Investigative Committee makes statement on “TNS Energo Penza” – “PenzaNews” incident
Penza, 10 December 2015. PenzaNews. The investigative department of the Penza region Investigative Committee has provided a legal evaluation on the activities of “TNS Energo Penza” staff that in a November 3 incident, obstructed the PenzaNews agency photo reporter Maxim Kostyushin in his objective of taking photos of the company’s building and the adjacent area.
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“It was established that on 3 November 2015, during a photoshoot of the ‘TNS Energo Penza’ building located in Penza city, Gagarina street, 11B, M.V. Kostyushin was escorted by a staff member of the aforementioned company to the head of the staff management department for ‘TNS Energo Penza’ M. Baal. After a short discussion on the reasons behind the photoshoot, M.V. Kostyushin was released. He was not physically assaulted, received no demands to distribute or stop distributing certain information,” says the letter received by PenzaNews agency editorial office on Thursday, December 10, signed by the head processing control of the Penza region Investigative Committee department Maxim Sidorov.
Moreover, the document states that the current legislation provides grounds for criminal punishment against the physical entities who intervene with media reporters’ lawful activities by enforcing them to distribute or stop distributing certain information.
“Because, as mentioned above, there were no facts of persuasion to M.V. Kostyushin to distribute or stop distributing certain information, we see no grounds in conducting an audit under Articles 144 & 145 of the Criminal Code following the facts listed in your request. At the same time, I must inform you that a copy of your request was submitted to the Penza region prosecutor’s office for a prosecutor’s reaction,” the letter reads.
As PenzaNews agency reported earlier, on 3 November 2015, Maxim Kostyushin, PenzaNews agency photo reporter, approached the building of “TNS Energo Penza” with intent to take photos of the building and the adjacent area under the orders of the editorial office to accompany a previously published report of the 650,000-rubles fine.
The photo reporter already managed to take several shots when he was approached by a security guard of “TNS Energo Penza,” who demanded him to immediately stop the photo shoot and proceed with him to the 4th floor of the building for further investigation, to which Maxim Kostyushin agreed to avoid provoking a conflict.
During a discussion with the PenzaNews agency photo reporter that got off to a bad start, Margarita Baal, client relations department manager of “TNS Energo Penza,” claimed that it is ostensibly prohibited to take photos of the building from the street side without an advance warning and agreement with the company’s head management; however, she did not explain the legal basis behind the claim.
While questioning, she did not ask Maxim Kostyushin for the citizen passport to establish his identity. Likewise, she did not ask him to provide his official ID and the editorial instructions list, even though the photo reporter had the aforementioned documents at hand, and did not contact the editorial office on the issue.
Through the discussion, the PenzaNews agency photo reporter tried to explain to Margarita Baal there were no notices on the company’s premises saying taking photos is not allowed, while he made no interior photos; however, his arguments had no effect.
After the discussion, Maxim Kostyushin was escorted out of the building by the security guard and left the premises without completing the editorial instruction.
Immediately after the incident, PenzaNews agency editor-in-chief Pavel Polosin contacted by phone Roman Chernov, deputy general director of “TNS Energo,” managing director of “TNS Energo Penza” [Penza mayor between December 2005 and 19 June 2014], asked him to explain the reasons why the latter’s company’s staff interfered with the photoshoot, and reminded that intervention with legal professional activities of journalists is illegal.
The short talk ended without a diplomatic resolution of the conflict. Because of that, PenzaNews editorial office was obligated to inform the Glasnost Defense Foundation, the Center for Legal Support of Journalists under the All-Russian People’s Front (APF), and the Russian Union of Journalists of the incident.
In addition, the agency requested the regional department of the Investigation Committee and the Penza region prosecutor’s office to provide legal evaluation of the “TNS Energo Penza” staff activities.
On November 11, the PenzaNews agency photo reporter testified about the incident to the regional Investigative Committee.
On November 13, the Oktyabrsky area prosecutor’s office in Penza announced to investigate the incident.
On November 24, experts from the APF Center for Legal Support of Journalists announced they had studied the situation, and found that the staff of “TNS Energo Penza” did not have the rights to restrict the rights of a media representative to take photos of the building. Because of that, APF experts promised to send a cheat-sheet letter to the top management of “TNS Energo Penza” with a detailed explanation of the violations committed by its staff members, as a measure hoping to prevent such incidents from taking place in the future.
“TNS Energo Penza” (part of “TNS Energo” group) is the guaranteeing power supplier in the Penza region that services over 634,000 individuals and more than 15,000 legal entities.