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Glasnost Defence Foundation Digest No. 549 (12 December 2011)

posted 19 Dec 2011, 02:44 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Dec 2011, 02:50 ]

Weekly Digest No. 549 (12 December 2011)


Post-election protests



1. Chelyabinsk Region (Urals). Reports on vote rigging banned

2. Krasnodar Region (South). District newspaper refused to publish Yabloko party’s campaigning material

3. Republic of Tuva (Siberia). Opposition newspaper pressured

4. Rostov Region (South). Disfavoured editor fired again

5. Omsk (Siberia). District newspaper editor challenges her dismissal. See Digest No. 540

6. Chelyabinsk (Urals). Yet another attempt to gag blogger

7. Yekaterinburg (Urals). Journalists detained

8. Republic of Dagestan (North Caucasus). Public gatherings forbidden



Some statistics cited



Reporters manhandled while covering protest actions in Moscow



1. Andrei Sakharov Award winners to be honoured at ceremony in Central House of Journalists on 15 December

2. Statement by RF Journalists’ Union





Post-election protests


Post-election events had been easy to predict: on 5-7 December people took to the streets to stage protests, journalists to cover those actions, and police to detain representatives of both groups.


In Moscow and St. Petersburg alone, about 50 journalists were detained, regardless of their press cards, their jackets with the inscribed word PRESS, and even of their certificates of accreditation with the city police departments. Police officers’ brutal behaviour was appalling. Among the manhandled reporters were Alexander Chernykh, a correspondent for Kommersant Daily; Anatoly Baranov, chief editor of the news website; Veniamin Trubachev, a correspondent for the Inter TV channel (Ukraine), and others.


Detentions and beatings were not the only repressive measures taken against protesters. Troops of the so-called “Kadyrov regiment” reportedly started to arrive in Moscow, upholding the previous “ruling” party’s tradition of sending troops to different capitals, including Budapest, Prague, Kabul – and Moscow, too. One needn’t be reminded what that all resulted in. Premier Putin’s personal spokesman Dmitry Peskov must have felt uneasy about it too, since he hastened to say on 6 December that “the national leader has never been directly connected with the party, so he is regarded as an independent politician, rather than as a party member; these two statuses are different.”


Meanwhile, the detention of journalists during police crackdowns on street activists caused protests from public organisations, among them the RF Journalists’ Union, the Public Chamber and the Committee to Protect Journalists.


“I think that in the heat of political battles the authorities and law enforcement forgot that the journalists were performing their professional duty,” Pavel Gusev, head of the Public Chamber’s Commission on Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom, told the Interfax news agency. “Journalists are not to blame for what’s going on in city squares… We must protest this kind of journalist maltreatment.”


“We urge the Russian authorities to release journalists from detention … and allow them to cover protest actions without fearing repression,” Nina Ognyanova, CPJ Russia and Eurasia Programme Director, said.


Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, urged the Russian authorities to protect journalists from being arrested while covering protest actions, and from police aggressiveness. “It’s a duty of the police to protect journalists, not to intimidate or detain them,” she said.


The Russian Journalists’ Union condemned police brutalities and demanded “that all those shameful incidents be effectively investigated and that the persons who issued unlawful orders and who carried these orders out be prosecuted” (for the full text of the RJU statement, see the OUR PARTNERS section below). The Media Union appealed to Internal Affairs Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev to “ensure the integrity of journalists covering mass public actions and not hamper their doing their professional work”.


However, Russian law enforcers took this public censure calmly. Moreover, Gen. Mikhail Sukhodolsky, chief of the police department of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region, did not hesitate to firmly state that police officers will continue detaining journalists during protest actions because “they can’t be unmistakably distinguished from protesters”.


The general seemed to see nothing wrong about saying this, which signalled his actual connivance at violations of Russian legislation, particularly of the Media Law, by his subordinates. This is really alarming.


But not all police generals are like him. The far larger protest rally in Moscow on 10 December did not lead to any excesses, which indicates our law enforcers are still capable of doing their job normally.





1. Chelyabinsk Region. Reports on vote rigging banned


By Irina Gundareva,

GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District


Journalists in the South Urals have been prohibited on various pretexts to publish reports on falsifications that occurred in the Chelyabinsk Region during elections to the State Duma on 4 December.


For example, on 6 December the news agency posted on its website a story entitled “The Last Shall Be First, or How United Russia’s 37% Turned into 63%”. The authors described their work as observers at Magnitogorsk polling stations, where the United Russia party had been losing everywhere until the vote ratios suddenly changed in its favour by some miracle, giving the URP a landslide victory at virtually each polling station. The story ended as follows:


“But let us turn back to Precinct No. 1438, where Vladimir Chernukha was electoral committee head. We will try to contact him shortly to ask him directly how he had managed to turn the 35% votes collected by the URP into 88%. Although his name speaks for itself [Russ. colloquialism chernukha means gallows humour, gruesome stories, etc. – Translator.], he may muster up enough courage to frankly admit he had been pressured into playing this trick. Or had he taken a bribe?”


The news agency management had to sustain considerable pressure after the story was published; Pavel Verstov in person was summoned to the competent agencies and ordered to remove this “extremist” publication from the agency’s website which promptly came under a fierce DDos attack compelling him to switch the site off and erase the controversial story.


The owners of another news website,, were threatened by the regional administration with service agreement termination if at least one more story about vote rigging were posted.



2. Krasnodar Region. District newspaper refused to publish Yabloko party’s campaigning material


By Victoria Tashmatova,

GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District


The Priazovskiye Stepi (PS) district newspaper refused to publish a story entitled “Yeisk is Wrong Place for Oil Terminals and No Trans-shipment Point for Gas, Oil or Chemicals”, prepared by the Krasnodar Region branch of the Yabloko party.


In line with the federal laws “On Election of Deputies of the State Duma of the RF Federal Assembly” and “On Political Parties”, PS was required to publish Yabloko’s campaigning material. Moreover, Yabloko had in advance concluded a duly formalised agreement with that newspaper on the allocation of free page space for its campaigning stuff. As early as 21 November, it had submitted the above-named article to PS chief editor Svetlana Zanina who had accepted it without any claims and had issued an appropriate certificate.


But shortly before the voting day, on 29 November, Yabloko activists received a notice from Zanina suggesting that they replace their story with another one, of the same length, because “your information about the critical ecological situation in the city of Yeisk fails to meet the impartiality and accuracy criteria”. The editor’s hint at a biased nature of the publication looked really strange in the context of news reports about a gas discharge from a local oil terminal that had covered the city shortly before.


Unofficial sources say it was the Yeisk district administration that had banned Yabloko’s publication. Yabloko activists see this as a violation of their lawful rights and will insist on the prosecution of those responsible.



3. Republic of Tuva (Siberia). Opposition newspaper pressured


By Natalia Severskaya,

GDF correspondent in Central Federal District


S. Konviz, director of RISK Ltd., has complained to the Glasnost Defence Foundation about the RISK newspaper (released by his company) coming under administrative pressure in the wake of its protests against vote rigging during the latest elections.


“The Government of Tuva initiated a variety of inspections of the printing firm which prints our newspaper,” Konviz said. “During the week following the voting day, the printing firm’s office was searched three times on different far-fetched pretexts, with all of its products confiscated. Officials of Rosprirodnadzor [federal service overseeing nature management] simultaneously inspected the printing company premises but failed to identify any violations.”


Besides, on 6 December Tuva Internal Affairs Minister A. Lobanov ordered the seizure of the full print run of RISK issue No. 39 en route to press distributors, Konviz said adding that the republic’s Government and Interior Ministry have unlawfully exerted pressure on newspaper vendors. “On 8 December, police officers in Kyzyl detained 17 retail sellers, kept them at the police station for three hours and then released them, having unlawfully confiscated their newspapers,” the RISK director said.


“United Russia functionaries and the Government and Interior Ministry of Tuva are thus violating human rights by hampering the publication and distribution of a newspaper registered in full accordance with existing legal requirements,” Konviz said.



4. Rostov Region. Disfavoured editor fired again


By Anna Lebedeva,

GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District


Irina Vasilyeva, editor of the Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti (NV) newspaper, was first dismissed from her office in August this year on orders from the city administration of Novocherkassk, without the consent or even notification of the other newspaper trustees. Alexander Tolmachev, a prominent regional reporter, was appointed the newspaper’s director; he had only had the time to release two NV issues (not signed by the editor-in-chief whose position was simply unfilled at the time) before receiving a warning from Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing public communications].


Vasilyeva lodged a legal claim and won the case. The court proclaimed her dismissal unlawful and ruled to have her reinstated as both NV editor-in-chief and director of the municipal unitary enterprise issuing the newspaper. She worked in the business-as-usual mode for the following three months, until administration officials came to inspect her office and take stock of the equipment. All the chairs proved to be there, but a scanned copy of a page from the newspaper Narodnaya Gazeta was found lying on the scanner’s lid (to give the editor an idea about the six-column make-up used by his colleagues, a format NV intends to borrow). Having taken a photo picture of the scanned page on the scanner top, the inspectors went away. On the very next day, Vasilyeva was fired in line with Article 81.1.9 of the Labour Code – “for inappropriate use of the organisation’s property”, which motivation was written also into her work record card.


“They came again bringing a video camera to record me submitting the company seal and leaving the office,” she told the GDF correspondent adding that she doesn’t know “where they’re going to watch this ‘exciting’ video.”


Very likely, it will be shown to Mayor Nikolai Kondratenko who did not see the disagreeable editor’s departure with his own eyes.


Alexander Tolmachev has been re-appointed NV director; the chief editor’s post, according to sources within the city administration, was offered to Sergey Azarov, who had replaced Svetlana Alipova as editor of the Perekryostok newspaper in the town of Belaya Kalitva the day she was dismissed, but had resigned after her reinstatement.



5. Omsk. District newspaper editor challenges her dismissal. See Digest No. 540


By Georgy Borodyansky,

GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District


It seems none of the dismissed editors of newspapers controlled by the Omsk Region administration have ever challenged their dismissals in court before. Maria Yeliseyeva, chief editor of the Tarskoye Priirtyshye (TP) district newspaper, is the first to do so. The Central district court in Omsk is considering her legal claim against the Main Department on the Press, TV/Radio Broadcasting, and Media Affairs.


As we have reported in the GDF Digest, the work agreement with the editor of one of Russia’s best district newspapers highly rated by local residents was terminated because of its “considerable deviation” from the course charted by the party and regional administration, as the district leader, Mr Zuikov, put it (see ). Testifying in court, Yeliseyeva said Vladimir Radul, the governor’s chief of staff, had summoned her in summer to tell her Zuikov had complained about TP to the regional head during his working visit to the Tara district, and warned him it might be difficult with such a newspaper to secure United Russia’s victory in Duma and Legislative Assembly elections, which had caused the governor to insist on her dismissal.


On 3 October Alexander Belash, head of the Media Department, signed an order on Yeliseyeva’s replacement – a document that is thought to be legally questionable in some of its aspects. For example, Article 18 of the Media Law stipulates that “the trustees shall not interfere in a media outlet’s activities” unless this is deemed to be of exceptional importance; clearly, an editor’s replacement without explanation is a rude form of such interference. TP had not given any reason for this – it had never published any “extremist” stuff and had been fully self-sufficient economically, earning 8 million roubles a year, with subsidies from the regional budget making up only a tenth of that amount.


Shortly before Yeliseyeva’s dismissal, Belash had sent all the district newspaper editors a directive shedding additional light on why the TP editor was actually replaced. It read:


“I am specially stressing that the theme of the regional government’s assize sitting in a municipal district [the district of Tara] should not overshadow reports about Governor L. Polezhayev’s activities; it may receive extensive coverage (on two to three pages of a district newspaper) in the light of Governor Polezhayev’s activities… We recommend that each report on Governor Polezhayevs working visit and the regional governments assize sitting be coordinated with the Main Departments district media unit.”


Marina Yeliseyeva is claiming 50,000 roubles in moral damages from the Media Department which dismissed her. Actually, the court is to answer the question of whether a journalist working for a media outlet controlled by regional power is entitled not to engage in political prostitution.



6. Chelyabinsk. Yet another attempt to gag blogger


By Irina Gundareva,

GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District


Attempts are being made – for some reason, through an unidentified lady schoolteacher – to have Chelyabinsk-based blogger Alexei Tabalov held liable for defaming government officials.


An ordinary schoolteacher claiming to regularly read Tabalov’s LiveJournal entries has reportedly complained to the regional police chief, Mr Skalunov, that “the blogger defamed government officials who were performing their official duties”; the allegedly insulting statements featured in his October 18 posting “Enough is enough! I’m going to the polls!” in which Tabalov condemned censorship. One passage read as follows:


“We all remember the recent conferences held by gubernatorial administration officials Doronina, Polozov and Yevdokimov with the head managers of local media outlets and printing firms, to tell them what to publish, whose writings to select, what events to cover and in what light, what to edit out, how to keep the public under United Russia’s increasingly tough pressure, and whom to vote for.”


The teacher’s complaint gave rise to a preliminary investigation and Tabalov’s questioning in connection with his web comments.


“Evidently, the ‘lady schoolteacher’ felt very much offended, since she supplied screenshots (certified by a notary) of all my postings for a whole month, in package with ‘expert conclusions’ written by a strange philologist,” Tabalov said. “She must have spent her entire salary on defending the honour of our ‘saint-like’ administration officials.”


The blogger does not see any legal ground for criminal charges to be brought against him; he sees all this as yet another attempt to stifle his criticism.



7. Yekaterinburg. Journalists detained


By Vladimir Golubev,

GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District news agency reporters Dmitry Kolezev and Ruslan Ismailov, as well as their friends Anastasia Sich and Vadim Badalyan, were detained in Yekaterinburg’s Labour Square during a rally of protest against falsifications in the course of December 4 Duma elections.


“We were already on our way home after the rally when police officers walked up telling us to follow them,” Kolezev told the GDF correspondent over the telephone. The journalists, who decided not to resist, were taken to the police station in Sacco and Vanzetti Street.


Inside the station, police officers treated them politely. “They returned our cell phones, so let’s wait and see what it all ends in,” Kolezev said.



8. Republic of Dagestan. Public gatherings forbidden


By Magomed Magomedov,

GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District


Six Makhachkala residents gathering outside the National Library, among them two journalists – Timur Yashuvov of the Dezhurnaya Chast crime news show and freelancer Islam Abakarov – were detained in the Dagestani capital on 10 December and taken to the Sovetsky district police headquarters.


The meeting outside the library had been announced in the Vkontakte social network the day before. One of the postings read:


“Co-thinkers are invited to gather on the lane between the music school and the Dagestani library between 3 and 4 p.m. tomorrow. It will be a MEETING, not a RALLY (since there is no official authorisation). The purposes are (1) to evaluate the potential of activists who are ready to take to the streets to protest against falsified election returns; (2) have a good time mixing with co-thinkers and discussing the results of the latest elections.” Nevertheless, the library square was sealed off by police cordons – allegedly in search of “a bomb planted somewhere here”.


According to one of the detainees, Arthur Babayev, leader of the Dagestani branch of the Yabloko party, the policemen, when asked about the reasons for the detention, claimed to be fulfilling “orders from our superiors” who had instructed them “not to let people gather in groups”.


Formally, the detainees were brought to the police station “for identification”, although most of them were carrying passports, and the journalists, their press cards as well. According to the detainees, police officers treated them rudely and hinted they might bring criminal charges against the activists for “insulting” them. Each detainee’s passport data were copied.


The conflict was settled only due to the RF Interior Ministry’s press service’s interference; the police officers became more polite and first released the journalists, the others an hour later.






Some statistics cited


Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 15 times in the internet, including at:


Moskovskiye Novosti: Dozens of journalists detained during opposition rallies in Moscow


Noviye Izvestia: One must not be left face-to-face with the state


Noviye Izvestia: Number of imprisoned journalists around the world has grown


Radio Liberty: Mikhail Khodorkovsky nominated for “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” Award


SakhalinInfo: Sakhalin administration officials refuse to talk about human rights Mikhail Khodorkovsky becomes finalist in “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” Competition Finalists of Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” named Finalists of Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” named


Noviye Izvestia: Sakharov Award may go to Khodorkovsky Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Yelena Kostyuchenko awarded journalistic prize





Reporters manhandled while covering protest actions in Moscow


By Dmitry Florin,

GDF correspondent in Central Federal District


Protest actions in Moscow drew close public attention both in and outside Russia, partly due to the “drum carnival” staged by the Nashi movement [positioning itself as a youth wing of United Russia – Translator.] in Triumfalnaya Square on 7 December.


The first reports about detention of opposition activists and a small group of journalists came on the voting day, followed by next-day reports about a rally in Chistoprudny Boulevard, where people attempted to challenge election returns. The police acted resolutely, pushing people down and detaining protesters along with journalists covering the rally. I was lucky to grab hold of some advertising pillar, which saved me from getting trampled underfoot. I saw police officers dragging by a young girl with a photo camera, who kept repeating, “I didn’t do anything wrong – I’m only a reporter!”


…Several policemen, rubber clubs in hand, ran up to say, “You have just a few seconds to get out of here – otherwise you all will be detained as action participants.” Ordinary passers-by with children and bags stood staring at them in bewilderment, not knowing what was going on. Some ventured to ask at least in which direction to go. No one would tell them that. Those attempting to protest were taken away by police officers.


Another opposition rally was to be held in Triumfalnaya Square on 7 December. I arrived an hour before the beginning; walking out the metro station I found myself amidst a crowd of young people with drums and flags, “stage directors” rushing back and forth among them and beating time: “Russia! Victory! Putin! Medvedev!” Well, that was clear enough: pro-Kremlin young activists had staked off the square in advance, raising a hell of an uproar there.


As soon as the rally began, detentions switched to a non-stop mode. Journalists were picked out with the help of “specially trained searchers” – plain-clothed individuals scanned the crowd to tip off the police whom to nab. Journalist Arkady Babchenko was detained after one such “target finder” pointed at him to a policeman. According to Arkady, he and 20 other persons were crammed into a 4 by 4 metres cage at the Danilovsky district police station, where men and women had to take turns sitting or half-lying on the floor. Their cell phones were confiscated. Police officers promised to inform the detainees’ families, but did not bother to call all.


A total of 24 journalists were apprehended over three days’ time. Lena Kostyuchenko, who was detained in Triumfalnaya Square, was released the same night due to the help of colleagues from Novaya Gazeta. Kommersant correspondent Alexander Chernykh was severely beaten inside a police vehicle and kicked out 500 meters away with his press card damaged. Anatoly Baranov, chief editor of the news website, was detained and beaten too.


Opposition activists did clash with Nashi members in Triumfalnaya Square on 7 December – later, at about 10 p.m. Firecrackers started to be set off, and placards appeared calling for honest elections. Several protesters ran up and down the Bolshaya Sadovaya pavement, chased by OMON [riot police] servicemen, with reporters running behind. I had a drumstick thrown at me, which hit me in the forehead. “Great that it didn’t hit my eye,” I thought to myself. The police grew still tougher: buses crammed with protesters drove away one after another, to make room for new ones.


A police major nearby was lecturing a TV cameraman, “What you’re shooting now has been organised by those willing to ruin Russia and have its territory annexed, together with our oil and gas – aren’t you ashamed of helping them?” I had my press card with a stamp of accreditation with the Moscow police department snatched away in the crush – a real misfortune, because I had already been released twice upon showing that card.


On 8 December, two RIA Novosti correspondents were detained without any relation to protest actions – simply for taking photo pictures of a Moscow street with their cell phone cameras. Brought to the police station, they had to provide written explanations prior to their release. On the following day, many news media, including RIA Novosti, published “Helpful Hints for Potential Detainees”…





1. Andrei Sakharov Award winners to be honoured at ceremony in Central House of Journalists on 15 December


The Jury of the 2011 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” invites everybody to attend the ceremony to honour the winners which is to begin in Moscow’s Central House of Journalists (8a, Nikitsky Boulevard, Arbatskaya metro station) at 6 p.m. on 15 December.


The eleventh annual contest attracted about a hundred authors in different regions across the Russian Federation, from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok and from Grozny to Kyzyl. The winner and nominees have been invited to Moscow to receive the awards and diplomas. Honorary diplomas will also be given to all the finalists as well as the media that published the winner’s and nominees’ writings.


The group of nominees includes Yelena Kostyuchenko (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow); Dmitry Florin ( website, Moscow); Georgy Borodyansky (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Omsk); Alexei Tarasov (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Krasnoyarsk); Natalya Fonina (Arsenyevskiye Vesti newspaper, Vladivostok); and Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Segezha penal colony, Karelia).


The winner’s name will be announced during the award-presentation ceremony on 15 December. All the attendees will be presented with copies of the GDF’s new book “The Way We Live”, featuring the best works by participants in last year’s Sakharov Competition.


The 2011 Jury Panel includes:


Chairman – A. K. Simonov, President of Glasnost Defence Foundation;


Members:        N. M. Antufyeva, chief editor, Tsentr Azii newspaper, Kyzyl;

M. V. Afanasyev, chief editor, Novy Fokus web magazine, Abakan, winner of 2004 А. Sakharov Award;

Bonet Pilar, correspondent, El Pais newspaper;

Peter Vince – founder of the Award;

V. V. Voronov, observer, Sovershenno Sekretno newspaper, Moscow, winner of 2010 А. Sakharov Award;

B. V. Dubov, sociologist, Levada Centre;

A. S. Lebedeva, correspondent, Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Rostov-on-Don, winner of 2006 А. Sakharov Award;

S. A. Lourier, Full Member, Academy of Modern Russian Language and Literature, St. Petersburg;

M. S. Muslimova, Assistant Professor, Russian Language and Literature Teaching Methods Department, Dagestan State University;

I. V. Naidyonov, special reporter, Russkiy Reporter magazine, winner of 2005 А. Sakharov Award;

A. B. Pankin, chief editor, Strategiya I Praktika Izdatelskogo Bizneza magazine, Moscow;

Y. V. Samodurov, Co-chairman, All-Russia Civil Congress;

T. A. Sedykh, chief editor, Moyo Poberezhye newspaper, Vanino, Khabarovsk Region, winner of 2009 А. Sakharov Award;

Gregory White, head of The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow office;

Y. L. Chernyshov, observer, Bogatei newspaper, Saratov;

A. R. Shirikyan, publisher, Cigar Clan magazine;

Susanne Scholl, head of ORF (Austria) TV company office in Moscow.


Executive Secretary – B. M. Timoshenko, Glasnost Defence Foundation.



2. Statement by RF Journalists’ Union


We see the mass detentions and beatings of journalists covering opposition protest actions in Moscow as an attempt by authorities to gag and intimidate society by resorting to force and demonstrating their freedom to openly violate the law with impunity. We demand that all those shameful incidents be effectively investigated and that the persons who issued unlawful orders and who carried these orders out be prosecuted. We hereby urge representatives of the journalistic community to suspend their membership in public councils under police departments and prosecutors’ offices until our demands are satisfied.


We express sympathy with all colleagues who have fallen victim to police arbitrariness.



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


Digest released once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.
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Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

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