15 Апреля 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 795

27 March 2017


Street protest coverage remains unsafe for journalists

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

During 26 March anti-corruption rallies across Russia, police also detained a number of journalists performing their professional duty. St Petersburg was no exception where the protest gathered thousands of people and received extensive coverage.

In unlawful detentions, Vedomosti correspondent Nadezhda Zaitseva and Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge correspondent Sergei Satanovsky were brought to a police station. They were set free only after Petersburg City Legislative Assembly deputies Boris Vishnevsky and Maxim Reznik met with the police to intervene on their behalf. The law enforcers did not return Satanovsky's press card saying it had been lost. Novaya Gazeta v Peterburge intends to lodge a complaint over the incident, the newspaper's editor-in-chief Diana Kachalova said.

Another detained reporter, Artyom Alexandrov representing Delovoi Peterburg, was only released from a police station late at night.

Among the journalists who avoided detention were David Frenkel and Alexander Petrosyan from Kommersant though the latter suffered a blow with a riot baton on the forearm and could barely keep hold of his camera. The altercation was captured on camera and might be presented as evidence for prosecuting the law-breaking police.

Journalists highlighting protests were detained elsewhere in Russia: Sergei Rasulov from Kommersant, Faina Kachabekova from Kavkazskaya Politika and Vladimir Sevrinovsky from Eto Kavkaz were detained in Makhachkala, Dagestan, Otkrytaya Rossiya correspondent Sofiko Arifdzhanova, RBK journalist Timofei Dzyadko, Alec Luhn representing Britain's The Guardian, freelance journalist Denis Styazhkin and Echo Moscow radio reporter Alexander Plyushchev (his live broadcast was cut short) were detained in Moscow, and Otkrytyi Kanal online television journalist Alexander Nikishin was detained in Saratov.

Detentions were not the worst thing: in Moscow, Life correspondent Vladimir Suvorov suffered a blow with a bottle on the head and a special task police officer threatened a Deutsche Welle cameraman telling him “to get lost with the camera because the road is nearby, you can get run over while inventing the cause of the accident is no problem for us”. In Petrozavodsk, Karelia, Chernika website correspondent Alexey Alexeyev was hurt (see Item 1 below in the “Russia” section). Street protest coverage apparently remains unsafe for journalists.


Law enforcer attacks journalist covering protest action in Karelia

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

In Petrozavodsk, Chernika web magazine correspondent Alexei Alexeyev (Vladimirov) was hurt as he was filming the Sunday anti-corruption rally.

Alexeyev stepped into the conflict zone at the moment when one of the protesters was being detained. The journalist had a press badge on his chest showing his professional status, so the policeman who hit him in the face smashing his glasses could not but see that he was attacking a journalist. Furthermore, when Alexeyev said that he was performing his professional duty and asked the officer to introduce himself, the latter kicked the journalist and snatched the smartphone recording the rally (including the attack on the journalist). Law enforcers later returned the smartphone.

Karelia's Union of Journalists denounced the fact of obstructing the correspondent's legitimate professional activity and asked the republic's police chief, Dmitry Sergeyev, to look into the incident and punish the guilty police officer.

The law enforcer violated the Russian mass media law that enables journalists to visit public places and make audio and video recordings there, the Union of Journalists said. Criminal Code Article 144 treats the actions taken by the Karelian police officer against the journalist as obstructing legitimate professional activity of a journalist.

Court refuses to cancel Roskomnadzor warning to web magazine 7х7

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

On 21 March, the editorial office and the founder of the web magazine 7x7contested Roskomnadzor media watchdog's warning over law-breaking, in a legal action at the Tagansky district court in Moscow. The warning over obscenities in magazine blog videos was issued in November 2016 to the editorial office and even to its founder, Vector 7 Co.

The plaintiffs argued that the editorial office had already been fined by Roskomnadzor for posting offensive videos and that they had been taken off the website. However, a month after the videos were removed, the regulator issued a warning for the violation that had been remedied in good faith.

The statement of claim underlined that under the mass media law, only the editorial office could be held responsible for violations and that the founder could not interfere in its work. The warning to Vector 7 was therefore unlawful, the plaintiffs said.

The plaintiffs said that the videos containing offensive language were initially posted on YouTube and later reposted on 7x7 by one of the magazine's bloggers. The blogger is not on the journal's staff and is not bound by the requirements set for 7x7 content. The journal's staff are not supposed to edit blogs, and in case of law-breaking by bloggers, Russian Supreme Court Resolution No 16 of 15 June 2010 is invoked. It says that such cases are regulated by the requirements for authors' original unrecorded items that go on the air. In line with the media law, the editorial office is not responsible for this content.

The judges dismissed the plaintiffs' claims assuming that since the use of four-letter words had indeed taken place the subsequent warning was lawful, even if coming a month after the offensive videos were deleted.

“The ruling is predictable; judges usually take the side of government bodies without looking deep into the issue in contention,” said Media Defence Centre lawyer Olga Voronova who represented the plaintiffs' interests. “The judge took a very formal approach toward the case saying that the warning had been issued properly and that the government body had not overstepped its authority”. The judge ignored the fact that law-breaking had been eliminated by the time the warning was issued and that Roskomnadzor's response had no legal grounds.

The plaintiffs are set to challenge the court's ruling.

Court in Yekaterinburg takes heed of what reporters' attackers are claiming

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

On 23 March, Yekaterinburg's Ordzhonikidzevsky district court held a hearing of the case over attack on Yermak television channel journalists in performance of their professional duty but postponed the sitting until 19 April shortly after it began (see digest 762).

Boris Lushchikov and his son Konstantin are in the prisoners' dock facing charges of obstructing legitimate professional activity of journalists, using violence on journalists, damaging their property, causing bodily injury and committing theft.

The incident involving the Lushchikovs and Yermak journalists occurred on 28 July 2016. The reporters came to a car care centre in Shefskaya Street to film a story about the Lushchikovs' conflict with lawyer Ivan Volkov over the car belonging to Volkov's wife. The lawyer said he had driven the car to the service centre for clearance lamps replacement but the centre personnel later told him that they had replaced other car parts worth 60,000 roubles. Volkov made an advance payment. However, he found that not a single car part had been replaced.

When the reporters began a video recording, car care centre personnel seized their camera and hid it, and then beat up the correspondent, the cameraman and lawyer Volkov. The attackers broke Volkov's finger and caused property damage to Yermak journalists to the tune of 979,000 roubles.

According to Boris Lushchikov's version of the incident, Ivan Vokov was not happy with “the centre's standard service terms,” so he turned up at the service station together with the journalists to stage a premeditated conflict and a fight.

The case review is being delayed as the defendants replaced a lawyer just before the trial and their new lawyer needs time to get up to speed. The television channel that used to be quite popular stopped broadcasting in early 2017, but the criminal case over attack on journalists will go on trial regardless.

The GDF is monitoring the situation.

Award-winning journalist claims moral damages from plagiarising official in Stavropol Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Journalist Yelena Suslova has filed a defamation and damages claim against Elina Grigoryan with the Zheleznovodsk city court in the Stavropol Region.

A Sakharov Prize nominee, Suslova is well-known in and beyond the region for her anti-corruption investigations. Elina Grigoryan became notorious as an anti-hero of Dissernet, a volunteer community network whose objective is to clean Russian science of plagiarism. Suslova's article on the topic published by Novyye Izvestia web newspaper in January 2016 was a major irritant for Grigoryan. She sent letters to the chairman of the regional branch of the Union of Journalists, Pyatigrosk Legislative Council chairperson, regional governor and the editorial office of the newspaper Otkrytaya dlya Vsekh i Kazhdogo (Open to Each and Every One) demanding assessment of the journalist's articles and alleging that the journalist was a litigant writing for money “without checking or substantiating facts and having a scandalous reputation”.

In comments on the awards won by Suslova, the learned lady said the journalist had to be “ashamed of her Sakharov Prize nomination; it is a well-known fact that the funding was arranged by Sakharov's wife Yelena Bonner using her famous husband's money. The funding is traced to western sponsors who pay out prizes for exposing Russia's powers that be”.

We leave errors in Grigoryan's statement uncorrected, as did Yelena Suslova who quoted them in her statement of claim. Grigoryan made a wealth of grammatical and punctuation errors which reflect badly on her education.

Suslova regarded the information disseminated by “a lady of science” as slanderous and untruthful. She believes that the defendant's actions caused her moral damage and suffering. “Over the years of my journalistic work, I had top ratings among Russia's regional journalists several times in a row and won the Artyom Borovik Prize for investigative journalism; I was an Iskra Yuga Prize laureate and a finalist on a number of occasions, and a laureate of the first all-Russia Truth and Justice contest of journalistic works. To me, the Sakharov Prize nominee diploma holds the highest value,” Suslova said.

In her statements to officials, Elina Grigoryan “forms a negative opinion of journalism in general, downgrades the social status of this profession and humiliates the remarkable value of journalists' efforts for the community's sake,” the way the plaintiff looks at it.

Suslova attached to the case the copies of her award and prize certificates of which she “should be ashamed,” as Grigoryan alleges. Also attached to the statement of claim was a copy of the Russian Education Ministry resolution on withdrawing Grigoryan's thesis paper from review by the State Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles and revoking her Ph.D. degree in pharmaceutics.

Official in Perm cites “investigative secrets” to shirk glasnost

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Leninsky district court of Perm on 22 March decided on pre-trial restrictions for Alexander Demidov, a defendant in a bribery case tried in camera. The hearing behind closed doors was requested by Demidov's lawyer citing sensitive information in the case. The public and journalists were allowed into the courtroom only to hear the court's resolution.

Demidov, acting head of the regional Roads and Transport Department, was detained on 20 March. The next day, investigators charged him with taking a large bribe. The case background was briefly presented by investigator Denis Yarkov in the beginning of the 22 March hearing. The investigator asked the court to place the official in custody. When Judge Natalia Gonshtein asked if the detainee had any petitions to lodge, the latter nodded in the direction of the GDF correspondent and asked, “Who is he?” The judge said the hearing was open, but asked the journalist whom she had known for a long time, to name himself.

Since Russian journalists have equal rights with other persons attending trials, I stood up and said, “I'm Russian Federation citizen Mikhail Lobanov”.

Moscow-based lawyer Stanislav Rodiontsev immediately stated that “The criminal case materials are confidential. The participation of a RF citizen is inadmissible. I ask to hold the hearing without Mr Lobanov. We don't know if he can influence the witnesses, so I request a hearing in camera,” the lawyer said. Defendant Demidov supported his lawyer. Investigator Yarkov said, “I'm not opposed to a hearing in camera because private data will be disclosed”. Prosecutor Ksenia Mikhryukova gave a curt reply: “I have no objections”. Judge Gonshtein then ordered to conduct the hearing behind closed doors.

I have never met Demidov before and never communicated with him or the witnesses in the case. I have no idea how I can influence the people whom I do not know. The parties and the court did not specify the “actual circumstances” justifying a hearing out of the public's eye. Such contempt of publicity of court proceedings might become a legal reason for cancelling the 22 March resolution.

I spent more than two hours in the corridor together with a Kommersant correspondent and VETTA television company crew who came just after the hearing began. Everybody who was interested could come into the courtroom to hear the resolution. The court decided to place Demidov under house arrest until 20 May.

Case against Surgut resident accused of posting online an appeal “instigating hate and enmity toward police” submitted to court in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The investigation into the case against Sergei Chichkanov, 28, an activist of the Surgut-based social movement Sovest (Conscience) is over and the case has been referred to court, the Sova human rights centre said. The young man is accused of “instigating hate and enmity toward police,” a crime covered by Article 282 of Russia's Criminal Code.

According to the investigator, the negative sentiment against law-enforcement bodies stemmed from a video Chichkanov posted in Vkontakte social media in which Surgut police chief Alexander Yerokhov was called a “turncoat, who has taken a contract to remove unwelcome persons” (see digest 761). The video posted on 23 November 2015 has long been deleted pursuant to a city court decision. The author is not Sergei Chichkanov (he only reposted the video) but Ruslan Ayupov, former Sovest director who was put on the wanted list 18 months ago after his organisation clashed with the local Caucasian community which was protected, as he believed, by police Colonel Yerokhov.

Chichkanov may be in for up to five years in prison. His associates flatly denied the charges saying they had incontrovertible proof of his innocence. One of them, Andrei Kaloshin, told the URA.ru news agency that the video never referred to police as a social group and that it only blamed one person.

The Sova rights centre reported on its website that it was not sure that the video in question contained calls for violence. The centre advocates elimination of the term “social group” from anti-extremist legislation. “We also believe that law enforcers do not belong to vulnerable groups requiring protection; they are protected under other Criminal Code articles”.


Fotodoc and Sakharov Centres announce documentary photography competition

The Fotodoc documentary photography centre and Sakharov Centre are pleased to announce that they are beginning to take applications for the Direct View 2017 annual international documentary photography contest. The topic of the contest is man's relationship problems with society and the state and ways to resolve them.

The contest aims to promote independent journalism, support authors investigating man's relationship with the state/society, and sponsor projects based on respect for and protection of human dignity and the principles spelled out in the Russian Constitution and in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Following are the prize categories:

1 Problems and contradictions arising between man and society, public institutions and the state;

2 Conflict as the most radical method of resolving contradictions arising from social interaction. It manifests itself as participants' infighting and is normally accompanied by negative emotions violating existing rules and norms.

3 Compromise: resolving conflicts through dialogue, social system changes or reforms.

Terms and prizes:

Only report-, story- or project-making photo series are eligible for the contest.

Three authors who take the first place in each category win 30,000-rouble money awards. Nine finalists in three categories are entitled to Direct View contest honorary prizes. Finalists' photo series are to be displayed at an exhibition in September 2017. The works on the shortlist will be printed in the contest's catalogue.

Applications will be accepted in English until 30 June 2017. Participation in the contest is free.

Jury 2017 comprises Tuula Alajoki, Finnish curator and the director of the Backlight Photo Festival; Svetlana Bachevanova, publisher of FotoEvidence and documentary photographer; Enrico Stefanelli, photographer, journalist and curator from Italy; Andrei Polikanov, photo editor, visual director at Takie Dela project.

The Direct View contest website: directlook.fotodoc.center


By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The Roskomnadzor media regulator says on its website that it “exercises the authority to protect the rights and legitimate interests of journalists”. In 2008, it signed an agreement with Russia's Union of Journalists and a hotline was set up, but instead of providing assistance, the government agency behaves like a hellhound, nudging journalists towards self-censorship and threatening sanctions against unwelcome media outlets.

Instead of condemning law-enforcement bodies for illegal detentions of journalists and interference in their coverage of protest actions, Roskomnadzor now demands that media reports necessarily mention that the protest was unlawful. Roskomnadzor officials even worked a weekend to quickly introduce this requirement and the agency's spokesman Ampelonsky hurried to assure that it was not a censorship bid.

You are not being sincere, Mr Spokesman, a censorship bid it is. At the very least, it is an attempt to influence the editorial policies of the mass media covering mass protests against corruption. Roskomnadzor forwarded its demands to the mass media outlets that covered the protests, and the worst thing is that a majority of mainstream media kept silent about the 26 March rallies, apparently at the authorities' orders.

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.

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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:
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