15 Января 2018 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 827-828

January 15 , 2018


Vienna conference describes impunity for crimes against journalists as challenge to media freedom

By GDF Information Service

A meeting in Vienna on 11 December discussed ways to end impunity for crimes committed against journalists. The event organiser was the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, in cooperation with the Media Governance and Industries Research Lab at the Department of Communication of the University of Vienna.

The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media notes that the number of threats issued to journalists reached a record high in 2016. There has been a lack of progress in the fight against impunity for crimes. In around 90 percent of cases concerning killing of journalists in the OSCE region, the perpetrators and masterminds remain unpunished.

The Vienna forum brought together experts of the Council of Europe, UNESCO, Reporters sans Frontieres, the International Federation of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, the Association of European Journalists, Article 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship etc.

The speakers included Harlem Désir, the representative on the freedom of media for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Katharine Sarikakis, Professor of Media Industries, Media Organisation and Media Governance, University of Vienna, Guy Berger, UNESCO director for freedom of expression and media development and Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, Article 19.

Discussions focused on practical, methodological and ethical issues of monitoring killings of journalists; the “round table” participants considered development of reliable methodology and joint actions to collect accurate and comprehensive information on such cases as well as measures to enhance journalists’ safety.

Glasnost Defence Foundation representative Boris Timoshenko’s report addressed the recent increase in the number of threats that were carried out. A recent joint survey by GDF and the Media Rights Defence Centre found that more than one third of threats were made good. In the period from January 2004 through September 2017, 11 journalists were killed after they were threatened; 59 reporters were attacked after receiving threats and 16 journalists, including two GDF correspondents, had to leave Russia because of threats.

Timoshenko suggested that police should investigate not only murders and attacks on journalists but also the threats issued against them, thus beginning to fight impunity before these threats can be carried out.

The report acknowledges that fleeing the country is the only reliable way to counter impunity amidst rare and inefficient law-enforcers’ probes into crimes against journalists. 


Ceremony at Moscow’s House of Journalists commemorates killed colleagues

15 December is Remembrance Day of Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty. A meeting in Moscow’s Central House of Journalists venerated the memory of the deceased colleagues.

It brought together their relatives and friends, media representatives and concerned people from all regions of the country. After a minute of silence which launched the event Honorary Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov took the floor.

“We live in a difficult time, but we’ll join hands and carry on our work regardless. We have to restore the society’s confidence in our profession at all costs while keeping in mind that loving and trusting are crucial to man,” Bogdanov said.

The next speaker, RUJ Chairman Vladimir Solovyov cited frightening statistics: some 300 Russian journalists had been killed in the line of duty since 1991. “Investigations into many cases are not finished yet, but the Union of Journalists is set to seek justice,” the RUJ chairman said. He pledged that the RUJ team would keep the best traditions accumulated over a long period of time.

“Every year on 15 December we’ll gather here to commemorate our colleagues, friends and relatives. It is important not only for us, but also for the young people who wish to be journalists. They should be inspired by heroic deeds of the people who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty,” he said.

As a special treat to the participants, well-known pianist Yekaterina Derzhavina played a Bach piece.


Volgograd Region Investigative Committee refuses to start criminal proceedings on suspicion of deliberate damage to Bloknot Volgograda editor’s car brakes

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

On 26 November, Bloknot Volgograda editor Yulia Zavyalova’s car was in motion when its brakes failed. Luckily, it was her father, an experienced driver, who was steering the car at the moment. He managed to stop it in the emergency. “My dad has a 30-year driving record; he successfully regained control of the vehicle, I’m scared to image what could have happened if I had been in the driver’s seat,” Yulia said. “Perhaps, this is what they had hoped for!” Yulia Zavyalova believes that it was an assassination attempt on her life. On that day, Yulia had to drive her daughter to school as usual, but the day before, she asked her dad to go to a car maintenance centre to fit her car with snow tyres.

Volgograd Region Forensic Centre specialists said that a brake cable of Yulia’s Volkswagen Tiguan had been severed and that the anti-lock braking system had been disabled. “A section of the car brake shows mechanical damage such as four punctures, which might have been caused by awl, point of a knife or screwdriver workface. An ABS cable also shows mechanical damage such as rupture,” forensic experts said.

Yulia Zavyalova believes it was an assassination attempt on her life that had to do with her professional activity. Bloknot Volgograda has topped regional media rankings; over the past few years it has published critical stories about Volgograd region governor Andrey Bocharov, regional administration, Volgograd Town Hall officials and corrupt ties between the authorities and business people.

After conducting a pre-investigation probe, the police initiated criminal proceedings under Criminal Code Article 167 (damage to property) and sent the case materials and expert examinations reports to the Investigative Committee Department for the Volgograd region which had to decide if an investigation into attempted murder should be opened. However, the injured party told a GDF correspondent that the Investigative Committee had refused to initiate criminal proceedings over attempted murder. “The investigator told me that if the police found the suspects, they would file a case,” Yulia Zavyalova said.

Chief editor of The Independent Barents Observer (Norway) fails to obtain court permission to enter Russia

The Moscow City Court disallowed a claim by Norwegian journalist Thomas Nilsen against Russia’s Federal Security Service. On 8 March 2017, FSB officers stopped Nilsen on the Russian-Norwegian border saying he had been denied entry into the country. The journalist had accreditation and a five-year Russian visa (See GDF Digest 793 http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/1462).

The Russian Embassy in Norway later said that Nilsen had been put on the stop list in retaliation for Norway’s joining the EU sanctions against certain Russian nationals.

Lawyer Ivan Pavlov from Team 29 who represents the Norwegian journalist’s interests told an Internet portal correspondent that he would appeal the decision at Russia’s Supreme Court. Pavlov said the FSB treated the decision on barring entry into Russia to Nilsen as confidential information without explaining the reasons. “We have no idea what these ‘stop lists’ are which denied entry to Thomas Nilsen. We want to clarify the matter but they won’t show them,” he said. “We are trying to find out the reason which the FSB believes bars Thomas’s visit to Russia. They cite national security interests and we say: “OK, what are the facts that make you think so? What data provided the pretext to believe that Thomas Nilsen posed a threat to Russia’s national security?” The document on the decision to put Nilsen on the threat list was classified. Although our lawyer is on a written pledge not to divulge the state secret, the document has never been shown to him. Russian courts have seen a number of similar cases; nobody has ever been able to see the stop lists; I believe this problem can be resolved by the Constitutional Court.”

Radio station in Khabarovsk Region will not return official subsidies

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Khabarovsk Territory Arbitration Court (Judge I.Lazareva) refused to consider a claim by the regional government Committee for Press and Mass Communications against Vostok Rossii radio.

In April 2017, the authorities checked the regional radio station Vostok Rossii several times. Initially, the Committee for Press and Mass Communications expressed concern over the radio’s ineffective economic activity suggesting that the government liquidate the company and affiliate the radio station with a non profit-making organisation. It was followed by a prosecutor’s check into alleged duplicate budget payments for the same stories. Vostok Rossii Director General Yevgenia Razlataya told GDF that it had happened due to technical error. The error was eliminated and by no means could impact the amount of the requested subsidy (See Digest 800 http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/1477#z7).

The Khabarovsk Territory Committee for Press and Mass Communications filed a claim against Khabrovsk Territory Radio Ltd (which was Vostok Rossii’s new name adopted in the summer of 2017) on recovering from the company 3,421,061 rubles worth of subsidy it had received from the regional budget. After looking into the matter, the court said that the sensitive stories carried by the radio (which apparently irked the Committee) did not violate the subsidy terms. “The terms of subsidy, its goal-oriented use and subsidy effectiveness indicators are proven by case materials; there are no reasons for recovering the subsidy,” the court said.

Publishing house in Anapa faces five lawsuits for publications criticising city market director

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Central Town Market Director Dmitry Dyakonenko filed four defamation suits with the Anapa Town Court. Dyakonenko sued Everything For You - Anapa Publishing House and Bloknot Anapy editor-in-chief Anton Filimonov. The judge pooled the claims into one case; the overall damages claim is worth 1.45 million rubles. On top of that, Central Market JSC filed a claim with the Arbitration Court.

The conflict broke out in the summer of 2017 when Bloknot Anapy journalists visited the Central Market to check vegetables and fruits for nitrates content. The journalists said the market director reacted aggressively to the test threatening physical violence.

The incident was later recounted in the stories published by Bloknot Anapy and Everything for You - Anapa. Market Director Dmitry Dyakonenko filed a legal action demanding refutation of the posts and recovering a total of one million rubles in damages from Everything for You - Anapa JSC and Bloknot Anapy.

Publishing House journalists continued to cover the conflict, so new stories appeared in September and October featuring the Central Market director. The director filed a new action every time a story about him came out, demanding 150,000 rubles in damage for each post and its refutation.

At present, the court is mulling an expert examination of the stories challenged by the director.

Russian National Library in St. Petersburg challenges director’s ban on contacts with journalists

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Russian National Library employees, assisted by GDF’s long-standing partner Media Rights Defence Centre, complained to St Petersburg prosecutors about the ban on talking to reporters without permission.

Library personnel are unhappy about the administration’s Instruction No 2017 dated 26 October 2017 which commits them to securing written permit of the Library press service for interviews about the situation at their organisation.

The appointment of A.Visly as director of one of the country’s largest libraries was followed by a series of scandals over his management style and library development plans. Visly, a veteran employee of the Russian State Library who worked his way through to the post of its director was unexpectedly transferred to Petersburg whereupon plans were announced to merge the two libraries. Of course, questions were asked regarding these plans.

The director was criticised for victimizing the personnel who disagreed with him and leasing the historical building of the library to entertainment businesses... More complaints followed and a decision was made to set up a public rescue committee which repeatedly demanded A. Visly’s resignation at protest actions in St Petersburg. The position of activists and resentful Library personnel is well-known thanks to media coverage of the stand-off. The director then issued an order to silence those who objected to his policy. The personnel complained to the prosecutor over the violation of their right and the society’s right to receive information about the Russian National Library.

They insist that the Library administration has been concealing certain facts. “They’ve already tried to dismiss E.Shumilova, one of the best librarians, for criticising the administration’s merger plans at a news conference...” The director’s legalisation of punishment for public discussions of unwelcome issues eventually forced Library personnel to seek prosecutors’ help in defending their rights.

The complaint noted that the information on Library operation should not be treated as confidential. Many aspects of Library operation, such as the use of budget money must be transparent and open. Hence, A.Visly’s instruction violates the law.

The public rescue committee, supportive of Library personnel, lodged a complaint of its own with prosecutors. It noted a violation of their right and the right of the society in general to have information about the operation of the unique library which met much of city residents’ demand for information.

The appellants are now awaiting response from the prosecutor’s office.

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.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

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 Monitring 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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