19 Января 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 785

16 January 2017


Opposition politician to complain to ECHR over conviction of bloggers Kungurov and Nosik

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Oppositionist Alexei Navalny intends to present the interests of two convicted bloggers - Alexei Kungurov from Tyumen, Siberia, and Anton Nosik from Moscow - in the European Court of Human Rights, the prominent politician has reported in his blog stressing that the two men plan to complain to the ECHR over their illegal prosecution for posts in the LiveJournal social network about Russian aerospace forces' activities in Syria. In the case of Kungurov, the investigators and judges did not have anything at all to prove that the blogger was guilty: his defence lawyer presented evidence showing that the text imputed to Kungurov had been posted by another person.

"Now, look at what we have today," Navalny wrote. "The two men hold diametrically opposite views: Nosik's text was titled `Wipe Syria off the Map', suggesting that that country should be bombed even harder, which is what the Russian aerospace forces actually did by fully destroying Aleppo… Kungurov's text was titled `Who Putin's Falcons Are Bombing in Reality', calling on the Russian air forces to curtail their operations [in Syria]. For the moment, it's not clear at all who they are bombing - evidently, not ISIS (extremist organisation outlawed in Russia)".

"This notwithstanding, both Nosik and Kungurov have been convicted in the wake of those posts, with Kungurov getting a real imprisonment term after [serving a long time] in pre-trial detention," Navalny noted. "[…] Actually, they stole a sizeable part of that man's life. The `trials' over each of the two were turned into real circus shows, with both common sense and the code of criminal procedure getting trampled on in the meanest way".

We reported details of the trial over Alexei Kungurov in digests 782 and 783. Based on the results of "expert studies" whose authors had ascribed their own statements and thoughts to the accused, a panel of military judges found him guilty of "public justification of terrorism" and sentenced him under Article 252.1 to two years in a penal colony. Nosik was convicted of posting an "extremist" article and fined half a million roubles.

"Why is that so?" Navalny wondered, and answered his own question: "Because the damned Leviathan - the Russian state in its current form - devours citizens simply because they happen to express independent views. Anyone at all [is potential prey]: a right-winger, a left-winger, a nationalist, or a liberal. You are allowed to open your mouth only if you're listed among those admitted to the TV shows anchored by [notorious pro-regime propagandists Dmitry] Kiselyov or [Vladimir] Solovyov. If you're able to think independently, all you can get is a convictive sentence".


Unknown men beat up journalist Vladislav Ryazantsev near regional government headquarters in Rostov-on-Don

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

At about 4 p.m. on 10 January, Ryazantsev, a Caucasian Knot news agency correspondent, was taking a stroll with his young wife in the square outside the local "White House" listed among the major city sights in Rostov.

"A man wearing a hooded tracksuit approached us and invited me to walk a few steps aside `for a talk'," Ryazantsev told journalists as he was describing details of the attack. "I refused to, after which three other sporty-looking guys ran up to us, pushing away my wife and starting to beat me. When some passers-by offered us their help, the attackers vanished out of sight".

The journalist was taken to hospital with numerous bruises and a scull trauma. Police have started criminal proceedings under Article 116 ("Beating"). Hours later, Roman Zheleznov (better-known under his nickname "Zukhel"), an activist of the National-Social Movement, in a social network post, claimed responsible for the attack.

"This `educative work' with Vladislav Ryazantsev the sell-out scribbler, was needed in view of his intensive public activity which the Russian National-Socialists see as harmful," Zheleznov wrote online. "He had been sent warnings which he failed to take seriously. Not that we beat him severely - it was just an expression of social disapproval. If we had meant to give him a really good licking, he'd probably have been unable to write in social networks until next spring".

Posting a photo from the crime scene, Zheleznov added: "If he or his colleagues doubt my competence as a commentator, or suspect me of bluffing, here is a picture of our watching the target a couple of minutes before we met - his wife is wearing a red cap, and he a fur-lined hooded jacket".

The nationalist activist's whereabouts are not known for certain: some sources say he is currently in Germany, others say he is in Ukraine, Ryazantsev told the GDF adding that the attack might have been carried out by Zheleznov's accomplices who did focus their camera lens on Ryazantsev and wife amid a crowd of people in the square.

It may as well be added that prior to the attack, on January 3 and 4, the journalist received anonymous SMS messages threatening him with violence.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Rostov.

Newspaper Prizyv in Karelia may be closed because of debts

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

Earlier in January the news portal Media-urist.ru reported that Nikolai Fedyuntsov, acting director/chief editor of the newspaper Prizyv based in Landenpohja, Karelia, had notified the staff of a suspension of the newspaper's operation in view of arrears.

Still earlier, on 30 December, the Prizyv team was informed of planned staff reductions: the director/chief editor's wage rate would be halved, while the chief accounting officer and one maker-up would remain on the payroll with their wage rates unchanged.

The sole professional journalist working for the newspaper, Lyudmila Schiffner, too, received a staff reduction notice, which, according to her colleagues, had been well-expected.

Actually, her dismissal is deemed to be the real reason behind the layoffs, following a scandal that flared up around Prizyv last summer, when the newspaper published an article titled "Gennady Spirin: The State Robbed of 12 Million Roubles". The story disclosed a financial swindle allegedly organised by local parliamentarian and MP Vyacheslav Velikodvorsky. The reaction was instant: Landenpohja district administration head Vladislav Vokhmin ordered the paper's chief editor and article author Nadezhda Gongeleva's dismissal without explanation.

She went to law to defend her rights, and the Landenpohja district court on 12 September reinstated Gongeleva in her former position, which decision took force immediately. Yet Prizyv's founder appealed to the Supreme Court of Karelia which decided Gongeleva had been fired lawfully. Mr Fedyuntsov took over as the new chief editor on 23 December.

Judicial conflict with police compels blogger Kirill Formanchuk to leave Yekaterinburg

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

After repeated attempts to place behind bars Kirill Formanchuk, a renowned blogger and defender of motorists' rights (see digest 758 ), Yekaterinburg traffic police, whose actions he used to harshly criticise, have succeeded in only one thing: Formanchuk, better known under his online nickname "Medved" ("Bear"), has decided to move to St. Petersburg.

The latest criminal case was opened against the blogger under Article 319 ("Public insult to a government official") in July 2015, when he ran into a conflict with a traffic policeman who, according to Formanchuk, had attempted to cross the road right in front of the wheels of his motorbike. The blogger reported the incident to the police, pointing to the traffic policeman as the person to blame. The latter, in turn, filed a counterclaim accusing Formanchuk of badly swearing at him in public.

At Koltsovo Airport in Yekaterinburg, where the blogger arrived from St. Petersburg at around 7 a.m. on 24 May 2016, he was approached by three plain-clothes men, "one of whom introduced himself as an Interpol agent - as if I'd committed some international crime," Formanchuk wrote in his social network blog. The men told him he was in for a fine of up to 40,000 roubles or for correctional labour. Yet the Verkh-Isetsky district court turned their lawsuit down, thus disrupting their attempts to punish the blogger.

Media regulator in Karelia insists on physician's personal data removal from websites

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

A certain Mr Manov has turned to the prosecutor's office of Karelia and to the republic's department of the media regulator Roskomnadzor, demanding that the websites which posted online his personal information should remove it. He sees the publication of his personal data as an instance of outside interference in his private life. One should note, however, that the data were copied by journalists from the websites of the Segezhsky district prosecutor's office after Manov's actions as a dentist had resulted in a patient's death. A court of law found him guilty and sentenced to freedom restrictions for up to two years. Let us stress again that the info first appeared on the prosecutor's office's website, and only later in the media. Yet as soon as the dentist complained to the oversight agencies, the information was promptly erased from the prosecutorial site, leaving the media involved to face the consequences.

In response to Manov's complaint, Karelia's Roskomnadzor urged the media outlets to remove the physician's data from their websites and report on the fulfilment of its orders by sending documents confirming the fact of the data's withdrawal from the Internet - or be ready to bear administrative liability.

The media outlets concerned, unwilling to get dragged into judicial conflicts, preferred to delete the information they had received from the prosecutors - and this despite the provisions of Article 49 of the federal Media Law relieving the journalist of the duty of asking individuals' consent to the publication of information about their private life if this meets public interests. Also, Article 6 of the federal Personal Data Law stipulates that media may process personal data of citizens without their consent if this is done as part of a journalist's professional work and/or a media outlet's lawful activity. In other words, if the public is interested in learning more about a certain situation, the law gives the media a free hand to disseminate publicly significant information without asking participants' private opinion.

The story with the dentist whose incompetence led to a person's death was one of such particular cases. The media acted in full compliance with the law and it seems strange that Karelia's Roskomnadzor and the Segezhsky prosecutor's office, taking the physician's side, actually detained journalists from satisfying public interest and defending people's health.

Residents of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk grow increasingly vexed at replacement of news stalls with newer but smaller ones

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

We already reported in September (see digest 769-770 ) about newspaper kiosks disappearing one after another from their habitual locations in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

A large-scale public discussion that unfolded over an article on the same topic posted on the Sakh.com news agency's website showed that city residents - readers as well as press distributors - were seriously alarmed by that trend, and even the Board of the Sakhalin branch of the Russian Union of Journalists voiced its concern over where people were now supposed to buy fresh periodicals. The article ended with assurances by the head of the regional Architecture and Urban Development Agency Semyon Vyalkin that the press stalls would return to the city streets - not ill-assorted as they were at the time, but nice and modern-looking, of two or three new designs.

Early in December, the mayor's office finally announced that the first 25 modern press pavilions had been installed, all of them combined with bus-stop facilities. They had been purchased for the city by a private investor, OOO Martsipan, for 30 million roubles, and 43 more kiosks were forthcoming, Sakh.com said.

However, that further aggravated, rather than solved, the problem. After a couple of months, the new facilities started falling into decay, showing dents, scratches and inartistic graffiti evidently produced by city residents freezing at bus stops in expectation of public transport. Using the kiosks as originally intended is both difficult (a news vendor can hardly fit into a 3-sq.metre space with all the piles of newspapers and magazines) and unprofitable, because renting a tiny kiosk for 20,000 roubles a month is barely affordable. In winter, it is freezing cold inside: the thin plastic walls are a poor protection from the wind, while using an electric heater amid newspaper stacks would be against the fire safety rules. In addition, the new pavilions are ill-suited for selling the press because their walls are mostly blank.

Sakh.com cited an example of what hurdles one prospective press distributor, Mikhail, had to overcome when deciding to open his own business. After submitting to the Urban Development Agency the full package of documents it required, he himself found a vacant spot on an unofficial parking lot in a residential area, agreeing with the local association of house tenants on how much he would pay for the tiny piece of land to be rented and how he would make sure the entire space between apartment houses looked nice and tidy; and he himself bought and installed the first press pavilion at a lower price than those that had been purchased but remained unused by the city.

The official reply he received from the mayor's office was no, because his pavilion allegedly "harmed" the general architectural design of the residential area. "They hinted that the city needed news stalls of a specific design, all looking alike as the children of one mother," the news agency cited Mikhail as saying. "They gave me the address of a particular factory in Novosibirsk… Well, their attempt to lay hands on my business would at least be understandable - but they neither do anything themselves nor let others earn a living".

Olga Lukina, a retiree with a 10-year record of work as a news vendor, is compelled to keep all the periodical stuff at home and arrange meetings with customers by phone. "The new pavilions are too small, while we sell newspapers and magazines of more than 1,000 titles, and the stock is replenished thrice a week," she said. "Inside a pavilion, there isn't even room for a chair to sit on, while even a young person can hardly spend a 13-hour working day in the standing position, let alone us [senior people]. Our bosses have complained to the mayor's office, but officials said let them [vendors] sit on their newspaper stacks. Well, I don't think those officials would ever agree to sit on the piles of documents they work with…"


Mariy El media suffer from censorship

By Tatyana Zhelonkina, Yoshkar-Ola

One local newspaper editor has been forced to resign, another's future is still undecided, and all the other journalists throughout the republic have been shown that officials in Mariy El are free to do whatever they like.

Details of this story became known after the New Year holidays, while the conflict itself flared up late in December - seemingly, over nothing. It all began with the republican branch of the Communist Party (KPRF) deciding to place in district newspapers - for pay - greeting messages to their nominee Sergei Kazankov who had won a seat on the RF State Duma running in a single-mandate constituency.

The congratulating texts were carried by the newspapers Vestnik Rayona, Nasha Zhizn, Vesti, Krai Sengurskiy, Znamya, Volzhskaya Pravda, and Yurinsky Rabochiy, whereas the newspapers Zvenigovskaya Nedelya, Voskhod, Krai Gornomariyskiy, and Vperyod edited them out and returned the money.

According to journalists, the orders "Don't publish anything about Kazankov!" came from the republican administration's Controlling Committee - namely, from Vladimir Markin, head of the Press and Mass Communications Department of the Ministry of Culture, the Press, and Inter-ethnic Affairs. Local administration officials and parliamentarians were simultaneously "alerted" in virtually all districts as well.

A number of newspapers had their print runs seized right in the printing house. Censors urged the editors to have the fresh issues laid out into pages again, with congratulations to Sergei Kazankov replaced with a New Year postcard. In the process, appeals to electors by deputies elected from the United Russia Party's list of nominees remained intact. You think officials reimbursed the newspapers at least for the material damage they incurred? Far from that - the media outlets were compelled to loosen their purse strings to pay once again for the reprinting of their New Year issues!

Notably, the officials thought that censoring alone was not enough: they demonstratively put pressure on Yelena Lebedeva, editor of a local newspaper in the Sernursky district and a mother of three minors, to resign "of her own free will".

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.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
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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:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни