28 Марта 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 563

26 March 2012



Uzbekistani authorities afraid of lady journalist from Russia

The authorities in Uzbekistan on 23 March denied entry to the country and deported Victoria Ivleva, a prominent Russian journalist and Novaya Gazeta photographer, without explaining why.

Ivleva arrived in Tashkent at colleagues’ invitation to hold a master class in modern photography. However, passport control officials at the airport asked the purpose of her visit, checked with entries in their computers, and told her to wait in a special room. The journalist wondered why she was not being allowed into a friendly country with which Russia maintains a visa-free travelling regime.

“They didn’t explain anything,” she said. “After talking among themselves in Uzbek, they told me to follow them – they were expelling me. I wouldn’t go anywhere, I said, until they called the Russian consul. But they neither called the consul nor even let me phone my friends who were meeting me at the entrance.”

Men in military uniform then escorted Ivleva to an airplane and handed her a deportation warrant that, again, did not say a word about the reasons.

The journalist believes she was denied entry to Uzbekistan because of a 5-year-old Novaya Gazeta publication entitled “The Fish Country”, in which she described her adventures in Uzbekistan. “The funniest thing is that the President of Uzbekistan, a country that Russia considers friendly, is afraid of me, a little woman whose only ‘weapon’ is a pen that weighs almost nothing, and a photo camera that weighs only a bit more,” Ivleva said.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation on 26 March sent Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin a message in connection with Ivleva’s deportation, reading as follows:

“Dear Mr Karasin:

“We would like to know the Foreign Ministry’s likely reaction to an outrageously lawless action by the authorities in Uzbekistan, a republic deemed friendly to Russia, who denied entry to their country to our colleague Victoria Ivleva, an eminent journalist and photographer. That happened just recently, on 23 March, upon Ivleva’s arrival (in Tashkent) on a noble mission – to spend several days holding a master class free of charge. She was denied entry without any explanation, and not given the opportunity to meet with the Russian consul. We would very much appreciate your replying to this message, since our Foundation needs to know what we can and must do in situations like that in order to resist arbitrary treatment, and how much we may rely on the Russian Foreign Ministry for protection of Russian citizens’ rights. Also, we would appreciate your posting on the ministry’s website recommendations as to what Russian citizens should do if finding themselves in a similar situation.”



Chita. Journalist Viktor Yezhtokin beaten to death

By Marina Meteleva, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Journalist Viktor Yeshtokin was severely beaten and died at Chita’s City Hospital No. 1 after what the police described as a “household conflict”. “The fact of grievous bodily harm inflicted on poet Viktor Yeshtokin,” the police protocol said, “was registered at 6 a.m. on 17 March at the home of a male suspect who was detained and later released with a written pledge not to leave town.”

According to the victim’s family, Viktor received screwdriver stabs in his head, lungs and stomach. After a brain surgery, he lived a few more hours, supported by an artificial lung.

Some may shrug indifferently, calling this “an ordinary brawl” – but for the fact that Yeshtokin was not a hobo or drunkard; he was a Trans-Baikal creative celebrity – a poet, writer and journalist with a degree from Irkutsk State University’s Philology Department. He began his career in 1973 as a correspondent for the local newspapers Gornyatskaya Slava and Shakhtyor Zabaikalya. A member of the regional Writers’ Union, he spent several years contributing to the region’s sole daily newspaper, Zabaikalsky Rabochiy (ZR). Each of us his colleagues will long remember the ever-active Vic Yeshtokin, who so much loved “great” verse, “great” meetings with sincere people, and “great girls”, as he used to call all women he met. He fussed around with plans to dig up “Admiral Kolchak’s gold” [reportedly buried in Siberia during the civil war in the early 1920s – Translator.]; showed to everyone old and frayed 100-rouble notes dating back to the times of Tsar Nicolas II; or offered to write yet another book about yet another celebrity. When sacked from Zabaikalsky Rabochiy among a group of other old-timers a few years ago, Yeshtokin did not give way to despair, while evidently feeling hurt by that kind of attitude. “We old folks aren’t needed anymore today; it may be your turn to fall into disfavour tomorrow – nobody’s getting younger with time,” he said. His prediction came true. “No need to lose heart,” he would say trying to console newly-fired colleagues after a second wave of ZR sackings. “Life is diverse, you know. Let me tell you this great story…”

I have always admired optimists, of whom Viktor was one. He was of that uncommon, inspiring sort; people like him are capable of enjoying life and helping others with a wise word. It’s a pity they are passing away – in such a horrific manner at that…

Perm Region. Editor challenges his newspaper’s closure. See Digest 557

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The regional court in Perm has supported a protest filed by Natalia Irzhanova, editor of the municipal newspaper Kamskiye Zori (KZ), against the Dobryanka district administration’s attempts to shut the 80-year-old media outlet down.

As we reported in Digest 557, Dobryanka district leader Konstantin Lyzov issued on 20 February a decision to liquidate KZ and notified Irzhanova, its chief editor and director, of her pending dismissal. Other staffers, too, received two months’ notices.

Irzhanova turned to the district court, asking to pronounce her weekly’s closure unlawful and damaging to her right as a Dobryanka resident to be informed about newly enacted legislation.

The district court, however, ruled on 9 February to abandon her legal claim, and on 14 February, to return it to the claimant. A week later, it turned down the editor’s protests against both rulings as ungrounded, since the text of the claim “does not indicate the journalist’s taking legal action in defence of her labour rights; rather, it reflects her desire to protest a local self-government decision based on the provisions of Article 25 of the RF Code of Civil Procedure”.

The higher-standing regional court of appeals cancelled the two unlawful rulings and returned the case to the district court for review.

She released her last issue of KZ and was invited to the district administration on 23 March to read the order on her dismissal as of 26 March, Irzhanova told the GDF. “Judging by everything, the next issue will be released with another editor in charge,” she said.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will follow the developments in Dobryanka and further legal proceedings closely.

Republic of Karelia. Republican prosecutor’s office unperturbed by unlawful behaviour of Assembly’s vice-speaker

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

On the eve of the presidential elections, D. Alikhanov, First Vice-Speaker of Karelia’s Legislative Assembly, was assigned by the United Russia party’s regional leadership to coordinate Vladimir Putin’s campaign in Petrozavodsk. Fulfilling his mission, he organised about 400 meetings with electors in the run-up to the vote, Alikhanov himself said. One such meeting was held behind the Assembly walls. Understandably, it was presented not as a campaign event but as the vice-speaker’s “meeting with public activists and administration officials to discuss municipal life”. There were no calls “Putin for President!”, but much was said about the need “to preserve the current political course and stability in Russia”. That was actually enough to understand who of the presidential candidates “embodied” that stability. The author of a report about the meeting, posted on the “Karelian Politics” website, wondered who had paid, if ever at all, for the lease of the conference room in the Assembly building, and whether campaign leaders for presidential candidates other than Putin, too, could hope to partake of this parliamentary hospitality.

The republican prosecutor’s office did take notice of the publication and even attempted a check-up of the facts. But oddly enough, the report’s author turned out to be the sole source of information for the office-appointed investigator, although it might also make sense for him to talk to MPs who made no secret of their seeing Vice-Speaker Alikhanov’s meeting with residents at the Assembly as part of the pro-Putin campaign; they even tried raising the issue at one of the Assembly sittings. Yet, satisfied with his conversation with the journalist, the investigator considered the case closed in view of “no evidence of unlawful campaigning” found.

Khabarovsk. Editor complains to RF President about local administration officials

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Konstantin Pronyakin, editor of the Khabarovsk-based website Debri-DV, has complained to Sergei Ivanov, the presidential chief of staff, about poor knowledge of the RF Media Law provisions by executives at the office of President Medvedev’s personal envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District (FEFD).

For more than six months now he, the editor of a website officially registered as a media outlet, has been denied accreditation with, and admittance to, public events held by the envoy, Viktor Ishayev, Pronyakin wrote. His complaint about this to Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing public communications] failed to be of any help – the agency did not identify any law violations.

“The Roskomnadzor Office for the Khabarovsk Region and Jewish Autonomous Region said the presidential envoy’s office in the Far East is a structural unit of the presidential administration,” Pronyakin told the GDF correspondent. “This means its interaction with the media is coordinated by the RF President’s Press Service and Information Department. I heard the same, word for word, from G. Smolyak, head of the FEFD envoy’s Internal Policy unit, last August.”

None of the local journalists have been required to request accreditation; yet they all have been invited to attend public events organised by the envoy’s office, Pronyakin said adding that a posting on the Kremlin.ru website plainly says, “The RF President’s Press Service and Information Department is charged with organising contacts with the media only for the RF President.”

“I think the information supplied to me by the authorities is misleading,” the editor wrote in his complaint to the presidential administration chief. “By denying me accreditation with the FEFD Envoy’s Office, they violate the principle of media equality, fail to guarantee free public access to information, and breach the provisions of the federal laws ‘On the Media’ and ‘On Securing Access to Information Regarding the Performance of Government Bodies and Local Self-Governments’.”



Editor reported missing in Lvov Region

Journalist Vitaly Pavlishin has gone missing in Chervonograd, Lvov Region, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reported citing an alert message filed with the police by Pavlishin’s family.

According to Western Information Corporation (ZIK), Pavlishin is editor-in-chief of the Lvov-based newspaper Sportivka and Chervonograd-based newspaper Novosti Pribuzhya. Pavlishin regularly shuttled between Chervonograd and Lvov on business, Sportivka publisher Vladimir Mikhalchuk said.

The police say the journalist was last seen leaving the Novosti Pribuzhya office at lunchtime on 21 March, and not seen by his colleagues or relatives ever since.

He was to go back to the Sportivka office in Lvov that day, but never appeared there, Mikhalchuk said.

Earlier, Pavlishin contributed to different newspapers in the Lvov Region, and worked for some time on Lvov TV.

[Lenta.ru report, 23 February]



Bloggers and journalists in Zlatoust barred from social networks

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The South Urals State University (SUSU) branch in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region, has turned into a kind of reservation with zero access to the social networks, LiveJournal and other “seditious” web resources. The university management has taken active steps to get rid of bloggers and other free-thinking people – on the pretext of “maintaining the discipline”.

The SUSU branch director ordered the switch-off of the university computers from the social networks after a visit by “a man who might be from any agency supporting the regime – the FSB, or the Electronics Unit of the regional police department, or the regional administration’s ‘shadow’ committee for control over bloggers, etc.,” Yelena Lavetkina, a blogger and editor of the university newspaper, said.

“He came to our university in mid-February,” she said. “Or, rather, he must have called on the phone, which is more likely, since none of our pretty vigilant staffers can remember any suspicious visitor turning up here. The guy must have scared our director by telling him something really hair-raising, like ‘you have one of those boat-rocking bloggers who writes forbidden stuff, for which you might get held liable because people read her opuses,’; and other nasty things about an ‘orange revolution’, ‘American intelligence’, ‘contacts with the opposition’, etc. In a word, he said, ‘everything must be switched off’, particularly Twitter, PublicPost, LiveJournal, and social networks like Vkontakte and Facebook.”

For a whole month afterward, the web content was heavily filtered, slowing down the computer network’s operation drastically. Lavetkina thought it was this filtering that hampered the publishing process so much. But the real situation turned out to be still worse: additional filters on the editorial office computers rendered the newspaper’s publishing impossible in principle.

At the month’s end, Lavetkina made a detailed list of the work hindrances and urged the university management to choose: either to give her a free hand to act or give her the sack – why torment her further?

“On the very next morning, this cross between a service memo and a howl of despair was eagerly signed, firing me instantly, without the need to work for two more weeks, as required under the labour code,” she commented ironically. “So who was it who feared us bloggers so much, I wonder?”

Six months earlier another blogger, Marina Belova, a physics lecturer, had been coerced into resigning because of similarly unbearable working conditions created for her. Significantly enough, the two young women received meagre salaries at the university, which meant both were driven by pure enthusiasm. Many believe the elderly director, Valery Chumanov, 65, was hardly ever able, all by himself, to get them out as subtly and accurately as was done in this case – by an intolerable work schedule offered to one and a “hanging” computer with web content filters imposed on the other. Yet Chumanov insists he personally banned all the social networks, since these “aren’t essential” to the university newspaper’s operation. No one ever came to the university to tell him what to do, he said; he just doesn’t like “to see university PCs misused”. He has fought this “web sedition” ever since the university was established, he said, adding that “no one ever coerced the bloggers into resigning – they did it of their own free will”.

Students and professors knowing the director well say he would never have unleashed those repressions himself. Both Belova and Lavetkina wrote a lot about politics, mostly after their working hours. In June 2011, they posted a web report about the miserable conditions in which male university students undergo their (pre-graduation) military training; the story triggered a chain of local and federal inspections to identify the alleged thieves of canned beef from cadets’ knapsacks. Evidently, someone did not forget that publication. It took the revenge-takers quite some time to implement their plans, but they did attain their goal in the end, by turning the two “ferocious” lady bloggers into housewives.

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitoring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.


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