A decade after the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia still struggled to define the limits of free expression. Nowhere was the struggle more intense than in the media. President Vladimir Putin’s administration was either directly involved in or held responsible for a broad range of abuses, including the selective use of tax audits, prosecutions, and police raids to stifle independent media outlets, as well as the stealthy amassing of control over information. In addition, widespread violence against journalists continued, with official investigations stagnant and perpetrators rarely punished.
In May, CPJ named Putin to its annual list of the Ten Worst Enemies of the Press, the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that a Russian leader was included. See CPJ’s 2001 Enemies list. And while Putin did improve relations with the United States and other Western democracies during 2001, he still faced strong international protests over his media policies.
The year’s biggest story was the battle waged for control over NTV–one of the only independent television networks in Russia with national reach. The fight pitted Media-Most, a holding company owned by the exiled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, against its main creditor, the state gas monopoly Gazprom. The saga began when armed police and tax officials raided Media-Most’s Moscow headquarters in May 2000, and it ended 11 months later after a boardroom coup handed the government-dominated corporation formal control of NTV.
Independent NTV was the jewel in the crown of Media-Most. The network’s news and current affairs programs regularly criticized government policies, particularly the war in Chechnya. Gazprom pursued Gusinsky and Media-Most through the courts, charging fraud, tax evasion, and financial mismanagement. The gas company backed up its boardroom takeover with direct action: A new management team forcibly occupied NTV on April 14, 2001.
Gazprom swiftly closed two more Media-Most outlets, targeting publications also known for criticizing the government. On April 16, the staff of the daily Segodnya was ousted and its editor fired. The next day, security guards barred the employees of the weekly newsmagazine Itogi from entering their offices and dismissed the editor. The management of Media-Most’s Ekho Moskvy, the country’s largest privately held news radio station, remained in place, though the station suffered a spate of police raids and tax inspections.
Officials–including Gazprom-Media’s then-general director Alfred Kokh, who visited CPJ’s New York City offices on March 6–insisted that the dispute between Media-Most and Gazprom was purely financial. CPJ argued that Gazprom’s heavy-handed tactics revealed political motives behind the takeover. In an April 30 letter to President Putin, CPJ emphasized that financial concerns could not account for the dismissal of the editor of Itogi, a magazine that was both profitable and highly respected.
Though media analysts said that NTV retained some of its independent voice under the new management, the station’s anti-Kremlin tone softened significantly. After their ouster, many NTV journalists moved to TV-6, the remaining private network with national reach.
Boris Berezovksy, a Yeltsin-era media and oil tycoon and a bitter opponent of Putin, controlled TV-6 until Press Minister Mikhail Lesin ordered the channel off the air at midnight on January 22, 2002. The move came after a legal battle between the network and a minority shareholder, LUKOIL-Garant, resulted in the liquidation of TV-6’s parent company. The oil giant LUKOIL has strong links with the Kremlin, and TV-6’s fate was seen by many Russian politicians and journalists as part of a state-orchestrated campaign to control Russian citizens’ access to information. At press time, TV6 was off the air but planned to bid in March 2002 to regain its old frequency.
Not content with solidifying Kremlin control over national television, Putin signed an August 13 decree re-establishing federal control over the entire national network of broadcasting and relay stations for television and radio signals. The state-owned Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network (RTRS) now controls the stations and reports to the Ministry of Press and Information, whose chief, Mikhail Lesin, is seen by many as an opponent of independent media. The decree created state subsidies for channels serving areas with a population of less than 200,000. Since state-run channels broadcast nationwide to rural communities, state television will benefit from the subsidies. The new rules also gave Lesin and the Kremlin vital new leverage over all private radio and television stations.
State surveillance of the Internet continued through regulations requiring Russian Internet Service Providers to install a monitoring device that routes all their traffic through servers controlled by local law enforcement agencies. The creation of the Kremlin-backed Media Union to rival the existing Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) also alarmed press freedom advocates. The RUJ reportedly irritated the government with its active support of press freedom. In September, the head of the RUJ said the trade union was fighting an eviction order from the Ministry of State Property.
Moscow also imposed increasingly tight restrictions on journalists reporting on the Chechen war, who already face the risk of violence and kidnapping in the region. One kidnapping victim, French free-lance photographer Brice Fleutiaux, who was held hostage in Chechnya for eight months in 1999 and 2000, committed suicide in France on April 24.
On February 20, Russian security forces in Chechnya detained Novaya Gazeta war correspondent Anna Politkovskaya, who was investigating Russian military abuses against Chechen civilians. Politkovskaya was accused of entering Chechnya without correct accreditation and of not registering her whereabouts with the Russian military. She told CPJ that Russian soldiers threatened to shoot her during her three-day ordeal. In September, Politkovskaya received several death threats in connection with her Chechnya reports, and in early October she fled temporarily to Vienna, Austria. CPJ met her in Vienna to discuss and publicize her plight.
In March, the Media Ministry warned the Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta that it had violated the law by publishing an interview with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov. Officials also complained about several other interviews with Maskhadov published on the Web site Grani.ru, in the business daily Kommersant, and in the twice-weekly Novaya Gazeta. Presidential aide Sergei Yasterzhembsky said on August 30 that he was seeking to ban news reporting on the views of Chechen fighters. At the end of the year, the Duma passed a measure forbidding the media from broadcasting “propaganda” from terrorists.
On February 8, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty announced plans to start broadcasts in Chechen and two other languages of the Northern Caucasus. But Russian lawmakers and Media Ministry officials labeled the plans “very inappropriate,” and by year’s end the broadcasts had not begun.
In a final, year-end blow, a Russian military court sentenced military journalist Grigory Pasko to four years in prison on December 25. Pasko was convicted of “treason in the form of espionage” for the crime of “intending” to give classified documents to Japanese news outlets. He had been reporting on environmental damage caused by the Russian navy for his newspaper, Boyevaya Vakhta (Battle Watch).
In early June, a CPJ delegation traveled to Vladivostok before Pasko’s trial to publicize concerns over the charges. The trial was conducted in a secret military court, calling into question the impartiality and independence of the proceedings. The case, which had dragged on for years, was emblematic of the persecution that environmental whistle-blowers have come to expect in Russia.
Officials also used economic pressure to harass the media, including tax raids, police confiscations of print runs or videotapes, and official pressure on businesses to withhold advertising from publications deemed troublesome. During a CPJ visit to Moscow in March, Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov told CPJ staff that his paper, a harsh critic of the government, had endured dozens of lawsuits and several major tax inspections. In addition, said Muratov, advertisers had come under intense pressure to pull their ads from the paper.
Such harassment was even more commonplace in Russia’s provinces, where media outlets are more vulnerable to the whims of local leaders. In the Primorsky Region, for example, defamation suits were frequent, and the courts imposed large fines on journalists and media outlets, sometimes pushing them into bankruptcy.
Low advertising revenues and high distribution costs sent other media companies, particularly newspapers, begging to federal or local officials for government subsidies and tax breaks. Meanwhile, broadcasters unable to pay their electricity bills were shut down in the regions of Khabarovsk, Primorye, Kamchatka, and Altai.
During 2001, only one journalist was killed for his work in Russia, compared with three in 2000. Eduard Markevich, editor and publisher of the local newspaper Novy Reft in Sverdlovsk Region, was found dead on September 18. Markevich’s paper often criticized local officials, and he had suffered at least one violent attack and many death threats during the last several years.
Journalists were assaulted throughout Russia in 2001, with dozens of cases recorded by CPJ and Moscow watchdog groups such as the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations and the Glasnost Defense Foundation. On February 7, two armed men stormed the offices of the opposition newspaper Vozrozhdeniye Respubliki in Cherkessk, the capital of the southern Karachai-Cherkessia Republic, and severely beat two editors. Editor Rashid Khatuyev linked the attack to critical articles that the newspaper had published about the republic’s president.
In the southern city of Belgorod, local authorities used violence against investigative reporter Olga Kitova after she published a series of articles in Belgorodskaya Pravda in May 2000 that questioned the credibility of a local prosecutor’s case. Even though police assaulted the journalist, Kitova was charged with using force against officers, as well as with slander. On December 20, she received a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence, a large fine, and was banned from elected office for three years.
Rashid Khatuyev, Vozrozhdeniye
Vladimir Panov, Vozrozhdeniye
Two men armed with guns and rubber truncheons stormed into the offices of the opposition newspaper Vozrozhdeniye in Cherkessk, the capital of the southern republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessiya.
The men beat up the paper’s editor, Khatuyev, and his deputy, Panov. The attackers, who wore black balaclavas and special police force uniforms, also destroyed several computers before leaving the premises.
Khatuyev was taken to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with concussion and a broken rib. Panov refused hospitalization for his injuries.
Vozrozhdeniye, which began publishing in January, is closely linked to the Vozrozhdeniye Respubliki political movement, which opposes the republic’s president, Vladimir Semyonov.
Panov later told Moscow’s Kommersant-Daily that the attack was prompted by a series of articles criticizing Semyonov ‘s regime. Panov claimed that the government had sanctioned the raid. Local officials dismissed the allegations, blaming the incident on mysterious “destabilizing” forces within the political elite, according to a report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Anna Politkovskaya, Novaya Gazeta
Novaya Gazeta correspondent Politkovskaya was detained by Russian security forces in the village of Khatuni in the Vedeno Region of Chechnya, where she was investigating a so-called filtration camp for Chechen civilians.
Russian military forces had allegedly committed numerous atrocities at the camp, including beatings, rapes, and murders.
Politkovskaya was arrested and accused of entering Chechnya without correct accreditation and of not having registered her whereabouts with the military. She was released on February 23.
Politkovskaya told CPJ that Russian soldiers threatened to shoot her during her ordeal.
After a tense 11-day standoff, the state-dominated Gazprom corporation succeeded in occupying the headquarters of NTV, formerly Russia’s only independent national television station.
At 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 14, Boris Jordan, a controversial American financier appointed by Gazprom to head NTV, arrived at the station’s headquarters with a court order. Security officers hired by Gazprom then took control of the station’s offices and control room, which had been occupied by dissident NTV journalists.
The crisis began on April 3, when NTV creditor Gazprom staged a boardroom coup that wrested control of the network from media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, who was then in Spain fighting a Russian government effort to extradite him on corruption charges. NTV journalists refused to recognize the new Gazprom management team’s authority, and a standoff ensued.
Early Saturday morning, Jordan and other Gazprom-appointed officials met with NTV staff and accepted resignations from more than 40 employees, including 10 journalists and five news presenters. By 10 a.m., the Gazprom-controlled NTV was back on the air with a skeleton newscasting crew.
Meanwhile, a group of some 15 former NTV journalists, led by ousted general director Yevgeny Kiselyov, moved swiftly to revive some of their former news programs at the cable station TNT, which was also controlled by Gusinsky. Later, many high-profile NTV journalists joined TV-6, a private nationwide television network. (See TV-6 case on page 452.)
On Monday, April 16, a group of dissident shareholders in Gusinsky’s Media-Most holding company, including Gazprom, shut down the influential daily Segodnya, which was considered to be one of Moscow’s most liberal newspapers.
That same day, Russian tax police filed tax-evasion charges against TNT’s chief accountant. And on Tuesday, April 17, a Media-Most official acting on behalf of the dissident shareholders fired the editor of Media-Most’s weekly newsmagazine Itogi, a joint venture with the U.S. magazine Newsweek. Itogi staffers were locked out of their offices and told that they could either resign or be fired.
CPJ published an alert about the case on April 17 and sent a formal protest letter to President Vladimir Putin on April 30.
Police arrested a film crew from the RTR network program “Vesti” in the city of Ivanovo while they were on their way to interview Deputy Mayor Sergei Brazer about interruptions in the municipal power supply.
Despite receiving preliminary permission to conduct the interview, the journalists were not allowed to enter the building where the deputy mayor’s office is located. The police rudely demanded that the video camera be turned off and arrested the reporters when they did not comply. The crew was released only after the personal intervention of Gennady Panin, head of the Interior Affairs Department for the Ivanovo Region.
Olga Kitova, Belgorodskaya Pravda
Police in the southern city of Belgorod assaulted and jailed Kitova, a reporter with the newspaper Belgorodskaya Pravda who also contributes to the Moscow daily Obshchaya Gazeta.
On May 22, police officers arrested Kitova at her apartment in Belgorod and took her to a temporary holding cell, according to local news reports. Although Kitova was suffering from high blood pressure and heart complications as a result of the arrest, the police initially refused to provide her with medical treatment, according to Yuliya Ignatyeva of the Obshchaya Gazeta legal department. Later that day, Kitova was treated at Belgorod Hospital No. 1.
During the first week of her detention, Kitova was not allowed to meet privately with legal counsel. In addition, she was forbidden to receive phone calls or visitors apart from hospital staff and her attorney.
The arrest stemmed from a series of Belgorodskaya Pravda articles by Kitova, published in May 2000, that questioned the credibility of the Belgorod prosecutor’s case against four local university students charged with sexually assaulting a male fellow student.
Kitova reported that the charges were largely based on forced confessions and testimony from the victim’s mother, a politically well-connected health inspector who had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.
In January 2001, the prosecutor’s office began investigating Kitova for allegedly slandering the victim and his mother.
On March 21, ten police officers surrounded Kitova outside her home. One officer twisted her arm behind her back and shoved her into a police car, where she was beaten unconscious. Kitova was later treated for bruises and hypertension at Belgorod Hospital No. 1, her attorney told CPJ.
Local prosecutor Dimitriy Khlebnikov then launched an investigation against Kitova for allegedly insulting and using force against the police officers who had abducted and beaten her.
On May 28, Khlebnikov charged Kitova with five criminal offenses: slander, insulting an individual’s honor, obstruction of justice, using force against state officials, and insulting state officials.
On the same day, local sources reported that Kitova had been released from police custody after she signed an agreement not to leave the city of Belgorod.
On June 1, CPJ sent a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin protesting Kitova’s prosecution and imprisonment.
On December 20, the court handed Kitova a 30-month suspended sentence, fined her 20,000 rubles (US$656), and banned her from elected office for three years, the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported.
A news crew from the national television network NTV was threatened by Vladivostok mayor Yuri Kopylov, local sources reported. The crew was filming Vladivostok officials greeting former governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko at the airport.
Kopylov became irate when he realized that he was being filmed. “Take the tape away from the bearded one!” he yelled. “Did I give you permission to tape me? Get away from here! Tolya, take him away or punch him in the snout!” Kopylov’s bodyguard then forced the crew to stop filming.
CPJ protested the threat in a June 11 letter to President Vladimir Putin.
Vladivostok police officers seized the June 7 edition of the newspaper Dalyokaya Okraina. According to local sources, some 20 police officers raided the Vladivostok post office, preventing the newly printed edition from being loaded into delivery trucks for several hours.
Police then confiscated the entire print run of 380,000 copies, local sources said, and took them to a district police station.
Vladimir Gilgenberg, editor-in-chief of Dalyokaya Okraina, said the police did not present a court order authorizing the confiscation and only referred to supposed verbal orders from Col. Vladimir Krivoshvili, the Vladivostok chief of police. Colonel Krivoshvili apparently acted on a complaint from Sergei Knyazev, chairman of the Regional Election Commission, who alleged that the edition contained material that violated election campaign law.
It appears that Dalyokaya Okraina was targeted for reporting on gubernatorial candidate Sergei Darkin’s alleged links with criminal elements in Vladivostok. The newspaper’s information came from the regional Internal Affairs Administration. Darkin, who is backed by prominent local politicians, won the first round of elections on May 27.
On June 12, officials again targeted Dalyokaya Okraina, seizing 150,000 out of 600,000 copies of that day’s edition. The raid came in advance of the second round of elections, scheduled for June 17. According to Gilgenberg, the police said they were acting on verbal orders from their superiors.
Darkin won the June poll and currently serves as the region’s governor.
CPJ protested the harassment of Dalyokaya Okraina in a June 12 letter to President Vladimir Putin.
All journalists in Chechnya
The commandant of the Russian military base of Khankala in Chechnya imposed new restrictions requiring journalists covering the ongoing conflict there to be accompanied at all times by an official from the press service of the Interior Ministry.
The new rules were announced after a television crew traveling with Chechen security forces tried to enter the Chechen capital, Grozny, without permission from Russian authorities.
The media’s access to the war-ravaged region is already severely restricted by cumbersome accreditation procedures and rules that make travel within Chechnya dependent on the whims of local officials. Reporters say the new regulations represent another Russian military attempt to control press coverage of the Chechen conflict.
The new escort requirement gives the military significant leverage, since officials can now discriminate between journalists based on their coverage.
Journalists based in Khankala say their reporting will also be limited by the military’s lack of resources. The government press centers have only three cars at their disposal, according to the local press, and journalists questioned whether officers would be willing to travel to areas that lack a military presence, or to places where authorities do not want the media covering military activities.
HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Authorities illegally took over TVK, the first private television station in the Lipetsk Region. The station was both a popular source of news and a harsh critic of Governor Oleg Korolyov, who is running for re-election in April 2002. TVK management had openly backed the governor’s main electoral rival.
For several years, minority and majority shareholders of the station were locked in a deeply politicized conflict over management of the station. According to local press reports, TVK’s ownership dispute began in 1998, when Leonid Trufanov, the founder and former owner of the station, sold a controlling stake to the Moscow-based Zenit Bank.
In 2000, a pro-Korolyov group of TVK shareholders sold their shares to the Moscow-based Energiya Corporation. Energiya’s general director, a deputy in the Lipetsk Legislative Assembly, is closely allied with the Korolyov administration.
Energiya then challenged Zenit’s 1998 share purchase in court, seeking to gain a controlling stake of TVK and replace its management.
Energiya lost its case. Earlier in 2001, Moscow’s Kuntsevsky Court prohibited Energiya from conducting a TVK shareholders’ meeting. The Sovetskiy District Court in Lipetsk later upheld that decision. Despite these rulings, Energiya had a shareholders’ meeting on August 24 where delegates named pro-Korolyov business executive Dmitry Kolbasko as TVK’s new general director.
In the early hours of August 29, police officers from the security service of the local Internal Affairs Administration took control of TVK’s offices, according to local and international press reports. Claiming to act on Kolbasko’s behalf, the police prevented station staff from entering the building.
In an interview with the Moscow daily Kommersant, TVK’s ousted general director, Aleksandr Lykov, claimed that the Energiya-led shareholders’ meeting took place in the office of Lieutenant Governor Sergei Dorovsky. Lykov and a local source told CPJ they believe the Korolyov administration backed the takeover in an effort to influence TVK’s news programming ahead of the gubernatorial election.
Soon after, TVK’s deposed management filed a legal complaint with the local prosecutor’s office and also asked the Media Ministry in Moscow to suspend the station’s broadcasting license until the courts resolved the dispute. On September 1, Deputy Media Minister Andrei Romanchenko suspended TVK’s license for 10 days. When the suspension expired on September 11, Romanchenko extended it until October 11.
On September 17, the Sovetsky District Court reversed all previous rulings and upheld the results of Energiya’s August 24 shareholders’ meeting. The ruling also affirmed Kolbasko’s appointment as the station’s new general director and required Lykov to give TVK’s seal, keys, and documentation to the new management.
On October 10, however, the Lipetsk Arbitration Court reinstated Aleksandr Lykov as TVK’s general director. Though this ruling remains in effect and the station is still broadcasting, the case remained before the courts at year’s end.
Eduard Markevich, Novy Reft
Markevich, 29, editor and publisher of Novy Reft, the local newspaper in the town of Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk Region, was found dead on September 18. He had been shot in the back.
Novy Reft often criticized local officials, and Markevich’s colleagues told the Itar-Tass news service that he had received threatening telephone phone calls prior to the attack.
This was not the first attack on Markevich, the Region-Inform news agency reported. In 1998, two unknown assailants broke into his apartment and severely beat him in front of his pregnant wife. They were never caught.
In 2000, Markevich was illegally detained for 10 days after the local prosecutor’s office charged him with defamation over a Novy Reft article questioning the propriety of a lucrative government contract that gave a former deputy prosecutor the exclusive right to represent the Reftinsky administration in court.
In May 2001, federal prosecutor general Vladimir Ustinov reprimanded the local prosecutor for violating Markevich’s constitutional rights.
Police have launched an investigation into Markevich’s murder. Almost four months after the journalist’s death, authorities have made no progress, the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations has reported. Markevich’s wife continues to publish Novy Reft.
The independent national television network TV-6 was sued by a minority shareholder that sought to have the network liquidated on grounds of insolvency.
The suit was filed by the pension fund of LUKoil-Garant, a subsidiary of the giant LUKoil Corporation, which owns 15 percent of TV-6. The Russian industrial magnate Boris Berezovsky, who is a bitter opponent of President Vladimir Putin, owns 75 percent of the network, either outright or through other companies that he controls.
Originally, the Moscow Arbitration Court ruled to close MNVK on the basis of an obscure Russian law that prohibits companies from running a deficit for more than two years. TV-6 appealed, and though a Moscow appellate court upheld the liquidation in November, another appeal from TV-6 led to a ruling in the network’s favor on December 29.
As of January 1, 2002, however, the Russian parliament repealed a law that allowed shareholders to liquidate their own companies, thus eliminating the legal basis for proceedings against TV-6.
But on January 4, 2002, the deputy chairman of the Highest Arbitration Court, Eduard Remov, disputed the December decision and filed a protest with the Presidium of the Highest Arbitration Court.
In its January 11 ruling, the Arbitration Court rejected TV-6’s argument against liquidation. Instead, Judge Remov argued that since the original ruling came while the shareholder liquidation law was still in force, LUKoil’s claim was valid and should be upheld.
Although TV-6 exhausted all appeals with the Russian arbitration court system, the network planned to appeal the case to the Russian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said after the ruling, “We continue to urge Russian officials to ensure that TV-6 gets a full and fair hearing and ensure that press freedom and the rule of law can be best served by keeping TV-6 on the air,” according to The Associated Press.
Although TV-6 was given up to six months to complete the liquidation, the Ministry of Information and Press had the authority to take away the network’s broadcasting license at any moment. A shareholder meeting to set a time frame for liquidating TV-6’s assets was scheduled for January 14. Press Minister Mikhail Lesin ordered TV-6 off the air at mighnight on January 22, 2002. TV-6 remains off the air but plans to bid in March to regain its old frequency.
Anna Politkovskaya, Novaya Gazeta
Politkovskaya, a correspondent with the Moscow-based newspaper Novaya Gazeta, fled to Vienna, Austria after receiving threats stemming from her work in Chechnya.
Politkovskaya is known for her investigative reports on human rights abuses committed by the Russian military in Chechnya.
Novaya Gazeta‘s deputy editor-in-chief, Sergei Sokolov, told CPJ that the threats stemmed from a September 10 article in which Politkovskaya accused a Russian military officer named Sergei Lapin (whose nickname is “Kadet”) of committing atrocities against civilians in Chechnya.
In mid-September, Novaya Gazeta received a threat via e-mail saying that Lapin was coming to Moscow to take revenge for the article, Sokolov reported.
Vyacheslav Izmailov, a military correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, told the English-language daily The Moscow Times that the most recent threat, received by Novaya Gazeta on October 10, was signed “Kadet.”
Initially, security guards were assigned to protect Politkovskaya, and she was instructed by Novaya Gazeta not to leave her home.
However, Novaya Gazeta‘s senior staff decided that these safety precautions were insufficient and sent her temporarily to Vienna.
Novaya Gazeta then petitioned local prosecutors to launch an investigation into Politkovskaya’s case, Sokolov told CPJ.
Although the e-mails allegedly came from Lapin, Politkovskaya said the threats could also be linked to her coverage of a Russian military helicopter shot down in Chechnya in September. Though the Russian government has claimed that a lone Chechen rebel shot down the helicopter, Politkovskaya suggested in an article and in newspaper interviews that the Russian military was responsible for the accident.
Ten high-ranking military officials, including Lt. Gen. Anatoly Pozdnyakov, were killed when the aircraft was shot down. Pozdnyakov was on his way to Moscow to report to President Putin on the conduct of Russian military forces in Chechnya.
Politkovskaya came to the United States in November on a tour to promote her new book on Chechnya, A Dirty War. In early December, she returned to Moscow.
Camera crews from the Moscow-based independent stations TV-6 and Ren-TV were attacked while filming a hostile takeover of the Moscow Soap-Making Plant, according to local news reports.
During an unscheduled shareholders’ meeting, a group of unknown individuals attacked security guards in an attempt to physically occupy of the plant. During the raid, the attackers also assaulted TV-6 and Ren-TV journalists, breaking a video camera and other technical equipment, and tried to confiscate recorded videotapes.
According to local sources, the attackers fled when police arrived at the scene.
Ildar Zhandaryov, TV-6
In the early hours of November 30, three unknown individuals assaulted and robbed Zhandaryov, a well-known Russian television journalist.
Zhandaryov co-hosted “Bez Protokola” (Without Protocol), a widely watched talk show, and the movie review program “Interesnoye Kino” (Interesting Movie). Both appeared on TV-6, a national network that was liquidated and taken off the air as CPJ went to press (see September 27 case).
Zhandaryov was attacked at approximately 3 a.m. as he returned from his late-night program and entered his apartment building. The masked attackers struck the journalist with a blunt object, taped his mouth and eyes shut, and then handcuffed him, according to local press reports. The attackers stole Zhandaryov’s money and apartment keys, as well as valuables from his apartment.
Zhandaryov’s assailants said that someone had “ordered” the attack and that he and his program “got on people’s nerves,” Zhandaryov told the Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy.
He was taken to the Sklifosovsky Institute, where he was treated for head injuries and later released. The police launched an investigation into the attack, but by year’s end no suspects had been detained.
Grigory Pasko, Boyevaya Vakhta
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Pasko, an investigative reporter with Boyevaya Vakhta (Battle Watch), a newspaper published by the Pacific Fleet, was convicted of treason and sentenced to four years in prison by the Military Court of the Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok. Russian prosecutors had demanded a nine-year sentence.
The ruling also stripped Pasko of his military rank and state decorations, Russian news agency Interfax reported. The journalist was taken into custody in the courtroom and subsequently jailed, Sergei Ivashchenko, a member of the Vladivostok Committee for the Defense of Pasko, told CPJ.
Pasko’s attorney, Anatoly Pyshkin, filed an appeal with the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court seeking full acquittal, Ivashchenko told CPJ.
Pasko was first arrested in November 1997 and charged with passing classified documents to Japanese news outlets. The journalist maintains that he revealed no classified material, and that he was prosecuted for publicizing environmental hazards at the Pacific Fleet’s facilities. He spent 20 months in prison while awaiting trial.
In July 1999, Pasko was acquitted of treason but found guilty of abusing his authority as an officer. He was immediately amnestied, but four months later the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court canceled the Vladivostok court’s verdict and ordered a new trial.
Pasko’s second trial began on July 11, after three postponements since March.
During the trial, Pasko’s defense demonstrated that the proceedings lacked a basis in Russian law. Article 7 of the Federal Law on State Secrets, which stipulates that information about environmental dangers cannot be classified, protects Pasko’s work on issues such as radioactive pollution.
In addition, the prosecution relied on a secret Ministry of Defense decree (No. 055) even though the Russian constitution bars the use of secret legislation in criminal cases.
The defense also challenged the veracity of many witnesses, several of whom acknowledged that the Federal Security Service (FSB) falsified their statements or tried to persuade them to give false testimony.
An FSB investigator was reprimanded for falsifying evidence in the first trial, for example. Also, the signatures of two people who witnessed a search of the reporter’s apartment were shown to have been forged.
Throughout the year, CPJ issued numerous statements calling attention to Pasko’s ordeal, and in early June, a CPJ delegation traveled to Vladivostok before Pasko’s trial to publicize concerns over the charges.