Дайджест6 Августа 2016 года
Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 762
Event of the week
News from partners
EVENT OF THE WEEK
By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District
The Sverdlovsk Region Investigative Committee started legal proceedings after two Yermak broadcaster film crews were attacked in Yekaterinburg and Artyomovskiy on 28 July, which offences are qualified under Criminal Code Article 144 as "interference with journalists' lawful professional work that involved violence against the journalists and the destruction of, or damage to, their equipment," a Committee spokesmen told the Znak.com news agency, noting that the attacks were punishable by up to 6-year imprisonment terms. The investigators plan to have the victims examined by forensic medics to evaluate the gravity of the bodily harm they received, and to estimate compensation amounts payable to them.
The incident in Yekaterinburg occurred near the AvtoMasster service centre where a film crew had arrived together with candidate MP Ivan Volkov to shoot a report about the poor quality of car-repair services the centre provided. All that ended in a scuffle that the firm's personnel refused to comment on.
In Artyomovskiy, journalists came under attack while shooting a story about Universalremont, a company searching for, and capturing, stray dogs. "Like other reporters, we sometimes run into persons unwilling to be videoed and attempting to start a brawl. But this is the first time our journalists suffered two attacks during one and the same day," Yermak newsroom head Irina Arefyeva said, adding that the camera used in Yekaterinburg was beyond repair. "It was snatched from the cameraman's hands, literally smashed to pieces, and kicked into one of the service centre's offices," she said. Also, Arefyeva described the videographer in Artyomovsky as "a real hero who protected the camera with his body while they were kicking away at him".
Members of both film crews reported the attacks to the local police and the regional Interior Ministry Department. Detectives identified and questioned the suspects and witnesses, and gathered material evidence, including the broken camera and the seized memory card, department spokesman Valery Gorelykh told Znak.com. The group of suspects in Artyomovskiy included the company director and two staff members; the suspect in Yekaterinburg was under arrest, Gorelykh said.
The GDF will closely monitor progress of the investigation.
[Based on Znak.com reports]
By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District
Preliminary hearings took place on 26 July of a legal claim lodged by Kandalaksha district ex-head Alexander Bogdanov against Olga Meshcheryakova, editor of the newspaper Vyberi Luchsheye, over the news report "How District Leader Bogdanov Spends Budgetary Funds". The story said the official had purchased a luxury car worth 2.5 million roubles and paid for it from the district budget, although Bogdanov in his statement of claim wrote that the car had been bought as "part of the municipal programme of technical and transport support for the work of local self-government bodies".
Police earlier had identified the purchase as "misspending of budgetary money".
Bogdanov came to attend the preliminary hearing along with his lawyer Olga Sitkevich. Upon noticing the reporters, he attacked one of them and seized the cell phone with which the man was filming his arrival. He returned it to the owner in the presence of the court secretary later.
Currently the journalists are deciding whether or not to report the attack to the police. In the editor's view, the official attempted to prevent the videographer from doing his job. The next court sitting is scheduled for 2 August.
By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District
Back in 2014, we reported about an unseen self-promotion campaign conducted by the Khabarovsk Region administration despite a growing budget deficit (see digest 686). To date, the situation has further worsened, State Duma MP Boris Reznik wrote in his article "Distorting-Mirror Kingdom: What Happens to the Press in Khabarovsk Region", carried by the newspaper AN-Khabarovsk.
Local newspapers and websites feature numerous photo pictures of the incumbent governor, Vyacheslav Shport. Books, booklets and magazines are all overfilled with his portraits and his "educative" directions. "Staffers of a small media agency professionally monitoring the regional press have counted at our request how many images of Mr Shport have appeared in local newspapers and on news websites over the past 18 months, and found out their number is amazing - 586!" Reznik wrote. "The newspaper Izvestiya published the findings of a statistical survey, `The Frequency of Governor vs. President Mentions in the Regional Press', covering the period between 1 January 2014 and 30 April 2015. This report cites really killing figures that are unmatched elsewhere in Russia: Shport's name was mentioned in a negative context in the local press 17 times during the period under review, whereas President Putin's - 779 times, while the governor's praises were sung 15 times more often than the president's".
This "love" for the regional leader costs the taxpayers hundreds of millions of roubles (and this despite the multibillion "hole" in the budget) and is referred to as "media policy".
What does this policy boil down to? For example, to the fact that Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda (TZ, a newspaper that will mark its 100th anniversary in 2019 if it isn't closed by then) has stopped publishing investigative and analytical reports or highlighting negative trends in the region. Its journalists, "hobbled" by the astronomic rate charged for their renting pretty modest premises in the regional printing house, have been compelled to move to a local warehouse and reduce their newspaper's circulation to a tenth of what it used to be.
Another example is that Molodoy Dalnevostochnik, a newspaper nearly as old as TZ, stopped coming off the press last year because of a lack of funding (see digest 733). The authorities deliberately quit paying subsidies with a view to carrying out a reshuffle in the course of which the former editor, an experienced journalist, was fired and replaced by Vladimir Chernyshov, ex-head of the regional administration's Press and Public Communications Committee who earlier had had to resign from government service because of his suspected involvement in a big corruption scandal.
The brand-new and very expensive printing machine in the regional printing house was written off the books and transferred to a certain private firm that instantly leased it back to the printing house. That is, the sophisticated printer remained in its place all the time; the sole change was that the money for its use started flowing into the pockets of black dealers who likewise grabbed and divided among themselves the subsidies allocated by the regional administration. The prosecutors carried out a check-up finding in Chernyshov's bank accounts 15 million undeclared roubles of a vague origin. They asked Shport to fire Chernyshov again - this time for violating anti-corruption legislation. The governor, again ignoring the prosecutorial request, dismissed the thievish official in view of "voluntary termination" (see digest 731 )
Now his dedicated servant, who still has a non-criminal biography, heads the newspaper Khabarovskiy Krai Segodnya which is distributed free of charge, mainly to government offices. A group of MPs and public activists from the City Duma in Komsomolsk-on-Amur recently published online a public address describing this newspaper as follows: "Anyone who has seen this product of bureaucratic conceit must have been appalled by the sight of reports about the governor's `heroic accomplishments' on nearly every page…"
By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District
Judge Yelena Armist of the Sovetsky district court in Rostov has barred reporters with the newspapers Krestyanin and Gorod N from a court sitting. Asked by Krestyanin columnist Anna Kolobova if a correspondent hadn't the right to attend open court hearings, Armist replied: "Only with the judge's permission - and I am not giving it to you!"
That day, the judge was reviewing three administrative cases against an entrepreneur polluting the Liventsovsky residential area with toxic wastes from his chemical plant. Armist literally shut the door in the face not only of reporters but also of local green activists who had struggled with the lawbreaking businessman's environmental outrage for years.
Notably, the hearings were open for anyone to attend, and there were vacant seats in the courtroom. But it was not until a week later that the judge finally allowed both the journalists and the activists to be present.
Some 15 years ago, I was likewise barred from attending a hearing of an ordinary civil case in the same Sovetsky district court. "You go get authorisation from the chairman first," the judge told me. While I was away, the trial had already begun and the bailiffs had stopped letting attendees through. Since then, I have gone to attend open court hearings only as an ordinary listener. In the Oktyabrsky district court of Rostov the other day, I had my passport checked thrice - first, by the bailiffs at the entrance, then by the court secretary, and finally by the judge in person.
Judges are known to dislike seeing anyone beyond the prosecutor and the accused with his defence lawyers in the courtroom. Yet law is law, and a judge of any rank may close the doors to attendees only if there are no vacant seats inside.
Quite a few reporters might want to attend the high-resonance trial over a regional court ex-judge, Valery Budayev, who was to compensate for the damage done to the family of Southern Federal University Professor Vladislav Smirnov, whom Budanov had run over. Although found guilty of the road accident in which the professor had died, Budanov was amnestied. His case is being closely watched by the media and general public, but only a few people can hope to be admitted to the former building of the local Communist Party committee which currently houses the Kirovsky district court, because the rooms there are too small.
"Only accredited journalists will be let through, so your media outlet should start by faxing an accreditation request to the court chairman," Ksenya Komleva, an aide, told me on the phone. No one is likely to be admitted at all, I thought to myself. The justice administration openness, proclaimed at the very outset of Russia's legal reform, is still very limited. The E-Justice Programme, which provided for live online coverage of court sittings among other things, has remained on paper.
To stop Varlamov: Omsk blogger shakes big money out of media by pushing them to infringe his copyright
By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District
Regional media outlets have been uniting to defend their rights - not from the government authorities this time, but from blogger Ilya Varlamov and his lawyers who have built a super-profitable business on provincial journalists' trust in him as a colleague.
It all began with a kitten named Omsk. As we reported (see digests 719 and 728, www.gdf.ru ), Varlamov held an online auction last October to sell the kitten (the final price was not disclosed, but it is known that the offer of 185,000 roubles, which would more than offset the photo session costs, was not the last bid). Three months later, the former owner of Omsk lodged legal claims against Omsk media that had published the animal's photos "without authorisation", although naming the author and acknowledging the source.
The group of defendants included the largest regional television channel belonging to the State TV/Radio Company Omsk, which was required by an arbitration court to pay Varlamov 280,000 roubles for the unauthorised publication of 6 pictures of its grey four-legged namesake; the OmskInform news agency had to pay 200,000 - half of what Varlamov wanted - for reposting 17 photo images without his consent; and the weekly publication Biznes-Kurs - 90,000 roubles for posting 9 pictures of the kitten (a third of the originally claimed amount). Then the geography of claims expanded: the blogger's lawyers were awarded 150,000 roubles payable by the Verkhnyaya Volga news agency in Yaroslavl for the unauthorised reposting of photos from Varlamov's LiveJournal blog; as much from the Ura.ru news agency; 210,000 roubles from the UralInformBureau (the latter two agencies are based in Yekaterinburg); and 480,000 roubles from Komsomolskaya Pravda Publishers' in Moscow. The money-thirsty blogger also has filed lawsuits against dozens of media all across Russia - in St. Petersburg, and in the regions of Arkhangelsk, Yaroslavl, Penza, Sverdlovsk, Tver, Khabarovsk, Altai, etc. Notably, the Russian Lady Justice, who has generally treated bloggers very toughly, sentencing them to fines, correctional labour, arrest and ever real prison terms (Vadim Tyumentsev from Tomsk is currently serving a 5-year term of imprisonment), has been disposed surprisingly favourably toward Ilya Varlamov.
The independent political writer must feel O.K. about his colleagues placed behind bars here and there: he never reports about them in his blog, although, considering his prominent status and VIP connections - for example, he can easily walk into the offices of mayors and governors, who as a rule react to his posts very promptly - his support for fellow journalists might be noted by the justice system.
The victorious series of Varlamov's lawsuits against media was interrupted only once, when he attempted to get 240,000-rouble compensation from the State TV/Radio Company VGTRK: the Moscow Court of Arbitration, and later the 9th Arbitration Court of Appeals, both turned his claim down, evidently hinting that defendants of so high a status aren't beaten easily.
The Arbitration Court of Tatarstan recently started reviewing Varlamov's lawsuit against the independent newspaper Biznes Online, from which he wants 1.23 million roubles for "unauthorised" reposting of his 50 photos (some of them were used repeatedly, since his statement of claim lists a total of 58 "copyright violations"). "Underlying this latest claim," the newspaper wrote, "is the same scheme the blogger has used before to bring lawsuits against media: he organises a news-making event, e.g., he goes somewhere - takes a series of pictures highlighting some `burning' problem, such as the poor performance of utility service providers - the press naturally `takes the bait' and discusses the issue at length illustrating it with [Varlamov's] photos which actually are the core of the news reports - and after a while, journalists find themselves sued on copyright violation charges".
Tatarstan journalists have decided to stop the "wicked blogger" and formed a public committee, #StopVarlamov, inviting colleagues who have suffered at his hands elsewhere in Russia, to join them. The broadcaster Omsk (Channel 12) the other day posted on its website Biznes Online's appeal detailing far-reaching plans of how to curtail Varlamov's "sue-and-get-paid" business which continues bringing him record sums of money. Committee activists intend to open a special website "to draw public attention to the Moscow blogger's activities and warn potential victims against coming under attack from his team of lawyers". Apart from sharing information, the anti-Varlamov committee plans to prepare a draft law to be submitted to the RF State Duma, unambiguously proclaiming the media's right "to cite works in the public domain without the author's consent but with the source acknowledged" - all the more so because the effective Civil Code (in its Article 1274) already empowers the press to do so.
"Every day, journalists use - naturally, free of charge - hundreds of texts and photo and video images borrowed from the blogs of public personalities, from Dmitry Medvedev to Alexei Navalny to Ksenya Sobchak to Anastasia Volochkova," the appeal says, also citing the Moscow Arbitration Court decision acknowledging that "Varlamov abused his copyright-defending rights by actually provoking media outlets into reposting his photo works".
The committee invited the blogger to settle the conflict amicably and recall those of his legal claims in which no court decisions have been passed yet.
By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District
The Kirovsky district court in Yekaterinburg on 21 July shelved the legal claim brought by Perm Region MP Dmitry Skrivanov against OOO Megapolis, the owner of the newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets v Permi (MKP), in view of the claimant's failure to appear in court for the second time running. That marked the end of the deputy's seventh litigation with local and federal media.
The GDF reported on the MKP case in digest 730. The Leninsky district court in Perm, with which the provincial politician filed his legal claim on 22 December 2015, forwarded the honour-and-dignity-protection case to Yekaterinburg, where the defendant is based. A local court on 20 April 2016 ordered a linguistic study of the article "Dmitry Skrivanov's New Fiasco" the results of which evidently cautioned the claimant against continuing the litigation. Skrivanov did not come to attend the 13 and 21 July sittings in person, did not send anyone to stand proxy for him, and did not request that the court review the case in his absence. Judge Svetlana Podgornaya found that to be a sufficient reason for shelving the claim in which the plaintiff demanded that MKP disclaim its publication and pay him 100,000 in moral damages.
Losing this case in court turned out badly for the Perm-based MP (who also was head of the Monotown Development Fund (FRM) in Moscow at one time), because that meant he actually agreed both with the title of the article and with the other passages he had attempted to challenge, including: "One of the most conflict-prone regional deputies in Perm held his Moscow office for a record short time, for just a few months, not having seen through a single serious project"; and "In 2011, Skrivanov had worked as regional coordinator of the All-Russia Popular Front (ONF) for a record short time - only three months - before getting replaced on orders from the office of the presidential envoy [to the Perm Region]. He was fired without any diplomatic formulas or thank-you letters".
Three other litigations started by Skrivanov (with the Perm-based broadcaster UralInform TV) ended equally badly for him. As we reported in digests 752 and 756, on 13 and 25 April, the regional court irrevocably rejected his claims challenging the content of TV reports titled "Political Loser", "RBK: Dmitry Skrivanov Only Pretends to |Be Hard-Worker", and "The Windbag MP".
Yet only four days later, the claimant deputy purchased the defendant TV broadcaster whose staffers - now his subordinates - were compelled to disclaim their victories in three other lawsuits earlier reviewed by the Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm. The regional court, as early as 16 May, announced amicable settlements in three cases the journalists had already won proving the accuracy of their TV reports titled "Dmitry Skrivanov Finally Finds Something to Do", "A Bad Example of an MP's Work", and "MP Skrivanov Again in Centre of Scandal". The journalists under his control undertook to remove criticism of their new boss from the company's website.
The above information is available in the State Automated System "Justice" and on the websites of the courts mentioned.
By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District
As we reported in digest 760, unidentified persons have thrown a Molotov cocktail bottle into journalist Yelena Suslova's house in Yessentuki (see digest 760 ).
Suslova links the incident either with her professional work (shortly before, the independent newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta published the results of her new journalistic investigation into land machinations by officials in the city of Mineralnyye Vody), or with someone's attempt to settle political scores with her as a candidate for a seat on the Stavropol Region Duma.
When threatening acts of these kinds occur, the media community's reaction is extremely important. Because whenever a crime is committed against an investigative journalist, regardless of how the prosecutors may qualify it later - as a breach of public order, arson, or damage to personal property - it is definitely an attempt to gag the victim. The latest act of intimidation was directed against all journalists, because that Molotov cocktail bottle was thrown at glasnost in general.
In some regions of Russia, the journalistic community's reaction is usually prompt: the presidium or the entire body of the local Union of Journalists meets to write appeals to the governor or regional law enforcement commanders. The message is simple and clear: take the investigation under your personal control! We don't want such acts to become routine in our region! Let me repeat: the professional community's quick reaction is essential, because all kinds of scum around the world fear only two things - glasnost and solidarity.
It doesn't matter what the victim was - a member or non-member of the Journalists' Union, what media outlet he worked for, or what his political convictions were. Nor does it matter where a crime against glasnost was committed - in Stavropol or in a neighbouring republic - because we all are within one close legal space, and if a neighbour is bombed, the bomb's fragments are sure to hit us, too.
Vassily Balditsyn, head of the Stavropol branch of the Union of Journalists, reacted this way: the presidium is ready to show some solidarity if Yelena Suslova asks for it in a principled manner, because she is not a member of the Union and rejects this organisation as such.
I have never heard of victims asking the Journalists' Union "in a principled manner" for an expression of solidarity. What if a person was killed, or is in hospital in a comatose condition - should you expect them, too, to appeal to you for help? No one should request solidarity. References to membership, or political and human differences, are only needed when you try to justify your indifference.
Nor can I remember a single protest made by the Stavropol Union of Journalists after the unlawful seizure of the newspaper Stavropolskiy Reporter's print run (telling about the Pyatigorsk mayor's gangster past), when the editor literally threw herself under the wheels of the vehicle taking the newspaper stacks away. I can't remember, either, any reaction of the presidium to the attack on the Stavropolye TV broadcaster's film crew, or to the beating of a Mineralnyye Vody newspaper's worker right at her workplace. And after Nikolai Potapov, editor of the newspaper Sel-Sovet, was killed, Vassily Balditsyn said the presidium would not make any public statements because Potapov wasn't a journalist.
Potapov, 66, the founder, editor and author of Sel-Sovet, printed out his newspaper using his home printer; he took it around in his old Oka mini-car, tossing fresh issues into residents' mailboxes. He released this newspaper (with a circulation under 1,000) for nearly three years. In his naïve, sometimes illiterate, texts he told the readers about local officials' power abuses and his personal fight against corruption. His newspaper did what the region's other numerous media did not, and that is why Potapov was a journalist. One should understand very clearly: he was murdered not only by his killer; not only by law enforcement to which he had many times turned for help in vain; he was being killed systematically, day after day, by so-called "professional journalists" who had conveniently built themselves into the system, turning from "democracy watchdogs" into the ruling elite's servants.
Meanwhile, the Union presidium did offer assistance to Anton Dubrovsky, a member of the Journalists' Union and a deputy of the regional Duma convicted as a rapist and pimp. Now that Dubrovsky is serving an 8-year term in tight-security prison, Vassily Balditsyn is trying to deny his having ever helped the convict. Then let me remind him of his own TV show, Zakovychki, in which he said this, word for word: "The presidium of the regional branch of the Journalists' Union has sent a letter to Sergei Dubrovin (former head of the Stavropol Region Investigative Department), asking him to take the case under his personal oversight to rule out provocations, and to inform colleagues in the Duma, and in the Union first and foremost, about how the investigation is proceeding". And further, "It is a matter of honour for the journalists' corps to make sure this revengeful feeling does not transform into excessively harsh measures in respect of the accused".
Interesting, isn't it - particularly as regards "excessive" measures?
In contrast, 64 journalists in Mineralnyye Vody, without waiting for anyone's appeal for help, have adopted a statement expressing the hope that regional law enforcement, under prosecutorial oversight, will track the arsonists down and bring them to justice. The statement says, in part: "The presidium of the Pyatigorsk territorial branch of the Journalists' Union of Russia is concerned over attacks on journalists throughout the country. We do not want to see this turning into a routine in our region, so we ask you to take the solving of this case under your personal control".
The distance between genuine and quasi journalism is so visible today that the Journalists' Union of Russia has called an extraordinary congress, scheduled for 12 August, to discuss a modernisation of the Union in the present conditions. We provincial residents do not clearly understand what the word "modernisation" actually means. Yet I know for certain what kind of change would be hailed by Balditsyn, who will definitely represent regional journalism at the congress. He has more than once said, including from high rostrums, that the Russian Journalist's Code of Ethics has "grown outdated", it is "difficult to comply with" because "the plank is set too high" and should be "lowered" to a more convenient level.
NEWS FROM PARTNERS
The St. Petersburg-based Legal Programmes Centre invites journalists from the North-Western region to enrol in the school for court reporters we plan to hold.
The media and the general public have paid special attention to the judiciary and its performance in recent years. It is in courts that a variety of public issues are decided. Trials and court rulings have been turning into sources of the most important and most trustworthy information.
The training course we offer will give you a unique opportunity to learn the essential skills and methods of professional work as a court reporter. Our experts and trainers will teach you how to build constructive relations with judges, courts, and their press pools; how to effectively exercise the rights guaranteed to the journalists by effective legislation; how to find the necessary information and cover trials properly; how to organise live online coverage of judicial proceedings, etc.
Our experts and trainers are renowned court reporters from Europe and Russia, as well as prominent judges, lawyers, barristers, and court spokesmen.
As part of the 12-month course, we plan to hold three 3-day training sessions in St. Petersburg, with webinars, consultations and other long-distance educational events in between. Trainees will also try practical work in courts and learn how to use the judiciary's information resources.
Those who successfully complete the full course of training will receive Court Reporters' School Graduation Certificates.
The project is co-sponsored by the Guild of Court Reporters and the Regional Press Institute.
The results of competitive selection of the would-be trainees on the basis of their applications will be announced on 1 September 2016.
The first seminar is to be held on 12-14 September 2016 at: 87, Ligovsky Prospekt, Room 300, St. Petersburg.
The training course is free. Trainees' travelling expenses (the fare to St. Petersburg) and hotel accommodation will be paid for by the organisers.
Journalists' applications (according to the attached form) should be emailed until 28 August 2016 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions about how to fill in the application form should be emailed to email@example.com until 18 August.
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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