12 Апреля 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 565

9 April 2012



Moscow/Moscow Region: Police sleeps – soundly and serenely

Yet another journalist – Yelena Milashina, special report editor at the Novaya Gazeta (NG) newspaper – has been beaten and robbed, this time in Balashikha, Moscow Region.

The attack occurred just after midnight on 5 March.

“We were returning home with a friend when two men attacked us,” Milashina said. “They beat us fiercely on the face and head with fists and feet – knocked out my teeth and left bumps and bruises on my temples.”

Three girls who happened to be passing by prevented the editor and her friend from suffering still more serious injuries. But the criminals did rob their victims of money and a notebook PC.

Coming to a few minutes later, Milashina called the police several times, but in vain. Tired of waiting, the journalist and her friend went home. NG deputy editor-in-chief Sergei Sokolov called Milashina later to say she should dial not 02 but 0911 or 112, while he would be trying to contact “someone (at the police) who isn’t asleep”.

“At 2 a.m. a police jeep pulled over at long last, which I learned from the girls who’d saved us from the assailants – they stayed there to wait,” Yelena said. “We walked back to the site of the attack. In the police jeep, which was locked, the driver sat sleeping. In the back seat, two police officers were questioning a witness. We knocked on the windscreens several times, only to see the policemen silently smile at us from the inside. We waited for 15 more minutes or so. It was cool in the street, and we were shaking with cold and nervousness. The policemen didn’t open a door or even pull down a screen. So we turned round and walked away and back home from that locked jeep.”

Already at the entrance to their apartment house, the police jeep caught up with them, and the officers told the girls to get in. “We’ll drive you to the first-aid station,” they said, but Milashina refused to go, putting off investigation until the morning. The officers then told her to “phone again where you phoned the first time, and cancel your call of the police”.

The police, though, described the situation differently. First, Milashina’s call had been “transferred from Moscow to Balashikha”; then it had taken them some time to get to the scene of the crime – only to “find the journalist absent; a friend of hers was there, waiting for the patrol vehicle, but she refused to file a report on the attack,” Yevgeny Gildiyev, spokesman for the regional police department, told Gazeta.ru. “A group of operatives with an investigator immediately left for the scene of the crime but found the victim absent,” Marina Lazareva, official spokeswoman for the Chief Administration of the Moscow Region Interior Department, told the BaltFax news agency. “Some eyewitnesses were present, but they refused to comment to the police on what had happened.”

In the morning on 5 April the police finally woke up. Valery Gribakin, chief of the Interior Ministry’s PR Department, called Novaya Gazeta on the phone; and Valery Samokhin, deputy head of the Balashikha police department, personally came to the first-aid centre where Milashina was receiving medical assistance, to question the journalist. But then, few are hoping the attack will be investigated in full, and not only because too much time was lost.

NG staffers have not rushed to link the assault with the victim’s professional activity, although this version cannot be ruled out: Yelena Milashina is a continuer of Anna Politkovskaya’s cause; she reported on the Nord-Ost hostage crisis, the Beslan tragedy, people’s disappearance in the North Caucasus, law violations by law enforcers, and protest rallies.

Besides, there are some meaningful details about the attack. Yelena’s friend suffered much lighter bodily harm, and the assailants even returned the purse with money and documents of which they had robbed her. But they beat Milashina in earnest.

“That was either a totally unmotivated attack or one … related to my probe into some very dirty abuses by the Drug Control Authority,” Yelena said.

Meanwhile, the police have started criminal proceedings on robbery charges under Article 161 of the RF Criminal Code.



Republic of Dagestan. Police officers destroy journalist’s photo report

By Magomed Magomedov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Ruslan Alibekov, a photo correspondent for the newspaper Chernovik, was detained by police in Makhachkala on 29 March while fulfilling an editorial assignment – to take photo pictures of the concrete slabs encircling the city police headquarters.

Before switching on his camera, Alibekov showed his press card to a police guard at the entrance and told him he would take some pictures. But hardly had he begun photographing when two police officers ran up to him and to lead him by the hand into the police department building. Although he presented his ID, duty officers took quite some time checking his identity, then erased all the pictures from his camera’s memory stick before letting him go. He had barely walked the 150 metres to the republican Interior Ministry and State Security Department headquarters when he was detained again – this time by three policemen, of whom one pointed his gun at him. As a result, the journalist again found himself at the police station, to spend another hour and a half there.

No one explained to Alibekov the reasons for his detention which was not even registered. These actions unambiguously constitute interference with a journalist’s work – an offence punishable under Article 144 of the RF Criminal Code.

Chernovik staffers said their representatives met with Makhachkala police chief Ali Akhmedov, who said he knows Alibekov as a calm and law-abiding person; he was surprised by his detention and promised to look closer at the circumstances and take all appropriate measures.

Alibekov has repeatedly been detained by police without any explanation, and his photo material was, as a rule, erased, his colleagues noted.

Ryazan Region. Printing house under censorship

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The management of the printing house in Skopin, Ryazan Region, has refused to print the newspaper Skopinsky Vestnik (SV), the Nasha Ryazan web portal reported.

Half the print run had been already done when the house management suddenly ordered stopping the printing machines. “We aren’t in a position to print your newspaper,” they told the SV chief editor.

The editorial board had to take urgent steps to save the issue: the rest of the copies were printed at the regional printing company “Pressa” and the Skopin printers’ behaviour was reported to the city authorities. When City Council Chairman Vassily Vorobyov demanded explanations, the printing house director told him, “If they clip out O. Nevolina’s story ‘Profit at Any Cost?’, we’ll resume the printing.”

The SV staffers are awaiting a reaction from the authorities overseeing compliance with effective legislation, specifically with the Media Law.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will follow the developments in Skopin closely.

[Based on Nasha Ryazan web portal reports]

Sverdlovsk Region. Reporter needs protection against police

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

RF Deputy Prosecutor General Yuri Ponomaryov has insistently advised Aksana Panova, the chief editor of the Ura.ru news agency, to file a report with the Federal Security Service (FSB) requesting the assignment of bodyguards to protect her in connection with reports on alleged corrupt practices within the Interior Ministry’s Chief Administration for the Sverdlovsk Region. The said reports have been posted on her agency’s website.

“Yuri Ponomaryov knows more than I do about the organised crime ring under the Interior Ministry ‘roof’,” Panova wrote in an article posted on the same site. “He advised me not to try being ‘a hero’, to step aside and think about my kid’s safety. They are doing business there, he said [with reference to corrupt law enforcers - Translator.] But I won’t step aside. We’re to talk over with him a few more things today. I appreciate Mr Ponomaryov’s concern over my integrity, but I won’t file any such report, because I think it absurd … to ask for my own and my family’s protection against the police.”

Meanwhile, more people have sent letters to Ura.ru complaining of damage they have suffered at the hands of Sverdlovsk police. It looks like they have lost their patience. After the detention of Sverdlovsk police officer Sergei Rakhmanov while taking a bribe of 14 million roubles (approx. US $470,000) – allegedly collected from entrepreneurs to be handed over to his command – other businessmen started openly discussing the outrageous behaviour of the regional police.

Website visitors have left many comments expressing solidarity with the journalists.

Sverdlovsk Region. Opposition deemed “always wrong”

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing public communications – Translator.] department for the Sverdlovsk Region has warned the independent newspaper Chas Pik, based in the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma, of the inadmissibility of “extremist activity”.

The warning followed a publication dated 17 August 2011 that voiced residents’ concerns over Gypsies putting up tents in large numbers around the home of one of their leaders. Among other things, local people claimed dissatisfied with some details of the Gypsy life style, such as their habit of easing nature right on the street without paying attention to the presence of women or children; sitting around bonfires all day long; and washing themselves and their linen outside, near the water column.

The Roskomnadzor warning said that “the facts described in the article characterise the Gypsies negatively” and hence, may be “insulting to their ethnic feelings”. It is unclear why Roskomnadzor should make conclusions as far-fetched as this, since the article in question referred not to the Gypsies as a people but to particular individuals camping out in one of the town streets and scaring local residents.

The latter is really true, since tenants of nearby houses have repeatedly filed complaints with the police, and those complaints were actually checked – but to everybody’s bewilderment, the law enforcers found this kind of Gypsy behaviour “perfectly lawful” and, still more surprising, “compliant with existing sanitary norms”.

“Roskomnadzor must have been annoyed by my pointing to those people’s nationality,” Alexei Gerasimov, the article’s author, said. “But I didn’t pull this out of a hat – a police check-up resulted in a report mentioning ‘ethnic Gypsies’.”

Judging by everything, Roskomnadzor’s belated reaction has a simple explanation: local authorities may be trying in this way to forestall Chas Pik’s further criticism of the local administration.

“The authorities and police are unwilling to change anything; so they just decided to gag us,” Gerasimov said.

Chas Pik is currently preparing appeals to Roskomnadzor, the Prosecutor General’s Office, RF Public Chamber and RF Journalists’ Union.

Voronezh. Newspaper wins case in court

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Kominternovsky district court in Voronezh has considered an honour, dignity and business reputation defence claim filed by Vladimir Pashentsev, ex-head of the Belgorod branch of VTB Bank, in the wake of an article, “The Banking Cobweb”, published by the newspaper Belgorodskaya Pravda (BP) and its website Belpravda.ru in July 2010 and reprinted by the Abireg.ru business news agency. BP chief editor and web administrator Vladimir Dannikov and Abireg’s director and web administrator Dmitry Orishchenko posed in court as co-defendants.

The publication said, in part, that “as a result of Pashentsev’s activity, the organisations under his control inflicted losses in excess of 2 billion roubles on VTB Bank”. The plaintiff demanded that this and a few other statements published by the two media be disclaimed, with that each co-defendant pay him 1 million roubles in moral damages.

It should be noted that as of the date of his filing the claim, Pashentsev was facing office abuse charges (Article 201 of the RF Criminal Code) in another, criminal, case opened against him by the Belgorod branch of the RF Investigative Committee at the request of VTB.

In the course of the hearings, the defendants presented evidence in support of the information they had circulated. Specifically, they tabled letters from the bank management and investigators that confirmed the size of the damage done to the organisation – actually, twice the amount mentioned by the journalists in their publication. The defendants made references to international law and judicial practices of the European Court of Human Rights. They stressed that the independent investigation carried out by the journalists was of major public interest, and that the article criticised the poor professional performance of a public figure – the head manager of a branch of one of Russia’s largest banks operating with financial support from the state. The fact that Pashentsev was officially accused later confirmed the importance of the issue raised by the journalists, the defendants said. Besides, the article’s authors honestly said that the investigation was not yet over; they refrained from any decisive conclusions, only describing one of the versions and citing statements made by the bank management.

Also, the defendants questioned the findings of an expert linguistic study ordered by the plaintiff extra-judicially. They pointed to a number of instances where a lady expert, in their view, exceeded the range of her authority – for example, by concluding that the publication was “smearing” in its character, although it is up to a court of law to qualify it as such. Besides, she provided an evaluation of statements “concerning Pashentsev’s failure to duly perform his economic functions” – and this despite Article 79 of the RF Code of Civil Procedure’s stipulating that subject to expert evaluation may only be matters requiring an expert’s special knowledge in science, technology, art or handicraft. No expert is supposed to evaluate legal matters; these are only to be judged by a court of law.

Also, the plaintiff failed to present proofs of the fact or size of the “moral damage” he claims to have suffered, or of a cause-effect relation between circulation of the disputed information and the moral damage claimed.

As a result, the court turned Pashentsev’s legal claim down in full. The interests of Belgorodskaya Pravda and Dannikov were represented in court by defence lawyer Anastasia Vostrikova of the Media Rights Defence Centre in Voronezh.

Republic of Karelia. Journalist barred from mayoral conference

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

Officials of the city administration in Petrozavodsk have prohibited a reporter for the “Petrozavodsk” newspaper to attend an open conference in the mayor’s office, which decision was clearly unlawful, since the conference was devoted to children’s sports. The republican Journalists’ Union complained to the regional branch of Roskomnadzor and prosecutor’s office asking them to evaluate the behaviour of municipal officials habitually breaching Russian legislation and hampering journalists’ work.

A recent reply message from Roskomnadzor head D. Artyukhin acknowledged the “absence of legal grounds for restricting ‘Petrozavodsk’ reporter T. Demidova’s right of access to information” and informed the JU of the agency’s forwarding the case to the prosecutor’s office so that it “take steps to prevent similar journalist rights violations in the future”.

The prosecutor’s office has thus far failed to reply to the journalists’ complaint.

Teachers, coaches and activists of parent-teacher associations staged a picketing action outside the mayor’s office a few days ago in a bid to disrupt the administration’s secret plans of reorganising the children’s sports schools by way of reducing the number of such schools from seven to three. If the press had been admitted to the mayoral conference, there would have been no need for the protest action.



GDF appeal to public and state-and-public organisations and media

The Glasnost Defence Foundation has accumulated impressive experience in organising short-term schools with a view to improving journalist skills in different kinds and genres of journalism.

In the past few years, such schools have been held in Karelia, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok and Saratov, offering tutoring in human rights reporting, journalistic investigations, and civil journalism for bloggers.

Those efforts involved hiring local organisers and specialists on a contractual basis. That was a good and useful practice, although local managers failed to show an equal degree of motivation to attain the best possible results.

We have obtained a two-year grant for organising two more law schools for journalists, two other for investigative reporters, and three civil journalism schools for bloggers. We have all the necessary methodology, a core pool of instructors, and most of the requisite teaching aids. Also, we have DVDs featuring lectures delivered by lawyer Yuri Baturin, journalist Leonid Nikitinsky, judge Sergei Pashin, blogger Anton Nosik, scholar Mikhail Gorbanevsky and other celebrity specialists who have taken part in our school projects co-ordinated by such eminent journalists as Igor Korolkov and Grigory Pasko (Moscow), Sergei Plotnikov (Yekaterinburg), Natalia Ostrovskaya (Vladivostok) and Alexander Krutov (Saratov).

We are looking for potential local cost-sharing partners capable of representing the collective interests of local media, public associations and universities, ensuring that the training course is region-specific and bearing responsibility for the student selection and quality of education on a par with us.

GDF President
Alexei Simonov
Contact phones: (+7) 495 637 4420 – reception;
(+7) 495 637 5023 – executive director


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



Mayor of Chelyabinsk a goblin?

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Police in Chelyabinsk are again trying to scrape up evidence to reopen criminal proceedings against Alexei Tabalov, a blogger and human rights activist who once called the city mayor, Mr Davydov, a “mean and scary goblin” in his LiveJournal blog. The law enforcers are now checking whether or not this characteristic was accurate.

The Sovetsky district prosecutor’s office challenged a court’s refusal to institute legal proceedings against Tabalov and returned the case for review, signalling the start of a new phase in the opposition activist’s confrontation with law enforcement.

The conflict boils down to the following. As she browsed through the Internet nearly five months ago, on the eve of the Duma elections, Irina Anfalova, director of High School No. 8, happened to click on the link to Tabalov’s blog. Her heart sank as she read, “Enough is enough – I’m going to the polls!” followed by an equally emotional comment protesting against “unlawful methods used by the municipal administration to exert pressure on electors”. Seeing this as a graphic instance of “insult to government executives performing their official duties”, the school principal reported to the police. That gave rise to a criminal case that was later closed and now reopened.

“My meeting with the investigator clearly showed that the criminal case against me is pre-ordered and politically underpinned,” Tabalov told the GDF correspondent. “It is not limited to the one posting which raised all this hullaballoo and kick-started this persecution campaign; it embraces my other texts as well. It’s absolutely clear that the instigator, Ms Anfalova – a member of United Russia, a participant in the United National Front primaries, and an official of the regional Education Ministry – only performed as an actuator. The real masterminds are sitting in the regional administration offices, and the main driving force of the case is the regional police department and its anti-extremism unit head, Mr Skorobogatov. It’s he who ordered a linguistic expert study of my texts asking to find in them some signs of extremism, libel, and insult to top-ranking government executives.”

The case files include notarized copies of all of the blogger’s postings on public and political life of the past few months, covering a wide range of themes, among them elections, army morale, administration attempts to cut down the pine forest within the city boundaries, and activities of the regional and local authorities. Also, it includes “linguistic expert conclusions” boiling down to the assertion that anything Tabalov writes in his web blog is part of a pre-planned PR campaign aiming to undermine the public image of government executives.

“The quality of these expert conclusions leaves much to be desired,” Tabalov commented. “Not only are all the phrases analysed outside the general context; the expert also feels free to conjecture, think up what he thinks is missing. I want to publicly discuss (the conclusions) … in court.”

“The investigator asked me during the questioning, among other things, about what I meant by calling Davydov ‘a fairy-tale goblin’. I wonder by what particular criteria the expert may judge whether or not Chelyabinsk Mayor Davydov may be listed as belonging within the category of fairy-tale characters, such as goblins. He insists, for example, that goblins are ‘greedy and silly’ creatures – a point that I totally disagree with! In my view, they are generous, hardworking, brave and selfless guys!” blogger Tabalov said without any irony…



Public television launched in Perm Region (Volga)

The first ever public show, “People and Power”, was aired on Perm Region TV on 30 March, produced with assistance from Regional Human Rights Ombudswoman Tatyana Margolina and Governor Oleg Chirkunov.

The show was prepared by a group of activists led by journalist Yelena Veselkova, who have long called for a regional public TV channel to be established on the basis of UralInformTV Co.

The pilot project envisages a series of 4 releases covering a range of civil practices in the area of public control, which are to prove that anyone who is willing and ready may control the power system, so as to improve life “here and now”.

Journalist Irina Kizilova, an activist of the “Memorial” association, has worked in defence of draftees and army servicemen for many years now. She appeared in the TV show to describe a civil action, “Redundant Soldier”, aiming to denounce military commanders who treat soldiers as slaves. Svetlana Denisova, deputy head of the regional Public Chamber, suggested ways to effectively control enforcement of the ban on alcohol sales to underage persons. Denis Smagin, organiser of an action to rebuild and renovate the region’s roads, shared with viewers his experience of controlling the quality of road building and repairs. Sergei Vilisov, an activist of the “Time Essence” association, with a group of co-thinkers, has protested against renaming of city streets. Yelena Chernyayeva and her fellow activists from a group of public control over housing and communal service providers, have carried out a study of tariffs in the relevant sphere, and presented conclusions by the regional Chamber of Accounts confirming that the current tariffs are inordinately high. And civil activist Irina Tikhomirova described recent efforts to tackle ecological problems in the township of Levshino.

The “People and Power” show was prepared in accordance with internationally accepted public television standards. The producers selected a socially significant theme – public control over government performance – and made a live talk show with an interactive vote capacity, to emphasise the social importance of the themes covered.

Adding to the general “public” tonality of the project, the organisers elected a public board of trustees to negotiate with the TV company management and approve an essentially new concept, theme and format of the show. The scripts and lists of guest speakers, too, were approved by the project initiators.

Financing of the show will not be strictly public, since the project is part of the governor’s state order programme. But the ordering party will not interfere in the production process – an experience that is unprecedented in Russia. Actually, the performance specification was formulated by the initiator group with the TV company’s participation as the contractor.

For further details, please contact Yeleva Veselkova, the group leader, at eveselkova @ mail.ru


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.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 432, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

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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