7 Декабря 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 594

3 December 2012



Jury of Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” names finalists

The Jury of the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” held its last sitting on 1 December to identify the group of finalists. The Sakharov Award is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime. The annual competition was held for the 12th time this year. The group of previous years’ laureates included Elvira Goryukhina (Novosibirsk), Anna Politkovskaya (Moscow), Galina Kovalskaya (Moscow), Mikhail Afanasyev (Abakan, Khakassia), Igor Naidyonov (Moscow), Anna Lebedeva (Rostov-on-Don), Yevgeny Sholokh (Vladivostok), Tamara Proskuryakova (Kamyshin, Volvograd Region), Tatyana Sedykh (Vanino, Khabarovsk Region), Vladimir Voronov (Moscow) and Georgy Borodyansky (Omsk, Siberia).

This year, the Jury named thirteen finalists, among them:

Roman Anin (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow); Viktor Bulavintsev (Dalnevostochniye Vedomosti newspaper, Vladivostok; Igor Averkiyev (Civil Chamber news website, Perm); Yelena Vlasenko (Radio Liberty website, Moscow); Roman Khakhalin (Park Gagarina web publication, Samara); Nigina Beroyeva, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Moscow); Lev Rubinstein (Grani.ru, Moscow); Natalia Fonina (Arsenyevskiye Vesti newspaper, Vladivostok); Polina Zherebtsova, Krugozor magazine, Helsinki); Viktor Shostko (Krestyanin newspaper, Rostov Region); Igor Korolkov (Sovershenno Sekretno newspaper, Moscow); Olga Bobrova (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow); and Khadzhimurat Kamalov (Chernovik newspaper, Makhachkala).

K. Kamalov was also awarded the Jury’s special diploma “For a Life Devoted to Journalism” (posthumously).

The names of the nominees and prize-winner, to be selected from the above group of finalists, will be announced at a ceremony to honour the winners of the 2012 competition, to be held at Moscow’s House of Journalists (8a, Nikitsky Boulevard, Arbatskaya metro station) on 15 December.

This year’s contest attracted about a hundred authors from dozens of Russian regions, from Yakutsk to Makhachkala and from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Kursk. The laureate and nominees will receive prizes and diplomas. Special diplomas will also be given to all the finalists and the media that published the works of the prize-winner and nominees.



Important precedent created: St. Petersburg court confirms journalists’ right to circulate information about citizens without their consent

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The 13th arbitration court of appeals in St. Petersburg on 29 November upheld a news agency’s legal claim against the Roskomnadzor [federal agency for oversight over public communications] department for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region by stating that journalists and the media have the right to disclose personal information about citizens without their consent.

As we have reported, Roskomnadzor issued a warning to the SudebniyeResheniya.rf news agency in response to a complaint by a man dissatisfied with the agency’s publishing judicial decisions that disclosed his personal data (for details, see Digest 574 http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/4/986#co2). The St. Petersburg arbitration court earlier upheld the news agency’s protest against the Roskomnadzor warning, but the oversight authority appealed against that ruling, referring to the Personal Data Law. During those court hearings, Roskomnadzor’s Ksenya Mataruyeva claimed that “the media are not entitled to circulate information making it possible to identify an individual”, for which reason “they must not report anything at all”, for example, about government executives (for details, see Digest 578 http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/996#ws1).

The court dismissed this approach as faulty – the more so Roskomnadzor’s senior management provided official explanations saying that media reporting on judicial hearings (and their participants) must not be regarded as a practice contravening the Personal Data Law.

The ruling has come into force, which is important in light not only of this particular case but also of ever more claims filed against media recently in connection with personal data disclosure (see Digest 592 http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/1028#co1, Digest 584 http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/1010#ev1). As regards the oversight agency, expected to defend personal data as well as media rights and freedoms, it should pay more attention to the norms of effective legislation and existing judicial practices: the working time of its officials wasted on the “struggle” with the media, and litigation fees, are paid for with budgetary monies.



Journalists turned serfs in Rostov Region

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

A court of law has sentenced the newspaper Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti (NV) at territorial electoral committee representations to three fines for violating campaigning rules.

Before the 2 December mayoral vote in the Cossack capital Novocherkassk, NV had repeatedly carried campaigning materials without notices that those had been paid for from the relevant candidate’s electoral fund, which constitutes a violation of the law “On the Basic Guarantees of RF Citizens’ Right to Participate in Elections and Referenda”. The city’s electoral committee in this connection lodged four administrative claims against Natalia Makhova, the mayor’s office appointee as NV editor instead of Irina Vassilyeva, who had several times been replaced by the mayor but reinstated by courts of law (see Digest 590 (Rus.)).

Life shows electoral committees and courts see these and similar law violations differently, based on double standards and depending on who conducts pre-election campaigning unlawfully (from the legislators’ point of view). A special issue of the newspaper Taganrogskaya Pravda released on 1 March (see Digest 560) in 90,000 copies – a circulation several times larger than the usual – featured an interview with Rostov Region Governor Vassily Golubev, who said he would like to see the incumbent mayor, Nikolai Fedyanin of the ruling United Russia Party, re-elected as “an efficient city manager”, and pledged regional power’s support for Taganrog residents in dealing with the city problems in the event of their “making the right choice” during the vote. Despite this clear violation of the above-mentioned law (not a word was said in the newspaper about Fedyanin’s paying for that publication from his party’s fighting fund), the Taganrog city court turned down a protest lodged by opposition candidate Vladimir Prasolov and ruled that the special NV issue had “nothing to do with campaigning”. That story, though, did have its consequences for Taganrogskaya Pravda editor Anatoly Malinovsky: while understanding he was taking risks, he could not say “no” to the-then Mayor Fedyanin before the vote, but after Prasolov’s winning the mayoral seat he was compelled to tender his resignation.

A similar thing happened in Novocherkassk: since Makhova was appointed NV editor in Vassilyeva’s stead by the-then Mayor Anatoly Kondratenko, a Communist Party member, she did her best to please her bosses by actively campaigning for the communist mayoral nominee, Vladimir Nadtoka, in defiance of all effective regulations, including electoral law, which resulted in three minimal (1,000-rouble) fines levied on her so far by the pretty lenient judges, with a fourth one pending (the relevant claim has not been considered yet).

Clearly, the “provisional” editor will now have to resign too, since Nadtoka lost the mayoral race to United Russia’s nominee Vladimir Kirgintsev. Actually, NV’s campaigning effort went down the drain, since Novocherkassk residents, exhausted by the never-ending squabbles between ruling-party and opposition candidates, showed only a 41% voter turnout despite the fact that provincial electors are generally more active than their big-city peers.

By the way, the Novocherkassk City Duma, dominated by United Russia representatives, agreed with the electoral committee on slashing the period for media to apply for participation in pre-election campaigning from 30 to 20 days – on the pretext that this is allowed by law in the event of early elections being held. The actual goal, though, was to allow as few newspapers and TV/radio stations as possible to get involved in the campaigning– and that goal was attained, since many media indeed had not had enough time to register before the deadline.

Kopeisk penal colony revolt: Who is right – journalist or police task force?

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Journalist Oksana Trufanova, “No to GULAG” project coordinator and a witness of the recent riot in penal colony No.6 in Kopeisk, Chelyabinsk Region, who was beaten by the special police force (OMON), is now finding herself targeted by law enforcement.

On 24 November, OMON units were set against a group of people who had come to visit their imprisoned relatives. Trufanova was clubbed down by an OMON officer, who then held her by the neck as he whispered curses and threats into her ear. She obtained a medical certificate from a first-aid station and reported the beating to the police.

Three days later, she was questioned at the regional prosecutor’s office, and on 28 November an assistant prosecutor called her on the phone saying he had more questions to ask. “Send in an official summons,” Oksana told him. On the following day, several unknown men rang the bell and knocked on her door demanding that she let them in.

“First, they said they were policemen, then claimed they’d come from the prosecutor’s office,” she told the GDF correspondent. “One of them refused to identify himself and walked away, another said he was Aleksandr Davydov, a voluntary police helper. I said I’d check that with their command, but a few minutes later I had a phone call from Maksim Grachov of the law observance oversight unit at the regional prosecutor’s office, who told me the men at my door were indeed police officers but they had brought a summons from him, to be handed to me. Also, he threatened to get me for questioning by force. I did not open the door, since I’d already been questioned by prosecutor Mamayev two days prior to that.”

The high degree of law enforcers’ activity may be attributed to the fact that Trufanova continues actively defending the rights of penal colony inmates: she has filed several complaints with the regional Investigative Committee, and sent word around social networks about hard psychological pressure being put on witnesses of the OMON attack on civilians. Police have broken into people’s homes and kept them under surveillance, she wrote in her blog, adding that the penal colony administration has been refusing to provide any information about inmates’ health or the reprisals they may have been subjected to.

Unknown persons purchase newspaper’s print run wholesale in Kholmsk, Sakhalin Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Retail buyers were surprised not to find the latest, 47th, issue of the newspaper Sakhalinsky Moryak on the newspaper stalls either on 29 November, when it was due, or later. The vendors said unknown persons had purchased the entire print run wholesale.

One is left to guess what in particular the wholesale purchasers did not like in that number: the political debates between United Russia and the Communist Party, or the big critical story about deplorable living conditions in the Chaika medical and social rehabilitation centre for children in the village of Pionery…

Whatever the motives, attempts to destroy newspaper issues in the Internet era are clearly senseless. Volunteers helping the Chaika orphans (whose comments laid the basis for the critical article) promptly posted the stolen issue’s content in the Odnoklassniki social network.

Sakhalinsky Moryak is a newspaper for everyone, which has been released twice a week since 1948. Its founder is the staff of the JSC Sakhalin Steamship Company.

Karelia’s chief tax officer censored?

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

In the spirit of the times, the government of Karelia has organised live video reporting from its conference rooms. Anyone wishing to was offered to watch the first such show a few days ago and see MPs discussing the republic’s financial performance in the first 9 months of this year. As good luck would have it, the figures cited by Karelian Finance Minister I. Usynin sounded decent and inspiring: actually, a budget surplus was identified, which was a real sensation after decades of gloomy budget deficits that hardly ever promised any change for the better. True, the minister noted – ahead of the question time – that the surplus was to be attributed to the poor financial discipline, rather than to an upturn in the economy. Different ministries and committees had failed to duly use the federal budget funds disbursed for various programmes, thereby accumulating a huge sum that distorted the real picture, he said.

In real terms, all the budget indicators for the 9 months of 2012 were worse than in the same period last year. Specifically, profit tax collection from enterprises throughout the republic shrank notably, and even income tax collection from individuals turned out lower than expected (with targets fulfilled only by 67%) – largely because of “grey” salary payments to personnel allowing company heads to reduce tax contributions to the budget.

The proceedings could be watched and heard live in the Internet. But when Karelia’s tax service head V. Masalkin took the floor and said some of the company head-managers attending the conference were suspected of tax evasion, and that he was ready to name them there and then, the PC monitors suddenly went blank, leaving it for the outsiders to guess whether or not the republic’s chief tax officer did mention any names.

That was not censorship – nothing more than a sudden technical disruption, an administration spokesman told the GDF correspondent, promising to make sure future live coverage of government meetings is “thoroughly” prepared.

Further on unreliable sources of official information in Omsk (see digest 586)

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Omsk-based weekly Biznes-Kurs (BK) has had problems recently with its information sources, even with official ones, such as the Russian Interior Ministry’s Chief Administration for the Krasnodar Region. BK turned to the latter for comments in connection with a legal claim filed against it by Oleg Shishov, a regional MP and general director of the Omsk-based construction company Mostovik, in the wake of BK’s reprinting an Izvestia report about the Investigative Committee of Sochi suspecting the company of “an attempt to misappropriate over 2 billion roubles through overestimating the cost of construction of a tobogganing and bobsleighing track” (see Digest 586 http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/2/1016#co1).

Shishov has no claims to Izvestia, since the original report did not mention his name – it only mentioned some unidentified “Mostovik managers”, whereas BK featured it in bold letters in the headline. Up until now, he “never objected to being identified with his company or his name being used instead of the company’s – ‘Shishov built…’, ‘Shishov erected…’, ‘Shishov got the contract for…’, and so on”, BK said. He has led his company since 1989 and is known to have a 44% stake in it, the weekly noted.

In preparation for court proceedings, BK filed an inquiry with the Krasnodar Region police to check the facts once again, and on 28 November received a reply that was quite unexpected. Natalia Tikhonova, head of public relations at the Krasnodar police department, informed the newspaper of two criminal cases opened against Mostovik on charges of “attempted misappropriation of funds belonging to the OlimpStroi (Olympic Construction) state company” – 2.5 billion roubles in the first case, and 22.973 billion in the second case. The two sums add up to 25.5 billion roubles, which is an amount ten times larger than that mentioned in the original report challenged by the plaintiff. And although the parties were close to reaching an amicable settlement (Mostovik was ready to withdraw its financial claims if BK published a disclaimer), the weekly decided not to conceal this new information.

“As soon as it was posted on our website,” BK said, “a Krasnodar police department spokesman called us on the phone insisting that we remove the news story from the site. Otherwise, they all ‘would be given the sack’, because they are forbidden to comment on cases handled by higher-standing investigative authorities.” (The Mostovik case is currently under investigation by the RF Interior Ministry’s Investigative Committee.)

The weekly, however, rejected that police request, seeing it as an attempt to put pressure not only on BK but also on Krasnodar law enforcement. “Some VIPs must be strongly interested in hushing up information about Mostovik and the billions of budgetary roubles,” BK said. “We think it ‘a must’ to keep the public informed about progress in the investigation of those corrupt deals.”

Oleg Shishov’s reaction to the publication was prompt. “You’re gathering lies!” he told the BK correspondent. He cancelled the amicable settlement and announced his intent to lodge another legal claim against the weekly.

Commenting on his statement, Sergei Suslikov, head of TRIES Co., the publisher of Biznes-Kurs, said BK had repeatedly offered its page space to the Mostovik director for purposes of replying to both publications. Also, as an MP representing the United Russia Party, he might directly appeal to his electors asking to call a news conference attended by all Omsk-based media “to dispel the rumours and suspicions allegedly smearing his name”.

“Yet Mr. Shishov prefers litigation,” Suslikov said, adding that “a court decision about Mostovik’s being under suspicion while its director isn’t mixed up in the rackets at all would hardly ever restore that gentleman’s reputation”.

Court turns down Rostekhnadzor official’s appeal in Voronezh

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The regional court in Voronezh on 29 November dismissed an appeal filed by Yuri Bavykin, deputy head of the Verkhne-Donskoye Department of Rostekhnadzor [federal service overseeing ecology, technology and nuclear power engineering].

The Rostekhnadzor official attempted to challenge a Leninsky district court decision turning down his legal claim in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation against the newspaper Voronezhsky Kuryer. The plaintiff demanded a disclaimer and 1 million roubles in moral damages allegedly inflicted on him by a story about corrupt practices within his agency. The defendant, however, brought witnesses who confirmed the facts described in the critical publication; so Bavykin’s claim was rejected in full.

The regional court upheld the first-instance court’s ruling.

The defendant’s interests were represented in court by Svetlana Kuzevanova, a legal expert with the Voronezh-based Media Rights Defence Centre.

Ingushetia authorities seek to tighten screws on Internet

By Vakha Chapanov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Local authorities in Ingushetia have initiated the closure of the independent web portals Ri-online.ru and Angusht.com, which covered different aspects of life in the republic.

A note posted on the republican prosecutor’s office’s website on 27 November, with reference to a Magas district court decision of 9 November, said the two portals had been identified as extremist.

“In the course of media monitoring,” the note said, “the republican prosecutor’s office repeatedly found Ri-online.ru and Angusht.com featuring information containing extremist statements… The prosecutor’s office asked a court of law to identify those publications as extremist, and the court did find them such.” Now its decision has been communicated to the public.

Only a few websites in Ingushetia, including the two banned ones, have provided honest coverage of developments in the republic. The authorities are seeking to tighten screws on the Internet, which is the sole source of truthful information for many ordinary Ingushes.



Monitor of freedom-of-expression violations in October 2012

Kazakhstan’s Adil Soz Foundation, an international media rights watchdog, registered a total of 87 reports on freedom-of-expression violations on Kazakh soil in October 2012, among them:

Threats against citizens, journalists and media – 2;

Interference with journalists’ lawful professional activities – 3;

Violations of media right to freedom of expression and creativity – 3;

Violation of the right to distribute media – 4;

Unjustified refusals of, or delays in access to, socially significant information – 4;

Unjustified restrictions on access to socially significant information – 8;

Closure of media – 9;

Suspension of media – 9;

Barriers to free gathering/dissemination of information – 9;

Violation of the rules of conduct of police operations – 10;

Provision of false information to media (Art. 347 of RK Administrative Code) – 10;

Unjustified restriction on access to websites – 11;

Charges of defamation and insult (Art. 129, 130 of the RK Criminal Code) brought against media – 11;

Media suspension demands – 12;

Charges of breach of norms of journalistic ethics – 18;

Charges of breach of the Law on TV and Radio Broadcasting – 18.



Outlook for election of new chair of Sverdlovsk Region Journalists’ Union

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

As had been expected, the 30 November meeting of the board of the Sverdlovsk Region Journalists’ Union (SRJU) approved the rules of procedure for the election of delegates to the regular, tenth, national congress of journalists. The voting will take place during the annual SRJU meeting scheduled for 15 February 2013, which is to hear reports and elect a new SRJU head, since the incumbent chairman, Dmitry Polyanin, has explicitly expressed his intent to resign.

That signalled the start of campaigning for the right to fill the would-be vacancy. Gubernatorial adviser Vadim Dubichev unobtrusively nominated a candidate – Aleksandr Levin, press-secretary to the former Governor Eduard Rossel.

Not a bad nomination, one might say – but for the fact that over his 15-year tenure as the regional leader’s assistant Levin did actually nothing to support SRJU interests, not even in the course of his numerous meetings with RJU President Vsevolod Bogdanov, during which he repeatedly pledged to open a House of Journalists in Yekaterinburg. Yet things haven’t got forward an inch ever since…

Today, Aleksandr Levin is a retiree and president of the football club “Ural”, which, to the joy of its fans, is on the verge of hitting the national league thanks to multi-million injections from the regional budget. The regional journalists are less lucky: they have never got a professional club of their own.

Honestly, I don’t think Levin will agree to become president of the Sverdlovsk branch of the Journalists’ Union – he doesn’t need it. So the question is who wants to see him take over as the SUJU head.

Karelian MPs reallocate budgetary funds set aside in media support

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Conflicting interests are nothing out of the ordinary for parliamentary factions. But as they recently discussed the government-proposed information policy budget for 2013, Karelian MPs seemed to see eye to eye on how to divide among TV, the print media and the publishing companies the 83,626,000 roubles earmarked for media support. Deputies, though, proposed one significant adjustment: to reserve 10 million from that amount for the fulfilment of parliament’s own information needs.

Up until now, budgetary funds have been used by the republic’s executive power at its own discretion, often without regard for parliamentary interests. The previous body of the Legislative Assembly, dominated by United Russia representatives, took that system for granted; now that United Russia has retained only 19 of the 50 parliamentary mandates, the question arose as to why Karelia’s government should alone handle the money allocated by the deputies in media support. Significantly enough, the URP faction joined the parliamentary majority in calling for a change to existing practices; hence the deputies’ initiative to retain a piece of cake for themselves.

Actually, no one is taking that money away: the funds will be directed toward media support, as planned. But the form of expenditure reporting will change – in the sense that the 10 million roubles will be spent on information products directly ordered by the lawmakers. The issue’s technical and economic aspects are yet to be worked out, but, as indicated during the parliamentary session, Karelia’s Legislative Assembly might contract media outlets for the fulfilment of particular volumes and kinds of work. Half of the overall amount (5 million roubles) would be used by parliament as a whole, the other half would be handled by the different factions. An appropriate budget amendment has already been put to the vote and approved.

As could be gathered from deputies’ speeches at the session, this would only mark the first step toward equal access to “media money”. One proposal – to launch a “Parliamentary Hour” show on republican TV – won enthusiastic support on the part of deputies. It looks like the governor’s administration will have to step aside to make media money available to others.



Winners of journalistic competition honoured in Voronezh

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Media Rights Defence Centre in Voronezh on 27 November summed up the results and honoured the winners of the regional stage of the journalistic competition “I, You, We Have the Right…”

Previous years’ laureates came to congratulate the winners in an informal atmosphere. They all got diplomas and souvenirs.

As part of the programme, a TV link with Moscow was organised, during which GDF President Alexei Simonov, the jury chairman, addressed the participants with a complimentary speech. He broke the good news: three contestants from the Central Black Soil Region – Moyo newspaper reporter Roman Prytkov (Voronezh) and journalists Anna Nemolyakina and Alina Chaban of the Istoki TV/Radio Company (Orel) had won in the final, federal stage of the competition. Regretfully, no further contests are likely to be held, since the sponsor organisation has ceased working in Russia, Simonov said.

Media Centre Director Galina Arapova said plans for the near future include the release of an anthology of works by finalists of the regional stage of the contest.



Dear colleagues:

I am a reporter for the newspaper Prostymi Slovami (PS), distributed in the Naro-Fominsk district of the Moscow Region – in Selyatino, Kalininets and Aprelevka. The newspaper has been issued since May, during which time we have carried out many independent probes into corrupt schemes with land plots, municipal orders, etc.

In the past few weeks, our newspaper has found itself under pressure from law enforcement. After PS published a story entitled “Taxes and Duties” on 13 October, featuring a photo of a dark-skinned salesman, someone named S. N. Sergeyev complained to the prosecutor’s office about what struck him as a hint at slavery and humiliation of African people’s dignity. The story said although a certain firm collects money from market vendors for cleaning up the market area, the latter remains untidy and littery. Most important, part of that firm is owned by the administration of Kalininets village. As gathered from a conversation with Naro-Fominsk district police chief Aleksandr Ivanov, Sergeyev told the police he had never filed any complaints, which means the anonymous complaint signed with his name was dropped into the district prosecutor’s office’s mailbox for purposes of smearing our newspaper. This notwithstanding, assistant prosecutor V. V. Rakityansky summoned the PS chief editor for questioning. He dismissed our references to effective legislation, which prohibits taking anonymous reports into consideration, and said his office does deal with this kind of complaints, too. We had three visits by law enforcement officers last Friday, who told the chief editor unless she came for questioning of her own free will, she would be taken there in a paddy wagon. Also, they threatened publishing company employee A. S. Boyev with putting his name on the wanted list, and asked for details about me, a journalist, although I had nothing whatever to do with that publication.

The latest summons for questioning came from OBOP [special police force against organised crime], evidently meaning that our staffers are thought to be members of an underworld gang.

I hereby ask you to help us defend our independent media outlet.

Tatyana Pavlova, newspaper Prostymi Slovami

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни