15 Апреля 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 794

20 March 2017


Two media representatives detained in Moscow

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Last week saw the detention of two journalists - Novaya Gazeta freelance correspondent Ali Feruz on 16 March, and Regnum news agency chief editor Yuri Baranchik one day earlier.

Law enforcers did not act on their own initiative in either of the cases: Baranchik, a Belarussian citizen, had earlier caught the eye of the Belarussian authorities, and Feruz, an Uzbekistani citizen, was detained on a tip from his country's government.

According to available information, Belarussian law enforcement is investigating a number of cases against Regnum staffers charged with “instigating interethnic strife”; it seems Baranchik, who has written about “the Lukashenko era drawing to an end” is among the suspected “instigators”.

As regards Feruz, he faces “anti-government activity” charges. “He is being frowned at in Uzbekistan, from where he emigrated a few years ago when local secret services attempted to recruit him,” Novaya Gazeta chief editor Dmitry Muratov said.

Reports appeared soon about Baranchik's asking the Russian president for political asylum, resulting in the court's refusal to issue a warrant for his arrest. Regnum chief editor Modest Kolerov expressed the hope that the Russian prosecutor's office pondering over Baranchik's potential extradition would “take the lawful and fair decision not to extradite the journalist”. So far, the prosecutors have limited themselves to getting Baranchik's written pledge not to leave town.

Meanwhile, it has become known that the Novaya Gazeta correspondent - already after detention - was taken to hospital in view of health problems. His lawyer Maria Kurakina has been quoted as telling the TASS news agency that police have made a protocol envisaging Feruz' deportation to Uzbekistan. “Procedure-wise, though, no documents have been submitted to court pending his recovery,” she said, adding that her client had earlier requested political asylum in Russia, which matter was still being decided.

Feruz, too, has given a cognisance not to leave.

The GDF is closely monitoring the developments.

District administration head in Karelia seeks to replace yet another editor

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

Another scandal is raging between S. Prokopyev, Olonetsky district head in Karelia, and the management of the local newspaper Oloniya, with the parties having taken the matter to court this time. During the previous scandal (under the then editor-in-chief), Prokopyev managed to get off lightly for putting pressure on the editor to pay for public festivities from his paper's budget. Since that was illegal, and any audit might identify it as a financial violation, the newspaper's deputy editor asked the district leader to issue written orders, which Prokopyev, a former police officer and a man well-versed in law, refused to do while threatening the chief editor with getting the sack for failure to obey his oral orders.

Unfortunately for Prokopyev, that dialogue, which took place during a working mayoral meeting, happened to be recorded by someone and later posted online, giving rise to a public scandal. The Karelia Union of Journalists asked the district prosecutor's office to assess in legal terms the attempt at forcing the editor to break the financial discipline, but the oversight authority found “nothing unlawful” about Prokopyev's actions.

A new chief editor, Tatyana Zenina - one of Prokopyev's former Interior Ministry colleagues - was appointed to head Oloniya in December 2015. Now, more than a year after, the story seems to be repeating itself: dissatisfied with her performance, the district head has urged Zenina to resign of her own free will as chief editor and director of the autonomous enterprise of the same name, and when she said no, he promised to find a way to get rid of her, whatever improvements in the newspaper's economic indicators she might cite.

Indeed, shortly after that conversation Zenina received an official reprimand for staying out of office one morning, from 8 to 10 a.m. She was not informed about the disciplinary measure; she felt unwell that day and went to see her doctor, which fact is confirmed by witnesses. She then returned to work but took a sick-list later in view of persistent health problems. While she was absent, the district administration arranged a financial audit of Oloniya, during which visiting inspectors broke the door of the editor/director's office to get inside in search of documents - actually a redundant measure, since they might simply have asked Zenina, who was receiving out-patient treatment at home, to give them the key.

Yet the court rejected Zenina's requests for cancelling the disciplinary sanction as unlawful, repealing the written reprimand, and requiring the defendant to pay her 40,000 roubles in moral damages.

The point is that the district leader cannot fire the chief editor/director until he buries her under a heap of official reprimands, because she officially ran as a candidate in last year's elections, which guarantees her a 12-month protection against unlawful treatment by her superiors. Lifting this protection is possible only through issuing more official reproaches to Zenina, should some or other omissions be detected. It is for such omissions that the district administration is actively searching now.

Number of media for children, teenagers and disabled continues shrinking in Krasnodar Region

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The segment of media for children, teenagers and people with disabilities has notably shrunk in recent years and continues shrinking in the Krasnodar Region without, however, causing any particular concerns on the part of the regional administration or cultural activists.

Meanwhile, the media regulator Roskomnadzor's department for the Southern Federal District in February, pursuant to a court ruling, excluded 35 outlets from the All-Russia Media Register. It is sad that the regulating authority, along with advertising bulletins, scrapped such socially significant and highly popular print and online publications as the Moy Krai-Delovaya Kuban (Business in My Region, Kuban River Area) magazine, Radio Yuzhnoi Zvezdy (Southern Star Radio) show, Chernomorskiy Mayachok (Little Black Sea Beacon) children's newspaper, and Shpargalka Dlya Roditelei-Krasnodarskiy Krai (Crib for Krasnodar Region Parents) magazine.

Court in Rostov-on Don satisfies journalist's appeal

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Last autumn, Svetlana Khromova, an official at one of Rostov district administrations, filed a legal claim against local journalist Igor Khoroshilov alleging that some videos he had posted on YouTube were “damaging” to her honour, dignity and business reputation.

As could be gathered from the videos, the plaintiff, then a member of a territorial election committee, had circulated United Russia Party (URP) campaign materials via a shopping network. The off-screen text being challenged by Khromova included the following sentences: “Svetlana, why are you circulating URP electioneering stuff?”; “Svetlana, repentance may slash the degree of your responsibility!”; “I think Rostov Region electors want to know why an election committee secretary should circulate URP posters and leaflets”, etc.

The Proletarsky district court in Rostov upheld Khromova's position and partially granted her claim at the end of last November, requiring Khoroshilov to remove the controversial videos from YouTube and publish a disclaimer along with an apology. Also, the journalist was to pay the claimant 25,000 roubles in moral damages.

Dissatisfied with that ruling, Khoroshilov challenged it in January before the higher-standing regional court, where Media Defence Centre lawyer Olga Voronova was representing his interests. The defendant asked the first-instance court ruling to be cancelled - first, because it remained unknown who had actually posted the videos online (that might have been someone other than the author). Second, most statements constituting the subject matter of the legal claim were not assertions of facts but were formulated as questions, which ruled out their coming to be viewed as “smearing” statements.

Finally, as a professional journalist, Igor Khoroshilov was performing his professional duty by trying to sort out things in a situation in which a municipal official was suspected of violating electoral law. That topic was of considerable importance to the city residents, and the journalist was justified in drawing conclusions and sharing them with the public in his video addresses. He had the right to tell the public about his concerns, and people had the right to know about them. On top of it all, the plaintiff in this case is a public figure, a municipal official who, pursuant to rulings by the ECHR and the RF Supreme Court, should be tolerant to criticism from journalists and the public at large.

The defendant also noted that Russian legislation does not provide for the restoration of a violated right through apology, meaning that the judges were not entitled to require Khoroshilov to apologise to Khromova.

The Rostov regional court on 14 March reviewed the complaint and cancelled the first-instance court's ruling in full. “The court focused on two most important circumstances: the journalist was fulfilling his professional duty and the topic he was covering was of interest to the public,” Olga Voronova told the GDF.


Organisations like Public Chamber for Complaints about the Press in need of help

International organisations have called on journalists and media to extend assistance to bodies reviewing complaints about the press (such as Russia's Public Chamber for Complaints about the Press), including through introducing standards of accuracy in covering events, and through asserting the right to disclaim/reply to a publication, as announced in the 3 March 2017 Declaration on freedom of expression, fake news, disinformation and propaganda, adopted by U.N., OSCE, and OAS representatives. For the text, documents and commentary see the Public Chamber's website at: www.presscouncil.ru .

For full access to the web page about the Declaration, see: presscouncil.ru


Results of journalistic contest held by All-Russia Popular Front hushed up

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The media community's talk of the day - the third annual journalistic competition Truth and Justice, sponsored by the same-name foundation under the auspices of the All-Russia Popular Front (ONF), which attracted 2,000 contestants and produced 442 laureates - was an event unmatched in its scale, at least in Russia. Actually, though, there is not so much to talk about, except for the growing number of laureates and the shrinkage of the amounts of money handed to them in prizes - from 300,000 to 200,000 roubles; the third contest, just as the previous two, was held in secrecy from the public, and the results of the creative competition were hushed up even more than before. If the list of winners of the first contest mentioned at least the media outlet for which a laureate worked, the second contest's list mentioned no media at all, while still grouping the winners by region (which made the guessing process a bit easier). This year, all the 442 names of the laureates were simply posted in alphabetical order, making it next to impossible to find out who worked where, the less so what the award was due for.

But for the press releases published by the media spokespersons of 30 regional ONF branches, learning at least anything about some winners would have been still more difficult. Yet those press releases have vanished from the ONF main news band: they were still there on 17 March, but on the 19th they were gone. Yet by comparing data scraped together from different sources, one can come to some interesting findings. Few, for example, know that Russia's number one journalistic “star” works in Murmansk - Dmitry Vysotsky, a three-time winner of the ONF's Truth and Justice award, general director of the SeverPost.ru news agency. Of the nine Murmansk-based journalists who participated in the 2016 contest, only two - Arktik TV correspondent Marina Kalmykova and general director Vysotsky again - emerged as winners. By the way, the previous time such prestigious prizes had been awarded several times under Stalin: composer Sergei Prokofyev and writer Konstantin Simonov were both six-time Stalin Award winners. Starting with Lenin and State Prizes, a person could become a laureate only once.

The ONF competition also identified the brightest “star family” of journalists - Vadim Bakanov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets - MK-Kavkaz, and his wife Yelena Bakanova, general director of OOO M-Kavkaz, the same newspaper's publisher. Vadim, a member of the ONF's Stavropol Region Board, won in the first and third Truth and Justice contests and his wife in the second one. Media professionals know that the Bakanovs are among the closer friends of Olga Timofeyeva, a Stavropol journalist who has worked up a swift career in politics. She is a State Duma deputy, head of the Ecological and Environmental Protection Committee, leader of the working group “Society and Government: Direct Dialogue”, and co-chair of the ONF Central Board. She is in charge of ONF media projects, among other things.

And a real hotbed of journalistic celebrities is the local television channel broadcasting on the TNT frequency in the city of Volgodonsk, Rostov Region, where every other staffer is a two-time laureate of the Truth and Justice award. To begin with, TNT-Volgodonsk correspondents Natalya Donskova and Anna Revenko each received awards in the first ONF contest, and then one award per person in the second and third contests. The only person who could clarify for which particular works the two girls were given a total of four awards is ONF Rostov branch press spokeswoman Yulia Dementyeva, but in response to repeated requests to show at least the winners' writings she has kept directing interested parties to the Truth and Justice Foundation in Moscow, whose command is allegedly needed for the laureates' works to be posted on the ONF regional branch's website.

Such command, unfortunately, is unlikely to come from the capital, ever. The Foundation has not yet replied to last year's GDF inquiries about why the competition was enveloped in such secrecy, and who the prize money providers were. Nor have the Foundation's current head, Guzel Khairetdinova, or the ONF Centre for Legal Assistance to Journalists replied to the same questions in March 2017. The only posts featuring on the Centre's website are answers to journalists' complaints filed back in 2015.

Or does this demonstrative silence signal that ONF officials want to make it clear that their organisation's high status allows them to neglect the commonly-accepted norms of business communication? There must be some weighty reasons to conceal their heroes from the outer world! As could be gathered from local press releases, during the third contest, too, the Truth and Justice Foundation gave awards to several workers of one and the same media outlet at once. In Belgorod, for example, two prizes went to each of the Bel.ru news agency and Fonar.tv web outlet. One can only regret that the winners' works will never be shown to the public. Or is this a novelty practice in domestic journalism?

Such a mass-scale competition might hit the Guinness Book of Records but for the questions about the jury: actually, Truth and Justice has no jury as such. As is written on the Foundation's website, the contest results are summed up by members of the Public Council - 14 editors and directors of newspapers, television companies and news agencies led by ONF Central Board member and State Duma deputy Nikolai Buduyev. It would be hard to imagine such busy people reading thousands of opuses submitted for the contest. And it is really an enigma who was on the commission which filtered off at the initial stage a good half of the contest works and their authors - not only clearly weak contributions but also, on the contrary, works that contained in-depth analysis of the problem of corruption and other shameful practices of today's Russia.

Personally, I was much impressed by third-contest participant Viktor Shaternikov from the Izobilnensky district, Stavropol Region. Not only does this village blogger defend his fellow residents from arbitrary treatment by authorities; he also runs his own blog, So-Vest, in YouTube, highlighting the hottest news with the tenacity of a highly-professional reporter; asking in interviews with district officials questions that many others might hesitate to ask; and talking to people online to hear out their complaints. Small wonder, therefore, that “experts” from the Truth and Justice Foundation cut him off far ahead of the finals from the competition and its jury. What if he won one of the 200,000-rouble awards and spent the money on his work as a human right defender online and in everyday life?

And this despite Truth and Justice handing out awards to bloggers even for reposts in Facebook of news stories from other sites, particularly if those guys are ONF activists.

So what can the ONF's fourth journalistic competition be like when the time comes to hold it? How many participants can be expected to contribute stories like the one which took the highest place in the third contest - about how journalists helped a senior citizen with poor eyesight who was bearing a grudge against bank clerks for devoting too little attention to him (in the Soviet era, boy scouts used to be commended at general meetings for similar kinds of goodwill deeds)? And if photo reporters join the crowd upon hearing how much they may be paid for a series of pictures of an old house under the threat of collapse, the number of participants may swell to, say, ten thousand. Will the anonymous sponsors of the Truth and Justice Award still have enough money to pay for it all, even if the prize amounts shrink further?

Judicial Department in Perm acknowledges that justice administration is “not 100% transparent”

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Since the beginning of 2017, the Industrialny, Leninsky, Motovilikhinsky and Sverdlovsky district courts in Perm have not been publishing on their official websites in the Pravosudiye (Justice) National Automated System any information about criminal cases being reviewed. If the Leninsky court website is to be trusted, criminal cases have not been heard by that court at all. Elsewhere, this kind of info is kept confidential (with no names of suspects and no Criminal Code articles specified), although most trials are supposed to be open to the public.

With the situation looking like this and guided by Articles 38 and 47 of the RF Media Law, the GDF correspondent on 12 February e-mailed a written inquiry to Vladimir Velyaninov, chairman of the Perm regional court, requesting details about why information about presumably open criminal case hearings was kept secret.

Velyaninov replied promptly, writing that pursuant to the law “On the procedure for reviewing Russian Federation citizens' complaints” the inquiry had been forwarded to Oleg Veselov, acting head of the Perm Region Judicial Department, whose reply came on 17 March meeting the deadline prescribed by the law “On ensuring access to information about court performance in the Russian Federation”.

With reference to monitoring results, Veselov acknowledged: “By the reporting date, not all of the courts had published full information about the judicial decisions subject to immediate publication”. On 3 March, the chairpersons of district courts throughout Perm “were reminded of the need to ensure stringent compliance” with the said law, he wrote, adding that the court heads would be advised to post on their official websites comprehensive information about review of cases and materials of all categories.

Indeed, after the Judicial Department's interference, the Motovilikhinsky court restarted posting information regarding criminal case proceedings, and the Leninsky court did so in part, resuming coverage of such cases inasmuch as suspects' names and Criminal Code articles were concerned. The Industrialny and Sverdlovsky district courts, however, seemed not to notice the Department's reminder, limiting published information, as before, to the registration numbers of cases and judges' names. One can only guess about the reason why.

An investigation was completed a few days ago into the case of former FSB official Vladimir Yeryomenko, detained back on 1 March 2016 and charged, among other things, with attempted fraud - a promise to stop the probe into the case of OOO Inokar general director Andrei Nadymov and his chief accounting officer, Yelena Ponosova. In the absence of “100-percent openness of justice administration”, finding Yeryomenko's case files in court or attending hearings may be problematic.

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
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

Все новости

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