Дайджест
28 Декабря 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest no. 551

26 December 2011

 

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Activists throughout Russia rally for honest and fair elections

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The rally “For Honest and Fair Elections” in Moscow’s Sakharov Avenue on 24 December brought together, by different estimates, over 70,000 activists, although opposition representatives said from the rostrum about 120,000 and even 150,000 people being present.

Counting the protesters was difficult because people had walked uninterrupted towards the site of the rally (scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.) from the direction of Komsomolskaya Square since 1 o’clock, gradually filling all the adjacent space. Police patrolmen were polite, eagerly directing marchers where to go from the Komsomolskaya metro station.

The police behaved notably better than they had during previous opposition protests. But the situation had too changed drastically since the mass rally in Bolotnaya Square on 10 December: too many people came together this time, carrying unhindered the same placards that had cost many a drive to the police station and even administrative liability “for resistance to police officers” before 10 December.

As regards myself, I only had one incident with the police: it took me quite some time to explain, my press card in hand, that I wanted to get into the zone for reporters nearer to the rostrum. A sergeant was saying there were “too many people there already”, and that he might get “a reprimand from my superiors” for letting me through. But after I asked him to show his ID and identify himself into the video camera, he flinched and told police academy cadets nearby to show me and my colleagues to the rostrum. That, by the way, caused no questions from the “big star” officers standing there.

Journalists were treated tolerantly, in contrast to the rally in Triumfalnaya Square on 7 December, where about two dozen media workers had been detained overnight. The sole conflict with the police occurred only once, after the organisers stopped several radical nationalists from speaking from the rostrum, and a group of young men waving imperial flags attempted to break through the cordons. Three reporters with video and photo cameras were simply knocked off a low platform from which they had been shooting. No one was hurt, since they fell into colleagues’ hands, but the platform had to be urgently moved nearer to the main rostrum.

The organisers requested police help in restoring order, but that proved actually unneeded: voluntary police helpers explained to the bullies, quite peacefully, that they shouldn’t start a row during a public rally. The journalists were asked, just in case, to move away from the conflict epicentre and “forget it”. The few nationalists who did make it to the rostrum were puzzled by no resistance whatever offered to them: no one rushed to seize or arrest them. After a while, they dispersed – apparently frustrated.

The rally continued for nearly 4 hours, attended by representatives of various parties and movements except those elected to the new Duma body. A crane behind the rostrum offered journalists, after waiting in line, to be lifted high over the crowd for a couple of minutes to shoot some impressive photo pictures and video sequences. Many media were reporting live on what was going on. The Dozhd TV Channel had put up a small platform of its own near the central rostrum to conduct permanent stand-up reporting. Also, there was a press tent with gas burners for journalists to warm up their fingers that felt cold and sore with constant online “twittering”.

No excesses were registered. As regards the number of protesters, I believe it was unmatched since the early 1990s. Sakharov Avenue turned out to be far more spacious than Bolotnaya Square. The police did not pay any attention at all to the placards and transparencies held by activists – not even to the most sharp-worded ones. As I turned for comment to two police officers in the cordons, they silently turned round and walked a few metres away from me upon seeing that my video camera was switched on.

Despite announcements from the rostrum that several groups of Nashi movement activists were being bussed to Sakharov Avenue along the Sadovoye Ring, no mass presence of pro-Kremlin youth was ever recorded during the rally. The media were so eager to do “a job of work” covering the event that one newspaper had specially rented a building in front of the central rostrum to conduct uninterrupted live reporting.

Everyone, including rally participants, journalists and even the police, seemed satisfied with the way the rally was organised. There were moments when we would forget all about our being in Moscow, where a chance outsider – anyone simply going near a place where an opposition rally happened to be under way – might find himself locked up for the night in a 4x4-metre police station cage crammed with 20 other detainees and take turns with them in having at least a short rest sitting on the floor.

A feeling of meaningful change was in the air.

Rallies calling for honest elections were held the same day also in St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Tomsk, Nizhny Novgorod and elsewhere in Russia, although not all of them went as smoothly as in Moscow.

 

RUSSIA

Rostov Region. Editor Alexander Tolmachev taken into custody

See Digests 549, 550

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

After legal proceedings were started on 20 December on extortion charges (Article 163 of the RF Criminal Code) against Alexander Tolmachev, editor of the newspaper Upolnomochen Zayavit, the city court in Novocherkassk ruled for him to spend the next two months under arrest – a restraint that the Rostov Region Internal Affairs Department has so far refrained from commenting on.

Unofficial sources say a Novocherkassk-based businessman complained to the regional police department about his former business partner Yuri Balagan, director of Vit Co., together with his deputy Yelena Morozova and editor Tolmachev, allegedly attempting to extort a million roubles from him in exchange for not publishing information that might compromise the businessman and his son, a police officer. On 15 December the three suspects were detained by counter-terrorism task force servicemen – according to the protocol, while formalising a deal on the sham sale of a BMW that the businessmen had offered them instead of cash. They all were released hours later, but after five more days Tolmachev was again apprehended and placed into a pre-trial detention centre in Novocherkassk.

As per the date of his arrest, Tolmachev was also director of the municipal newspaper Novocherkasskiye Novosti: the city administration had re-appointed him to that position after the second-time dismissal of that newspaper’s director and chief editor Irina Vasilyeva. Now the mayor’s office has urgently appointed a third director, while Vasilyeva has filed a legal claim insisting she was fired unlawfully.

Law enforcement’s keeping silent in such an extraordinary situation does seem alarming: legal proceedings are in progress, the journalist is under arrest, but the police are holding a “no comment” stance. The regional police department’s press service advised the GDF correspondent “to wait a little more”.

Does this mean there are serious reasons for this kind of police reticence? The Glasnost Defence Foundation is preparing an official inquiry to have the Rostov Region Internal Affairs Department officially comment on what is going on.

Chelyabinsk Region. Editor acquitted and entitled to full exoneration

See Digest 543

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Valery Uskov, editor of the newspaper Pravda Goroda Zlatousta, has been fully acquitted and given the right to claim full exoneration: a court of law cleared him of the charges of committing an offence punishable under Article 282 of the RF Criminal Code (“Instigation of enmity or hatred, or disparagement of a person’s dignity”).

Uskov was accused of extremism after he urged residents of the city of Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region, “not to pay for low-quality utility services”. His newspaper was filled with news articles reprinted from opposition federal newspapers; rumours about the local elite; stories attempting to analyse migration flows; and criticism of the poorly performing law enforcement agencies and of separate decisions passed by local authorities and the Zlatoust mayor in person.

In her ruling to terminate the legal proceedings against the editor, Yevgenia Fominykh, a special investigator at the regional Investigative Committee, stated that, “Uskov did not commit acts aimed to instigate enmity or hatred, or disparage anyone’s human dignity… and did not publish any extremist statements on the pages of his newspaper in any of the three issues thereof which were presented for analysis… He only exercised his constitutional right to freedom of thought and expression, his right to receive and impart information by any methods allowed under the law. Content-wise, the texts under study represent harsh criticism of the (poor) performance of authorities in the city of Zlatoust”.

Now that his criminal case is closed, Uskov is entitled to full exoneration. His compensation-claiming rights will be explained to him additionally.

Valery Uskov commented:

“The regional Investigative Committee, deemed to be the investigative ‘elite’, is supposed to handle the gravest and most dangerous crime cases. My case must have been the worst among the worst, since it was scrutinised by a ten-member team of investigators at the initial stage, and later by two detectives. It took those guys 15 months, 15 volumes of case files, over 500 questioned witnesses, 5 linguistic and 2 complex expert studies, millions of roubles from the budget, and a hell of a lot of ambition to complete that work so as to satisfy the queer whims of a handful of regional rulers – and yet, deliver zero results. Neither venal analysts nor the notorious ‘power vertical’, not even the servile media which raised that hullaballoo over my arrest, proved able to help them. When a repressive state apparatus wastes so much time and money ‘neutralising’ a single person – and gets nothing in the end – one will be justified in saying the system may be in agony.”

Altai Republic (Siberia). Journalist cleared of “instigation”, “defamation” and “libel” charges

The Altai Republic’s Supreme Court has reviewed a ruling passed in the case of Sergey Mikhailov, a journalist, State Assembly deputy, and founder of the newspaper Listok, who was accused of fanning hostility toward the Armenians and First Vice-Governor Sergey Tevonyan in person, and of defaming and smearing Governor Alexander Berdnikov. A first-instance court acquitted Mikhailov of the “instigation” and “defamation” charges but found him guilty of publishing libel in respect of the republic’s head.

During the hearing, Mikhailov again pleaded not guilty and said he is still convinced that Alexander Berdnikov suffers from alcoholism. Also, he supported the pleas made by his lawyers Vladimir Bandura and Ramil Akhmetgaliyev. The prosecution, for its part, supported the pleas too – by asking to cancel the primary court ruling and return the case for review because of Mikhailov’s “unlawful acquittal of the instigation and defamation charges”.

The Supreme Court judges, however, confirmed the defendant’s acquittal of the charges of instigating inter-ethnic strife and insulting a government official, and cancelled Mikhailov’s conviction of libel by the primary court; they ruled to lift the latter charge in view of the de-criminalisation of the relevant Penal Code article.

But as regards the civil claim, the Supreme Court left in force the first-instance court decision requiring Mikhailov to pay Berdnikov 200,000 roubles in moral damages.

“When I asked for additional details regarding my payment of moral damage compensation to Berdnikov, they told me this decision was left effective,” Mikhailov said. “Of course, I think this is wrong – but I also understand that the court was compelled to manoeuvre between what is fair and how those at the helm feel about it. Now that all the (criminal) charges against me have been lifted, I will let him (Berdnikov) get the compensation he wants – as a consolation prize.”

[Listok report, 22 December]

Moscow. Reporters barred from open court sitting

Alexei Venediktov, chief editor of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, has filed inquiries with Chief Federal Bailiff Arthur Parfenchikov and Moscow City Court Chair Olga Yegorova, asking to explain the actions of Judge Olga Borovkova and two bailiffs who did not allow reporters to attend a sitting of the Tverskoy district court that was deciding whether Left-Wing Front coordinator Sergey Udaltsov should be arrested, Grani.ru reported.

Venediktov also requested Parfenchikov’s comment on whether the two bailiffs, Oksana Ivanova and Alexander Saltykov, who had barred the reporters from the reading of the verdict, were right in refusing to identify themselves at the request of journalists and State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, and if they were entitled to close an open court sitting to the press without a judge’s warrant, which constituted an instance of interference with journalists’ professional work.

Venediktov sent the same questions to Yegorova, whom he also asked to tell him whether it was Judge Borovkova who had ordered in the first place that the journalists stay behind closed doors.

[Based on Grani.ru reports]

Vladivostok. DDoS attack on Deita news agency website

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

“On Saturday, 24 December, the website of the Deita news agency came under a fierce DDoS attack that resulted in public access to our site becoming either difficult or impossible on December 24-26,” a Deita statement says. “Significantly, this subversive act was carried out shortly after we published a series of critical stories … Some groups seem to be seriously annoyed by our editorial policy.”

The way the Deita staffers see it, “This kind of reaction comes as a high assessment of our professional performance. If our opponents ventured to commit an act punishable under criminal law – to shut down public access to our publications – this means that these publications had hit the target.”

The aftermath of the DDoS attack has now been eliminated and the website’s operation returned back to normal.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

New Year greetings

The Glasnost Defence Foundation sends its New Year greetings to all friends and readers, and wishes everyone – in addition to good health and every success – to watch the elements of peace and confidence that we have seen during the outgoing year receive their full-scale development next year. May the year 2012 turn out at least as good as 2011 was.

Also, we inform you that the next, 552nd, edition of the Digest will be released (in Russian) on Monday, 9 January 2012 – and a couple of days later in English.

 

OUR PARTNERS

CPJ special report released

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 20 December published its special report entitled “For Journalists, Coverage of Political Unrest Proves Deadly”.

“At least 43 journalists were killed around the world in direct relation to their work in 2011, with the seven deaths in Pakistan marking the heaviest losses in a single nation,” the report said. “Libya and Iraq, each with five fatalities, and Mexico, with three deaths, also ranked high worldwide for journalism-related fatalities. The global tally is consistent with the toll recorded in 2010, when 44 journalists died in connection with their work. CPJ is investigating another 35 deaths in 2011 to determine whether they were work-related.”

The authors concluded that targeted murders constituted less than half of the 2011 toll. Reports about killings came also from Russia – specifically, about Gadzhimurad Kamalov, the founder of the critical independent newspaper Chernovik, gunned down in Makhachkala, Dagestan.

“Photojournalists suffered particularly heavy losses in 2011,” the report said, also pointing to the fact that “eight online journalists … who rarely appeared on CPJ’s death toll … were killed for their work during the year”. CPJ analysis also found “a high proportion of freelancers among the 2011 victims – nearly one-third of the toll”.

Among other findings is that “the heaviest losses occurred in nations across the Middle East and North Africa, where CPJ documented 18 work-related fatalities in all. Thirteen work-related deaths were documented in Asia, seven in the Americas, three in Africa, and two in Europe and Central Asia”.

The authors also stressed that “among murder victims, more than 70 percent had reported receiving threats in the weeks before they died. Long-term CPJ research shows that physical attacks are often preceded by phone or electronic threats”.

[Full text of the report]

RSF reports on media worker repressions

A report published by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres, RSF) on 22 December says at least 66 journalists have been killed around the world this year in relation to their professional work, and the number of physical attacks on media workers, as well as their arrests and kidnappings, grew significantly. A total of 1,044 journalists were arrested in different countries during the year; 1,959 became the targets of attacks or threats; and 71 were kidnapped.

The most dangerous countries to report from are Pakistan with 10 journalists killed; Iraq (7 victims); and Mexico and Libya (each with 5 murdered journalists). China, Iran and Eritrea recorded the largest number of media worker arrests.

The RSF report calls attention to increasingly frequent repressions against bloggers and netizens in connection with their growing role in reporting news and information during conventional media blackouts or in a heavy censorship environment.

[Full text of the report]

RF Public Chamber reviews problems facing civil society

The Russian Federation Public Chamber has released a report on problems facing civil community.

Russia is described as the OSCE leader as regards the risk of physical violence against journalists. “Violence and threats of violence against journalists remain the most appalling methods of suppressing media freedom,” the report says.

According to the authors, during the first 10 months of this year over 150 journalists found themselves beaten, crippled or threatened. “Russia remains the leader among the OSCE member countries also in terms of the frequency of journalist killings,” the report says.

Throughout the year, restrictions on freedom of expression tended to increase, while the instruments of journalist protection remained unworkable despite revisions of the Media Law with a view to making it more efficient, the Public Chamber stated.

 

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

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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