Дайджест13 Февраля 2017 года
Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 788
6 February 2017
Story of the week
Glasnost defence foundation
STORY OF THE WEEK
By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District
A United Russia Party deputy gets two-year suspended sentence for beating a journalist.
The Kalachino town court in the Omsk Region has announced the ruling in the case against municipal official Alexander Ovcharenko (also employed as a regional legislator's aide), accused under Criminal Code Article 144 (obstructing legitimate professional activity of a journalist).
The GDF reported in digest No. 768 that the deputy attacked First municipal television channel reporter Vakhit Niyazov to block his way to the Palace of Culture hall where the deputy's colleague, regional legislator Khabulda Shushubayev, was having a meeting with Kalachino residents.
In the course of the inquest, Ovcharenko and Shushubayev denied the fact of battery though thousands of potential witnesses, i.e. Omsk residents, had seen the undeniably authentic video on the Internet that caught him in the act.
The court gave Ovcharenko a two-year suspended sentence with two-year probation. The United Russia deputy paid 44,500 roubles in damages to First municipal television channel and the journalist, including 30,000 roubles to Vakhit Niyazov, who told the RIA Omskinform regional news portal that the sentence was too soft. No appeals followed as yet.
By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District
Chechen prosecutors have demanded criminal prosecution of blogger Ilya Davydov for deriding the Koran and the Bible. The blogger performed at a Moscow stand-up club back in 2012. A two-minute video was posted on YouTube in April 2015 and the Muslim Trebui Znaniya Telegam channel ran it in January 2017. Davydov then said he had been threatened and insulted. He left Russia on 21 January without reporting the threats to police.
"A psycho-linguistic study has shown that the video contains actions and statements aimed to humiliate a person and a group of persons by attitudes towards Muslim and Christian faiths," according to the 3 February statement on Chechen prosecutors' website.
Prosecutors demanded that the video be recognized as extremist and that criminal proceedings be instituted against the blogger over inciting hate or strife (Criminal Code Article 282), which is punished by up to five years in prison.
The blogger's supporters said he had never desecrated religious books and that the book he held during the comedy show and in which he put a dirty sock was neither the Koran nor the Bible.
By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District
Karelia's Union of Journalists has won protracted litigation with the Petrozavodsk administration. All the journalist-accreditation norms adopted by Petrozavodsk Town Hall were recognized as illegitimate and hence invalid. Editorial offices and journalists henceforth can decide for themselves which mayoral events to cover, if any, and to what extent. They no longer face the loss of accreditation for not covering town hall work for more than six months. This provision used to be part of the already invalid accreditation rules evidencing the mayor's office's interference in media editorial policy.
Having examined the parties' arguments, Karelia's Supreme Court agreed that the accreditation rules set by the Petrozavodsk Town Hall were at variance with federal legislation on the mass media, and with the Russian Constitution. The court's ruling abrogated the accreditation norms protested by the journalists. However, of the five norms one remained effective, because it had not been legally challenged, not because town hall lawyers were in the right. The norm said that the Petrozavodsk administration would deny accreditation to unregistered media.
Unregistered media include periodicals with a print run of less than 1,000 copies and online outlets performing media functions. However, if they take the matter to court, they will win the case because the federal law does not require mandatory registration for this category of media. The Petrozavodsk Town Hall would better cancel its last accreditation provision on its own without waiting for a new legal claim.
Editorial offices are unanimous that the accreditation rules make no sense and are therefore redundant. As the public dispute unfolded parallel to hearings, Petrozavodsk Mayor Irina Miroshnik surprisingly said she would not have signed the document had she paid more attention to it. It follows that she acknowledged her lawyers' and administration's error. Why then, did the authorities persevere in defending their viewpoint? Hopefully, this is the end of the story.
Importantly, the court of original jurisdiction, which is the Petrozavodsk city court, sided with the mayor's office. Professional legal errors would best be analysed at corporate level, and the case is certainly a precedent for consideration by Karelia's Council of Judges.
Critical journalist from Rostov Region urges RF Supreme Court to fully acquit her in view of her winning lawsuit in ECHR
By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District
Yelena Nadtoka, whose interests are defended by Mass Media Defence Centre lawyers, is demanding that the sentence passed against her for criticizing an official be quashed.
Mass Media Defence Centre lawyer Tumas Misakyan who defends Novocherkassk-based journalist Yelena Nadtoka, filed a petition with Russia's Supreme Court on 31 January asking it to overturn the guilty verdict in the criminal case against the journalist. The petition followed the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which ascertained a violation of Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights in the Nadtoka case last year.
Criminal charges were brought against the journalist in 2004 after the newspaper Vecherniy Novocherkassk published an article criticizing the policy of the then mayor. The author used the phrase "thievish Altai conman" in reference to the official. The mayor filed a libel suit with a magistrate court. At that time, Yelena Nadtoka was the newspaper's acting editor-in-chief, so she became was one of the defendants.
The judge ordered a linguistic expert examination of the text, which however did not find any indecent or insulting phrases. The judge then dismissed its results and announced a guilty verdict. Nadtoka, who sent the newspaper to the press as editor-in-chief, was found guilty of abetting crime and sentenced to a 50,000-rouble fine.
"The courts would not listen to arguments; they dismissed expert examination results and ignored ECHR precedent cases," Yelena recalled.
The appeals and cassations unavailing, the journalist complained to the ECHR in 2005. Mass Media Defence Centre Director Galina Arapova represented her at the European Court. Her complaint was reviewed, and on 31 May 2016, ECHR found a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression) in the case Nadtoka vs the Russian Federation. ECRH awarded a 4,000-euro compensation for moral damages to the journalist.
"I still believe, as I believed 12 years ago, that my colleague who wrote the article and I did nothing illegal. I'd send the newspaper issue with this article to the press again today, even if I knew I would be sued," Nadtoka said.
"Compliance with the final ruling by the European Court is not just about paying the deserved compensation," lawyer Tumas Misakyan said. "Certain measures should be taken to reinstate the injured party's rights, to reverse her situation to what it was before the violation of the Convention. In this particular case, such measures include cancellation of the court sentence and all subsequent court decisions concerning Yelena Nadtoka, and dropping criminal charges against her on exonerative grounds, because this is the only way to put her in the situation before Convention violation. It is the only way to reinstate her right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention. So we are lodging a petition to overturn the verdict and drop the criminal charges".
The Russian Supreme Court chairman is expected to announce a decision on the petition within a month.
By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District
The Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm on 2 February partially satisfied the claim of former staff writer Rinat Alieyv against the newspaper Zvezda. The editorial office is to pay the journalist a three-month wage debt and 19,900 roubles worth of royalties as well as an 8,000-rouble compensation for moral damages. Getting the money will not be easy, though. The newspaper's till is empty, its bank account has been arrested and the employers are now listed as Gazeta Zvezda Ltd staff.
GDP highlighted financial problems of the Ural newspaper of 99-year standing in digest No 765 (see digest 765). In April 2016 the newspaper was acquired by local businessman Dmitry Skrivanov, a regional MP representing the ruling United Russia Party.
"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," Skrivanov-controlled Mestnoye Vremya weekly quoted him as saying on 5 May.
Zvezda chief editor Stepan Khlopov and deputy director Lyubov Trefilova, fired on 10 and 30 May, respectively, were not paid on the day of dismissal contrary to the law. Perm's Motovilikhinsky court on 8 August granted their statement of claim, awarding them 61,000 roubles and 76,700 roubles, respectively. Columnist Marina Morinova filed a voluntary-termination application on 22 June. "The defendant has not paid wages in full and delayed payments since January 2016. In March, it stopped paying wages altogether due to "temporary difficulties". In June, I submitted a holiday request but did not receive holiday money or backpay," the plaintiff told the court. Zvezda partially paid the wages before the beginning of litigation. On 19 October the court awarded compensation to Morinova for termination payment delay and moral damages plus legal expenses reimbursement to the amount of 9,100 roubles.
Product design engineer Mikhail Krapivin was dismissed on 23 November on redundancy plan. The court ascertained that on 28 July he was notified that his wages would be halved from 17,500 roubles to 7,800 roubles but Krapivin protested the crushing terms. The employer then said his job would be cut and raised the monthly pay for the last two months to 10,200 roubles. In its 20 January 2017 ruling the court ordered Zvezda to pay Krapivin all the wage arrears and compensate wage delay, moral damages and legal expenses which amount to a total of 51,700 roubles.
It seems odd that Zvezda representative Svetlana Dolishnyaya, while acknowledging a 40,100-rouble debt to the former employee, asked the court not to satisfy his statement of claim. "The defendant transferred the above sum to the plaintiff by a payment order of 7 November 2016. But the transfer failed because the defendant's settlement account was suspended," she argued at the hearing in response to the product design engineer's claims. She maintained the same motivation during review of the statement of claim lodged by former staff writer Rinat Aliyev.
The 59-year-old journalist from Berezniki, who covered events in Alexandrovka, Solikamsk and northern part of the Kama River area, said he had been forced to resign. "They cancelled the contract with me on 30 November 2016, officially under Labour Code Article 77 (voluntary resignation), but in actual fact, the reason was staff transfer to Gazeta Zvezda Ltd. As I came to the newspaper's editorial office on 1 December 2016, I was notified that I had to write a statement of voluntary resignation, which I did, hoping to receive my wages at last," Aliyev said.
The defendant showed the court a document signed by Zvezda director Natalia Kopylova (she is also its editor-in-chief - GDF) stating that "the newspaper had no money on its account as of 18 January. The money was transferred to the plaintiffs on 7 December and 8 December 2016. But the settlement account had been arrested and the money could not be written off," lawyer S. Dolishnyaya said adding that the restrictions had been imposed by the Tax Service.
The Zvezda representative was visibly nervous. "Who let you record me?" Dolishnyaya was indignant at plaintiff R.Aliyev's turning on his voice-recording gadget. She is apparently unaware of Criminal Procedure Code Article 10 (openness of trial). It says that using recording devices at an open hearing does not require anyone's permission.
GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION
Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 4 (Vladislav Ryazantsev, Caucasian Knot news agency correspondent, Rostov-on-Don; film crew with STS-Kuzbass television channel, Kemerovo Region; Denis Yunak, cameraman, Vladivostok State TV/Radio Company, Vladivostok; film crew with Rifei-Perm television company, Perm)
Instances of censorship - 5 (newspapers Zvenigovskaya Nedelya, Voskhod, Krai Gornomariyskiy, and Vperyod, all four based in Mariy El Republic; newspaper Yessentukskaya Panorama, Stavropol Region)
Criminal charges against journalists, bloggers and media - 1 (Vitaly Guliy, former correspondent of newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Moscow)
Illegal sacking of editor, journalist - 5 (Lyudmila Schifner, journalist, newspaper Prizyv, Karelia; Vladimir Panfilov, deputy director, Orlovskiy Izdatelskiy Dom Publishers', Orel; Yevgeniya Ostraya, chief editor, newspaper Nasha Irtyshskaya Pravda, Irina Mezenina, chief editor, newspaper Tarskoye Priirtyshye, and Viktor Sidorenko, chief editor, newspaper Ihre Zeitung, all three based in Omsk Region)
Detention by police, FSB, etc. - 4 (Abdreu Zubets, freelance photographer and reporter, Moscow; Vladimir Ivanov, freelance photographer and reporter, Moscow; Sergei Aynbinder and Alexandra Ageyeva, Sota-Vision staffers, St. Petersburg; Pierre Haffner, freelancer, Moscow)
Threats against journalists, bloggers, and media - 5 (Grigory Shvedov, chief editor, Caucasian Knot office, Moscow; Vladislav Ryazantsev, Caucasian Knot reporter, Rostov-on-Don; Arkady Babchenko, freelancer, Moscow; Irina Slavina, chief editor, Koza.press web publication, Nizhny Novgorod; Denis Yunak, cameraman, Vladivostok State TV/Radio Company, Vladivostok)
Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) - 17
Closure of media - 3 (Vlast magazine, Moscow; Dengi magazine, Moscow; newspaper Prizyv, Karelia)
Interference with internet publications - 1 (website of Ukrainian web publication Istoricheskaya Pravda, Crimea)
Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video or audio apparatus and computers - 3 (camcorder of Vladivostok State TV/Radio Company, Vladivostok; camcorder of Rifei-Perm television company, Perm; computers of Novosti Sevastopolya web news portal, Sevastopol)
Other forms of pressure and infringement of journalists' rights - 25
By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District
"Russian philology and mass communications students, future and practicing journalists and bloggers are invited to take a course in human rights defence journalism at Murmansk Arctic State University (MASU) from February until March 2017. The course comprises seven seminars (held once in two weeks or so) addressing human rights and the related toolbox.
Introductory course on human rights
Journalism for people
Court hearings coverage
Right of access to information
Modern media instruments
"We also provide a guide for publishing and share our contacts and principles underlying the functioning of local and federal media. The seminars will end in a contest where participants will be invited to publish their articles and the three best authors will receive money prizes. The jury will include project organizers and seminar facilitators. No fee is required from participants".
This attractive notice was posted by VKontakte special group on 29 January marking the start of Murmansk students' outreach.
The course in human rights journalism was conceived in late 2016. Its coordinators were member of the regional youth council for human rights Tatyana Kulbakina and your humble servant, journalist Alexander Borisov. After designing a concept, we began to coordinate it with future speakers whose roles were played by Novaya Gazeta journalists and Takiye Dela and 7x7 Horizontal Russia websites. When the work schedule was approved and all the "teachers" confirmed their participation, we contacted the department of Russian philology and mass communications at Murmansk Arctic State University, the only educational institution in Russia's Arctic capital which trained journalists. Department head Olga Ivanishcheva agreed to host the training course.
We decided to present the course as a Master degree programme project. However, when posters were printed and I asked when the training course announcement would appear on the MASU website (we acted absolutely legally and all dates, time and room numbers had been approved), Ivanishcheva unexpectedly phoned me to tell that "everything is cancelled as her superior Vinogradov has objected". I phoned Vinogradov but the only coherent thing I heard was that lectures at MASU could be delivered by certified specialists with police clearance certificate. Actually, nobody can deliver lectures at the University save the teachers on staff, Vinogradov said.
His answer shocked me, because many "uncertified" people used to come to MASU to hear my lectures. Thank God, Tatyana Kulbakina and I had a Plan B having made arrangements for a backup option to hold the seminars. The question is how many students can attend the meetings in their spare time. Of course, these will be the steadiest, who really wish to become professionals.
I posted the seminar story on Facebook to inform potential listeners about the situation. A report was also posted to VKontatke official group. The news was eventually published by the Murmansk-based SeverPost news agency and later on by the OVD Info website as well as by Novaya Gazeta. Its correspondent Tatyana Britskaya interviewed Vinogradov who had cancelled the seminars. He told her by telephone that it had nothing to do with political motives. As he explained, the Ministry of Education and Science set new requirements, according to which every teacher should meet staff criteria and have a police certificate. The content of the seminars should be consistent with the curriculum.
When asked if the new rules applied to the specialists invited to seminars or master classes, Vinogradov answered in the affirmative. "It's not permitted now," he said. "Only our teachers can work with the students, outsiders are not invited".
Such is the present-day education process in hero city Murmansk.
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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