Mother of Russian Anti-Corruption Lawyer Killed in Custody, Has Been Harassed in Moscow, Complaint Revealed Today
3 December 2010 – The mother of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian anti-corruption lawyer killed in police custody, has been harassed outside her home in Moscow since receiving, on behalf of her son, the 2010 Integrity Award from Transparency International two weeks ago. A team of people from the Russian television station NTV, who have interchangeably represented themselves both as realtors and as journalists, have followed Magnitsky’s mother, attempted to enter her house, carried out covert filming of her and intruded upon her with offensive questions. NTV is controlled by the Russian state-owned gas company, Gazprom.
A complaint about the abusive harassment of Sergei Magnitsky’s mother has been filed today by Sergei Magnitsky’s former partner, Jamison Firestone, with the Grand Jury of the Russian Union of Journalists (Russian version available at: http://russian-untouchables.com/docs/Letter%20to%20Journalist%20Union.pdf).
“We are disappointed that individuals who display such cynicism and who so clearly violate the ethical standards of journalists appear to be employed by NTV in Russia. We call upon NTV management to cease any association it has with these individuals and to pay respect to notions of basic human decency by refusing to air any slanderous and malicious programs they have produced. We ask everyone not to insult the memory of a man who died in Russian police custody and to show some consideration for his family,” said Jamison Firestone.
In his complaint Mr Firestone states that the recent acts targeting the mother of Sergei Magnitsky have been carried out in preparation for the airing on NTV of a program based on materials fabricated by Russian security services and Interior Ministry that attempts to justify Magnitsky’s persecution and death in custody. Firestone identified a PR agency run by a former spokesman for Gazprom’s media arm as being behind the smear campaign. He also noted that the latest smear campaign is likely being financed with funds stolen from the Russian taxpayers through a scheme uncovered by Magnitsky.
Sergei Magnitsky who provided legal assistance in Russia to an international investment fund, the Hermitage Fund, gave testimony about the involvement of Russian Interior Ministry officials in the theft of his client’s companies and the subsequent theft of $230 million those companies had paid in taxes to the Russian government. Soon after his testimony, Magnitsky was arrested by the officers he implicated in corruption and tortured during his 12 months in detention in an attempt to force him to retract his testimony. He died on 16 November 2009. In November 2010, Sergei Magnitsky was posthumously awarded Transparency International’s 2010 Integrity Award for his fight against corruption in Russia. His mother, Natalia Magnitsky, received the award for her son at an international conference held in Bangkok which praised her son’s courage and ultimate sacrifice in his fight against a corrupt state machine.
“We are shocked by the methods practiced by people who profess to be TV journalists. Putting the matter of the illegality of their activities aside, it is simply immoral and we can’t ignore their behaviour. The Russian Union of Journalists must intervene and render its judgement on this conduct,” said Jamison Firestone.
In 1998, the Russian Union of Journalists established a Grand Jury to oversee the actions of journalists in Russia and ensure that they observe professional standards. It considers matters of ethics and morality in journalism in accordance with the Declarations of Principles of Conduct that were adopted by the International Federation of Journalists in 1954.
It has been revealed earlier this week, that Russia’s largest TV channel, ORT, censored a statement drafted by its seasoned anchorman Vladimir Posner expressing condolences on the one-year anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s death and his disappointment with the untouchability of Magnitsky’s killers. The message was carried live in the Far East but its recording was censored from all other regions of Russia, including Moscow.
For more information please contact:
Managing Partner of Firestone Duncan (Sergei Magnitsky’s former law firm)
Phone: + 44 7879751981 (in London)
Information about the Grand Jury of the Russian Union of Journalists: