7 Ноября 2017 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 821

October 30, 2017


Hackers attack online media in St. Petersburg

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

Online media came under a new cyberattack on 24 October 2017. The websites Fontanka.ru, Interfax, Novaya Gazeta v Sankt Peterburge, and Novaya Gazeta v Baltii could not be accessed for several hours.

Alexander Gorshkov, editor-in-chief of Petersburg's largest online media outlet Fontanka.ru shared a video and a post on social media in which he called the mastermind and perpetrators behind the cyberattack “terrorists”. He believes that the action was just a piece of a plan aimed at stopping the journalistic investigations against the private military company “Wagner” and the administration of the presidential representative in the North-Western Federal District.

The editorial office listed hundreds of anti-Fontanka.ru stories published by government-controlled media over a short period. Earlier, a Fontanka.ru correspondent was threatened in connection with his articles about “Wagner” operations (see digest 812).

It is not the first attempt to bar readers' access to Russian media outlets by hacking into their websites. The Kommersant Publishing House officially stated that its websites had repeatedly been under DDoS attacks over an extended period, incited by the pro-Kremlin youth movement “Nashi” (Kommersant knows the people who are responsible, but they go unpunished; see digest 557). A massive attack on several mass media in Moscow and Petersburg was carried out in May 2013 (see GDF story in digest 615); following the attack, the affected editorial offices decided to consult with each other and outside experts over cyber security improvement.


Elistinskiy Kuryer editor Vitaly Kadayev pressured in Kalmykia

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Sovremennaya Kalmykia chief editor Valery Badmayev has told the GDF about strange things happening to his colleague, Elistinskiy Kuryer newspaper editor Vitaly Kadayev.

In summer, Kadayev received information that a criminal group had begun “settling issues” related to the newspaper Elistinskiy Kuryer. Shortly after that, the newspaper sponsor and de facto owner received threats and had to hire a bodyguard.

Next, someone warned Kadayev not to go out in the night-time. And then the trouble began. A car pulled up by the journalist's wife as she was walking her baby in the evening and a man inside offered her to “take a ride” scaring the woman. A stranger later demonstratively took a video with his mobile phone of Kadayev's taking his daughter to the kindergarten.

“I got used to living under constant pressure and provocations, but I had no family at that time, it was only my life on the line. I'm no longer unencumbered; I have a family: two small kids and a wife. As I see it, I believe they've been closing in on my family and me. I can do nothing about it,” Kadayev said.

On 25 October, unidentified persons damaged the Elistinskiy Kuryer editor-in-chief's car.

Separately, these incidents hardly merit attention, but they have been happening in an unnerving sequence. Apparently the Elistinskiy Kuryer editor has come under pressure, but it is unclear who the mastermind is and what objective they pursue.

GDF will keep track of the Kadayev family situation.

City administration spokesman in Sverdlovsk Region punches editor in face for critical publication

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Relations with mass media often become a kind of litmus test in assessing the authorities' performance. The situation at the Verkhnyaya Salda district centre might serve as an example. On 25 October, prior to the Town Council session, a deputy and editor of the local newspaper Birzha Novostei Helge Buzunov and Town Hall press secretary Vladimir Maltsev had an argument.

Eyewitnesses said the verbal sparring escalated to a fistfight. Buzunov grabbed Maltsev's shirtfront and shook him; the mayoral press secretary, in response, hit the opposition activist in the face. Deputies and staff intervened to break up the fight.

Local residents however can easily see the underlying cause: the opposition journalist, in his single-constituency district, defeated incumbent mayor Alexei Zabrodin in the 10 September election. The resentful subordinate moved to stand up for his outgoing boss who had come under effective criticism. Using force was a bad idea: the officials should have worked harder to stay in office.

Karelia MP claims over 3 million roubles in moral damages from journalist

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

A conflict flared up at Karelia's Legislative Assembly between members of the ruling United Russia Party; a group of deputies led by Leonid Liminchuk had pushed through changes to the parliament structure that enabled them to oust local parliament deputy speaker Andrei Mazurovsky, also a United Russia member. Prior to the session which had to address the issue, the United Russia faction deputies seeking to remove Mazurovsky from his post tried to rally support for the bid with other factions as they had legitimate concerns that some United Russia members might side with Mazurovsky.

A majority of deputies at the April session voted for refreshing the parliament structure by adding a new committee on housing and public utilities, agricultural policy and energy and removing the post of deputy speaker. Knowing that Liminchuk's group had outplayed him, Mazurovsky shared some secrets behind deputies' negotiations as he took the floor at the session. For example, he said that the Communist faction members would be rewarded for supporting the bid to adjust the parliament structure that would see an increased number of paid deputies; this would put a larger strain on the Republic's budget. Mazurovsky also said Liminchuk had masterminded the scheme.

Journalist Anatoly Tsygankov covered the Legislative Assembly infighting in his report published on the Karelia Politics website. He said the collusion between the factions was a surprise to him and also a hallmark of political corruption. After the parliament set up the committee for housing and public utilities, agricultural policy and energy, deputy Liminchuk became the Committee chair on a voluntary basis and Communist (KPRF) deputy Tatyana Bogdanova got the paid post of deputy chairperson. Liminchuk is a medic by education, while Bogdanova is a professional nurse. Karelia's parliament has deputies who have dealt with energy, housing and public utilities and agriculture issues all their lives, such as V. Semyonov (former Lenenergo electric utility director-general), O. Dotsenko, Ph.D., executive director at Karelskaya Retail Energy Sales Company and TNS-Energo Karelia, and A. Zherebtsova, Ilyinskoye cattle breeding farm director-general. Oddly, two medics were elected to head the newly-established committee.

On 20 April, the Board of the government-controlled Republic of Karelia Development Corporation JSC appointed businessman Liminchuk director-general. A paid post was offered to Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) deputy E. Besedny who was elected deputy chairman of the committee for education, culture, sports and youth policy. The obvious connection between these two events, i.e. “the correct voting” by Communist deputies and Liberal Democrats and the subsequent appointments, proved that what Mazurovsky said in his speech at the session was true.

It seemed that everybody had to be happy (with the exception of Mazurovsky), but it turned out later that businessman and deputy Liminchuk found Tsygankov's story insulting and tried to sue the latter for slander. However, law-enforcement bodies refused to initiate criminal proceedings after looking into the matter. The deputy then filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the story in question had marred his image, and demanded a 3,354,000-rouble compensation for moral damages. The case is now under review in court.

Rostov businessman awarded half a million roubles from US owner of Kompromat1.info website for ascribing to him “libellous” statement about Igor Sechin

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

AFK Sistema Senior Vice President Ali Uzdenov has filed a libel suit over the story published on the Kompromat.ru website and won the case. The plaintiff demanded from the defendant ten million robles in damages, but the court cut the sum to 500,000 roubles.

Uzdenov, a well-known businessman, former director of Gazprom Mezhregion Rostov-on-Don, currently vice president of the Sistema financial corporation, filed an action against Domains by Proxy, LLC with Rostov-on-Don's Oktyabrsky district court. The U.S. company registered in the town of Scottsdale, Arizona administers the http:kompromat1.info. domain which hosts the Kompromat.ru website. The plaintiff demanded refutation of information in the article titled “Ali Uzdenov Calls Sechin Russia's Most Corrupt Official” and ten million roubles in damages from the defendant.

The article cites Uzdenov's alleged statement that “Sechin is Russia's top corruptionist who is covered up by President Putin. If things continue this way, Sechin and his likes will undermine confidence in Putin once and for all”. Uzdenov's statement of claim said that the information was not consistent with the facts and that he had never said those words. Hence, the story “undermines the plaintiff's business reputation and compromises his honour and dignity because any third person might assume that Uzdenov has a negative attitude towards I. Sechin and V. Putin”. The defendant, properly notified, failed to secure the appearance of his representative at the hearing, and the court reviewed the case in absentia.

According to the court's ruling, the author of the article and the editorial office would have been recognised as the defendants if the information in question had been disseminated in mass media. However, http:kompromat1.info is not a mass media outlet, so the responsibility lies with Domains By Proxy, LLC, the domain administrator. Given these circumstances, Judge Chernyakova decided that the plaintiff's demand should be granted partially. The court ruled that the information inconsistent with the facts should be removed from Kompromat.ru and 500,000 roubles be paid in damages to the plaintiff. The website should post the official refutation by mid-November 2017 and keep it in the same section for at least six months. The refutation should have the same font size as the disavowed information, and be freely accessed by website visitors.

The journalist's story which became a judicial matter has already been removed from Kompromat.ru, but it is still available on other Russian and Ukrainian websites. It is yet unknown whether or not Ali Uzdenov will demand refutation from other online media that reposted the controversial story. Kira Davydova, the plaintiff's lawyer, refused to provide any information even after completion of the legal proceedings. Perhaps, certain suspense in this story is explained by the fact that Uzdenov has not yet denied the rest of the information published by Kompromat.ru, including his involvement in promoting the career of police Colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko, the anti-hero of a high-profile corruption scandal. Also, it might be added that no attention has been paid amid all these litigations to the message carried by the article.

Court in Perm cites “computer failure” to conceal info about local United Russia Party leader's violations of business rules

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Natalya Nechayeva, deputy chair of the Perm regional court, has acknowledged the temporary absence on the automated system Justice's official website of the court ruling on administrative offence passed in the lawsuit against the Perm Plant of Silicate Panels (PZSP) owned and run by local United Russia Party leader Nikolai Dyomkin. In her reply to the GDF correspondent's inquiry of 17 October, she explained this neglect of the openness-of-justice-administration requirement by a “computer failure”.

As we reported in digest 819, all information about this case had been removed from the Dzerzhinsky district court of Perm's website (see digest 819). Before and after it was heard by that court on 3 August, the PZSP case did feature on the site, marked as a violation of Administrative Code Article 18.15.3. A series of media reposts attracted considerable public attention to the news. Yet by the all-Russia voting day, 11 September, all case-related data had vanished from the Justice automated system.

“Upon coordination with the presiding judge, the deputy chairman of the Dzerzhinsky district court on 22 September 2017 ordered that an authorized official post the info regarding Judicial Case 5-356/2017 online,” Nechayeva's reply dated 23 October said.

It further said that no files were uploaded onto the site between 5th and 10th October because of a “technical failure” on the Justice Department's web server. On 18 October, the full database for the October 1-17 period was uploaded, and “the court ruling on Case 5-356/2017 is now available again,” Nechayeva said.

Indeed, any Justice database reader can now learn that PZSP was fined 300,000 roubles for violating the rules of using foreign labour force. Regrettably, the relevant information reappeared on the website as late as 5 weeks after the all-Russia voting day, when electors are no longer in a position to express their attitude to the ruling United Russia Party or its regional leader. To learn about the punishment meted out to Dyomkin himself, one has to enter the Case Info Search section; for the search to be a success, one has to know either the case number or the date when the protocol of administrative offence was made, or have other key data implying one's special knowledge of case details.

It should be noted that, as follows from Nechayeva's reply, one may as well forget all about “justice administration openness” unless there's the presiding judge's go-ahead for case-related information to be published online.

One may get the impression that the court simply re-hid information about business-rule violations by Perm URP leader Dyomkin from the commonly-available page to somewhere deep inside the website. And one other thing in conclusion. The GDF correspondent's 15 September inquiry e-mailed to dzerzhinsky.perm@sudrf.ru for Acting Dzerzhinsky Court Chairwoman I. Boikova to answer was “not registered among the incoming correspondence,” according to Nechayeva. One is left to suspect that Perm's judicial system suffered yet another “computer failure” that day.


Personal Contact training seminar in Tbilisi teaches the basics of civil society to journalists from Stavropol and Dagestan

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

That was the name of a seven-day course in Tbilisi for journalists from the Stavropol Region and Dagestan who were trained in media literacy at seminars and took part in round-table discussions with Georgian civil society representatives. The project's name accurately reflects its idea, i.e. expanding one's professional and creative horizons, establishing partner relations with colleagues, and developing cultural ties between our countries. The organisers (Pyatigorsk-based Technology of Success JSC specialising in arranging training for various social groups, including journalists) managed to not only make each participant a people's diplomat, but also expand their vision of communication technologies and optimisation of editorial offices' work.

Dr. Denisa Liepniece, Social Sciences, who came to the seminar from Latvia, introduced a data verification procedure and methods of detecting fake sources and content to Russian reporters. Valentina Lezvina, an International Federation of Journalists instructor, reminded about the inadmissibility of the propaganda of strife and hate in the media and the responsibility for fake news (which Russian legislation views as unlawful). Long-standing Moskovskiye Novosti correspondent in Tbilisi Akakiy Mikadze, Kaukasische Post newspaper editor and owner Reiner Kaufmann, Netgaseti portal and newspaper editor Nino Kakhishvili, and Tbilisi-based newspaper Rezonansi editor Lasha Tugushi introduced their Russian colleagues to Georgia's modern media community. Much of what the Russian journalists learnt was an eye-opener. For example, they found out that Georgia had no state-owned media, that laws were published in special bulletins, that registration (or, rather, authorisation) of mass media was possible within 24 hours without officials' involvement, that mass media finance was absolutely transparent, that legislation prohibited offshore media companies, that there were no restrictions on foreign stakes in the Georgian media, that the Georgian Constitution had added a provision stating that “everybody has the right of access to the Internet”, etc. In short, international experts rate Georgian mass media legislation as good.

Director of the Georgian-Russian forum of non-governmental organisations and Youth Consulting and Training Centre, rights activist, Russian citizen Temur Kobaliya elaborated on how Russian legislation interfered with “people's democracy”. His Volgograd-based Centre had been recognised as a “foreign agent” upon demand by Russia's Justice Ministry; even a bike ride in support of the improvement of Russian-Georgian relations organised by Kobaliya was called a “political action”. Recently, Kobalia appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the fines imposed by the Russian Justice Ministry. A well-known fact is that the Russians do not require visas to enter Georgia, while visa-free travel to Russia for the Georgians is prohibited. Kobeliya believes that at the present time, the main objective of rights activists in the two countries is to make the first move towards improving relations between our countries by cancelling the visa regime, at least for Georgian civil society representatives.

Eliso Rekhviashvili, REYA project manager (study, adaptation and job placement of children with developmental disorders, or “special children” as she affectionately calls them), met with Russian journalists at a social cafe. Though it is staffed with “special” waiters and chefs you can hardly notice it. She told about European countries' help in her project implementation and Georgian authorities' slow but steady turn-around to activists.

Vato Tsereteli, an artist, photographer and art manager, founder of the Georgian Modern Art Centre, took the Russian journalists on a unique “Vertical Tbilisi” tour. He taught them how to tell true restoration of ancient buildings from cheesiness.

In the course of the seven-day sojourn in Georgia, each Russian journalist took on the role of instructor and ran mini-seminars of their own. The seminar topics were within the journalists' area of expertise. For example, one seminar addressed the problems which female journalists could encounter in Dagestan. Others were focused on how a district newspaper editorial office could keep afloat, the fatal mistakes in launching a website, or how to secure permission for video reporting.

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