Дайджест
14 Октября 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 494

TOPIC OF THE WEEK
Rally in memory of Anna Politkovskaya held in Moscow
                                                              
RUSSIA

1. Kirov Region / Chelyabinsk. Why Chelyabinsky Rabochiy reporter died
2. Veliky Novgorod. Journalist may be confined to psychiatric clinic
3. Moscow. Hazards of journalistic profession
4. Republic of Karelia. Former finance minister to pay compensation to himself. Continued from Digests 461, 473
5. Perm Region. Criticism of government officials affirmed as a journalist’s integral right
6. Nizhny Novgorod Region. Editor cleared of libel charges. Continued from Digest 480
7. Rostov Region. Provincial thriller
8. Arkhangelsk Region. Printing house refuses to print pre-election newspaper

OUR PARTNERS
2010 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues
_____________

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Rally in memory of Anna Politkovskaya held in Moscow

A traditional rally in memory of murdered Novaya Gazeta observer Anna Politkovskaya was held in Moscow’s Chistoprudny Boulevard October 7.

The rally opened at 4:03 p.m. – the moment A. Politkovskaya had been killed in her own apartment block four years before. It was conducted by Novaya Gazeta deputy editor-in-chief Oleg Khlebnikov who suggested re-naming Lesnaya Street, where Politkovskaya lived, in her honor. “Streets have been named after Anna Politkovskaya in many European capitals,” Khlebnikov said. “Next year will mark five years since she was killed. We have every legal opportunity for having a street named in her honor and a monument to her put up – not only at the cemetery. To make that happen, we need public support. We believe we should start gathering signatures to help this idea come true one year from now.”

Over the four years since Politkovskaya’s murder, the investigators have failed to answer all the major questions. Those who ordered the crime remain unidentified, and the actual killer is still going unpunished. That is why rally participants (about 500 people) not only paid tribute to the brilliant journalist but also urged the law enforcers to do whatever may be necessary to see through the investigation of Anna’s case to the logical end. Speakers also recalled other undisclosed crimes – the killings of Natalia Estemirova, Igor Domnikov, Dmitry Kholodov and Stas Markelov, the “mysterious” death of Yuri Shchekochikhin, the attempt on Mikhail Beketov’s life, etc.

Oleg Orlov, head of Memorial, spotlighted the point that a journalist’s killing is an act of intimidation, i.e., a terrorist act.

“It is our common fault that we are unable to demand that the authorities put an end to arbitrariness,” Sergey Kovalyov, president of the Human Rights Institute, said.

The number of speakers included Dmitry Muratov, Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief; Glasnost Defense Foundation president Alexei Simonov; prominent actors Alexander Filippenko and Liya Akhedzhakova; Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the movement For Human Rights; writers Genrikh Borovik and Marietta Chudakova; human rights activist Valery Borshchov; singer Natella Boltnyanskaya who dedicated a song to A. Politkovskaya; and Solidarnost movement leaders Boris Nemtsov and Garry Kasparov. In conclusion, the rally participants heard a recorded address by Anna’s mother, Raisa, who thanked everyone for their “deep love and remembrance” of her daughter.

It seems the authorities, too, had got prepared for the anniversary of Politkovskaya’s assassination – they announced the advancement of new murder charges against S. Khadzhikurbanov, a former major of Moscow’s UBOP [special police against organized crime]. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said the investigators had identified new suspects in the Politkovskaya case, and appealed to a number of European countries for legal assistance. Besides, at a meeting with delegates of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee under the Office of the RF Prosecutor General, acknowledged that the prosecutors had made a “hasty” decision previously to submit the case to court, which had resulted in the jurors’ acquittal of two defendants. Bastrykin also said he is planning to visit one of the European countries where a suspected killer of A. Politkovskaya may be hiding now, to try to persuade that country’s government to extradite the suspect to Russia.

Hopefully, he will succeed in doing that, although life shows promises of this kind should be accepted with scepticism.

A meaningful detail: the October 7 rally was, as usual, watched by numerous policemen who had been brought in several buses. But, in contrast to previous years, the police officers were listening to the speakers attentively, instead of “safeguarding law and order” zealously…
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RUSSIA

1. Kirov Region / Chelyabinsk. Why Chelyabinsky Rabochiy reporter died

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Our newspaper Chelyabinsky Rabochiy had a freelance author, Dayan Shakirov, a cheerful boy with an acute sense of fairness, who dreamed of becoming a professional journalist. He sought to do his bit to make this world at least a little better. He came offering his reporting services, proceeded to independently select the themes to cover, and contributed many interesting and exciting “insider” stories about how it feels to be a beggar and who derives illegal profit from the hard labor of migrant workers living in cardboard huts on a garbage dump. Dayan had a keen eye and inborn intuition. Without doubt, he would have made a brilliant reporter. But he was called up to the army one day.

Seeing nothing wrong with that – he had always been willing to go through the military service – Dayan kept a journalistic diary in the army, too. We waited for his reports but did not have the time to publish a single one. An official message came, reading as follows: “In the army unit stationed in the village of Yurya-2, Kirov Region, draftee Dayan Shakirov, 21, called up from Chelyabinsk Region last April, committed suicide. As has been established, in the afternoon August 14, he locked himself inside the staff restroom and did not respond to fellow servicemen knocking on the door. When the door was broken, he was found hanged by the neck. His relatives later found numerous bruises and lash blues on his back. The regional prosecutor’s office has instituted legal proceedings under Article 110 of the RF Criminal Code against persons suspected of inducing him to commit suicide. That was the third suicide case in the above-mentioned army unit since this year began.”

At Chelyabinsky Rabochiy’s request, reporter Alexander Shirokov of the newspaper Vyatsky Krai visited the unit Dayan served in. His commanders actively tried to persuade the journalist that the three deaths of draftees in an elite army unit over half a year’s time were a pure coincidence. No one had ever manhandled the soldiers, they claimed. As for Dayan, he had been offered the most beneficial regime, editing a wall newspaper and keeping a diary of military life, with no one allegedly having anything against that.

“Where is the diary, by the way?” Shirokov asked. “We don’t know, it vanished without a trace,” the commanders said and showed the journalist data about the “poor mental condition” of many draftees, hinting that “there are crazy guys ready to commit suicide any moment”. The garrison prosecutor’s office, having looked into the incident, found no one guilty of leading D. Shakirov up to taking his own life. His mother has hired a lawyer to protest the prosecutors’ conclusion, organize an independent investigation and have those responsible brought to justice.

She came to the Chelyabinsky Rabochiy office for references about her son (required by the court), and told us additional horrifying details about his death. It turned out Dayan’s diary had not disappeared – it is in the case files, kept carefully away from outsiders’ eyes. She said her son had frequently called her using fellow servicemen’s cell phones (his own had been taken away for some unclear reason), to ask for money. Judging by what he had said on the phone, Dayan died because he had started to independently investigate the death of another draftee, Vadim Grechishnikov, who may have hanged himself because of maltreatment by older soldiers. Very sensitive to injustice by nature, Dayan was ready to go as far as it might take to bring the truth to light. The list of themes he had planned to explore – strikingly wide-range – is still kept in our office, making many veteran reporters admire his courage and resolution. He may well have begun a serious probe and gathered some stuff compromising his unit’s command. Without any fear, he had presented himself at the very outset as a freelance reporter for Chelyabinsky Rabochiy. His mother maintains his death was by far not accidental.  

We, his colleagues, are feeling sorry and blaming ourselves today for our failure to teach the budding reporter how to conduct an investigation and gather material in an extremely tough and dangerous environment. The army is a dark and closed territory. He should not have presented himself as a journalist in the first place, nor have written openly in his diary about his investigative plans. Even a secretly kept diary is a threat to the life of anyone living under a tight-security regime. How we wish we had explained that to him! We are awfully sorry – forgive us, Dayan!


2. Veliky Novgorod. Journalist may be confined to psychiatric clinic

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

It all began two years ago, when a villager asked the newspaper Russkiy Karavan (RK) to describe on its pages his litigation with a local industrial plant that badly polluted the environment. After the newspaper met his request, RK editor-in-chief Galina Yartseva had legal proceedings instituted against her under Article 297 of the RF Criminal Code (“Disrespect for the court”) in connection with a judicial officer’s complaint that Yartseva had addressed the judge “disrespectfully” while covering the judicial proceedings. The higher-standing regional court of Novgorod acquitted the editor in May 2010, but in July the RF Supreme Court satisfied the prosecutor’s office’s appeal and returned the case to the regional court for review.

It was at that point that the prosecutor’s office, evidently fearing Yartseva’s likely acquittal by the jurors, suggested having the editor’s mental condition checked – on the grounds that the underlying publication “was clearly pre-ordered” and that Yartseva “cried in the courtroom while being tried for disrespect”.

Most significantly, according to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the court has entrusted the forensic psycho-psychiatric examination to the Novgorod Psycho-Neurologic Dispensary led by chief physician V. N. Yakovlev, father of the city’s deputy prosecutor N. V. Yakovlev who personally participated in passing the bill of indictment against G. Yartseva.

A peculiar coincidence, isn’t it? As a result, the lady editor may find herself confined to a mental clinic for duly performing her professional work.


3. Moscow. Hazards of journalistic profession

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Vladimir Voronov, investigative journalist for the newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno, has told the GDF correspondent that after his newspaper published (in its issue No. 8, 2010) an article titled “Big Contracts” reporting on money “kickbacks” practised by the Office of the RF President’s Affairs, he was warned about likely negative – very tough – response by the VIPs whose interests were affected by the publication. One of the journalist’s sources, for example, insistently advised him “to be more careful and attentive” while moving about the city.

The story also gave rise to legal proceedings instituted by the presidential chief of staff against Sovershenno Sekretno and V. Voronov. The plaintiff is demanding refutation of the statements that “In the early 2000s… the kickback was relatively small, amounting to only 5 percent of the building contract’s value”, that “in 2005, it doubled”, and that “in 2006, the rate of the ‘mainline’ kickback increased to 15 percent”.

The journalist is saying he has documents showing that the information he published is accurate.


4. Republic of Karelia. Former finance minister to pay compensation to himself. Continued from Digests 461, 473

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

Last autumn, Karelia’s then finance minister Sergey Mikhailov filed legal claims against two republican newspapers that provided coverage of his communal dispute with the housing tenants’ partnership Ratnik. The Mikhailovs owed the partnership RUR 40,000 for communal services, which debt they refused to recognize. After several failed attempts to persuade the minister to pay, Ratnik cut off power supply to Mikhailov’s apartment, giving rise to his legal claim. The two newspapers offered the conflicting parties to have their say on the conflict. The minister was enraged and did not bother to select words. Specifically, in a telephone conversation with a correspondent for Moskovsky Komsomolets v Karelii (MKK), he threatened to “whack” the house manager, V. Medvedev, in the face. And Karelskaya Guberniya (KG) cited Medvedev as saying Mikhailov had “threatened and cursed” him the day the power was switched off (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/6/693#rus5, http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/4/725#rus7 ).

Refraining from going into detail about his debt to the partnership and the ensuing conflict, the minister cracked down on the defendants for two phrases they had made public. He demanded a refutation and a total of RUR 510,000 in moral damage compensation.

After protracted court hearings, MKK was cleared of all libel charges because the judge established (and the plaintiff acknowledged) that the phrase about “whacking Medvedev in the face” had been uttered by Mikhailov in a fit of temper, not invented by the journalists. As regards the house manager’s phrase about the minister’s “threats and curses”, the blame for it was put on Medvedev. Since the latter had acted as an official representative of Ratnik, the court required the partnership to pay the plaintiff RUR 5,000 in moral damage compensation plus RUR 3,000 to cover his judicial costs.

Funnily enough, Mikhailov, as a member of Ratnik, will have to pay part of the compensation amount to his own self.


5. Perm Region. Criticism of government officials affirmed as a journalist’s integral right

By Vassily Moseyev, 
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Journalist Sergey Ivanov of the Perm-based regional newspaper Zvezda has published an article, “A Candy for a Government Official”, accusing Vedim Lazepny, head of the State Inspectorate for Ecology and Nature Management, of a deliberate breach of effective legislation in the interests of an industrial plant in the city of Solikamsk by ordering a sudden environmental inspection of a rival factory. The inspection found the factory had exceeded the ceiling of oil product concentration in its soil. As it turned out later, no such norm had ever been established for industrial enterprises in Russia, meaning the problem was a fabrication out of whole cloth. Yet the chief inspector, without compiling a protocol, which is “a must” in this kind of cases, urged RosTechNadzor [the federal agency overseeing compliance with existing technical requirements] to strip the factory of its waste management license – i.e., actually to shut it down. “The government executive’s actions were clearly in the interests of one of the conflicting parties, since license canceling meant the closure of the rival enterprise,” the author wrote, concluding that sudden inspections and reference to non-existing norms are a source of “corrupt earnings” for some government officials.

Naturally, the head of a government inspectorate could not but start defending against accusations as serious as those. The litigation was dragged out for eight months – first in the Motovilikhinsky district court, then in the regional court of appeals in response to Lazepny’s protest. Both courts found the documents presented by the newspaper sufficiently convincing to conclude that the publication was generally not offensive in its style and that the disputed statements expressed the author’s personal opinions or evaluative judgements unrelated to the plaintiff in person.

Significantly, both courts affirmed a journalist’s integral right under the law “to express his or her personal judgements and assessments in reports and other materials subject to distribution with his or her signature”. As regards Lazepny, the courts reaffirmed their adherence to the principles stated by the European Court and Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention: “Government executives may be subject to criticism in the media as regards fulfillment of their official duties”. The two courts turned down Lazepny’s claim in full.


6. Nizhny Novgorod Region. Editor cleared of libel charges. Continued from Digest 480

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

The Criminal Law Collegium of the regional court in Nizhny Novgorod has considered the case of Alexander Andronyuk, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Arzamasskiye Vesti, opened on libel charges (Article 129 of the RF Criminal Code) in the wake of his two publications that struck Mikhail Buzin, director of OOO GorVodokanal [water supply and sewage company], as smearing.

In May 2010, M. Chengayeva, justice of the peace of Precinct No. 4 in Arzamas, Nizhny Novgorod Region, sentenced Andronyuk to 200 hours of correctional labor and deprived him of the right to engage in journalism for the following 3 years. The editor challenged that ruling before the higher-standing city court asking to cancel it as unlawful and groundless (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/3/740#rus3 ).

Finally, the regional court fully acquitted him October 8 in view of no elements of crime in his behavior, and affirmed his right to seek full exoneration.


7. Rostov Region. Provincial thriller

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

In Donetsk, the entire print run of a local newspaper was bought up three days before the elections. Early on October 7, respectable-looking men were seen going round newspaper stalls and private vendor kiosks and purchasing the newspaper Novost – every issue that remained unsold. Towards the evening, separate newspaper pages with a stapled-on leaflet of the main candidate for head of the city administration – the incumbent mayor Yuri Tarasenko – were dropped into electors’ mailboxes. But the rest of the pages – those canvassing for Tarasenko’s rivals – were missing.

The mayor and his competitors suffered serious losses: the newspaper’s founder and editor Sergey Plotnikov had charged an unheard price for publishing pre-election materials – RUR 80 per sq. cm or RUR 80,000 for a full page. At first, candidates were very indignant and even threatened to complain to the Anti-Monopoly Agency, the editor recalled. But a private newspaper’s owner is free to charge as much as he chooses. Apart from Novost (with a circulation of 5,000 in Donetsk plus 3,000 in neighboring towns), there is only one municipal newspaper, Donetsky Rabochiy, which is fully controlled by the mayor with all the ensuing consequences, according to the journalists.

After Tarasenko finally resolved to publish his canvassing materials on four full pages in the latest number of Novost, the two other candidates decided to follow suit. One of them, Igor Balaban, head of the inter-district branch of the Rostov Region Investigative Committee under the Office of the RF Prosecutor General, wrote an article about the incumbent mayor’s office abuses and other malpractices. Evidently unprepared for such a turn, Mayor Tarasenko ordered an additional 4,000 of Novost, and some of his staff members must have decided to circulate the number among the electorate in a “duly edited” form.

Tarasenko’s rivals reported the incident to the police which launched an investigation.


8. Arkhangelsk Region. Printing house refuses to print pre-election newspaper

By Tamara Ovchinnikova,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District

According to website Belomorkanal.ru correspondents, the printing house in Severodvinsk has refused to print a newspaper canvassing for an opposition candidate – Sergey Popov, a Communist Party nominee for Solombalsky District representative in the Regional Assembly of Arkhangelsk.

The newspaper featured new data about the construction in Arkhangelsk of the notorious apartment block for low-income citizens, for which purpose RUR 119 million had been allocated, only to vanish without a trace, according to some sources. To complete the construction, the city is now requesting an additional loan. The newspaper also reported about heavy administrative pressure on the opposition candidate and warned electors of the possibility of mass-scale vote rigging in the by-election at single-member constituency No. 8 October 10.
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OUR PARTNERS


2010 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The Jury continues accepting works submitted for the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on Russian journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values which Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2009 and October 15, 2010 in Russian newspapers, magazines or almanacs, or posted on web portals registered as media outlets. Candidates for the award may be nominated by both editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defense Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’”.

For further details about the contest, please see http://www.gdf.ru/lenta/item/1/699

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637 4947.
____________________________________________________________________________

This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), http://www.gdf.ru.

We appreciate the support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Digest released once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.
Distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

Editorial board: Boris Timoshenko – Monitoring Service chief, Pyotr Polonitsky – head of GDF regional network, Svetlana Zemskova – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy – translator, Alexander Yefremov – web administrator in charge of Digest distribution.


We would appreciate reference to our organization in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

Contacts: Glasnost Defense Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
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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