20 Октября 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 541

17 October 2011


Journalistic investigation to be made subject to licensing?

Time and again, State Duma deputies turn their attention to problems facing the press and journalists. So far they have usually focused on new sets of proposed amendments to the Media Law or on renewed attempts to establish some kind of a “supervisory board” that they claim “would never even think of engaging in censorship”.

On 11 October, parliamentarians once again sat down “to regulate the media performance a little”, focusing this time on journalistic investigations.

“The notion of journalistic investigation has found itself strongly watered down lately because of numerous questions as to its quality,” Sergey Zheleznyak, head of the Duma Committee for Information Policy, IT and Public Communications, said. “That’s why we need to bring the true meaning of this notion out. We believe this genre requires special qualifications and special support from the state.”

While his point about special qualifications appears to make sense generally, his suggestion that Russia’s government may want to support journalistic probes into the activities of its thievish officials of different rank raises serious doubts as something absolutely impossible.

Zheleznyak was seconded by Vyacheslav Lysakov, coordinator of the Working Group against Raider Practices under the Duma Security Committee, who observed that “journalistic investigations often turn out to deliver the first raider blow on businesses”. With reference to sponsored articles that some media reporters are known to publish in a bid to make extra money, he urged the deputies to show “heightened responsibility” and make journalistic investigations subject to licensing. Charity Organisations Association head Victor Kalinin agreed, suggesting that investigative journalists should be licensed the way notary officers are, for example.

Of course, more of hackneyed pronouncements about the Media Law being “too liberal” and “long needing to be amended” were heard…

However, the question arose as to why parliamentarians should suddenly get as concerned as they are by the issue of journalistic investigations.

Mikhail Grishankov, deputy head of the Duma Security Committee, claimed there is no special reason for this and that parliamentarians are only driven by their “care for the media”.

“We in the Security Committee took up this theme seeing that the journalists – especially investigative journalists – are in need of assistance,” he said. “If they want to get at the roots of things, they need to be given special support.”

However, one may suspect that the urgency of the matter can in many aspects be explained by the start of the new election campaign, during which investigative journalism may be “too much of a headache for too many people”.

One would like to trust Grishankov’s assurances that journalistic investigations give the law enforcement agencies an incentive to work harder. But life shows that their work is too often reduced to purely formal and meaningless replies to complaints. Or else, as it happened to a journalist investigating alleged corrupt practices within the presidential apparatus, they may ask a reporter to share his findings with them instead of probing deeper down into the matter.

Besides, the deputies considered the issue of financial support. Without it, only the largest media outlets could afford conducting journalistic investigations, Zheleznyak said, suggesting as an option awarding special grants to media outlets or individual journalists.

Journalists would no doubt be happy to receive assistance, but in what form is a matter that needs to be decided separately. GDF President Alexei Simonov is convinced that parliament could best help investigative journalists by passing a law that would require law enforcement to show due responsibility and regard each publication about the results of a journalistic investigation either as a report on a crime for the police to take immediate action on, or as newly-discovered evidence, rather than a reason to give the author the runaround in a reply letter.

“As regards grants,” Simonov said, “they should only be awarded in a depersonalised form via such public organisations as the Russian Journalists’ Union, Guild of Forensic Reporters or Journalistic Investigations Agency.”

Mikhail Fedotov, one of the authors of the currently effective Media Law, is resolutely against the introduction of licensing in any form, which would only mean the re-introduction of censorship under a new disguise.

“With this kind of initiatives, we may turn into savages in the eyes of the entire world,” he warned.

Robert Schlegel, first deputy head of the Duma’s Information Policy Committee, came up with a surprisingly peaceable statement.

“We must be extra cautious about amending the Media Law,” he said. “I know from my personal experience what may come out of it if approached differently. That’s why the ad hoc group established for the purpose is inviting journalists to take part in the discussions.”

Well, thanks for this much at least, one may say.



Tver. Law enforcers in no hurry to investigate attack on journalist

By Natalya Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Moscow Helsinki Group has informed the Glasnost Defence Foundation via the Public Verdict Foundation about a message they received from Tver-based journalist Andrei Tsarkov, who told them he had been beaten by unidentified persons who had also attempted to kidnap him.

In Tver’s Children’s Park on 17 March 2011, Tsarkov was attacked by two unknown men who struck him on the head from behind, swept him off his feet and continued to kick away at him, threatening to cut him with a knife. They then tied his hands up with Scotch tape, pushed him into a car and drove him away in an unknown direction. Inside the car, Tsarkov offered resistance to his captors and managed to open the door and jump out. He called the police, but the officers, on learning he had been kidnapped in another precinct, did not rush to act immediately. Moreover, they refused to start legal proceedings in connection with the incident, and it was not until Tsarkov had filed several protests against their inaction that that decision was cancelled, although preliminary check-up findings were forwarded from one police unit to another several times.

Only on 17 June did the city police department finally institute legal proceedings under Article 116 of the RF Criminal Code (“Rampageous beating”), which is considered to be a minor offence. Clearly, the attack should be re-qualified as a “group kidnapping of a person by previous concert” (Article 126 of the Code) – a grave crime subject to investigation by the Investigative Committee.

“In fact, what we are witnessing is an attempt to conceal a grave criminal offence,” Public Verdict lawyer Y. Iontsev commented.

Chita. Independent newspaper pressured

By Marina Meteleva, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Vechorka newspaper editor Vladimir Kantemir and a group of his voluntary helpers from the number of university students have been detained in Chita while distributing a special release of the newspaper.

“We were marking 18 months since Vechorka’s establishment,” Kantemir told the Chita.ru news agency. “Wishing to think up something original to celebrate our little jubilee – not like government officials usually do, throwing a restaurant party or picnicking outdoors – we hung ‘Vechorka for a Fair Life!’ banners all over the city and released a special issue to be distributed free of charge – marking the occasion, on the one hand, and advertising our media outlet a bit, on the other. Volunteers from city universities agreed to help us, also for no pay.”

“The action was taking place on Friday and Saturday,” the editor went on to say. “On 1 October I had a phone call telling me two of our volunteers had been detained by the police in Lenin Square. I drove over there to find out why. A major in a police trailer told me they would take me to the Central district police headquarters for questioning as to why we’d been distributing ‘leaflets with (extremist) content”, and we finally drove there after nearly two hours in the trailer. Toward the evening, I returned to the newspaper office, where I was again questioned – this time by a police captain who expressed his sympathy, saying he finds his commanders’ orders silly and that he thinks Vechorka is a ‘really cool’ newspaper.”

The editor’s detention by the police was followed by the local printing firms’ refusal to print his newspaper.

Vechorka had once been closed already – in November 2008. Vladimir Kantemir later decided to re-establish it as an independent newspaper, in which capacity it has operated during the past 18 months. It future is still rather vague, but one thing is clear: the regional authorities are unwilling to see any media outlet getting out of hand, the less so on the eve of elections.

Maritime Region. Cossack captain claims 2 million roubles in moral damages

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Cossack captain Vladimir Spiridonov has lodged a 2-million-rouble claim against the Tikhookeansky Komsomolets newspaper for publishing on its pages and on the VestiRegion.ru website Viktor Bulavintsev’s article entitled “What Has Our Lord to Do with Mercenary Disputes among Maritime Cossacks?”

“Modern Russian Cossacks are often labelled mummers because of their archaic uniform, horses, whips, sabres, St. George Crosses (which, by the way, are decorations that one has to be officially permitted to wear) and modern replicas of orders and medals that used to be given for personal bravery and valour in olden days,” journalist Bulavintsev wrote. “And along with that all – regular squabbles among ‘atamans’ over who of them is ‘more real’ and ‘more important’.”

The protagonist of his latest article is Vladimir Spiridonov, a Cossack captain claiming to be “Deputy Ataman of the Ussuri Cossack Army” and a man “with FSB connections”. The captain is never too shy to publish this kind of revelations in his interviews for the press:

“You know what a bad guy I used to be before I came to believe in Christ? You may remember how turbulent the 1990s were in Russia – racketeering, windfall money, painting the town red, and all that… Time and again, I would even mix with underworld kings! There’s no room for any of those dirty things in my life anymore: I don’t swear, I don’t cheat, I married my woman in church – I mean my wish is to live in accordance with the Lord’s law.”

Tikhookeansky Komsomolets reported not only about the “turbulent” past of Cossack captain Spiridonov but also about his present-day affairs. Bulavintsev based his story on complaints by gardening cooperatives supposed to be protected by the Chichagovskaya Kazachya Stanitsa security agency led by Spiridonov, interviews with numerous people who have suffered at the hands of the captain and his lot, and on information supplied by the law enforcement bodies… Spiridonov responded by claiming 2 million in moral damages.

Sakhalin Region. Deputy mayor’s legal claim turned down

By Olga Vasilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Severo-Kurilsky district court under the chairmanship of Judge Kondratyev has turned down a legal claim lodged by a vice-mayor of Severo-Kurilsk against the Sovetsky Sakhalin newspaper in the wake of a June 2010 publication that the plaintiff found “libellous and smearing”.

Specifically, he challenged the paragraph which read, “At the administration headquarters late on 3 June, Severo-Kurilsk Vice-Mayor D. Granin attempted to rape a lady officer from one of the mayor’s office units, and after a while, fired a shot – supposedly from a traumatic gun – at the lady’s common-law husband.”

The plaintiff demanded disclaimers to be published in the newspaper and on its website, and 200,000 roubles in moral damages from Sovetsky Sakhalin and from the person who, in Granin’s view, had disclosed that information to the journalists. The court established, however, that the article was based on the victims’ reports to the police (which the regional Investigative Department was checking as per the date of the publication), evidence given by third parties described in the article as “several interviewees”, and statements by the Investigative Department spokesman and D. Granin himself. Under those circumstances, the court concluded, Sovetsky Sakhalin had been justified in making the scandalous information known to the public. The court disregarded the plaintiff’s argument that no criminal proceedings had been started in the wake of the (rape attempt) incident, since “this cannot restrict a journalist’s right to cover an event as perceived by anyone, including the victims”.

Granin, by the way, did not challenge another passage that, too, might strike him as “damaging to his reputation”. The passage read, “The acting mayor drove his car in a state of intoxication and fired gunshots in the park in the presence of numerous holidaymakers…”

Sverdlovsk Region. “Black PR” practices on rise again

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Residents of Pervouralsk, Sverdlovsk Reigon, were reminded that elections are in the offing when they found a duplicate number of the popular newspaper Vecherny Pervouralsk Svobodny tossed in their mailboxes under the like-sounding name of Pervouralsk Svobodny. Subscribers to the authentic newspaper – mostly middle-aged and senior citizens – believed the fake issue’s announcement that communists were handing out money to their supporters. On 10 October alone, about 200 people came to the Communist party headquarters to collect the 50-rouble notes allegedly promised to them. As a result, the staffers’ work was brought to a full standstill that day.

People walked up to the desk of Vera Ogorodnikova, the chief of staff, showed the fake newspaper number and pronounced the “watch-phrase”, “I’ve read your announcement”. Quietly but resolutely, Ogorodnikova replied, “We didn’t publish any such announcement. We didn’t release this issue at all. Sorry, but you can’t have the 50 roubles you’re asking for.” Some visitors had to be taken to the first-aid station after the refusal.

To prevent further use of “black PR” practices on the territory of Pervouralsk, Communist party electioneers and other victims of the false-announcement trick complained to the regional electoral committee demanding that the persons involved in the release of the “underground” newspaper be iden



Some statistics cited

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



Perm senator’s former son-in-law jailed again

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing public communications] department for the Perm Region has requested additional written explanations from the Zvezda newspaper concerning its 1 March 2011 publication “Criminal Record” dedicated to Artyom Lukin, former son-in-law of Igor Shubin, ex-mayor of Perm and an incumbent member of the RF Council of the Federation. Lukin has been convicted of fraud and is currently serving a prison term.

With reference to a plea by Lukin’s defence lawyers, regional Roskomnadzor head Yuri Shchebetkov urged the editor, Sergey Trushnikov, to provide the requested information within two days’ time, before 14 October.

Trushnikov had already received a similar Roskomnadzor inquiry on 5 May, taking the law-established 7-day time to prepare a detailed reply to questions concerning his allegedly unlawful disclosure of personal data about the “full name, marital status and criminal record” of Lukin, who had been sentenced by that time to 6 years in jail for two episodes of fraud resulting in his misappropriation of 19.1 million roubles.

The controversial publication was based on publicly available information about Lukin’s criminal case that had been reviewed at open court hearings, the editor explained, pointing to the fact that the 30 November 2009 sentence passed on that case by the Leninsky district court in Perm mentioned Lukin’s two non-expunged previous convictions – of “group robbery involving the use of violence” (of 22 March 1999) and “deliberate infliction of grave bodily damage on a person that resulted in the victim’s reckless killing” (of 6 March 2000).

The said sentence and two rulings passed by the regional court of appeals on 28 January 2010 contained in-depth analysis of Lukin’s own revelations about his private life, including his April 2007 marriage to Olga Shubina (daughter of then Perm Mayor Igor Shubin); it also mentioned the fact of his “being son-in-law to a Perm administration official”. O. Shubina, whom Lukin had divorced by that time, performed as a public counsel for the defence during those hearings, Trushnikov pointed out.

The editor called Roskomnadzor’s attention to the fact that in line with Article 2.5 of the RF Personal Data Law, this law is not applicable to relationships arising in connection with updates on Russian courts’ performance that the authorised agencies publish as provided for by RF Law “On the Disclosure of Information on Judiciary Performance in the Russian Federation” (No. 262-FZ of 22 December 2008).

When filing his new inquiry five months later, Roskomnadzor head Shchebetkov pretended he knew nothing about this law provision; he again cited, instead, the “inadmissibility of using or disclosing a citizen’s personal data without his/her consent” – a requirement that is clearly non-applicable to Lukin’s criminal record story. Shchebetkov made a serious blunder by asserting that criminal prosecution of Igor Shubin’s former son-in-law had been stopped. In reality, as reported by Zvezda, on 21 February 2011 the Sverdlovsky district court in Perm cancelled as unlawful the decision on the termination of criminal proceedings against Lukin in relation to a third episode of fraud (misappropriation of 10.7 million roubles), and its latest ruling is in full legal force now.

Earlier in his career, Yuri Shchebetkov served in the regional KGB department. It looks like he remains a prisoner of old-time notions related to the notorious “observance of the laws of socialism”. As far back as 1993, Article 19 of the RF Constitution stated that all citizens are equal before the law. The former husband of a Russian senator’s daughter is not an exception, and people are entitled to know that having once served a 4-year prison term for a criminal offence, Lukin then committed two more crimes for which he went to jail for 6 more years.



2011 competition for Andrei Sakharov Award “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The Jury continues accepting works submitted for the 2011 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 journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2010 and October 15, 2011 in Russian newspapers, magazines or almanacs, or posted on web portals registered as media outlets. Candidates for the award may be nominated by 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 Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’”.

Further details about the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637 4947.

Statement by Russian PEN Centre

We members of the Russian PEN Centre have repeatedly voiced out concerns over human rights violations in Belarus, and repeatedly protested against harassment of our fellow writers and journalists Vladimir Neklyayev, Pavel Severinets, Alexander Feduta, Dmitry Bondarenko, Irina Khalip and others… Today we are stating that the public and political situation in that country has been growing worse day after day and is hardly ever different now from what is used to be during the worst times of Soviet totalitarianism. The future of our colleagues – writers, journalists, artists and all those dissatisfied with Lukashenko’s repressive policies – has become a matter of our increasingly strong concern.

As has become known recently, on 3 October Belarus passed amendments to a number of legislative acts to maximise repressions against public organisations and individuals expressing discontent with Lukashenko’s policies. Open protests by the opposition were banned in the past too but would sometimes result in administrative liability at the most; from now on, any protest will entail criminal punishment. Moreover, the KGB officers, who have a history of cracking down on dissenters brutally, have now been allowed under the law – and actually ordered – to use force, up to “martial art techniques”, against protesters. They have also been allowed to storm into people’s homes without a court warrant, merely suspecting that something is going on there that the authorities may not like. Under the amended law “On Mass Actions”, any gathering of people shall now be deemed equal to a rally.

Any financial activity by the opposition causes a particularly cruel reaction from the dictatorial regime. Alexei Belyatsky, founder of the Vesna Centre extending relief to prisoners of conscience, has been arrested and awaits trial in Belarus, which brings back memories of the worst period of Soviet totalitarian rule.

Any complaint by public associations or individual citizens to international organisations about the appalling conditions in Belarus may be interpreted by the authorities as “high treason” punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

All the above-mentioned repressive novelties render the activity of public organisations, including activities of our colleagues from the Belarussian PEN Centre, either impossible or enormously risky (in the direct sense of the word: people put their lives at risk).

We members of the Russian PEN Centre hereby express our solidarity with Belarussian colleagues and our readiness to give them whatever assistance we may be able to provide.

At the same time, we strongly recommend that the Russian government reduce its co-operation with the Lukashenko regime to a minimum and resolutely precondition it with the demand for an immediate end to repressions against Belarussian society, against their own people.

Also, we call on PEN movement colleagues internationally to share our concerns over the developments in Belarus and to join our protests.

Our friends and colleagues in Belarus need our help and attention badly.

The letter is open for signing (see the Russian PEN Centre’s website).


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

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, Svetlana Zemskova  – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy  – translator.


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

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