Дайджест8 Февраля 2017 года
Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 787
30 January 2017
Event of the week
EVENT OF THE WEEK
Karelia's Union of Journalists challenges in court the rules of journalists' accreditation adopted by Petrozavodsk mayor's office
By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District
The rules of journalists' accreditation recently adopted by the Petrozavodsk administration contain a number of clauses contradicting the Russian constitution and the federal Media Law. For example, media and journalists are required to "comprehensively and objectively inform the readers, listeners and viewers about [all] events organised by the mayor's office". While the point concerning objectivity seems indisputable, only journalists themselves should decide which events to cover and how much page space or air time to devote to them, and whether to cover at all, even if a reporter has attended a certain event. The mayor's office, just as any other government authority, has no right to meddle in a media outlet's editorial policy. Therefore, the Union of Journalists sees the new rules' clause that a journalist may be stripped of his/her accreditation for not covering mayoral activities in Petrozavodsk for six months or longer as an infringement of media rights that calls for taking this and other similar matters to court.
To date, a number of items in the new regulations have already been officially pronounced as unlawful and subject to cancellation by the city administration, while others are still being challenged by journalists.
The relevant lawsuits are being reviewed by the Supreme Court of Karelia which has forwarded the amended accreditation rules for checking to the city administration's Legal Department which has confirmed that the journalists are right, while the mayoral rules are in breach of the municipal charter and Russia's constitution, and even display some internal contradictions.
In view of this official support for the Karelia Union of Journalists' position, the Petrozavodsk mayor's office should voluntarily, without awaiting a formal Supreme Court decision, review its newly-adopted rules, since the outcome of the dispute is quite predictable - or still better, stop hampering the reporters' work altogether and scrap these unneeded accreditation regulations without which mayoral officials used to comfortably live for decades.
Clearly, trying to influence the way the media cover the Petrozavodsk administration's activities is an unlawful line of behaviour discrediting the mayoral officials.
Criminal proceedings started on charges of obstructing journalists' professional work in Vladivostok
By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District
The Perm Region Investigative Department on 23 January announced the start of criminal proceedings against a bus driver who prevented Vesti Primorya journalists on 18 January from fulfilling an editorial assignment - shooting a TV report for the news show.
"Amid the ongoing anti-smoking campaign, we saw a bus driver sitting at the wheel with a lit cigarette in his mouth," correspondent Gennady Kartelev said. "The man reacted to our warning inadequately and tried to drive away, although our cameraman Denis Yunak had already entered the bus filming the proceedings. The driver attacked Yunak and damaged his camera".
"As part of the proceedings under Article 144, the suspect has been questioned and put under recognizance, having pledged to behave decently," a source within law enforcement told the GDF. "The investigation is going on".
The bus driver may be in for imprisonment for up to 6 years, or for 5 to 6 years of forced labour. Before the Investigative Committee interfered, his company carried out a preliminary probe resulting in his instantly receiving a stern reprimand from the management.
All-Russia United Front's central leadership stands up for sacked district newspaper editors in Omsk Region
By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District
The All-Russia Popular Front (ONF)'s Centre for Legal Assistance to Journalists is set to help the sacked chief editors of district newspapers in the Omsk Region to get reinstated. As we reported in digest 786, the editors of three local newspapers - Nasha Irtyshskaya Pravda (Bolsherechensky district), Tarskoye Priirtyshye (Tara district) and Ihre Zeitung (issued by the community of ethnic Germans in the Azovsky district) -lodged legal claims against the regional government's Main Information Policy Department (MIPD) which had refused to extend the work contracts with them, allegedly because of their "failure to show new competencies". What these competencies are all about is still a guess: not a single MIPD instruction - either oral or written - says a word about them. Meanwhile, Stanislav Sumarokov, the department head, has said in an interview for Omsk journalists: "You cannot paint everything in black; other colours are to be used, too. People need some positive benchmarks".
This statement is at odds with the instructions earlier given to journalists by Governor Viktor Nazarov (that "colouring the truth is inadmissible", that "the press and TV must tell the full truth, even if it hurts," etc.), and with the regional information policy concept he signed, prescribing "executive power openness," "equal interests of all information users regardless of their social status," "ensuring the lawful rights and freedoms of citizens to express their opinions"), etc.
Real, not ostensible, competencies of the dismissed editors-in-chief are confirmed by their numerous victories in journalistic contests, the impressive circulations of their newspapers, and the high levels of their outlets' self-sufficiency clearly outdoing the average indicators of district newspapers' performance across the region.
ONF has not left publications about the sacked media editors in the Omsk Region, including those posted on the Glasnost Defence Foundation's website, unnoticed. Natalya Kostenko, ONF legislative initiatives coordinator at the State Duma, has come up with this comment: "All we have for the moment is information from open sources, but as early as today we do consider the initiative [to fire the Omsk editors] to be questionable - both de jure and de facto. Experts at the Centre for Assistance to Journalists will contact the dismissed editors shortly to gather all the information we need and help them present their cases and defend their rights".
This statement gives some hope for the fired editors' reinstatement.
Conviction of kindergarten teacher who attempted to draw public attention to a minor's humiliation causes broad repercussions in Kurgan and Sverdlovsk Regions
By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District
Tensions are growing over the scandalous conviction by the Kataisky district court of Yekaterinburg kindergarten teacher Yevgeniya Chudnovets for reposting a social-network video of a naked boy being humiliated by group leaders in a local summer camp (see digest 779 ). On 15 January she was transferred from the Shadrinsk pre-trial prison, where she had even been locked for some time into an isolation ward, to Women's Penal Colony No.6 in Nizhny Tagil. The main argument in her defence is that she is not guilty because she did not "circulate preteen porno" but attempted to draw public and law enforcement's attention to the outrage captured on the video she reposted in VKontakte.
Journalists and social network users are indignant at the court's passing so severe a sentence in respect of a totally innocent person, not even the one who was the first to post the video. Defence lawyer Maria Kirillova is preparing to challenge that decision; Sverdlovsk Region human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Merzlyakova is trying to get Chudnovets released on bail; RF Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin has ordered checking the validity of the investigators' conclusions; and Russia's human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova is set to interfere after a thorough study of the case-file copies sent to her.
As we have reported, the video was posted in August 2015, giving rise to criminal proceedings against summer-camp group leaders Danil Bezborodov and Tatyana Kursheva (who was filming the 10-year-old boy's humiliation with her cell phone camera), who then got a three- and a six-year imprisonment terms, respectively. A year later, on 8 November, Chudnovets was found guilty of "disseminating child pornography" and condemned to six months in prison, with her 3-year-old son taken under government guardianship. The higher-standing regional court mitigated the punishment to 5 months in penal colony and cancelled the court of original jurisdiction's decision in its part concerning her son.
Yet Chudnovets' defence lawyers are determined to go as far as it takes them to get what they see as the unlawful decision cancelled in full. Moreover, State Duma MP Alexander Sidyakin has urged the Supreme Judicial Qualifications Board to check the sentence passed by the first-instance court's judge in terms of how fair it was.
The GDF will closely follow the procedural developments.
By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District
On 27 January, I was barred from attending an open hearing in the Perm regional court to review regional prosecutor Vadim Antipov's request for correcting a judicial mistake made more than four years ago in the case of entrepreneur Alexei Kildibekov. The judges preferred to undo that gross injustice in camera, with the press left behind closed doors.
As announced on its official website, the regional court presidium was to simultaneously review 4 criminal and two civil case appeals, starting at 10 a.m. that day. Before the sittings began, I told the court secretary with whom I had several times met earlier there, about my coming to attend the Kildibekov case hearing. An unknown nice-looking lady in uniform, who was nearby, asked me, "You're a visitor? That case will be reviewed later - we'll invite you!"
I spent more than an hour waiting for the invitation in the 7th-floor lobby under the watchful eyes of two judicial officers and the lenses of several security cameras. In the meantime, the secretary twice came out to announce the start of work on other appeals, each time showing the parties and visitors into the courtroom. Minutes after 11 a.m., I saw the regional deputy prosecutor, Lyubov Malysheva, coming out into the lobby, and I walked up to greet her. She really shocked me by saying they had already reviewed - and granted - Kildibekov's appeal. The secretary standing nearby hastened to ward off my unasked question: "Well, you didn't tell us yesterday about your wish to attend the sitting!" All I could do was dismiss the matter with a joke.
In the RF Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 241 ("Glasnost") does not say a single word about the need for potential attendees of open court sittings to notify anyone in advance of their wish to attend. Nor does the code contain any clause requiring journalists to ask anyone's permission to be present at a trial. By failing to announce the start of the sitting to review Kildibekov's appeal, the regional court presidium showed its neglectful attitude to one of the justice system's pillars - glasnost. It attempted to correct a crude mistake made by the local judicial authorities by holding an in-camera sitting closed to the press.
The Dzerzhinsky district court in Perm on 14 December 2012 convicted Alexei Kildibekov of a violation of fire safety rules resulting in the accidental death of 18 persons and in yet another person's suffering serious bodily harm. He as the renter of the warehouse catching fire on the night of 10 February 2011 was sentenced to 6.5 years in penal colony, including the 6 months he had spent in detention awaiting trial.
When in colony, Kildibekov succeeded on 31 May 2015 in getting partially amnestied and having his term reduced by a third. After the Nytvensky district court on 15 February 2016 denied him conditional release, the jailed entrepreneur started filing complaints and went all the way up to the RF Supreme Court which ordered judgment-reversal proceedings. On 7 October 2016, the presidium of the Perm regional court was compelled to cancel the unlawful decision of a reviewing panel of judges that on April 20 had upheld the unlawful conditional release denial. Yet another appellate panel's sitting ended on November 8 in Kildibekov's immediate discharge from Penal Colony No.39 in the Okhansky district - 1 year, 2 months and 25 days earlier than he was due to be released originally, but 9 months later than he might otherwise have been set free if the judges hadn't made their mistake.
A noteworthy detail: In violation of the Law "On Access to Information about the Russian Federation Courts' Performance", neither the 14 December 2012 sentence passed by the Dzerzhinsky district court nor the Nytvensky district court's ruling of 15 February 2016 were made known to the public through the State Automated System "Justice".
By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District
The Khabarovsk Region branch of the Russian Union of Journalists has urged Governor Vyacheslav Shport and other high-ranking regional officials (all of whom, aside from performing their direct duties, are presidents, or members of Boards of Trustees, of local football or hockey clubs) to pay attention to the deplorable situation in the area of sports news reporting. The Dalnevostochnaya State TV/Radio Company has shut down its Golevaya Peredacha (Chance to Score) television show, and the Guberniya (6TV) broadcaster has no sports-devoted programme at all.
The sole online sports publication, Vnashypolzu, has remained suspended since October 1 in view of financial difficulties. The same reason is behind the shut-down of a morning talk show with Khabarovsk athletes' participation on Radio Sport FM and the closure of the magazine Sportivnyi Khabarovsk more than a year ago, the appeal said.
With virtually all sports-reporting outlets closed or suspended, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, including among children, has been falling into oblivion. Radio and TV sports news coverage is reduced to matches between teams at masters' level only - and this despite the region's fairly often being the venue of tournaments in different sports and its having been chosen as the would-be host of the World Bandy Championship in 2018. Yet it is still not clear how its coverage would be organised, the appeal said.
The journalists also asked the authorities to note that shutting down sports-reporting media also meant layoffs that could not but cause the media community's negative reaction. In conclusion, they requested the regional leadership's help in revitalizing special sports shows and publications.
Journalist Vitaly Guliy, ex-deputy presidential envoy to Far East Russia, detained in Moscow on suspicion of extremist activity
By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District
Journalist Vitaly Guliy, former deputy presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, was detained at Moscow's Domodedovo airport on suspicion of involvement in extremist activity, his defence lawyer has announced.
"My client was de-boarded at Domodedovo airport from an air flight to Kishinev, and then detained, with official charges to be brought against him shortly," the PrimaMedia news agency cited the lawyer as saying.
Guliy is suspected of "instigating hate or enmity", an offence falling under Criminal Code Article 282 and punishable by up to 5 years in jail. Criminal proceedings against him were started in the wake of his publishing his book "At the Foot of Russia's Olympus: A Few Touches to the Portrait of Today's Official", the news agency said.
Actually, it is for the first time ever that an official of so high a rank is facing charges of extremism. Guliy, once a Sakhalin schoolteacher, then a reporter for a local and a regional newspapers and a Rossiyskaya Gazeta correspondent in the Maritime and Sakhalin Regions, later rose to deputy presidential envoy to Sakhalin, deputy presidential chief of staff, and deputy presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District. Since 1993, he was a division head, then deputy chief of staff in the Russian president's administration in charge of coordinating the work of presidential representatives in the regions throughout the Russian Federation. Before that (in 1989-1992) he was a People's Deputy of the USSR.
By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District
For more than a year now, 20 workers of the Khabarovsk Region's oldest newspaper, Priamurskiye Vedomosti, have been unable to receive pay for the work done.
In January 2016, the newspaper was shut down without, however, losing its brand: another newspaper has been issued under the same name for the past 12 months by the Otkrytyi Region (Open Region) Centre in Support of Public Initiatives. The same Centre is the publisher of another pro-government newspaper, Khabarovskiy Krai Segodnya (Khabarovsk Region Today).
One of the injured parties, journalist Yuri Kovalyov, was the first (back in December 2015) to ask the Investigative Committee in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur to start criminal proceedings. His statement of claim, after a long period of procrastination by red tapists within that agency, ended up at the Khabarovsk Region Investigative Committee's department for the city of Khabarovsk, where Senior Investigator A. Suprunenko finally decided in June 2016 to start criminal proceedings under Article 145.1.2 ("Non-payment of wages").
The investigation went on at a snail's pace, with the investigative department head and the prosecutor of Khabarovsk pretending not to notice a major procedural violation - non-compliance with the requirement that preliminary investigation into a criminal case must be completed within 2 months since the date the proceedings were started (Article 162 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). Towards the year's end the probes were finally over, with all suspects and witnesses questioned and with the country cottage of Oleg Kulgin (former Priamurskiye Vedomosti editor) searched. Yet the case files, for some strange reason, are still lying shelved in the chief investigator's office.
Seeing the law being violated as brazenly as that, the underpaid media workers are wondering why. Isn't it because Oleg Kulgin is not an ordinary member of the ruling United Russia Party but a member of the Presidium of its Regional Political Council?
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.
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