Дайджест
27 Мая 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 525

May 23, 2011

 

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Brass commemorates two Soviet journalists killed in Croatia

By Alexei Simonov,
GDF President

A roadside memorial plaque appeared near the Croatian town of Costanica on May 21 to mark the death place of two Soviet TV journalists, Valery Nogin and Gennady Kurinnoy.

These two names open our list of deaths, and, for all I know, this is the first such marker put up anywhere in Europe. It stands about 40 metres from the place where the journalists’ burnt-up car was found. The reporters were killed on September 1, 1991. Over the 20 years since then, attempts to set up an international commission to investigate the killing have been in vain: officials in Russia, Croatia, Serbia and Herzegovina have never reached consensus. Although many details have surfaced over the years, the bodies of the murdered journalists have never been found, and their killers are yet to be identified.

The memorial’s opening is a fruit of people-to-people diplomacy which is always kinder and more effective than official diplomatic rituals. There are memorial stones that are not tombstones, because there are no human remains under them; under the one in Croatia, I sincerely believe, a piece of the war is buried that killed the two reporters.

The marker was set up at the initiative of Croatian war veterans with assistance from the Russian community in Croatia. Speakers at the opening ceremony included representatives of the Croatian Journalists’ Union, the city mayor and other officials and public activists.

Unfortunately, people-to-people diplomacy leaves room for certain slips. The text on the brass plaque fixed to the huge field stone will have to be additionally edited to convey the message in both Russian and Serbo-Croatian authentically.

But I am happy the Russian Journalists’ Union invited Vladimir Mukusev, one of the action initiators, and me to attend the opening ceremony and shake hands with the remarkable people who finally did it. The ceremony and friendly dinner lasted for several hours in a mix of joy and tears.

The victims’ families were represented by Ivan Kurinnoy, a young journalist and one of the founders of the Club of Murdered Journalists’ Children under Russia’s Journalists’ Union.

Very regrettably, the Russian embassy resolutely declined to take part.

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Chernovik journalists cleared of charges of extremism

By Magomed Magomedov,
GDF staff correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

On May 19, Federal Judge Sharaputdin Gadzhiyev of the Leninsky District court in Makhachkala, Dagestan, cleared journalists of the weekly Chernovik of the charges of fanning hatred toward “police officers as a social group” – an offence punishable under Article 282 of the RF Criminal Code. The court closed the case in view of no event of the crime and gave the defendants the right to seek full exoneration as well as moral damage compensation.

The criminal case against Chernovik editor Nadira Isayeva and journalists Arthur Mamayev, Biyakai Magomedov, Magomed Magomedov and Timur Mustafayev was opened on July 31, 2008, in the wake of a series of publications criticising law enforcement and secret services.

The indictment was based on expert conclusions by police Lt.-Col. Sergey Fedyayev, chief expert of the Krasnodar Region Interior Affairs Department, and Sergey Shipshin, deputy head of the Southern Region Forensic Research Centre. The first said some of the publications were indicative of “attempts to stir up social enmity and hatred”, and the second said the journalists used manipulative tricks “to create a positive public image of militants”.

During the legal proceedings which lasted for two years, the journalists and their defence lawyers Abdullah Magomedov, Ahmed Suleimanov and Suleiman Azuyev called those expert conclusions into question and succeeded in getting the court to order a new study of the controversial publications.

The second study, carried out by six specialists of the Federal Forensic Research Centre at Russia’s Justice Ministry, cancelled the results of the previous ones on the grounds that Shipshin “felt free to engage in guesswork as regards ‘manipulative tricks’ allegedly used by the authors”, and Fedyayev “drew his conclusions based on what was described as ‘the semantic-definitive motive of negative connotation’ – a notion unknown to linguistic science”, which rendered those conclusions meaningless.

Dissatisfied with the results of the second study, Prosecutor Rashid Amakarov asked the court to order a third one – this time by FSB experts. His plea was turned down.

It may as well be noted that on May 18, when the defendants were making their last plea, and May 19, when the verdict was handed down, the prosecution was not attending at all …

 

RUSSIA

Sakhalin Region. Resigning deputy governor deals last blow

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

“Moscow specialist” Georgy Ivanov, the Sakhalin Region’s vice-governor, chief ideologist and head of the gubernatorial and administrative apparatuses, has tendered his resignation.

This was preceded by numerous media publications criticising Ivanov, the Information Policy Department he used to lead, and regional Governor Aleksandr Khoroshavin.

To begin with, in early April the Sakh.com website posted O. Vassilyeva’s article “The Turtle That Crawls Backward”, analyzing the Information Policy Department’s performance. “Innovations” imposed by the Sakhalin ideologist were reflected at different times in GDF Digests – from setting new barriers in the way of access to information to censorship in the form of “coordination” of publications prior to printing to squealing on “brazen editors” to the founders of their media outlets… Ivanov went as far as defying the rules of the literary Russian language by demanding that the words “governor” and “government” always be written with the capital G.

The “last straw” action was the authorities’ decision to reconstruct Victory Square in the regional centre by pulling down the World War II memorial and building a church instead. That initiative, voiced on the eve of Victory Day, exploded like a bomb on Sakh.com, with tens of thousands of chat forum visitors openly demanding the governor and administration’s resignation. A chain of protest rallies followed, with activists gathering signatures under an angry petition, and indignant publications appeared in local and federal media. The square was left intact, and the vice-governor had to resign. But before leaving Sakhalin, he “dealt his last blow” to the chat forum commentators: he wrote a complaint to the regional governor, Sergey Besschastny, that “Sakh.com features public calls for… extremist actions”, with 19 pages of quoted forum postings attached, and called to “take measures”…

His complaint was forwarded to the regional branch of RosSvyazKomNadzor (federal service overseeing the sphere of public communications), whose head Andrei Savelyev said the postings are now being studied by a philology specialist from Sakhalin State University. The findings will be reported to the prosecutor’s office, which will then decide what action to take, he said.

One may as well add that G. Ivanov’s vice-governorship resulted in the Internet being actually the sole venue left for people to express their opinion – be it on customs duties on imported cars, or the time zone change, or the inefficiency of incumbent politicians, or the lawfulness of commercial fishing during the spawning season.

 

Perm Region. Worth of newspaper phrase

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The regional court in Perm has confirmed the decision passed by a primary court on a legal claim by Alexei Vinokurov, former director of the municipal company “Olimp” (Olympus), against the newspaper Chusovskoi Rabochiy (CR) and its acting editor-in-chief Ivan Chazov.

In late 2010, the newspaper published Chazov’s article saying, in part, that “a regular audit carried out in May showed Vinokurov had embezzled a large sum of money and abused his position of company director, after which he was dismissed from office.” The story was also posted on the CR website. The ex-director saw the publication as smearing, disparaging and ruinous to his reputation and claimed a refutation and RUR 20,000 in moral damage compensation.

During the hearings at the Chusovskoi city court, the newspaper’s defence lawyer presented a letter written by the head of municipal administration that reported to the city prosecutor about the facts of embezzlement and office abuse by Vinokurov exposed by the auditing commission. That letter served as the basis for the CR publication under consideration. In line with Article 57 of the RF Media Law, a media outlet shall not be liable for circulating information supplied by a local self-government body. But, as established in court, A. Vinokurov was dismissed under Article 278.2 of the Labour Code prior to the audit of his financial performance, which formally meant that his dismissal was unrelated to his unlawful behaviour. So the court found the story’s phrase “after which he was dismissed from office” to have been not true to life.

As a result, the first-instance court did find CR and its editor guilty of defamation, required them to publish a refutation and pay the plaintiff the moral compensation he claimed. The regional court, having considered the defendants’ protest, confirmed that the newspaper had failed to prove that Vinokurov’s dismissal was related to his misappropriation of funds or office abuse. The court slashed the moral compensation amount payable by CR to RUR 2,000 and by Chazov, to RUR 1,000.

As it turns out, Vinokurov did breach the law and the newspaper reported that fact to its readers with reference to an official document. But one inaccurately worded phrase cost it a “partly guilty” verdict.

 

Republic of Ingushetia. Journalist warned of being in breach of anti-extremism law

Ingushetia’s prosecutor’s office has warned Vakha Chapanov, head of the Maximum news agency, of the “inadmissibility of violations of the law against extremism”. The warning, issued on March 30, 2011, is signed by acting Deputy Prosecutor A. Zhulyabin. Earlier, Chapanov was repeatedly summoned for questioning in connection with the circulation of different news reports.

As can be gathered from the text of the warning, the prosecutor’s office, in the process of scanning the content of web resources, came across “statements smearing the Republic of Ingushetia’s law enforcement bodies”. The reference is to Chapanov’s article “Situation Remains Tense”, posted on Maximum’s website on March 17. The story was about the kidnapping of a Nazran resident and the killing of his brother in the course of a law enforcement operation a week later. One passage read: “Ingushetian human rights defenders are concerned over the flagrant violation of the rules of criminal procedure and urge the authorities and law enforcement to act in strict compliance with the law even in respect of suspected criminals, since a person’s guilt can only be established by a law court.”

The prosecutor’s office saw the law violation charges against the republic’s law enforcers as groundless and indicative of Chapanov’s being in breach of anti-extremism legislation. It also warned the news agency director that his “failure to comply with the prosecutor’s lawful requirements may entail liability under Article 17.7 of the RF Administrative Code.”

Chapanov, for his part, insists that he only expressed concerns on behalf of Ingushetia’s human rights community, which did not constitute any encroachment on the anti-extremism law.

 

Volgograd Region. Journalists defend their rights

By Roman Zholud,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Journalists Yelena Utivaleyeva and Artyom Morozov, and editor Grigory Gudkov of the newspaper Novoye Vremya based in the city of Mikhailovka, Volgorad Region, have filed a legal claim against the city Duma chairman, Anatoly Antontsev.

On March 23, Antontsev ousted the Novoye Vremya team of journalists from an open sitting of the Duma (see GDF Monitor for March 2011), which they think was wrong and a breach of several provisions of the RF Media Law which entitles reporters to attend, and make recordings of, meetings of state government and local self-government bodies.

Besides, in line with Article 6.5 of the Federal Law “On Access to Information about the Performance of State Government and Local Self-Government Bodies”, one way to ensure access to such information is letting citizens attend sittings of collegial local self-governments. Moreover, Paragraph 4 of the same article prohibits restricting access to this kind of information.

The sitting from which the reporters were barred was dedicated to the Duma chairman’s report on the work done in 2010 – a category of information falling under the effect of the articles mentioned above. It was an open sitting, which means attendance was free to any citizen of the Russian Federation, especially to journalists whose job is to inform people about the developments in their city, region and country. Restriction of reporters’ access to information signals a breach of the people’s right to be informed via the media about socially significant events.

The journalists also claimed RUR 50,000 each from Chairman Antontsev for the moral damage inflicted on them through his unlawful actions.

 

Rostov Region. Printing house suspended for printing “wrong” candidate’s newspaper

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

As Krestyanin Publishers’ printing house was printing a pre-election newspaper on orders from the Communist party nominee for the mayor of Shakhty, Gennady Ilyin – and doing so perfectly legally, in strict compliance with electoral legislation – electricians came saying the local power supply system had “short-circuited”. Since nothing of the kind had happened, they were not let into the building. Then a district-wide blackout suddenly occurred.

The printing company has a mobile diesel-fuelled electric generator for this kind of emergency, so the 50,000-copy print run was successfully completed. But that is when several police cars with flashers pulled up, bringing a team of Myasnikovsky District police officers. But they since they could not show any search warrant, the policemen were not let through, either.

Late at night, the newspaper stacks were loaded onto a truck that, however, was stopped by traffic police officers in a nearby street, with the driver’s documents confiscated. Candidate mayor Ilyin arrived at the scene of the incident in the company of Yevgeny Bessonov, a member of the Communist party faction in the regional Legislative Assembly, soon enough for the driver to be released from police custody toward the morning.

On the following day, a fire inspector came to the printing house to make a protocol saying that two electric sockets “posed a threat to human life”. Krestyanin presented to the district court a whole package of protocols of prior fire inspections that said all the sockets in the company were perfectly all right. Nevertheless, the court froze the printing firm’s operation for 90 days.

The message to all printing houses in the region was clear: Don’t even think of printing canvassing stuff for anyone but United Russia party nominees! That pressure campaign looked very much like a rehearsal of how the police, firemen and electricians should behave in the run-up to the forthcoming State Duma elections.

 

Krasnodar Region. Media reprimanded for publishing photo of vice-governor’s son in Nazi uniform

By Victoria Tashmatova,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The prosecutor’s offices of Krasnodar and Krasnodar Region have had colleagues from the Karasun Administrative District of Krasnodar check up publications by several local media that featured regional Vice-Governor Yevgeny Gromyko’s son posing before a photo camera in an SS officer’s uniform.

The resulting representation, signed by Karasun Deputy Prosecutor A. Polozov, required the media managers concerned “to take steps within a month’s time to eliminate the highlighted omissions and prevent repetition thereof in the future, …bring the guilty persons to responsibility, and … report on the measures taken to the district prosecutor’s office before the deadline established under the law.” Failure to act immediately might entail administrative liability, the representation warned.

As part of the check-up that followed, the editors of the web portal YUGA.ru and websites Zhuvaya Kuban and Yugopolis, and the authors of photo postings on the website Za Krasnodar and web forum Kuban.ru, were questioned by prosecutors. Deputy Prosecutor Polozov’s conclusions said those persons had “featured banned materials”, thus breaching the Federal Laws “On Measures to Combat Extremism” and “On Perpetuating the Soviet People’s Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945”.

The prosecutor’s check-up was a continuation of a major scandal that had broken out after a web user nicknamed “Tanyushka Firstkova” published photo pictures of the vice-governor’s son Vadim wearing the Nazi uniform in the company of Tatyana and Yelena Firstkov, daughters of the head of the Vyselkovsky District administration. The story caused broad public repercussions, since the appalling photos were reprinted by many regional and federal media.

It is not clear why the prosecutor’s office failed to assess in legal terms the behaviour of the main character, Vadim Gromyko, or the web user “Tanyushka Firstkova”, who had personally posted the scandalous photos on the Internet, thereby initiating the “featuring of banned materials”…

 

Sverdlovsk Region. New controlling body claims IP addresses of chat forum visitors

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

After the URA.ru news agency reported on the establishment at the Sverdlovsk Internal Affairs Department of Unit K to expose and prevent IT-related crimes, with Subunit I assigned to scan web publications and blogs for potentially extremist content, the Internet exploded with a torrent of visitors’ comments.

The news was broken by Yevgeny Roizman, president of the Board of Guardians of the City Without Drugs Foundation, who wrote about it in his LiveJournal blog. On the following day, May 19, Unit K head, Oleg Grekhov, filed with URA.ru an official inquiry (unstamped, though) for “all information you have” (i.e., the IP addresses, since no other information is available) about the chat forum visitors who left their comments under the news report.

On the same day, the website’s editor-in-chief Aksana Panova told reporters she was puzzled by the document she had received from the law enforcers: “With no criminal proceedings instituted in that connection, no one is entitled to request that kind of information. Those chat forum comments contain nothing that might stir up law enforcement’s anxiety.” Her agency will check the lawfulness of the demand for IP addresses by filing an appropriate inquiry with Sverdlovsk Region Prosecutor Yuri Ponomaryov, she said.

Meanwhile, URA.ru has set up an additional function on its chat forum. By checking out the box “I wish to assist Unit K and its head O. Grekhov by authorising the disclosure of my IP address”, forum visitors may have their IP address published next to their name or nickname. “Hopefully, that will facilitate law enforcers’ efforts to control the Internet and save funds otherwise spent by Unit K on paper, ink, fax messages and salaries to its personnel,” URA.ru wrote.

Naturally, many readers eagerly responded to the joke and started sending in their IP addresses together with other personal data, like passport number, height, weight, etc. “Do you think I might as well fix a video camera on my chest for them to watch every detail of my physiological life?” Pavel Vassilyev of Moscow wondered…

 

UKRAINE

Accreditation requirements for foreign journalists cancelled

Foreign journalists will now be entitled to work in Ukraine without preliminary accreditation with the Foreign Ministry. The accreditation requirement was cancelled May 9, as the law on access to public information came into full legal force, Die Deutsche Welle cited the ministry’s spokesman Aleksandr Dikusarov as saying.

Restrictions on foreign as well as Ukrainian journalists will only be applicable during attendance of events held on government premises, in which event ministries and other government agencies may require preliminary accreditation of media reporters, regardless of their citizenship, Dikusarov said.

Cancelling the accreditation requirements for foreign journalists is “a goodwill act that should by all means be welcomed,” Igor Kogut, coordinator with the Legislative Initiatives Laboratory, commented. This will encourage the presence of foreign-based media in Ukraine, and exceptional accreditation requirements related to government-organised events “are no big deal”, he said, adding that “changing the pattern of government-media relation is bound to take time”.

While calling to show understanding for the government’s reluctance to ensure full media access to information resources, Kogut acknowledged that “this is undemocratic, though”.

Over the past year both the presidential press service and the relevant local bodies have come to use accreditation as an instrument of barring freelance and opposition reporters from official events on the pretext of “no seats left”, Aleksandr Chekmyshev, leader of the Equal Opportunities Committee, said. This, in his view, is at odds with high-ranking officials’ claims about their adherence to European standards and signals “a search for ways of restricting access to information for both journalists and the general public”.

The Access to Public Information Law which took effect in Ukraine May 9 requires authorities to reply to information inquiries normally within 5 days, and in emergency situations, within 48 hours.

[Glavred report, May 20]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

 

OUR PARTNERS

Russian and Komi Journalists’ Unions protest against attempts to intimidate reporters

TO: Komi Republic Prosecutor V. A. Ponevezhsky

Dear Sir,

The Supreme Court of the Komi Republic is hearing the case of the brutal murder of Roman Asayonok, a university student from Syktyvkar. The prosecution insists on 18 years in tight-security prison for his killer, and on 34 months of imprisonment for each of his accomplices. The crime committed is noted for it appalling cynicism, as additionally confirmed by the impudent behaviour of the accused during the investigation, and in and outside the courtroom.

Before the April 27th hearing opened, the accused attacked Denis Shulepov, photo correspondent for the newspaper Krasnoye Znamya Severa, outside the court building in the presence of numerous eyewitnesses. They compelled him by threats to erase the images from his camera’s memory stick. Similar threats had come from Kasyanenko, one of the accused, earlier too.

The journalist has the court’s official authorisation to take photo pictures. Since homicide is an offence that cannot be deemed part of anyone’s private life, the demand for Shulepov to stop using his camera is tantamount to interference with a journalist’s professional activities and, hence, is unlawful.

It should be noted that the number of attacks on, and threats to, journalists has been growing in Russia and worldwide lately. In the Komi Republic, it is not the first such attack on media workers, either. A journalist is a connector between people and the state which always defends public interests. Without free, honest and unbiased journalism, society will never learn the truth. That is why the Civil Society and Human Rights Development Council under the RF President has suggested toughening the legal sanctions for interference with journalistic work.

The Journalists’ Unions of Russia and the Komi Republic point to the inadmissibility of attempts to intimidate journalists and urge the prosecutor’s office to react to the fact of threats to Krasnoye Znamya Severa photo correspondent Denis Shulepov.

V. L. Bogdanov, RF Journalists’ Union Chairman

E. V. Pimenov,
Komi Journalists’ Union Chairman

 

Freelance cameramen invited to compete for Rory Peck Awards

Freelance cameramen from all over the world are invited to take part in the annual Rory Peck Awards competition which rewards freelancers (especially in the regions where newsgathering is difficult) for the best camerawork and best news reporting on current events. Applications must be submitted before June 6.

 

Prizes will be awarded in the following three nominations:

  • The Rory Peck Award for News
  • The Rory Peck Award for Features
  • The Sony Professional Impact Award

Eligible for the competition will be works shown on TV between August 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011.

Three finalists in each nomination will be invited to London in November to participate in the award-handing ceremony.

Further details and evaluation criteria

Information in Russian is available at lu@rorypecktrust.org

 

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.

Contacts: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, fond@gdf.ru

Все новости

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