Дайджест
26 Августа 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 765

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Persecution and discrimination campaign against editor in Vanino

By Tatyana Sedykh, editor, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye, Khabarovsk Region

At long last, the authorities have started legal proceedings which I insistently asked them to initiate for two and a half years, receiving categorical refusals in return. But even today, officials at the Vanino district police department in the region of Khabarovsk are trying to turn a blind eye to many important facts.

Since 2014, they stubbornly refused until recently to open a criminal case or start investigating. The regional prosecutor's office and investigative department forwarded my appeals - apparently in accordance with jurisdiction - to the Vanino police department, which likewise refused to start criminal proceedings "in view of no event of crime". Their degree of "competence" was really striking, as shown by the official reply they sent me: "The text under study contains a negative assessment of the females on the photos… It does feature statements negatively assessing Tatyana Sedykh, but at the same time, any real facts or events associated with Ms T. A. Sedykh and negatively assessing her work cannot be found". Apparently, a photo picture and negative assessments of "Tatyana Sedykh" but not of "Ms T. A. Sedykh" look perfectly normal to them!

What's this gobbledegook all about? After I appealed to Vladimir Putin at his December 2013 meeting with journalists at which I told him about problems people in my region were faced with, I became the target of a persecution campaign showing how a journalist in the Khabarovsk Region may be harassed for years with full impunity. Soon after Putin's news conference, a number of regional media started publishing, and an anonymous group of activists created a website, to carry countless humiliating, insulting and jeering articles that showed the anonyms were absolutely convinced they would get away unpunished. Suffice it to read just a few titles, like "Sedykh's Quirks and Capers", "Talking to Sedykh's Head-shrink", etc., in which the anonymous authors, without minding their language, discussed at length my mental health, the fact of my physical disability, and the newspaper I issue: "Even those of us who don't buy Sedykh's newspaper are nevertheless compelled to read her `masterpieces', her compilations of distorted facts, from time to time. It's because she writes about the township which most of us love so much, and about our friends and acquaintances she pours torrents of dirt on".

There've been photo pictures, too. For example, of me in wheelchair with the caption: "We can walk but we prefer to ride", and so on. From my childhood, I've never been too shy to call myself a physically handicapped person - there's nothing to be ashamed of; on the contrary, I am proud to have earned my pension independently and to have never hidden behind my disability. Moreover, I am proud to be a hard-working woman who continues to work despite all hardships, releases her own newspaper, and helps people living nearby. But here we deal with a clear instance of disability-based discrimination, however hard our law enforcers might try to not see this fact.

The judicial decision recognising me as a victim says I have suffered moral damage only. I have already notified the district police department and prosecutor's office of my disagreement with this decision. I have been belied and humiliated both as a journalist and a citizen of Russia, and discriminated against as a disabled person. I have presented all the photos and texts to law enforcement, and there can be no doubt as to their content. The only problem is how the law enforcers may react to my disagreement…

Besides, police officials are making helpless gestures, saying "Okay, we've opened a criminal case - but we don't know who to look for, where, or how". They've identified at long last the owner of the website which featured those dirty articles. Yet a check-up has shown that the owner's name, address (the address of an old woman from our township is mentioned) and passport data are all fictitious: "No information about such a person is available in the Region Database," an official notice said. That's how well the journalist-harassing group of "activists" has learned to disguise themselves. But then, what could one expect after two and a half years if no one ever bothered to look for the villains even "on a hot scent"?

RUSSIA

Yanukovich's security threaten journalist in Volgograd

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Viktor Yanukovich's security guards have clamped down on Anatoly Sologubov, chief editor of the Volgograd-based news agency SotsInformByuro, as he was attempting to take pictures of what was alleged to be the former Ukrainian president's yacht.

The attack occurred on the 18 August afternoon, as Sologubov's cutter was slowly sailing along a Volga shore and the journalist was photographing onshore facilities. His camera lens captured an unmarked three-deck yacht followed by a smaller boat.

"Evidently noticing the camera, the accompanying boat made several sharp turns and sailed up closer, nearly crashing into my cutter," Sologubov wrote on his agency's website. "Three men - two in tracksuits, the third one bare-breasted - came on deck, identifying themselves as `coast guards', rudely demanding explanations, and telling me to erase all of the images I'd taken".

At first, apparently satisfied with the journalist's explanations, the "coast guards" returned the camera to the owner, ordering him to not approach the yacht "at all events". Yet minutes later, they caught up with the cutter again, took a few pictures of Sologubov, rudely demanded his cell phone number, and threatened him with "big problems", if anything. Finally, he persuaded them to let him continue his boat trip.

With reference to its own sources, SotsInformByuro has confirmed that the three-decker was indeed carrying Viktor Yanukovich, who arrived in Volgograd with his family late on 17 August.

Editor in Sverdlovsk Region interrogated and has her home searched after social network post

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Officials of the Sverdlovsk Region Investigative Department on 18 August searched the home of Natalya Vakhonina, chief editor of the Mezhdu Strok (Between the Lines) news agency based in Nizhny Tagil. In the process, they told her she was a suspect in a case opened under Criminal Code Article 282.1 ("Instigation of hate or enmity, or disparagement of human dignity"). The searchers seized Vakhonina's cell phone, computer hard disc, notebook PC, and several USB drives. On the following day, during questioning by an investigator, she gave a written pledge to appear for further interrogations.

According to the search warrant, the legal case was opened on 14 July this year, preceded by a check-up of facts dragged out for more than a year. In May 2015, Konstantin Kolosov, a senior operative with the counter-extremism unit of the regional police department, discovered in the VKontakte social network some audio recordings and a video clip by the rock band Khuk Sprava (Right Cross), deemed to be the official mouthpiece of the Russkiy Obraz (Russian Image) nationalist group. Curiously, the songs were posted back on 7 December 2011 and the video, on 24 December 2012 on the Russkiy Obraz Nizhny Tagil account. According to the judges, the account owner was Vakhonina, who allegedly posted materials "to instigate hate or enmity, or to disparage the human dignity of a person or a group of persons".

Natalya herself and Mezhdu Strok director Yegor Bychkov believe the investigators' close attention to their agency was caused by a publication hinting at Nizhny Tagil Mayor Sergei Nosov's likely connection with business circles. In an open letter posted on the agency website, journalists have demanded "an end to unreasonable repressions" against the editor, and stressed that they would continue reporting "despite threats and intimidation".

Bychkov also noted that as of the dates of the imputed crimes, Article 282 qualified those as "lighter offences" with a 2-year period of limitations that has long since expired.

Law enforcers, in their turn, are insisting that "the criminal investigation has proceeded in full compliance with effective laws and procedural norms and has not been connected either with the journalist's professional work or with the political sphere or election campaigning".

The GDF is closely watching the developments in Nizhny Tagil.

Initiator of attack on journalist in Rostov Region gets off with only an administrative fine

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

As KVU newspaper reporter Olga Ripacheva arrived at Lenin Street in Shakhty with an editorial assignment to check local residents' complaint that their neighbours, the Grigoryan family, had cut off their water supply, she talked to the locals and made sure the pipeline had indeed been cut off, and quite a long time before. She then went to the house of the wrongdoers, where an elderly woman opened the door but refused to talk to the reporter. Minutes later a car pulled over, from which four sturdy men emerged to start shouting at the journalist, while the house owner's brother snatched the camera and cell phone from Ripacheva's hands.

Other neighbours came to the correspondent's rescue just in time. "Thanks to all those who ventured to save me and grab my phone back," Olga said. "The neighbours got it even worse than me. One of them had his lip cut by a fist blow and nearly lost his teeth, and the woman who tried to save my phone was left with a bleeding scratch on her arm".

When the locals called the police, the attackers got into the car and drove away, swearing badly and making obscene gestures. Ripacheva reported the incident to the police, but Maj. Kunenkov refused to start criminal proceedings "in view of no elements of crime". Even the journalist's video shot at the scene of the attack did not produce any impression on the law enforcers.

In connection with the damaged video camera and phone, proceedings were instead started against the attack initiator, Mr Grigoryan, under Administrative Code Article 7.17 ("Destruction of, or damage to, others' property punishable by a fine of 300 to 500 roubles").

Jobless Zvezda ex-reporter in Perm litigates with former employer for compensation

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Sverdlovsky district court in Perm on 17 August started reviewing a lawsuit lodged by now-jobless columnist Marina Morinova against her former employer, the newspaper Zvezda, which already lost two other such cases days earlier.

The front page of the Zvezda issue dated 19 January 2016 featured a photo of Morinova bathing in an ice hole, and her article titled "Baptism of Fire" reading, in part, as follows: "Dipping into the ice-cold water gives you an influx of extreme energy, when you want to shatter a mountain and simply can't sit still…" Five months later, Marina, daughter of once-prominent radio journalist Viktor Morinov, filed a voluntary-termination application and has ever since remained officially unemployed, barely scraping up enough to feed her 5-year-old son, as she confessed in an interview for the GDF.

In the statement of claim read out by Judge Olga Knyazeva, Morinova said she wanted 60,700 roubles in backpay for April, May and June; 15,000 underpaid for a publication; as much in holiday compensation; 100,000 in moral damages; and 4,000 roubles in judicial cost reimbursement. The civil case (according to jurisdiction) is to be reviewed by the Motovilikhinsky, not Sverdlovsky, district court.

The Motovilikhinsky court on 8 August partially satisfied similar legal claims filed by two other former employees of Zvezda, awarding 61,000 roubles to the newspaper's ex-editor-in-chief, Stepan Khlopov, and 76,700 roubles to its former deputy general director, Lyubov Trefilova.

In her interview for the GDF, Morinova explained her decision to quit by citing layoffs, underpaid salaries, the working week shortening to 4 days, blackouts caused by unpaid electricity bills, etc., as the reasons. Yet she has so far failed to find a well-paid alternative job via the FreelancePerm consulting firm, she said.

The new owner of the Perm Region's oldest newspaper, Dmitry Skrivanov, a regional MP representing the ruling United Russia party, was cited (see digest 757 ) as saying in a statement for the media under his control: "I am very much concerned over the situation around Zvezda. We must immediately interfere, and I in person will do everything for the staff of the most authoritative regional newspaper not only to continue working but also to keep up the journalistic traditions which have existed for decades. We will take the situation under control!"

Yet no one appeared in court to defend against Marina Morinova's legal claim.

Blogger in Karelia seeks compensation for violated copyright

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

Karelia resident Yakov Simanov, a photographer, has found on one of the republican websites a photo picture of which he claims to be the author, which is why he turned to the city court in Petrozavodsk for protection of his copyright.

According to the claimant, he has never expressed his consent, either orally or in writing, to anyone's using his photo work. OOO Nika-Press did this without authorisation by borrowing the picture from the social network it owns, which action may cost it 75,000 roubles including the author's personal losses, moral damages, and the cost of his hiring a lawyer.

The subject matter of the judicial dispute is a photo picture that can hardly be called unique or a piece of art - a cell phone picture of a little snow locomotive made by children on a kindergarten's ground last winter; the photo was later posted in Instagram.

As it turned out during the first sitting, the photographer (if he is indeed the author) would have to prove the fact of his work's posting on the website, because the management erased it in the face of a pending lawsuit and had never had the post certified by a notary public. This means a technical study of the site would be needed to confirm the fact of the publication.

Another point to be clarified is that the site management is insisting that it mentioned the author's name when publishing the photo, and moreover, that Simanov did express his consent in an e-mail message that, too, has now been erased.

The next sitting is scheduled for mid-September. The outcome of the proceedings is important for many other websites, especially for news sites that have long relied on social networks as sources of information.

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Blogger Alexei Kungurov: "Prison better than grave"

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The prominent Tyumen blogger Alexei Kungurov, whose term of arrest has now been extended until the end of September, has replied to GDF questions from the pre-trial detention centre he is kept in.

The regional FSB department is accusing the blogger under Criminal Code Article 205.2 of "publicly justifying terrorism" in his LiveJournal post "Who are Putin's falcons bombing in real terms?" It remains unclear in which specific parts of the text Kungurov was attempting to "justify" ISIS, a terrorist group outlawed in Russia: during the six-month probe which is still ongoing, investigator Anton Sukharev has never presented any evidence to support the charges brought against the blogger (see digest 746-747 ).

The post was dated October 2015, but Kungurov was arrested only five months later, after publishing another article, "What should Russia do with Donbas and Crimea?" Kungurov is one of the most original LiveJournal authors who drops out of the conventional propaganda matrix and is not listed among either "the patriots" or "the liberals".

Question: What do you think the real reason was behind your arrest? It seems your article about Syria was only a pretext, because for the following 5-odd months law enforcement had not been active until they detained you right after you published "What should Russia do with Donbas and Crimea?"

A. K.: There might be many reasons. I don't rule out that Gen. Pyatiletov, the regional FSB chief, might be told in Moscow: "You are a bad worker - deliver results or retire!" The entire world now knows ISIS fighter "Jihadi Tolik" from the city of Noyabrsk, who either executed (or pretended to execute) an unmasked FSB agent (or someone who claimed to be one). The execution video became an Internet hit. Now, what does this mean: such a "star" had grown up under the FSB's nose with them never paying attention to the guy! They'd never even had him on the profile list! There's the Tyumen Region FSB department, where hundreds of officials go to work every day, and pretend to be enormously active. There's an investigative division staffed with a head, deputy head, special investigators, and ordinary investigators. Each has his own office with a safe and a telephone, and each receives a salary, bonuses, and promotions. The only trouble is that they have not solved a single terrorist case - actually, they've nothing to do at all! And now the division head, after getting a good dressing-down, tells them to urgently find and liquidate a terrorist network, or to unmask at least one terrorist!

They have formed a whole investigative group, allegedly "to carry out an extensive amount of investigative work". And there you go! - several dozen law enforcers instantly found themselves having their hands full: some are conducting surveillance, others training "eyewitnesses", and the rest carrying out "expert studies", searching homes, digging into the content of seized computers, writing inquiries, issuing certificates, and preparing reports on the work done. Well, of course, the reason is extremely "serious": in a phrase about ISIS [banned in Russia - Editor.] - just one of several dozen terrorist organisations and by far not the most blood-thirsty or violent among them - they found signs of "terrorism justification"! The imputed text did not contain any other evaluative judgments regarding terrorists. Or maybe it's true that they might dislike my statements about the conflict with Ukraine.

Q.: What is your attitude toward the Memorial [human rights watchdog] group? Has this attitude changed since they designated you as a political prisoner?

A. K.: I've never felt negative about Memorial, and at one time I even took part in their human rights work, although I never shared their activists' ideological concepts nor liked their bellicose anti-Sovietism. To them, the victims of Yezhov's and Beriya's purges of 1937, the Vlasov army soldiers suffering in Gulag, and even the Poles executed by the Germans near Katyn, are all victims of Stalin's repressions. But if we look at today's realities, I have a much warmer feeling toward brave anti-Sovietists opposed to the current regime than to pro-Stalin cowards voting for United Russia or the Communist party.

Q.: How do you see your own future? Considering what the ruling elite has done, for example, to the Tomsk-based blogger Vadim Tyumentsev, who they must have had fewer reasons to frown at than at you (he got 5 years in a general-regime penal colony), you should probably have to muster up courage and start preparing for the worse. And only those "liberals" are likely to keep watching what's happening to you.

A. K.: I've often been recalling Karl Marx's words: "In what the new era differs from the old one is that the whip starts thinking it's a genius". Can one explain the rising tide of political repressions logically? Well, there may be some kind of logic in fear and panic aggravated by senility… There have been no protests in this country, and consequently, no leaders. That is why the regime has been taking aim, so to say, "at squares". For it, all Internet users, for example, are potential enemies. A short while ago, seven Russian regions started pilot-testing a new software package, Zeus, designed to keep under surveillance all social network users - who is located where, with whom they correspond, what they read, and what they repost. The system analyses not only the circle of a person's friends, but also of friends of one's friends.

Law enforcement believes that total surveillance over the country can prevent its collapse. They've already forgotten that their struggle with dissidents turned out futile, to say the least. The Communist party's Central Committee became the chief grave-digger for the USSR. Repressions reflect how fearful the Kremlin bosses are. And can one really call those repressions political? Personally, I belong to no political group, don't seek to join the ruling elite, have not used any State Department grants, and have not taken part in rallies. As a political writer, I've criticised not only those at the helm, but oppositionists of all kinds as well. In other words, I've become a political prisoner not because I engaged in politics but because the FSB's motivation is strictly political. During interrogations, the investigator has never been interested in my "terrorist activity"; he's been asking me about the political groups I sympathize with and what my political views are. Similarly, the testimony obtained from "eyewitnesses" doesn't say a word as to the essence of the charges brought against me - it's all about how "politically dangerous" I am.

Vadim Tyumentsev, the blogger you mentioned, was as "politically involved" as myself. By the way, he is an acquaintance of mine, and for all I know, he never liked politics and preferred searching for traces of meteorites in the taiga. When I heard about the charges brought against him, I didn't really think the consequences would be serious; I thought he might get off with a suspended prison term at the worst. After they placed me behind bars, I learned to my surprise I wasn't Russia's sole imprisoned blogger.

And not only liberals have been concerned about my future. The very first response to my arrest came from the Sulakshin Centre uniting people who might be described as "leftist patriots": they are conducting an information campaign in my support and helping my defence lawyer. But generally, you are right: I've more than once drawn the attention of our so-called "patriots" shouting at public rallies, "The Russians never leave compatriots in trouble!", that the fate of Russian POWs Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov was interesting in Russia only to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the Dozhd TV channel, and the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

As regards my future, I make no particular fuss about it. "Sitting in prison is anyway better than lying in the grave," as the old saying goes.

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2016 Andrei Sakharov competition "Journalism as an Act of Conscience" continues

The jury of the 2016 Andrei Sakharov Competition "Journalism as an Act of Conscience" continues accepting works submitted for this year's contest. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award "For Journalism as an Act of Conscience" 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 materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2015 and October 15, 2016 in Russian print or online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard (gate of Journalists' Union of Russia), Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: "Andrei Sakharov Competition `Journalism as an Act of Conscience'".

For further details, see www.gdf.ru or call: (+7 495) 637 4947.

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