukovsky who, according to his own words, was polling local residents about their attitude toward [19th-century writer] Kastus Kalinowski's maxim, "The government is for the people, not the people are for the government". Two police officials approached the freelancer and, without identifying themselves or explaining the reasons for his detention, escorted him to the district police headquarters for questioning. "I showed them my documents and explained in detail what I was busy doing - but all to no avail," Zhukovsky said in a cell-phone conversation. "They told me to come along, without saying why, and currently they are taking me to the police station".

Prior to that, he had repeatedly been held administratively liable for his professional work. The fines levied on him in 2015-2016 currently exceed 77 million [Belarusian] roubles. Since the beginning of this year alone, Zhukovsky has been tried "for unlawfully issuing media products" (Administrative Code Article 22.0) in Zhlobin, Mozyr, Gomel, Korma, Kalinkovichi, and Buda-Koshelevo. In the latest action, the Mozyr district court on 17 March fined him 35 "base rates" - an equivalent of 7,350,000 roubles.

Zhukovsky himself sees these kinds of actions by the authorities and police as a persecution campaign unleashed against him for his work as a public activist and journalist.

[Spring96.org report, 25 March]

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Caricature featuring Putin, Christ and Pushkin declared extremist

By Mass Media Defence Centre, Voronezh

The Moscow City Court's College of Judges has upheld a Roskomnadzor warning in which the media regulator assessed a caricature featuring Alexander Pushkin, Jesus Christ and Vladimir Putin as a "graphic instance of extremism".

Last year, the online publication Sib.fm was officially warned by Roskomnadzor in the wake of its publishing an illustration to an article about the round table "Russia's Civilized Choice: Single History, National Unity, United Russia" sponsored by the Novosibirsk Region administration. The conference saw a sketch presented, titled "Burn On, My Candle!" and featuring three men in briefs with Photoshop-added heads of Putin, Pushkin and Christ. The sketch was produced by the Novosibirsk-based art group "Blue Noses" uniting notorious authors of "provocative" performances, video art pieces, and collages. Their works are on display at the Tretyakov Gallery, and they have repeatedly participated in biannual festivals of modern art in Moscow and Venice, and in other large art exhibitions around the world.

In June 2015, Sib.fm filed a complaint about the Roskomnadzor warning, and on 21 September the Tagansky district court in Moscow turned the complaint down, finding that "the illustration is nothing other than an instance of jeering at sacred names and, consequently, at the Christian faith as a whole and the feelings of each individual Christian".

Notably, Roskomnadzor presented in court the opinion of an expert in culture studies, although cases like this require expert conclusions from psychologists and linguists. In the author's view, the picture "insulted and disparaged the honour and dignity of the persons featured on it". The court turned down the claimant's request for having a study by "competent experts" ordered.

Disagreeing with the court ruling, Sib.fm appealed, but the Administrative Law College of Judges of the Moscow City Court rejected its appeal on 2 March 2016. The court found that Roskomnadzor's measures were of a "prophylactic and precluding nature", since featuring Christ in the form of a caricature "desecrates the Christian faith, hurts believers' feelings and may be perceived as an attempt to instigate religious tensions".

Sib.fm will not stop at that and will challenge the latest decision before the higher-standing judicial authority.

Book on journalists' IPR presented in Murmansk

By Alexei Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

How can a media worker protect and have his copyright to a text, graphic image or video reserved? The answer to this question can be found in the book "Journalists' Intellectual Property Rights, Ostensible and Actual", presented in Murmansk on 25 March.

Its author, Mikhail Kadashnikov, has worked for more than 20 years as a photo correspondent for different Russian media. Currently, he is a senior lecturer with the School of Journalism at the Arctic Humanitarian University in Murmansk, where he reads lectures in Copyright and Professional Ethics, and teaches the basics of legal knowledge to students of journalism.

This monograph is Kadashnikov's first "serious" scientific opus in which he explores the history or Russian and foreign legislation and how it is applied in practice.

"At present, there's no similar literature either in Russia or abroad," Kadashnikov told the GDF. "Opinions differ as to whether or not a journalist enjoys any right of authorship at all, because the law books, including in Russia, say that information is not subject to protection under the law, which means a journalist doing his professional work remains legally unprotected".

Illustrations to the monograph have been made by prominent Murmansk-based master Anatoly Sergiyenko, a member of the Artists' Union of Russia. Considering its specifics, the book has been printed in a fairly large number (750) of copies.

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