Дайджест
29 Апреля 2011 года

Glasnost Defence Foundation Digest No. 521

April 25, 2011

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Markelov-Baburova murder trial continues

The Moscow City Court has continued hearings of the murder case of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Last week began with defendants Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis making a plea for the dismissal of the jury with reference to ex-juror Anna Dobracheva’s claim about “constant pressure” exerted on the panellists. Judge Aleksandr Zamashnyuk disregarded the plea, describing the pressure claim as a “rumour” and “conjecture”, Grani.ru reported.

Then yet another witness and Tikhonov’s alleged acquaintance, Sergey “Operative” Golubev, leader of the Blood&Honour nationalist group, was questioned. His appearance in the courtroom clearly surprised and confused the defendants, but Tikhonov hastened to say he had never seen the man before. According to Golubev, however, they have known each other since 2003, but used to maintain contact mostly via the Internet. Golubev said Tikhonov had invited him to join a nationalist combat group to wage armed struggle against “enemies of the nation”, i.e. anti-fascists and law enforcers. “Tikhonov favoured violent actions in respect of judges and lawyers, he wanted their physical liquidation. I didn’t, so Tikhonov wanted to kill me, too,” Golubev said. Also, he had recognized Tikhonov on a photo picture on the LifeNews website by his special gait. “Those who are acquainted with Nikita and have seen him walking will know what I mean,” Golubev said. “Tikhonov contacted me later to describe Markelov’s killing as a ‘brilliant’ action.”

Golubev had not known Khasis personally, which had not stopped her from “telling different things about me to the FSB”, he said. He came to the courtroom because he had “got tired of reading all that Internet nonsense about what I’ve allegedly done”. “Khasis has kept silent for a whole year about the murder case, but has been pretty talkative about me with FSB officers,” he said.

During the following hearing on April 19, Khasis’ former colleagues testified. Witness Maria Titova said the accused had changed shifts with her on the day of the murder, without explaining why. Another witness, Mikhail Dyakonov, said he had recognized Khasis on security camera recordings near the crime scene by the “special way she moved”. And Dmitry Tabachenkov, general director of the firm where Khasis worked, also recognized her on the recordings “by the way she walked and smoked”, newspaper Novaya Gazeta quoted him as saying.

During the hearing, the jurors were shown a video recording of Tikhonov confessing to the crime. In the presence of his lawyer, he answered the investigators’ questions supplying detailed explanations. He later went back on that evidence, saying he had confessed expecting Khasis to be cleared of all charges, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

On the following day, Roman Karpinsky, the victims’ representative, asked the judge to add to the case files the replies by Interfax and RIA Novosti to inquiries about the time the news about the murder was published – the two agencies were first to report on the killing. Comparison of that information with the evidence given by witness Baranovsky and defendant Khasis revealed that they had come to know the murder news earlier that it was officially circulated. The court ruled to add the relevant documents to the case files for presentation to the jury members, Grani.ru reported.

Besides, the jurors were played recordings made in the apartment rented by Tikhonov and Khasis (the landlord had given consent to the installation of hidden audio and video recording devices in the apartment). One recording featured Tikhonov taking pistols off a cabinet shelf, looking at them closely, and putting them away into another cabinet. Khasis was shown coming in and taking a pistol out of her purse, then picking up and wielding another pistol.

The court then proceeded to question witnesses for the defence. Anna Goryunova, a former colleague of Khasis, said they had continued to work, maintain friendly relations and see each other after Khasis’s dismissal, too. She said what united them was “friendship and longing for peace throughout the world”…

During the April 21 hearing, the defendants volunteered to add a few details to the testimony they had given. Tikhonov once again stressed he did not know witness Golubev personally, and had not killed anyone – he had “confessed under pressure from the investigators”. Khasis confirmed she had played with Tikhonov’s pistol but could not explain what she had meant by saying (on a surveillance recording), “If Operative gets arrested, that’ll put the tin lid on us.”

The state prosecutor then disproved Khasis’ alibi by reading out the billing data about the location of witness Baranovsky’s cell phone on the day of the crime. Earlier, that witness told the court he had been in a shop near Timiryazevskaya metro station together with Khasis between 3 and 4 p.m. that day, when a friend called to tell him about Markelov and Baburova’s killing. However, judging by the billing data, he arrived at Timiryazevskaya as late as 4:52 p.m. on the murder day, and Khasis had called him at 4:39 p.m. from the opposite end of Moscow. The prosecutor also disproved the statement by another witness, Olga Mukhacheva, about Baranovsky’s calling her from the shop near Timiryazevskaya and saying “this girl Zhenya (Khasis) is with me here”. As established, Mukhacheva received only one phone call on January 19, 2009, at 11:47 a.m., and it was made not from Baranovsky’s cell phone.

The next court sitting will be dedicated to the presentation of arguments by the parties, with all trial participants invited to speak out. The GDF will follow the proceedings closely.

 

RUSSIA

Samara Region. Censorship-prone administration

The newspaper Kommersant-Volga has told the Glasnost Defence Foundation about regional Duma deputy M. Matveyev’s urging regional prosecutor Y. Denisov to warn the authorities that media censorship is inadmissible.

In his message to the prosecutor, Matveyev said that the Samara administration has posted on its website an ad announcing an open tender for the right to cover the activities of the municipal Construction and Architecture Department on condition that “the contractor will have to coordinate with the client prior to printing the content of each publication and the make-up of the newspaper page on which it will be featured and, if necessary, to change the content and photo illustrations at the client’s request and make whatever corrections may be required”.

Also, the regional administration published an ad on March 21 announcing an open tender for the right to cover its performance in the regional electronic media. The draft contract requires the contractor to coordinate with the client the topics selected for coverage; submit ready stories to the client for approval; circulate materials only with the client’s consent; and submit all materials to the client for coordination and possible correction prior to publication. Similar terms and conditions are detailed in the tender announcement circulated by the regional executive authorities, Matveyev said, asking the prosecutor to check the situation and take appropriate response measures.

GDF President Alexei Simonov noted that this situation is typical of many regions across Russia. “One mustn’t mix up media with PR agencies to which one may dictate what to do,” he said. “I share my colleagues’ opinion that one may hire a media outlet to conduct an investigation, but not order a particular outcome of that investigation. Authorities have never learned how to announce media tenders correctly; they dispose of budgetary funds as their own money and want to be praised at taxpayers’ expense.” The Glasnost Defence Foundation is ready to support Matveyev’s inquiry and go as far as it takes – all the way up to appealing to law enforcement for help – to change the situation, Simonov said.

 

Republic of Karelia. Covert censorship as a norm of editorial life

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

A story about the critical situation in the municipal transport sector in Petrozavodsk hung on the newspaper Vesti Karelii’s website for about an hour before it was removed. When its author Antonina Kramskikh asked the editor why, she was told the founder disliked the publication criticising the poorly performing transport company’s head, whose name was not cited, though.

The website is a structural unit of the weekly Moskovsky Komsomolets v Karelii, whose owner, who happens to be a friend of the transport company’s general director, simply ordered the story’s removal without bothering to explain why.

This is not the first time Karelian web resources are treated that way, with media founders or owners performing as censors. As a rule, those instances of censorship become known in the journalistic community, but very few journalists dare to protest for fear of losing their jobs.

 

Rostov-on-Don. Newspaper deputy editor detained on suspicion of extortion

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

Margarita Yefremova, deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yuzhny Federalny (YF), was detained on April 19 while receiving RUR 300,000 from a deputy head of the Morozovsky District administration.

For the past few months, she has also performed as the newspaper’s marketing director, and prior to that she worked as head of the advertising department and as editor-in-chief for a while. Although acknowledging the fact of her having received the money, an official statement by Yuzhny Federalny described that as “supposed pay for a one-year contract to provide information services”.

But an official press release by the Rostov Region police department said the deputy editor is suspected of extorting RUR 500,000 from the Morozovsky District administration head and local police chief, threatening otherwise to publish information compromising the two officials. “She said that amount would also cover ‘information services’ to be provided by her newspaper. Her business proposal and the handing over of the money package, which she took and put in her purse in a Rostov café, were recorded by police officers with a hidden camera,” the press release said.

Right after the detention, charges were advanced against Yefremova under Article 163.2 of the RF Criminal Code “Extortion of a large sum of money”). A federal judge of the Oktyabrsky District Court in Rostov ordered to keep her under arrest.

But YF editor-in-chief Maxim Fedorenko told the GDF correspondent that law enforcement officers openly admitted in unofficial conversations that it was a provocation – a political order by authorities to discredit and close his independent newspaper on the eve of parliamentary elections. A search of the newspaper office resulted in the confiscation of the findings of other journalists’ independent probes into alleged cases of corruption, along with three computers and staffers’ personal effects.

Margarita Yefremova’s range of duties, Fedorenko said, involved the conclusion with republican and regional authorities of agreements on the provision of information services, and participation in tenders for the right to provide such services. But the value of those agreements had never been that large even at regional, the less so at district, level, he said. “It looks like Margarita was offered the money and she couldn’t refuse, although she shouldn’t have taken cash, because all agreements have to be formalised officially, with remuneration to be paid by bank transfers. But extorting money – from whom, from a district head and a police chief? – is something she’d never have attempted. She never told me anything about it, but I guess Margarita asked them to comment on a story prepared for publication, and they offered her money instead,” Fedorenko told the GDF correspondent.

One day after Yefremova’s arrest, an YF issue was released featuring that very story about the Morozovsky District in which a local resident said the local administration had sold to the local police chief for less than RUR 100,000 a plot of land worth RUR 2,000,000. The author had complained about the unfair deal to different authorities, including the regional police department, but had only received purely formal and meaningless replies.

The newspaper and its lawyers have so far failed to get Yefremova released on bail. The lawyers have also prepared six legal claims, to be filed with the Investigative Committee under the prosecutor’s office, against the Morozovsky District police chief who induced a journalist to take a bribe, and against the police officers who searched the newspaper headquarters and confiscated computers and staffers’ documents. A legal claim will be lodged also against Alexei Polyansky, the regional police department spokesman, who allowed a leak of investigation-related information that might pressure the judge into ruling to get the suspect under arrest.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will follow the developments in Rostov-on-Don closely.

 

Perm Region. Strange legal claim filed against newspaper Kommersant v Permi

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Dzerzhinsky District court in Perm has accepted a legal claim filed by the regional bailiffs against the newspaper Kommersant v Permi (KVP) and its author Mikhail Lobanov. The government service wants its “honour and dignity” to be protected.

A few years ago, Perm resident Oleg Okulov borrowed RUR 3 m from businessman Anatoly Zak, who is now being tried as the owner of the Lame Horse night club burnt up with human casualties over a year ago. Okulov has never returned the debt but has ever since worked up a career as a bailiff. Zak has filed a legal claim demanding his money back with accrued interest.

KVP reported that fact in a story entitled “Bailiff Owes RUR 6 m to Anatoly Zak”. The court ruled to have Okulov’s three-room apartment (mentioned in the loan agreement as collateral) auctioned off to secure the debt repayment. As we know, cases of bailiffs’ personal property being alienated in favour of imprisoned businessmen are very rare…

The KVP publication must have struck the regional bailiffs as insulting – and this despite the author’s never mentioning their organisation and even changing the debtor’s name in his story. Yet the legal claim filed by the regional bailiff department and signed by its official T. Shvetsova demanded that the phrases “the bailiff owes money” and “the bailiff considers the judicial decision unlawful” be officially refuted.

Why the district court accepted the claim is unclear. In line with Article 134.1.1 of the RF Civil Code, it is not to be considered at all, because it was filed “by a government agency in defence of another person’s rights or liberties”.

 

Penza. Radio station closing: pre-election purge?

By Aleksandr Yakhontov, Penza

Speaking live on Radio Ekho Penzy, its editor Semyon Vakhstein has said he was fired and that yet another music channel is likely to take over his radio station’s frequency.

The station emerged as Ekho Moskvy in 2004 and was renamed Ekho Penzy in 2006. During the latest elections to the State Duma, its broadcasting was terminated for a week for what were claimed to be “technical” reasons. On April 15, the founders insistently urged him to “resign of my own free will”, S. Vakhstein told the GDF correspondent. The other two staffers were given two months’ notices.

Officially, the radio station’s closure will most likely be explained by economic reasons, because the station used to be unprofitable. But many listeners see this as a political action taken on the eve of new elections: Ekho Penzy used to criticise ill-performing government officials too often…

 

Republic of Khakassia. Judge fails to notice pistol

By Roman Zholud,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

A law court in Abakan, Khakassia, has partially satisfied an honour-and-dignity protection claim lodged by Vyacheslav Lapaukh, a City Council deputy and member of the United Russia party faction, against prominent journalist and blogger Mikhail Afanasyev.

On November 29, 2009, the web magazine Novy Fokus published M. Afanasyev’s article saying that a week earlier, at about 10 p.m., V. Lapaukh, speeding (sic!) across a high school campus, ran over a Dobermann pinscher puppy walked by a girl. The deputy got out of his car, pulled out a pistol and threatened to “gun down everyone around”, pointing the gun at the girl. Moreover, Lapaukh demanded RUR 1,000 in compensation for his damaged bumper, raising the claimed amount to RUR 5,000 half an hour later. On the following day, as the girl came with a journalist (who presented himself as her boyfriend) to talk to Lapaukh, the latter refused to apologise and confirmed that his car was dearer to him even than a human life, which statement was recorded on a Dictaphone. A similar article, entitled “In Whom Russia Takes Pride”, was published by Afanasyev in the newspaper Pravda Khakassii on December 2, 2009.

Lapaukh responded by filing a legal claim in defence of his honour, dignity and business reputation, and demanded a refutation and RUR 3 m in moral damage compensation from Afanasyev. Specifically, he challenged as libellous and reputation-ruining the following statements:

  • that he ran over a Dobermann puppy (a 1-year-old dog is no longer a puppy, Lapaukh claimed);
  • that he was speeding across the school campus;
  • that he refused to apologise;
  • that “the URP activist said a car was dearer than a human life to him”;
  • that he “points a gun at his own electors” (that was an air pistol, and the girl was not one of his electors, Lapaukh claimed); and
  • that his pistol was pointed at the girl (it was pointed at the dog, which the girl was holding in her arms at the moment, Lapaukh claimed).

The plaintiff felt particularly hurt by the author’s passage reading as follows:

“I have never met with elected executives pointing guns at their own electors, nor have I seen district party leaders running over local residents’ dogs and claiming money from their owners for that.”

Curiously enough, Lapaukh attached to his legal claim a copy of a comment left on his web blog by an anonymous visitor who cursed the deputy fiercely. The plaintiff thought the insulting comment had, too, been provoked by Afanasyev’s publications. The legal paradox here is that, in line with effective legislation, the liability for an obscene posting on a web resource in cases where establishing the authorship is impossible shall be borne by the web resource’s owner, i.e., by Lapaukh himself.

In the course of the hearings the defendant was changed – Mikhail Afanasyev was replaced in that role by Expert-Media Ltd. (the founder of Novy Fokus magazine) and the newspaper Pravda Khakassii. The judge ordered a “comprehensive ethico-philological, psychological and ethico-linguistic study of the text”, which was made by a single person with the modest degree of a Candidate of Sciences (Philology).

Judge I. Vesyolaya’s final decision was indeed surprising. She turned down nearly all of Lapaukh’s protests, finding the underlying statements evaluative, not directly addressed to the plaintiff, or true to life. But she did acknowledge as reputation-ruining and libellous the passage reading, “Deputy V. M. Lapaukh, pulling out a pistol, started threatening the dog’s owner with ‘gunning down everyone around’. In the process, his gun was pointed at the girl.”

This ruling seems all the more absurd since Lapaukh himself stated in his legal claim and later confirmed in court that he had pointed his gun at the dog (which was in the girl’s arms at the moment), while emphasizing that his weapon was only an air pistol. The girl’s testimony did not strike the judge as sufficiently convincing.

As a result, the court required Export-Media Ltd. and Pravda Khakassii to pay Lapaukh RUR 10,000 each in moral damage compensation, plus as much to cover the judicial costs and the cost of the expert study.

The defendants have already protested the ruling before a higher-standing judicial authority.

 

Voronezh. Plaintiff withdraws legal claim

By Roman Zholud,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

The regional arbitration court in Voronezh has completed hearings of a legal claim in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation filed by a local utility service provider company against the regional newspaper Molodoy Kommunar and journalist Oksana Gribkova in the wake of a critical article accusing the Levoberezhny District Management Company of charging money from the tenants of 40 apartment blocks for several months running without actually providing any utility services at all.

However, the plaintiff withdrew its legal claim on April 20, having earlier insisted on the court’s halting the proceedings, ordering a linguistic study of the article, and involving the regional prosecutor’s office as a co-defendant. After their pleas were turned down and the defendant presented its counterarguments, the utility service company chose to withdraw its claim.

The defendants’ interests in court were represented by Galina Arapova, senior legal expert with the Media Rights Centre in Voronezh.

 

Пермь. Who insulted whom?

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Arriving in Perm on April 21 to take part in a regional economic forum, Yaroslav Kuzminov, Rector of the Higher School of Economics, gave the cold shoulder to local reporters.

According to Irina Shcherbak of the Yekaterinburg-based news agency URA.ru, Kuzminov was to address the forum with a report “Russia: A New Social State” and to hold a news conference on “Strategy 2020”. However, coming into the conference room and seeing only a few reporters attending, he turned around and walked away, asking to tell the organisers he would not “speak to three journalists”.

It would seem it is the journalists who had to take offence: were they indeed to blame for the announced topic failing to hit the season’s “Top Ten”?

Now the plot thickens. Toward the evening of the same day, Kuzminov shocked the organising committee by saying he was departing for Moscow and would not participate in the forum. He explained his decision by reference to URA.ru’s “insulting” report about his refusal to hold a news conference for just a few journalists. The organisers even urged I. Shcherbak to take the report off the website, since Kuzminov was to deliver the forum’s main report and his departure might disrupt the event altogether.

But on April 22, after his anger had run its course, Yaroslav Kuzminov (by the way, he is husband of RF Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina), finally decided to share his vision of Russia as a new social state. The sarcastic comments on URA.ru’s website had nothing to do with the content of his report that turned out to be anything but sensational.

 

Republic of Karelia/ Arkhangelsk Region/Murmansk Region. Can media outlets independently earn a living and pursue independent information policy?

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

Answers to those questions were sought by participants in a webinar in Petrozavodsk that discussed “Media Economics: Situations, Problems and Trends”. That was the second online seminar at which some participants talked live, with others joining them via the web. The discussion involved journalists and media managers from Karelia and the regions of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk.

There appears to be no ready answer to the question of why media have not been turning into information-selling companies by distancing themselves from “political investments” or stubbornly refusing to part with budget-sourced financing. But the discussion itself was useful inasmuch as it outlined the media development targets and shared media outlets’ experiences of how to earn a living independently. Participants were interested to hear colleagues from the Arkhangelsk Region (Severnaya Nedelya Publishers’) and from the city of Apatity, Murmansk Region (newspaper 2x2) who have attained financial self-sufficiency and, hence, the ability to formulate and pursue an independent editorial policy. Interesting experiences of financial and economic survival were shared by district newspapers in Karelia, whose aggregate share of funding from the republic’s budget does not exceed 4 per cent, according to the editors of newspapers Novaya Ladoga and Novaya Kondopoga.

The participants did not come up with any recommendations but exchanged their visions of how the advertising and information-disseminating market in north-western Russia has been developing.

During the first webinar, journalists’ and editors’ involvement in human rights defence was discussed. Preparations have already begun for the third online seminar that will be dedicated to innovative journalism – blogosphere development, authors’ web project implementation, and interaction between traditional media and “people’s correspondents”.

The organisers appreciate the support of the Barents Press Association in holding the webinars.

 

Far Eastern Federal District. Journalists’ forum held in Birobidzhan

By Anna Seleznyova,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Far Eastern journalists held a forum in Birobidzhan on April 23-24, organised by the government of the Jewish Autonomous Region and attended by Governor A. Vinnikov, Legislative Assembly Chairman A. Tikhomirov, Chief Federal Inspector O. Abanin, and other regional government officials, economists and scholars.

Participants in different groups and round tables discussed publications and journalistic mastery, highlighted problems in government-media relations, and outlined ways of invigorating interaction of media and authorities with public activists in the interests of regional residents. The latter topic, by the way, surprised forum participants from the Maritime Region, where meaningful government-media interaction has long become a routine. Delegates analysed publications, attended master classes, and discussed how such important topics as the fight against terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and juvenile delinquency are covered in the media.

The forum was attended by L. Zvenigorodsky, general director of the Vostok-Media news agency (Khabarovsk); head managers of Regional TV Channel One (Khabarovsk); S. Bulakh, Periodic Press Department head at the Institute of Public Communications of Far Eastern Federal State University and head of the Maritime Journalists’ Association; and M. Ilyin, deputy division head at the Maritime Department of RosKomNadzor [federal agency overseeing public communications].

Regional officials asked journalists to fill out a questionnaire showing whether or not they see regional executive and legislative power as sufficiently open to the press; how fully the performance of the region’s governor and administration are covered; which themes require additional attention; and how journalists would characterise the pattern of their relationships with the media – partner-like, dependent, mutually beneficial, conflict-laden, etc.

Guests from Vladivostok were surprised not only by the level at which the forum was held but also by the in-depth character of the questionnaire and the open call on journalists by local authorities not to show servility toward the ruling elite, whose duty it is to deal with people’s problems, not vice versa; hence the need for feedback from the people. When one journalist started complaining about government pressure, lack of freedom to write, the need to be loyal toward the authorities, etc., the other party responded, “Did you come to write how nice and smooth and problem-free our life here is? Go ahead, write so then…”

The serious level of the discussions, participants’ composition, round tables and master classes in the Jewish Autonomous Region may be called a rare example of really meaningful government-media interaction in Russia’s Far East.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the Internet, including at:

Deutsche Welle: Russia’s Glasnost Defence Foundation steps in to defend Tajik journalist

Caucasian Knot: Crowfoot: new database on journalist rights violations to become manual on their defence

Civitas.Ru: Komi Republic printing firm refuses to print newspaper criticising authorities

Media-Day.Ru: Money saved on journalists

Kommersant-Nizhnyaya Volga. Volgograd: Good news worth a million

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

International conference in Italy discusses problems facing Russian journalists

By Dmitry Berkut

A conference in the city of Carmagnola near Turin, Italy, on April 7-14 discussed tolerance-related problems facing the North Caucasus, ecological concerns, armed conflicts in various parts of the world and the role of journalists in the relevant spheres. Entitled “War and Peace”, the conference was organised by the Italian association Mondo in Cammino (World in Motion).

The association deals with countries of the former Soviet Union and holds such conferences twice a year. The latest was attended by Prof. Angelo Barakka of Florence University and Lisa Clarke, president of the Peacemakers international movement. Russia was represented by journalists Arkady Babchenko of Novaya Gazeta, a veteran of the Chechen war; Dmitry Florin of the Caucasian Knot news agency and the Glasnost Defence Foundation, a veteran of the Chechen war; and Ella Kesayeva of the Golos Beslana (Voice of Beslan) organisation, a human rights activist and journalist. The conference brought together politicians and public activists from Italy and other European countries, as well as journalists and human rights defenders.

“We need to bring the realities of today’s North Caucasus home to journalists and public activists in different countries, and tell them the truth about the wars in Chechnya. The conflicting parties need to be ready to stop the armed confrontation, and make public the hushed-up information about the Beslan tragedy,” association head Massimo Bonfatti said.

Journalist Arkady Babchenko answered questions from the audience and told the story of his participation in two Chechen wars. “I was called up in 1996 and sent to Chechnya as a soldier,” he said. “In 2000, I signed a contract with the army and went to fight in the second Chechen war as an enlisted man already. After that, I took up military journalism. As a war correspondent, I was in the Russian-Georgian war. I came back from the war last summer, amid ethnic turmoil in Kyrgyzstan. As for the first Chechen war, we were only boys of 18-19 years of age, knowing little about Yeltsin, Dudayev, the war for independence in Chechnya, and so on. We were called up ‘to defend our Motherland’. So we got into tanks and went to defend it. When the Russian troops were deployed in Chechnya, a few of us guys understood what we were doing there.”

During the break after his speech, Babchenko gave an interview for different Italian newspapers, telling them about the war in Chechnya, his work in Novaya Gazeta, about Anna Politkovskaya, and present-day trends in Russian journalism.

Ella Kesayeva, the founder of the Golos Beslana Committee, told the conference that the investigation of the 2004 terrorist act in Beslan has not been fair. “We need to conduct an unbiased investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice – nothing new to be invented,” she said. “But we must acknowledge that Russia lacks the will to fight terrorism.” Speaking to reporters, Kesayeva said publishing the results of independent probes into the Beslan tragedy is a “big problem” in Russia today.

Dmitry Florin told conferees about his service in a special Interior Ministry unit in Chechnya, and about the circumstances that caused him and his family to temporarily leave Russia for security reasons after last October’s publication about his encounter with former Chechen militants in a refugee camp in Finland.

The Russian journalists arranged with Italian colleagues for the publishing of stories about Russia in Italian newspapers in the event of such publications turning out impossible or unsafe in Russia.

 

OUR PARTNERS

GOLOS Association analyses election results

Lawyers of the Golos Association are pressing for the full investigation of violations of journalist rights during the March 13th elections – a total of 84 instances of administrative pressure on Association representatives in eight of twelve regions of Russia. In five regions, Association coordinators reported pressure attempts to election committees and to law enforcement. In two cases – in the Republic of Adygea and the city of Kirov – activists succeeded in getting injustice undone.

The prosecutor’s office in Adygea, having checked the circumstances, acknowledged “violations of effective legislation” by officials at Maikop State Technological University who “unlawfully persuaded journalists to refrain from circulating information and breached a media outlet’s right to request and receive information”. The republic’s FSB Department, asked if it has any information about Golos’ unlawful activities in Russia or Adygea, replied in the negative.

In Kirov, a justice of the peace sentenced Marina Filimonova, chair of Election Committee No. 408, to a fine of RUR 1,000 for banning a Grazhdansky Golos correspondent from the polling station and thereby breaching his right to perform as an observer and gather information about elections. The legal claim against her was filed by Golos regional coordinator Denis Shadrin.

According to Golos Association analyst Andrei Buzin, this is the first time a court sanctions an election committee head under Article 5.6.1 of the RF Administrative Code for her unlawful behaviour.

“Regrettably, elections show that defending people’s political rights, such as the right to elect and be elected, monitor government performance and persuade authorities to serve the people’s interests is unsafe,” Golos Association executive director Lilia Shibanova said. “But over the eleven years of its operation, Golos has grown into an organisation whose opinion has to be taken into consideration. This is what explains the growing administrative pressure exerted on us during election campaigns.”

Association documents are available on Golos’ website:

 

DIGEST MAIL

Dear colleages,

This is to request your assistance in getting action on the my reports to the Moscow prosecutor’s office and the police department at 38, Petrovka St., about threats against me (one case) and an attack on me (another case), both of which have been stalled. A man started calling me on the phone at night after the article “RosAtom Headquarters Searched” was published. My newspaper is in litigation with one of RosAtom subsidiaries, TVEL Corporation. I reported the night caller’s phone number to law enforcement. On April 7, they summoned me to the police department in Petrovka, advising me to turn to the telephone station and try to find the caller (was this an attempt to make a mock of me?)

As regards the attack, it occurred on November 28, 2009. I know the attacker – he is my neighbour. He had repeatedly asked me to publish a flattering article about his boss (who was a regional Duma deputy at the time) for pay. I had refused to, and was punished for that. I’ve received threats regularly – the latest last January. All my appeals to Moscow Prosecutor Y. Syomin have been in vain: they have been sending me purely formal replies and declining to institute criminal proceedings. On March 11 I sent a complaint to President Medvedev’s reception (only to have them forward it to the city police department for some unclear reason). I asked the president, among other things, to think of ways to effectively protect the journalists. After the attack on Oleg Kashin they claimed to look at the problem closely. Nothing has been done in that line ever since. Why persuade the prosecutors for months to open a criminal case? Petrovka officers advised me to call 02 the next time I am attacked. And A. Pogoreltsev, chief of the Babushkinsky District police department, told me, “They didn’t kill you, after all. Why complain?” That’s the way they work.

I am not complaining. I just want the law to start working, and to see the journalists treated with respect. If only you knew how many times I’ve been insulted lately!

Sincerely,
Nadezhda Popova,
Investigative Unit, newspaper Argumenty Nedeli

P.S. I’ve just prepared for printing a note about the new database on journalist rights violations. It seems well timed.

 

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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.

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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