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In Khakassia editor of online magazine charged with libel and insulting government official

14 March 2013 

Source: Open Information Agency

Journalist Mikhail Afanasyev: "The words that insulted the deputy head of the Interior Ministry for Abakan are based on a court ruling which has come into effect." 

On 14 March the Abakan Interdistrict Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee for Khakassia charged the editor of the New Focus independent online magazine Mikhail Afanasyev with libelling and insulting a government official (Part 3 of Article 128 and Article 319 of the Russian Criminal Code). The journalist himself told the Agora Human Rights Association about this.

Investigators believe that on 9 December 2012 Mikhail Afanasyev published an article in New Focus called "You're a Liar, Colonel Zlotnikov!" which allegedly contained facts and events libelling and insulting the honour and integrity of the deputy head of the Interior Ministry for Abakan Aleksandr Zlotnikov, and undermining his reputation. Mikhail Afanasyev claims that the words that offended the high-ranking police officer are true, according to a court ruling which has come into effect.

While covering a high-profile case in Abakan about the unfounded suspicion that two friends had murdered a third, police officers accused Mikhail Afanasyev of disobeying the lawful order of a police officer. On that day, Afanasyev had gone to the detention facility where the murder suspects were supposed to be either released or re-arrested. It was when a police car drove out of the gate that the incident took place in which Afanasyev, according to the police, refused to obey a lawful order given by a police officer. One eyewitness who testified in court was Aleksandr Zlotnikov, reports a correspondent for the Open Information Agency.

"In court Zlotnikov said that we even tried to push pregnant women under the wheels of the police car," says Mikhail Afanasyev. "At the next court session both these women, relatives of the suspects in the murder trial I was covering at the time, appeared personally and said that they were standing by the side of the car and no one had laid a finger on them. As a result the court concluded unequivocally: "During the court hearing it was established that ... no one pushed any pregnant women under the wheels of a car." This court ruling came into effect and so I was completely justified in publishing the article "You're a Liar, Colonel Zlotnikov!" Zlotnikov now claims that he never said anything of the sort. So it turns out that either Zlotnikov or the court is not telling the truth and I'm the one who finds himself in the dock."

A few weeks after the publication appeared on the New Focus website, Colonel Aleksandr Zlotnikov filed a complaint with the Investigative Committee. On 21 December 2012 the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case and on the following day Mikhail Afanasyev's home, workplace and car were searched.

"In the end the investigators took the word of a senior police officer and not what the court wrote and which gave a clear assessment," says Mikhail Afanasyev, amazed. "The situation is ridiculous and incomprehensible to me. I've just had someone visit me from Novorossiysk, who asked me: "Do you really have your own Criminal Procedure Code for the Republic of Khakassia?"