Дайджест
1 Ноября 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 820

October 23, 2017

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Journalist attacked in downtown Moscow

An armed thug has attacked Radio Ekho Moskvy news presenter Tatyana Felgengauer attempting to cut her throat.

The incident occurred in the radio station's offices in Moscow's Novyi Arbat St. The victim with a knife wound in the neck was rushed to the Sklifosovsky A&E Hospital. “She was brought to our institute and operated on… I'd call her condition very serious,” institute director Sergei Petrikov told the news agency Interfax.

The attacker was detained by security and handed over to the police. One of the security guards suffered a knife stab in the hand and received first aid locally.

Word went around soon that the attack did not appear to be linked with the victim's work. “According to preliminary information, the attacker knew Felgengauer personally, so the incident is not linked with her journalistic work. Breach of public order looks like the most plausible version,” a well-informed source told Interfax.

Then a report followed that the perpetrator had known Tatyana “through telepathic contact” for five years.

Well, the situation is well familiar: right after the attack, talk starts about “personal motives,” “household accidents,” and “chance coincidences”. Yet in this particular case, the angle at which the attack is being viewed looks odd indeed: How can one consider - even in a “preliminary” way - a knife cut into the victim's neck to be a mere breach of public order?

Shortly afterwards, though, the Moscow Investigative Department cleared up this point by announcing that legal proceedings had been started under Criminal Code Article 105 (“Murder attempt”). Hopefully, new information will appear soon, because the attacker was caught red-handed.

RUSSIA

Omsk blogger fined 2,000 roubles for reposting anti-Nazi cartoon

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Oktyabrsky district court in Omsk has ruled on the case of Andrei I., who posted on his VKontakte page five years ago two cartoon characters - Pokemon Pikachu and the head of Nazi Germany. The first character, a pretty queer crossbreed of a mouse and a hare (for those not knowing anything about Pokemons), was drawn wearing an SS legionnaire's uniform, which could be taken as holding up to ridicule the Third Reich's army and Nazism as such. The second, too, looked funny, like the famous Kukryniksy [a group of Soviet cartoonists] caricature featuring Hitler in female appearance.

Yet officials at the Omsk Counter-extremism Centre, far from viewing the images as ironical, took them very seriously and started proceedings under Administrative Code Article 20 banning “propaganda or public demonstration of Nazi symbols or paraphernalia”. Indeed, at close quarters one could discern a swastika on the Pokemon's helmet, and another one on Hitler's sleeve. That was enough for law enforcers to add Andrei I. (who did not draw the fascists himself but only reposted their images) to the list of extremists, all the more so because he is in the VKontakte group of followers of oppositionist Alexei Navalny whom many police officials, too, suspect of being an extremist - specifically because of his antiwar statements. To be sure, they could not miss the opportunity to smear Andrei's name by associating it with that of Nazi Germany's leader, though they must have spent a lot of time searching for the caricature on his web page.

The young man explained to the court that the purpose of his reposting the cartoon images had not been to propagandize Nazism but quite the opposite: “to mock at, and disparage, it”. Yet the judges, just as the investigators, did not trust him and, finding him guilty of an offence falling under Article 20, fined him 2,000 roubles - a significant amount for Andrei.

As can be deduced from this court ruling, irony and sarcasm in respect of phenomena like Nazism is inadmissible in this country. Well, the courts may find themselves overloaded with work scanning the Soviet Union's artistic heritage for potential law violations; for example, the list of extremists may be extended to include the above-mentioned Kukryniksy and other Soviet satirists mocking at Hitler, as well as the authors of innumerable books and films, among them documentaries, featuring swastikas in various contexts. Judging by this court decision, no period of limitations is applicable to these kinds of “offences”.

MP expropriates editor's voice recorder in Krasnodar Region

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

During the very first session of the newly-elected Yeisky District Council, someone stole the voice recorder of Yeiskaya Pravda editor Vassily Dovbysh who was covering the meeting.

Shortly before that, a scandal had flared up over a number of decisions passed without some deputies' participation, which was against the regulations. Yet the session chairman had simply ignored the protests voiced by oppositionists from the Yabloko and Communist parties.

During the meeting, Dovbysh was busy recording indignant statements by the opposition; when the sitting was over he did not find his recording device and reported the loss to the police. “Three police officers arrived to start an investigation,” the editor said. “Then district MP Khamayev turned up bringing my voice recorder and saying he'd just taken it to hear what kind of stuff I'd managed to record”.

Unfortunately, the incident caused no legal consequences for the thief. The deputy's expropriation of the editor's voice recorder was turned into a joke. “Well, he gave it back to you, after all - he didn't keep it for his own use or delete the recordings. Is there anything, really, to investigate here?” Dovbysh heard police officials wondering.

Failing to have his sentence reversed, Yekaterinburg blogger will appeal to Supreme Court

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

For all the differences in people's attitude to Yekaterinburg-based blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky - the one who was caught chasing Pokemons in the Church of the Saviour-on-Blood - his desire to prove he was not guilty is based not on self-promoting ambitions alone: he is determined, if need be, to go all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights thus setting an example to follow for other social media users who quite often come under unreasonable pressure from law enforcement.

The Sverdlovsk regional court last week rejected an appeal to reverse the sentence passed on the blogger under Criminal Code Articles 138.1, 148.1, and 282.1 (see digest 802-803). Defence lawyer Alexei Bushmakov had challenged Yekaterinburg's Verkh-Isetsky district court ruling along with the regional court's decision to uphold it as both were based, in his view, on the findings of an expert study that could not be viewed as legitimate. “A check-up of the two judicial documents has not confirmed any violations of substantive or procedural law by the lower-standing courts,” a regional court spokesman commented.

As we have reported, the district court sentenced blogger Sokolovsky on 11 May this year to a suspended 42-month term of imprisonment for “insulting believers' feelings, inciting hate, and engaging in the illegal turnover of special technical devices”, required him to delete several videos posted online, and banned him from attending mass public events. In July 2017, the regional court mitigated his sentence to suspended 24-month imprisonment. Judge Yelena Udod crossed out from the case files an episode with a “spy pen” found in the Pokeman chaser's house.

Sokolovsky's defence lawyers are currently preparing an appeal to the RF Supreme Court.

Former Perm traffic police chief files lawsuit worth 1 rouble against journalists

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Preliminary hearings were held in Perm on 20 October of a legal claim filed by former regional traffic police head Oleg Churkin against the news web portal VKurse.ru for publishing what he calls “untrue and smearing” report about his detention. The claimant wants the info to be removed from the site and the defendant to pay him one rouble (sic!) in moral damages.

According to VKurse.ru, Churkin was caught red-handed while taking a bribe on 6 September. Police then searched his office and home. For at least five years prior to that, the traffic police colonel had extorted money “for overall patronage,” the portal reported giving rise to numerous reposts by other media. Yet the news story turned out a hoax.

Having deleted the report, VKurse.ru published an official comment by the police press service saying that “the reported information is not true to fact”.

The issue was thus settled, it would seem. Yet a week later, Churkin (who had retired by then) and police turned to the Sverdlovsky district court in Perm asking to officially declare the scandalous report inaccurate and hence subject to removal from the defendant's website.

The former traffic police chief did not appear in court on 20 October, having asked the court in writing to consider his claim in absentia; nor did anyone representing the defendant's interests. According to Judge Jamilya Kochegarova, the claimant had written the wrong address and the postal service returned the statement of claim to the sender. A new hearing is scheduled for 17 November, of which the news portal editors are to be duly notified.

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Officials in Chelyabinsk Region refuse to provide information citing “state or commercial secrets”

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Mass media in the Chelyabinsk Region have increasingly often found themselves totally ignored. Typically, whenever a news outlet requests comments from a government body or private company, no answers are furnished.

The reasons for information denials sound pretty familiar: from “Please send in your questions by fax” to “This issue is a strictly confidential state/commercial secret that we will not disclose unless our superiors tell us to”. Their superiors, though, prefer to keep mum because they have their own bosses whose authorisation will, too, be necessary - and so on up to the very top of the power vertical.

Should any clerk at the municipal or regional level be bold enough to come up with comments for the media without approval “from above” or furnish a written reply to some question or other without having his superiors read the text and say “yes” prior to its becoming known to the public, he would be sure to get immediately fired without severance pay.

That is why media questions are most often left unanswered: an official cares about his career first and foremost - and this despite the Media Law provision requiring everybody to answer media questions in writing or orally “within seven days of the receipt”.

Amid this gloomy silence, voices are heard in social media time and again urging fellow journalists or press spokesmen to recall how long it took them last time to wait for, or answer, a media outlet's inquiry; non-provision of information has become so widespread a practice within the regional administration and the governor's apparatus that it is almost taken for granted.

Here's one of the recent anecdotal occurrences that made the entire media community laugh; it is still fresh on people's memories. The Chelyabinsk customs service failed to clearly and unambiguously explain why it had detained for more than 5 hours one night passengers with what struck it as “one too many” cartons of ten cigarette packs purchased in a duty-free shop. After that shameful incident leaked into the press, customs officials invented nothing better than organising an exemplary tour of the airport for the same media - obviously, after everything had been cleaned up, with the sleepy customs officer replaced, and with no one poking their noses into sealed duty-free packages anymore.

Well, window dressing is the most important thing for officials, it seems. The inflated pools of PR specialists and press secretaries on their payrolls are evidently kept at hand for that particular purpose, rather than for giving meaningful answers to questions asked by taxpayers and media.

Khabarovsk-based periodical Debri-DV now includes “open palm” sign in output data to signal zero subsidizing

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Debri-DV periodical released in Khabarovsk has included in its output data the “open palm” sign meaning that the media outlet does not receive subsidies or grants and does not engage in propaganda otherwise known as “the publication and spread of information and political stories fitting into a special-mission pattern”.

“Unlike materials marked as `advertising', there's no law provision requiring that a story be marked as a `subsidized' one,” commented Debri co-founder and editor, Konstantin Pronyakin. “…The readers don't know which media outlets receive subsidies or whether the story someone is reading right now is an ordered and prepaid one. Thus we deceive readers by putting our brand name on propagandistic stuff ordered by subsidy payers such as the authorities, for example”.

As stated in the regional administration's Press and Mass Communications Committee report for the first six months of 2017, the spending on PR - pardon, on information services for the government bodies and on media support - totalled 83.3 million roubles.

All regional subsidies for the media are divided into three groups: producing, publishing and circulating information; streamlining and executing the information process; and shooting and showing video reports covering regional events.

The group of subsidy recipients includes: Dalnevostochnaya TV/Radio Company, Guberniya Publishers', the Khabarovsk Region Radio (Vostok Rossii Radio Station), the MediaTekhnologii Communications Group (newspaper Molodoy Dalnevostochnik); Grand Express Publishers' (newspaper Khabarovskiy Ekspress); and the Otkrytyi Region Social Initiatives Support Centre (which releases the “free” newspaper Khabarovskiy Krai Segodnya) with the lion's share of 56.7 million roubles in subsidies. And that's for the first half of this year alone! If you multiply the above-mentioned overall six-month 83.3-million-rouble amount by two, you will calculate the yearly budget of media subsidizing: over 160 million roubles!

Pronyakin said none of the other independent media editors supported his initiative: “What if they offer us a subsidy, after all? It would then be a shame to remove the `open palm' sign”.

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.

Contacts:

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

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Архив
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