Provincial journalist being sued for referring to Putin as a phallus?
"At the assigned time I approached office number 313 in Ivanovo's government administration building. Parnov [Parnov is the press secretary for the Ivanovo oblast-Ed.] met me in the corridor and said that I should step into the office. Parnov left immediately and left me with a man I did not recognize (later I found out that he was Yegorov, O.V. the head of the administration for regional safety). This person locked the door and immediately hit me in the solar plexus. He required me to remove everything from my pockets and lay the contents out on the table (keys, money, passport, journalistic certification, cell phone). He removed the battery from my cellphone and punched me in the solar plexus one more time. After this, he required to tell him 'who ordered the article' titled 'Squeezing Mode' (the article was posted on 13.03.2006 in the internet-newspaper which I edit and to which I sign my name). I told him that my information sources are not for public knowledge and that I did not get paid for writing the article. He struck me in the solar plexus and said that he I'll be put in solitary confinement where 'everything will be under control and where they'll make me a rooster.' I again told him that I cannot name my sources. Again he hit me in the solar plexus. At the end I wrote some information on the backside of the printout of my article. 'I was asked to publish the article' by'...'. I did not provide accurate information. Naturally, it had nothing in common with the truth. I needed to deceive the man that was beating me and get out of that office."
The above excerpt was taken from a letter written by Vladimer Rakhmaninov to the Ivanov Prosecutor's Office. You might recognize his name. He's the same Vladimir Rakhmaninov who made headlines writing an article for his e-zine in which he called President Putin "Russia's phallic symbol." The article landed him in a criminal investigation. Russian print media, as well as the Western news that feed off it, made a big deal of as an example of increasing censorship. But think about it: how many thousands of livejournal bloggers talk shit about Putin? It's hard to count. Why this man? Why now?
If you dig through Rakhmaninov's site, cursive.ru, on google archives (the site was taken offline immediately after his case was opened), the reason for this absurd investigation becomes apparent. What you get isn't a regional court working itself into rage on behalf of the Putin's honor, but rather a regional administration sick of having their action fucked with by a crusading muckraker. He simply became a pain in the ass, he wouldn't shut up. They were just waiting for the right excuse to lock him up.
The article that got Rakhmaninov stomped in government office by a professional government goon centered on an aging, privatized water heating plant in Ivanovo that was, according to Rakhmaninov, staying afloat only due to payoffs at the highest levels of Ivanovo's bureaucratic circles.
The article charged that the heating plant artificially inflated local heating costs and accused the former governor of Ivanovo region, Vladimer Tikhonov, of getting 70 million rubles in annual payoffs. Four days after he wrote the article, he got called in for an official meeting by Parnov, the region's press secretary, to discuss "possible future cooperation." But even that didn't work. In the end, he wouldn't even listen to a knuckle sandwich, delivered Miller's Crossing-style.
So as soon as he published the Putin-as-phallic-symbol article, Ivanovo politicians jumped at the chance. In one swoop they could curry favor with the president and shut this journalist's trap for good. They searched his apartment, confiscated his computer, shut down his site and annulled the lease on his paper's offices. The last two were easy; officials didn't even need a court order because, according to Rakhmaninov, cursiv.ru's Internet host was owned by the son of a local politician and his office was located in a government building.
In an interview on Radio Svaboda, Rakhmaninov said he learned one thing from this event. "I need to move my site's hosting as far away from Ivanovo as possible." You have to admire this guy's courage; he seems to be a relic.
Moscow journalists taking OMON?
Andrey Stenin, a reporter for Gazeta.Ru was covering Moscow's banned gay parade near the Red Square when an OMON officer told him to disperse. Stenin stated that he was a journalist and continued photographing roving bands of skinheads. That didn't go over too well with the OMON officer and he was dragged away to a patty wagon. Once there, the officer demanded that Stenin erase his camera's contents. He refused. "I'm a journalist and am doing my job," he said. The OMON officer did a one-two combo to Stenin's torso and face.
That convinced him and he prepared to endure detention, along with arrested skinheads, gays and lesbians. But he didn't have to endure it alone for long. According to Gazeta.Ru, Russian Newsweek's Aydar Burribaev was snagged as he was heading away from the protest to file his article. An OMON officer checked Burdibaev's documents, saw that he was a journalist and kindly escorted him to the same bus in which Stenin was being held. Both journalists were detained for five hours and charged with participating in an illegal demonstration. Stenin, in an article describing his experience posted on
Gazeta.ru, reported that he and other journalists that were detained while covering the gay march were intent filing as suit against OMON at the Prosecutor's Office. They charge that the police force overstepped their power.
Sukhumi's indpendent newpaper burned down by local authorities?
The offices of Nuzhnaya Gazeta, Abkhazia's sole independent newspaper, mysteriously burned down to the ground on May 28th. Despite the fact that three fire trucks worked to put out the fire for four hours, the building, along with the paper's archives spanning an 11-year period, was completely destroyed. The fire took place Sukhumi, Abkazhia's capital. Gazeta.Ru reported that the local police were ruling out arson, but the newspaper's staff disagree. Nuzhanaya Gazeta is pro-separatist, but has been targeted by both Georgian and Abkhazian politicians for their honest reporting of government corruption.
Izvestia being sued by Moscow's mayor due to irony?
"Luhzkov kinder than Putin?" That's the title of a recent article published by Moscow's Izvestia newspaper that's got Mayor Luzhkov office's goat. The article focused on Luzhkov's get-up-and-go on Putin's new national initiative to raise the country's birthrate. While Putin's proposed program of financial assistance for families with more than one child would theoretically take effect after January 2007, Izvestia reported that Luzhkov was intent on making financial support available to Moscow families as soon as possible from regional, not federal, funds. The article went on to say that Luzhkov was willing to go beyond Putin's plan and offer as much as 250,000 rubles to families for their third child. But according to a the mayor's press secretary, Sergey Tsoy, Luzhkov never made any concrete statement on financial assistance for families with more than two children. He called Izvestia's reporting a deliberate attempt to put Luzhkov in conflict with the position of president Putin. The mayor's office is using this as their base for a libel suit against Izvestia, compromat.ru reported. Izvestia issued an apology. They are saying that they were extrapolating from Luzhkov's comments and did not mean any harm. And as for the title, they just wanted to be ironic.
One should remember that Izvestia is not even close at being independent. It's been owned by Gazprom -- a state gas monopoly -- for about a year. So, who's Luzhkov really targeting?