6 Мая 2011 года

Glasnost Defence Foundation Digest No. 522

May 3, 2011



Markelov-Baburova murder trial: jury returns verdict of guilty

The Moscow City Court is completing hearings of the murder case of lawyer Statislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.

As the parties were presenting their arguments on April 25, prosecutor Boris Loktionov said he believed the murder had been committed by this organised crime group, and that the guilt of the two accused was proven. Specifically, he recalled the original testimony obtained from defendant Nikita Tikhonov, who had told the investigators about hitherto unknown details of the crime that could only be known to the killer. The prosecutor and the victims’ representatives urged the jury to return a guilty verdict.

The defence, for its part, called the jurors’ attention to the fact that the proofs gathered in the course of investigation were not related to the charges advanced against Tikhonov or the other defendant, Yevgenia Khasis, who is accused of complicity in the killing. The defence lawyer attempted to shift the blame to Ilya Goryachev, a witness for the prosecution who had begun by exposing Tikhonov as the killer, then had gone back on his testimony, and finally had confirmed his original words as true, claiming he had been compelled to refute those “under nationalist pressure”.

The following sitting of the court, scheduled for April 26, had to be adjourned because Tikhonov had been transferred to the prison hospital after a suicide attempt. The medics insisted that his had been a rigged suicide, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. On the following day, it turned out that Khasis, too, had attempted suicide by cutting her veins. “The defendants were compelled to attempt suicide in protest against the lawlessness that triumphs in court,” Khasis’ defence lawyer Gennady Nebritov said. But Vladimir Zherebyonkov, representative of the victims’ interests, described those rigged suicides as “attempts to drag out the trial and move the jurors to pity”.

The April 27 sitting did take place after all, with the two defendants brought in bandages to the courtroom to make their last pleas.

Tikhonov said his head was “swimming” because “they gave me sedative injections”, and attempted to persuade the jury he had had no hand in the murder. “I’m no guiltless lamb – I did trade in firearms and use forged documents, but I did not kill Markelov or Baburova,” he said. Khasis, too, pleaded not guilty. “We did make a variety of mistakes but we didn’t kill anyone,” she said, adding that the investigators blamed the double killing on her and Tikhonov “in a bid to get an undisclosed homicide with broad public repercussions registered as disclosed”.

At the following sitting of April 28, the court asked the jurors to answer a list of 21 questions based on which a verdict would be returned. Judge Aleksandr Zamashnyuk gave the jury his final directions, and about 4 p.m. the panellists went to the jury room.

They returned the verdict late in the evening, finding N. Tikhonov and Y. Khasis guilty and not recommended for mercy. “Some of the questions were answered unanimously, others by voting,” the jury foreman said.

The court is now to deliver a judgment. The next sitting, at which the verdict’s consequences will be discussed, is to be held on May 5, when the date will be determined at which the final judgment will be announced.



Border “under lock and key”

Russian border troops have again made an exhibition of themselves. On April 24, they detained Nikolai Khriyenko, an Honoured Journalist of Ukraine, member of a team of fighters against the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion, and correspondent for the Kiev-based newspaper Den, who was on his way to Moscow to report on a mourning ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy.

At Suzemka railway station (Bryansk Region), he was taken off the train by uniformed persons who identified themselves as border guard officers. “They told me I had to get off the train and go with them,” Khriyenko said. “Asked to explain why, they said my name was on the blacklist of persons banned for entry into the Russian Federation.”

Earlier, Khriyenko had already made a video film about a memorial ceremony at Moscow’s Mitinskoye Cemetery where 27 Chernobyl disaster fighters are buried, including six graduates of the fire academy in Cherkassy, Ukraine, Grani.ru reported.

The border guards questioned the journalist about the purpose of his trip to Moscow and details about his prior visits, and put him on a train back to Kiev.

Colleagues from the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, appalled by the way Khriyenko was treated, protested against the Russian border guards’ preventing the journalist from doing his professional job, Radio Ekho Moskvy said. The Russian embassy in Kiev was asked to provide explanations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry was quick to respond, claiming that Khriyenko had once breached the rules of border crossing. Yet they instantly lifted the ban on the journalist’s entry into Russia.

Unfortunately, that was not the first time a foreign journalist was stopped at the Russian border. Denying entry into this country has become a kind of evil tradition. In February 2011, British journalist Luke Harding of The Guardian was sent back home. Prior to that, entry visas were denied to Petra Prohazkova of the Czech news agency Epicentrum; Ville Ropponen of the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat and his colleague Matti Posio of the newspaper Aamulehti; British journalist Thomas de Vaal; Moldovan reporter Natalia Morar of the Moscow-based magazine The New Times; Waclaw Radziewinowic of Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland); Simon Pirani, the long-time head of the Freelance Group at the National Union of Journalists of Great Britain and Ireland; and Czech TV journalist Jan Pazderka.



Republic of Dagestan. Journalist beaten up in Derbent

By Magomed Magomedov,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Caucasaian Federal District

Magomed Khanmagomedov, special correspondent for the weekly Chernovik, was beaten in Derbent on May 2. He was taking pictures of a pulled-down house when two unknown men attacked him and beat him. The journalist reported the attack to the police which, however, did nothing to get the attackers into custody.

“At 11 a.m. I had a phone call on my cell phone telling me an old house was being pulled down in Lenin Street in Derbent,” Khanmagomedov told the GDF correspondent. “That was so-called Karchagkhan’s House, built in the ‘Russian art nouveau’ style, the caller said asking me to go take photo pictures of that outrage. When I arrived, I found the house already destroyed, and had just taken a couple of pictures when a sturdy thug came up to me, brandishing an iron bar, to start asking why I was using my camera there. I showed him my ID, which only made the man still angrier. He started insulting me, and that’s when another man ran up to punch me in the chest and then in the face without saying a word. They then pushed me onto the ground and proceeded to kick away at me, telling me they would also visit me at home later. They were only stopped by some passers-by. I drove to a hospital to get the first aid. The medics certified me as having bruises and light contusions. I then drove to the police station to report the incident and tell them I could recognize the attackers. Police major Malik Sadykov went along with me to the crime scene. I showed him the attackers, he got out of the car and talked to them for a while. He said they did not deny they’d beaten me and even promised to break my legs into the bargain. I asked the major why he hadn’t detained them, and he said everything was O.K. and they would be summoned for questioning the following day.”

M. Khanmagomedov said he was concerned about the integrity of his family, because the police had failed to give him due protection and had not had the attackers detained in spite of their having threatened him.

According to Major M. Sadykov, the police took all the necessary preventive measures. They questioned the victim and ordered a medical examination to determine the degree of bodily damage he had received. Once all the evidence is gathered, they will decide on which charged to institute criminal proceedings. He also interrogated the attackers – Ramazan Magomedov and Radzhab Shabanov – and had them pledge in writing to come to the next questioning.


Sakhalin Region. Mayor’s legal claim turned down. Continued from Digest 518

By Olga Vassilyeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Aleksandr Chernega, editor and publisher of the newspaper Paramushir-Vesti, said in an article published in March that Severo-Kurilsk Mayor Aleksandr Krinitsyn was “a frozen and impeded person” who should “read newspapers once in a while”. The mayor felt hurt and claimed RUR 1 m in moral damage compensation.


A few days ago, the Severo-Kurilsk District court, chaired by Judge Kondratyev, considered the city head’s claim to protect his honour, dignity and business reputation and his demand of a refutation, reimbursement of judicial costs, and moral damage compensation in the amount mentioned above.

The journalist rejected the claim as one filed by an improper plaintiff – Krinitsyn as a private person, not Krinitsyn as mayor, in which capacity he was mentioned in the article. As regards the characteristics he gave to the administration head, Chernega said those were only evaluative statements, not assertions. To confirm this point, he requested adding to the case files a copy, reprinted from the Judicial Department’s website, of a court decision qualifying the mayor’s inaction as unlawful. The decision said Krinitsyn had been slow to react to problem situations in the district, as shown by photo pictures of a school campus fence and several roads which the mayor was required by the court to get repaired but never actually did.

The court did not require those factual proofs, though. The judge qualified Chernega’s statements as subjective evaluative judgments or opinions that cannot ever be checked in terms of whether or not they are true to life, and turned the legal claim down in full.


Republic of Karelia. Newspaper suffers for honest reporting

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

After a young man in Kondopoga, Karelia, beat up another man severely, he was tried and sentenced to imprisonment. The other man later died in hospital. The attacker’s father, trying to prove that the victim’s death was unrelated to the fistfight, wrote complaints to different authorities. The scandal caught the eye of local television, and a story on the subject was shown in the “Man and Law” series. The district newspaper Novaya Kondopoga, too, decided to write about a conflict that had become the talk of the day in the city. But as a lady journalist began gathering material, she never expected her desire to give the convicted man’s father some media support would end in a lawsuit filed against her newspaper.

As more details surfaced, it became clear that the criminal story was not all that simple and it would be wrong to take either party’s side. Therefore, the author refrained from drawing her own conclusions and offered everyone – the attacker’s father, the judge, the defence lawyer, and the investigator – to speak out. The convicted man’s father disliked the resulting publication and filed a legal claim, urging the newspaper to refute its “libellous” statements. That marked the beginning of a long litigation.

Eventually, the court established that the author had acted in good faith, reporting all the facts accurately and not distorting anything. That is why the legal claim was turned down. Nor could the plaintiff prove any damage done to his reputation, since the criminal story had long been known in detail to the local residents and Novaya Kondopoga had not reported anything new to its readers. The plaintiff chose not to challenge the court decision, but the journalists – once bit, twice shy – are wondering whether or not they should return to that theme and tell the readers they won the case in court. What if a new legal claim is filed against their newspaper?


Nenets Autonomous District. Editor pressured to resign

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

The staffers of the newspaper Naryana Vynder (NV), issued in the Nenets Autonomous District, have appealed to its founders with a letter of support for their editor-in-chief, Andrei Mikhin.

The journalists pointed out that it is under Mikhin’s editorship that NV received the Russian Press Golden Fund award and started to earn serious money instead of begging for subsidies. “The newspaper’s circulation has been steadily growing, and so has its pool of subscribers,” the letter said. “Today, NV is a widely known district brand.”

The journalists protested against the founders’ pressure on Mikhin to resign, “which has resulted in the editor’s finding himself in a resuscitation ward” and in “the editorial process seriously destabilised”. “Why pressure a person who has lifted the district press to an all-Russia level of quality? … Why treat him as inhumanely as that?” the authors asked, expressing the hope that the founders would finally recognise the need to ask the staffers’ opinion about the editor’s performance and “make the single sensible, well-weighed, decision”.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation, for its part, will follow the developments closely to see whether the staffers’ appeal in defence of their editor will cause the NV founders – the Nenets Autonomous District Administration and Deputies’ Assembly – to change their attitude toward Andrei Mikhin.



Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 15 times in the Internet, including at:



Grand Jury favours unbiased and truthful reporting

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Grand Jury on Media-Related Disputes, operating under the Perm Region branch of the RF Journalists’ Union, held a field conference in the town of Chusovoy on April 21 to discuss a scandal in the local media community with municipal and district newspaper editors, public activists and local administrators.

Jury Chairman Veniamin Sopin made a report outlining the essence of the conflict. He said the Grand Jury had received a complaint from Ivan Chazov, director/editor of the newspaper Chusovskoy Rabochiy (CR), about what he saw as “unlawful” treatment of his newspaper’s staff by the town prosecutor’s office.

Last January, CR published an open letter by district administration head Nikolai Simakov about breaches of law by the local Political Council of the ruling United Russia Party during the nomination of party candidates for the forthcoming elections of the District Administration head and Local Assembly deputies. Town prosecutor Andrei Deliyev instantly ordered a check-up, suspecting the publication of being a graphic instance of unlawful pre-election agitation.

The prosecutor’s office ignored the need to contact the regional Election Committee over a questionable publication, as required under the law – the more so Simakov had not yet been registered as a candidate for the district head’s seat and any talk of unlawful canvassing was irrelevant at the time. Nevertheless, prosecutors urgently started to check the CR documentation (which they confiscated in violation of the law), and to question the editor-in-chief. The staff saw the prosecutors’ hasty actions as an attempt to put psychological pressure on the journalists.

With the check-up still in progress at the time, and with the regional Election Committee making no official comment on the situation, the Grand Jury decided to wait until the election campaign was over, so that a field meeting could be held for every party concerned to speak out.

Regrettably, the elections in Chusovoy turned out very dirty, with various “black PR” tricks practised extensively by the two newspapers with the largest circulations – Yediny Chusovoy and Chusovskoy Rabochiy. The first resorted to particularly rude language. Its author Amir Khismatullin published a series of articles with insulting headlines that accused one of the candidates of “moral corruption”, unproven criminal behaviour, etc. The wording of those publications brought back memories of the times of Stalinist repressions. By the way, Khismatullin said during the Grand Jury sitting that “that was nothing personal”; to him, that was just a way to earn money “in amounts that might cause many in this conference room to feel envious”.

Chusovskoy Rabochiy publications were no less biased. While officially declining to participate in pre-election canvassing, the newspaper consistently highlighted each omission, miscalculation and drawback in the alternative candidate’s performance – without giving him the opportunity to publish a reply.

With the two newspapers reporting on the same events from the opposite angles, the readers’ right to receive truthful information about the developments in the town and district was ignored. Misinformed residents lost all trust in the press, and the very institutes of state power and elections found themselves discredited.

Heated debates during the Grand Jury sitting that lasted several hours heard many sharp-worded, unprejudiced critical remarks addressed to the “information war” participants. In her summary address, Tatyana Margolina, the regional human rights ombudswoman, expressed concern over the press as a civil society institute being ever more often turned into an instrument of public opinion manipulation and, as such, growing ever less popular in the eyes of the readers.

The Grand Jury urged the editors of both newspapers to stringently abide by the RF Media Law and Code of Journalist’s Ethics to enable the people to exercise their right to be comprehensively and truthfully informed. It instructed the Board of the regional journalistic association to analyse A. Khismatullin’s writings and consider his potential expulsion from the Journalists’ Union. Its findings, in package with the Jury conclusions, are to be sent to the District Assembly and Town Duma of Chusovoy as a basis for taking steps to improve the situation within the media community. Relevant issues should also be discussed in local journalistic groups throughout the region.

Although duly invited, Chusovoy Mayor Viktor Buryanov and Prosecutor Andrei Deliyev did not attend the Grand Jury sitting. Evidently, they were afraid to take part in a frank and honest discussion.



FH Freedom of the Press 2011 report published

The Freedom House human rights watchdog has published its Freedom of the Press 2011 report evaluating the press freedom situation in countries all over the world. Russia was ranked 173rd, next to Gambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Our country is in the group of states where the press is not free. FH analysts say Russian courts were used as instruments of pressure on independent media. Instances of self-censorship grew more frequent, and attacks on journalists continued, the report says. The news agencies remained under state control. Russia moved up only two points from the 175th ranking last year.

The best press freedom situation is in Finland, Norway and Sweden, and the worst is in North Korea and Turkmenistan, the FH report says.

Full text of the report


This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF),


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 organisation in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни