Дайджест
20 Декабря 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 640

16 December 2013

STORY OF THE WEEK

Freedom of expression: Russian realities, problems and prospects

An international conference “Freedom of Expression: Russian Realities, Problems & Prospects” took place at Moscow’s Central House of Journalists on 14 December, jointly organised by the Russian Journalists’ Union, the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre and the “Article 19” international freedom-of-expression watchdog.

The major topics for discussion included measures to end impunity for perpetrators of crimes against journalists and the need to ensure full investigation of journalist killings; toughened control over the media, including online media, through journalists’ prosecution on charges of defamation and extremism; and ways to promote international cooperation in fighting impunity and strengthening freedom of expression in Russia. Special attention was given to problems facing journalists in the North Caucasus.

The conference heard a number of analytical reports, including one on freedom of expression in Russia by Nathalie Losekoot, Article 19 Head of Europe and Central Asia, and another one on legal regulation through application to journalists of the laws on defamation and on countering extremism, by Galina Arapova, Media Rights Centre director and senior legal expert. Losekoot’s report “Russian Federation: Journalists Under Attack” is based on information from the GDF “Media Conflicts in Russia” database.

The full text of the report

Discussing problems facing journalism, GDF President Alexei Simonov suggested looking at freedom of expression as something akin to “the horizon line, which is seen everywhere but is everywhere unattainable”. The conferees also welcomed his other suggestion, “We may as well urge the government in advance to amnesty the reporters who will cover the Sochi Olympiad shortly. I think many journalists will support this call; but most important, it doesn’t at all look senseless to me, given the current tensions [media-unfriendly atmosphere – Translator.] in Sochi.”

GDF Monitoring Service Head Boris Timoshenko made an overview of the most typical problems facing journalists and media in Russia. Without any major numerical growth in the number of journalist and media rights violations, he noted, some relatively new methods of pressure on the media have been used ever more often (such as interference with web publications and seizure of, or damage to, photo, video and audio apparatus and computers). As regards censorship, it may soon become redundant, since self-censorship has been growing increasingly widespread, Timoshenko said.

Turkish Journalists Association (TJA) General Secretary Erjan Ipekchi and Mustafa Keleli, head of the TJA branch in Istanbul, described the situation in Turkey, where no journalists have been killed for a long time but where a record 60 reporters are behind bars. Dagestani Journalists’ Union President Ali Kamalov shared some details about ongoing investigations into the killings of journalists and editors in that republic; and Biyakai Magomedov, a media lawyer from Makhachkala – about threats Dagestani journalists have been receiving. Also, the conferees discussed ways of promoting mutual cooperation – specifically, at regional level.

Many speakers said the pressure on the media is likely to last until impunity is ended in Russia.

Summing up the results of the discussion, Ingushetia-based blogger Magomed Mutsolgov said, “You can write and talk about anything, but this doesn’t mean you won’t get killed for that. It would be wrong to say freedom of expression has been done away with. But saying we continue enjoying it would be equally wrong.”

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

2013 Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” handed in Moscow

A ceremony was held at Moscow’s Central House of Journalists on 15 December to honour the winner of, and nominees for, this year’s Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, which is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

In different years, the award went to such outstanding Russian journalists as Elvira Goryukhina, Anna Politkovskaya, Galina Kovalskaya, Otto Latsis, Dmitry Furman and others.

The 13th annual competition this year attracted journalists from dozens of Russian cities – from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Krasnodar and from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg. At the final stage, the jury selected the most impressive works by 14 finalists, among them Abdulla Duduyev, Dosh magazine (Grozny-Moscow); Varvara Siyanova, newspaper Amurskaya Pravda (Blagoveshchensk); Roman Khakhalin, web publication Park Gagarina (Samara); Olga Gordeyeva, newspaper Okno (Kolpino, Leningrad Region); Marina Zavadskaya and Natalya Fonina, newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti (Vladivostok); Sergei Sorokin, newspaper Krasnoye Znamya (Syktyvkar); Natalya Ostrovskaya, newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda (Vladivostok); Dmitry Florin, news website InterKavkaz (Moscow); and 5 would-be nominees for the main prize – Yelena Suslova, newspaper Otkrytaya Dlya Vsekh I Kazhdogo (Mineralniye Vody, Stavropol Region); Sergei Sokolov, newspaper Novaya Gazeta (Moscow); Yulia Suntsova, newspaper Den (Izhevsk); Vladimir Vorsobin, newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda (Moscow); and Yelena Vlasenko, newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno (Moscow).

After yet another round of debating and voting, the 2013 Award winner was named – Yulia Suntsova.

The final session involved not only the Jury members present in Moscow, among them Alexei Simonov, GDF president and Jury chairman; Alexei Pankin, chief editor, Strategiya I Praktika Izdatelskogo Biznesa, Ifra-GIPP Magazin); Igor Naidyonov, Russky Reporter magazine special reporter and winner of the 2005 Andrei Sakharov Award; Boris Dubin, sociologist, Levada Centre; Gregory White, head of The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow office; and Vladimir Voronov, Sovershenno Sekretno columnist and winner of the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Award – but also Jury members in other cities and countries. Taking part in the voting by e-mail were Miyasat Muslimova, professor with the Russian Language and Literature Department, State University of Dagestan – in Makhachkala; Pilar Bonet, El Pais correspondent – in Spain; Tatyana Sedykh, Moyo Poberezhye newspaper editor and winner of the 2009 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Vanino, Khabarovsk Region; Yuri Chernyshov, freelance journalist – in Saratov; Georgy Borodyansky, Novaya Gazeta correspondent and winner of the 2011 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Omsk, Siberia; and Susanne Scholl, freelance journalist, in Austria.

All the finalists received honorary diplomas; the nominees and laureate – diplomas and monetary prizes. Also, diplomas were awarded to the media outlets that published the works of the winner and nominees – the newspapers Otkrytaya Dlya Vsekh I Kazhdogo (Stavropol), Komsomolskaya Pravda (Moscow), Sovershenno Sekretno (Moscow), Den (Izhevsk) and Novaya Gazeta (Moscow). A special diploma was given to Victoria Ghil (Noginsk, Moscow Region) for staging a performance that added to the festive mood during the ceremony.

After the ceremony, the laureates and the Jury secretary were invited to the Radio Liberty studios to take part in the talk show “Facing an Event”.

 

RUSSIA

Caucasian media decide against uniting (Stavropol Region)

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The first ever forum of North Caucasian media in Pyatigorsk was attended by Aleksandr Khloponin, President Putin’s personal envoy to the region, and administration heads from four constituent entities of the North Caucasian Federal District.

Of the 103 media outlets taking part in the forum, the majority were from the government media pool. “Where are the independent ones?” Khloponin wondered. But after the general meeting, as he was holding a press conference to discuss the most “burning” problems, he did not ask again whether independent reporters were present in the conference room at all. He should have, though: the room was spacious enough to accommodate all those wishing to attend, but only “the most loyal” had been fawningly selected by the Stavropol governor’s press service clerks to save Khloponin the need to answer “awkward” questions.

To improve the North Caucasian Federal District’s public image, the presidential representative said, journalists should form, for example, a professional association – an idea that caused little enthusiasm, though. Moreover, participants called it “unrealistic” and “senseless”. All that the forum suggested was establishing a higher school of journalism to teach novices from scratch and to provide professional retraining for journalists with some prior experience.

For your information:

Ingushetia’s per capita budgetary spending on the media amounts to 777 roubles a year; in Kabardino-Balkaria – 200 roubles; in Dagestan – 190 roubles; and in Karachayevo-Cherkessia – 107 roubles. As regards Chechnya, whose population is three times as large as Ingushetia’s, spends 7 times as much as the latter on media support.

High-ranking official in Stavropol Region tries to coerce newspaper into breaching Media Law

By Yelena Suslova, nominee for A. Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, Mineralniye Vody

The Oktyabrsky district court in Stavropol has cancelled a bailiff’s ruling to stop the executory process against the newspaper Otkrytaya Dlya Vsekh I Kazhdogo in view of its having fulfilled a prior judicial decision requiring it to disclaim information that the court had found untrue.

The legal claim against the newspaper was lodged by Tatyana Panfilova, head of the Secretariat of the Presidential Representative’s Office (PRO) in the North Caucasian Federal District, in the wake of Otkrytaya’s publishing the following message received by pensioner Viktor Kruglov, a resident of the city of Mineralniye Vody, on an official PRO letterhead:

“Dear Mr Kruglov:

“Analysis of the appeals you have repeatedly sent to the President of the Russian Federation leads us to conclude you may be suffering from a mental disorder. For purposes of checking your condition and, in case such a derangement is confirmed, delivering you the soonest possible medical assistance, we suggest you should immediately turn to the nearest mental clinic to undergo an examination of your mental state and to receive appropriate treatment. Also, we suggest you should report the examination results to the PRO.

“T. Panfilova, Head of PRO Secretariat

Journalists’ commentary featured next to this message upset the lady official, causing her to file a lawsuit in defence or honour and dignity; she claimed it was not she who had signed the paper and that the editorial board should have had the signature studied by graphology specialists in the first place. However, during the trial her lawyers resolutely refused to have such a graphology study ordered.

Of the numerous “libellous” statements cited in her rather lengthy legal claim, the court upheld only one passage reading as follows:

“It was from Khloponin’s secretariat that the poor retiree from Mineralniye Vody received this disgustingly dirty message signed by Secretariat Chief Tatyana Panfilova, printed out on an official letterhead, and sealed into an envelope featuring the National Emblem and an outgoing number.”

The court required Otkrytaya to publish a disclaimer (see digest 612). The newspaper did publish the relevant excerpt from the court ruling, adding its own commentary. The bailiffs considered the court decision fulfilled and closed the review proceedings.

Yet Panfilova moved to sue the bailiffs for “doing their job negligently”. She did not like that the excerpt from the court ruling, consisting of only one passage but showing all the characteristics of a disclaimer, was not printed under a separate heading, “Disclaimer”. As a result of the filing of her second claim, executory proceedings were resumed, and Otkrytaya received a new order to furnish a “proper” disclaimer, along with a warning about its potential criminal liability for non-compliance. Both documents were dated 10 December 2013, i.e., they were issued more than 12 months after the original publication appeared. This actually means that Panfilova, a high-ranking PRO official, is putting pressure on Otkrytaya to violate Article 45 of the RF Media Law, which stipulates: “A disclaimer order may be turned down: (1) if it requires a media outlet to disclaim any information that such media outlet has already disclaimed before; and (2) if such order or the available text thereof was received by the media outlet concerned later than one year after its circulating the information subject to disclaiming.”

Former head of district administration claims 2 million roubles in moral damages from newspaper in Moscow Region

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A former head of administration in the district of Mozhaisk near Moscow has frowned at a local newspaper for criticising his performance during his period in office.

The city court in Mozhaisk is considering a legal claim in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation, filed against the newspaper Novaya Zhizn (NZ) by district administration ex-head Gennady Yeryomenko, who insists that the facts about his performance as district leader, cited in the NZ story entitled “Running Round in Circles, or They Sometimes Return…”, were “libellous and smearing”.

He wants the newspaper to disclaim five critical passages (which mostly contain evaluative statements, and one passage does not mention Yeryomenko’s name at all) and to pay him 2 million roubles in moral damages. The plaintiff has not explained why he is claiming so large a compensation amount.

The defendant’s representatives have been offered legal consulting by lawyers at the Media Rights Centre in Voronezh.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defence Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the Internet, including at:

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Judges meet with journalists at year-end conference in Yekaterinburg

By Sergey Plotnikov, Board member, Sverdlovsk Creative Union of Journalists

Contrary to a holiday mood, in which people usually sum up the results of an outgoing year, the atmosphere at the 13 December theoretical and practical conference in Yekaterinburg, organised by the regional court jointly with the regional journalists’ union, could be called anything but festive.

Gloomy statistics

Judges seldom are capable of surprising journalists – still more rarely at official or scientific forums. Yet Sverdlovsk Region Court Chairman Aleksandr Dementyev did produce a shocking impression on the conferees by telling them that in 2011-2012, media workers in the Urals capital lost three-quarters of the legal claims launched against them – and this after two-thirds of such claims usually decided in favour of journalists as recently as 5 to 10 years ago.

The bitter news did not become any sweeter after Dementyev’s enthusiastic remark about “the growing number of amicable settlements”. Fine, many must have thought to themselves, we’ve been learning to settle disputes – yet it would be a whole lot better if we made fewer mistakes: if we wrote and spoke with due respect for the law, while clearly understanding where our professional interests are in phase with those of society…

Actually, that was what the conference was all about, entitled “The Judiciary & Media: How to Balance out Protection of Privacy and People’s Right to Be Informed?” It wasn’t yesterday that journalists and judges raised this question: the idea of holding such a conference was first voiced in 2011, when both the regional court and the journalists’ union were led by other chairmen. The problems, though, have remained the same.

Reporters’ guild needed

As shown by judicial practices, putting off tackling problems till later is by far not the best way to solve them. This is why the regional court and the journalists’ union sat down early in autumn to draft an agreement that was finally signed last Friday.

“This marked the union’s first step toward implementing its strategic programme of action outlined by JU Chairman Aleksandr Levin right after his election,” said forum participant Ignat Bakin, a reporter for the news agency Novyi Region.

The strategy is simple enough: journalists should stop calling for “peace and harmony” and start moving toward that goal by practical steps – by adding courses in (legally correct) judicial reporting to the journalism schools’ curricula; by opening a debating club; and by establishing a regional guild of forensic reporters.

Actually, such a guild has operated at federal level since the mid-1990s – a decade that many in Russia dub “horrid”.

What the lawyers call “justice system transparency” comes to many judges with difficulty, evidently because of their “traditional” conservatism and their habit – sometimes, well-justified – to keep interest groups, including politically committed media, at arm’s length.

BlackPR a serious problem

Boris Lozovsky, dean of the school of journalism at Urals Federal University, acknowledged that the media community is still not free from the influence of “black” PR professionals. Yelena Verigo, chief spokeswoman for the regional court in Chelyabinsk, echoed this in her report entitled “Ways of Promoting Objective Judicial Reporting amid a Boom of ‘Black’ PR Technologies”.

Learning by the best practices of the past, conferees definitely aspired to move ahead. Even if they have so far failed to deduce a formula of public interest, judges will hopefully keep working on it together with journalists, rather than all on their own.

When you start discerning live faces amidst microphones and judges’ gowns, it becomes easier to reach understanding – and to detect outsiders. These – for both the journalists and judges – are the same opponents: masters of substituting narrow selfish or group interests for those of the entire society.

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

Russian Journalists’ Union President V. Bogdanov’s open letter to Public Communications Minister N. Nikiforov

Dear Mr Nikiforov:

We have obtained a copy of a message sent to the Russian Government’s apparatus in April 2013 by Deputy Minister A. Volin, who advised the prime minister to refrain from accepting our invitation to attend the 10th Congress of the Russian Journalists’ Union (RJU) as a guest – mostly because RJU “is an organisation enjoying little authority and representing almost no one”.

We were hurt by this characteristic, which strikes us as unfair – yet it is Mr Volin’s personal opinion, and his frank and honest expression of this view reflects great credit on his frankness and honesty. We have repeatedly heard Mr Volin declare his reluctance to cooperate with our organisation; we find this attitude regrettable, counterproductive and non-constructive. Though, we, too, think that Mr Volin’s stand on a whole number of important issues is wrong and in many aspects harmful. Specifically, Mr Volin assesses the role of journalism and the press exclusively from the viewpoint of a “black” PR specialist and political technologist – and he actually is one, since we remember all too well his pronouncements about journalism “carrying out no public mission”, [because its] sole task is “to yield profit for the media owners”. His statements to that effect sounded so insulting to our profession that even you, Mr Nikiforov – his direct superior – were compelled to correct him. It is not the form of his expressions alone that we are resolutely protesting. Just as Mr Volin would prefer to deal with some other kind of RJU, we, too, would like someone else appointed to oversee the media affairs – pardon us, a totally different person! Yet we are aware that neither our own nor Mr Volin’s wishes or preferences matter much in deciding such issues; this causes us to keep our emotions under control.

This notwithstanding, when writing his message to the Government, Mr Volin should not have kept silent about the fact that RJU is this country’s largest journalistic association, with about 100,000 members in regions all across Russia (including Moscow, St. Petersburg and Tatarstan) – and, moreover, the sole organisation recognized by the international journalistic community: RJU is a member of the International and European Federations of Journalists, which have treated us with increasingly strong respect. As a proof of this, IFJ chose Moscow as the venue for its 2007 Congress, held once every three years and seen as the single most important media event (it is a pity someone of the-then Volin’s likes persuaded Russia’s leaders not to “notice” that congress, the less so to speak from its rostrum); and this year our representative was elected vice-president of the European Federation of Journalists. With RJU’s international press cards, Russian journalists (including, for Mr Volin’s information, reporters for this country’s largest newspapers and television companies) have travelled around the world on most risky assignments, and their press cards have helped them in real terms – even in situations when other professional IDs were not recognized and remained unworkable. To date, by the way, such press cards are held by nearly 1,500 journalists in Moscow, 500 in St. Petersburg, etc. Not a single other organisation (except RJU) is authorised to issue such cards.

In the past 15 years, the Russian Journalists’ Union, allegedly “representing almost no one”, has attracted to each of its forums and festivals up to 2,000 colleagues from all across Russia, with the programme of each such forum featuring up to 150 different events – conferences, round tables, master classes, meetings with industry ministers, MPs, political party leaders, etc. (during this year’s festival, one of the round tables was conducted by Oleg Morozov, the presidential administration’s internal policy chief). Regrettably, none of your ministry’s representatives have attended – ever! – our festivals.

Not only festivals, actually. A few days ago, on 15 December, Moscow marked Journalists’ Memorial Day to commemorate the journalists killed on duty; this day was first marked by RJU in the early 1990s. On that day, we invite relatives and dear ones of our murdered colleagues, hand out gifts, say kind words, and raise a glass in memory of the victims over set-out tables… Why has no one – no one except us! – ever offered their help? Why hasn’t Mr Volin – or, for that matter, why haven’t you, Mr Nikiforov – ever found a minute to drop in at the House of Journalists?

Mr Volin advised the prime minister against attending our Congress. But no official of your ministry came either – not a single one! Were you so indifferent to what was going on at the Hall of Columns? About 70 delegates took the floor to cite really alarming statistics or advance various initiatives, both feasible and unfeasible. The Congress adopted a broad-based programme and asked the government agencies concerned – including your ministry, Mr Nikiforov – for assistance. Why haven’t we received a word in reply? Were those documents shelved by your deputy again? We can send them once more – to your personal address this time.

It is perhaps not the best time to tell you in detail about what we have accomplished or been busy doing, or what Mr Volin failed to mention in his message to the Government – probably something he had not bothered to check up to know for sure.

What we are interested to know is a purely practical question: To what extent is Mr Volin’s personal attitude to RJU consistent with the official position of your ministry? Do you as minister agree with him?

If not, we invite you to meet with the RJU leadership. We are prepared to frankly and honestly share with you our vision of the problems facing Russian journalism and ways of tackling those problems. The domestic press is in a state of deep crisis and rapidly losing authority – partly because Russia’s media policy has been re-oriented toward purely utilitarian, momentary goals. Yet the press is not only business, not only PR, and not only an instrument for deflecting the reader’s and viewer’s attention from real problems and concerns.

We have some specific proposals to put forward, and some specific plans, supported by the intelligent part of the media community, to share with you.

And, of course, we are ready to answer whatever questions you may have.

We suggest making it a strictly working meeting, to be held on our territory – at the House of Journalists – at any time that may be convenient to you.

Sincerely,
V. Bogdanov,
RJU President

 

We are sending a copy of this message to the prime minister, who could not attend the RJU Congress, to our regret.

 

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.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

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

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.

Contacts:

Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

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Архив
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