23 Мая 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 661

19 May 2014



Moscow and Kiev – a triumph of propaganda

With both Ukrainian and Russian media keeping the developments in south-eastern Ukraine in the focus lately, they have shown a tendency to substitute reporting with accusing colleagues on the other side of the border of unseemly thoughts and deeds. In the meantime, the authorities in both countries have been charging the neighbouring country’s press with lying.

In the situation as it looks today, all the parties involved, including the authorities in Kiev and Moscow, seem to be right from their respective points of view.

Lies have ceased being anything out of the ordinary; they have become a common instrument of propaganda conducted by both sides according to Goebbels’ standards (“The more whopping a lie, the more likely it is to be trusted”).

Bright examples of this are “[Pravyi Sektor leader] Yarosh’s fire-resistant business cards”, presented as such by Russian media to become a kind of legend (or a joke); and Ukrainian media’s “symmetric-answer” reports about “[Chechen President Ramzan] Kadyrov’s Vostok battalion”, allegedly fighting on Kiev opponents’ side. The latter canard was spread by Sergei Garmash, chief editor of the Ostro.org news website, who shocked the world by reporting that “Chechens entrenched in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk have now come into sight in Mariupol; they are from Kadyrov’s Vostok battalion”. In response, journalist Arkady Babchenko, who can hardly be suspected of sympathizing with authorities of any kind, wrote: “Kadyrov’s Vostok battalion? Sorry, that’s total nonsense by any measure. The Vostok battalion was under the command of Sulim Yamadayev, a man who actually feuded with Kadyrov. After Yamadayev was killed in Dubai in 2009, his battalion was disbanded. To date: (a) no Vostok battalion has existed at all in the past five years and cannot exist in principle; and (b) ‘Kadyrov’s Vostok battalion’ is an oxymoron – something like ‘Viktor Yanukovich’s [ultra-nationalist group] Pravyi Sektor’.”

What are those reports all about? Are they graphic instances of journalistic non-professionalism, or silliness, or something else?

People seem to have suddenly forgotten that a journalist is called upon to inform, not to propagandize – and certainly not to put the “Traitor” tag on anyone who does not “expose the enemy” or sing the national rulers’ praises. The clichés used by media on both sides are amazingly similar, with the Bolshevist “He who isn’t with us is against us” dominating. This isn’t surprising, though, considering that we all grew up in one – Soviet – country and therefore were taught to think alike.

Russia has already seen its 300 “best ideological front fighters” – media workers – honoured with government awards. One may wonder if Ukraine follows suit.

Or maybe we’d rather return to reporting, pure and simple?



Reporters attacked by football fans in Krasnodar: Hooliganism or revenge?

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Half an hour before the beginning of a match in Krasnodar on 15 May between the local football club “Kuban” and FC Zenit from St. Petersburg, the guest team’s fans attacked and beat reporters for the Russian television channel Life News.

Emotions had started to boil on the stands long before the match started. According to the local rules of football coverage, accredited journalists take seats in the press box, and photojournalists and TV film crews work on the edge of the field. Reporters are prohibited to move around spectator stands during the match. Besides, a note in each reporter’s accreditation card specifies the stadium zones allowed for visiting. Before the beginning of games, journalists may move throughout the stadium premises without restrictions, although police generally don’t like to see reporters moving around.

According to Life News, the channel’s reporter Victoria Litvinova and cameraman Alexei Tumanov were telling TV viewers live about the forthcoming match and describing the situation on the stadium when they came under attack from St. Petersburg fans. According to Krasnodar police, after the match, which Kuban lost 1 – 4 to Zenit, they detained three guest fans suspected of beating the journalists. All three were released after questioning.

As it turned out, the attack was not spontaneous and amounted to more than ordinary hooliganism. After the match, several Zenit fans told the GDF it was “an act of retaliation” to Life News for “discussing Rev. Father Gleb’s theme longer than the rest”.

Gleb Grozovsky is dean of the Church of St. John the Warrior in Maloye Verevo village in the Gatchina district, Leningrad Region, and concurrently (since 2007) FC Zenit’s adviser on religious and moral issues. In November 2013 he was charged with paedophilia, and a court in St. Petersburg even warranted his arrest in absentia (he is staying in Israel now). Amid the hullaballoo raised over the matter by different media, Zenit fans are claiming, for some unclear reason, that they have been offended the most by Life News. They are insisting Grozovsky is innocent, and are dismissing the charges brought against him as “trumped-up” ones.

Although the three suspects from St. Petersburg were released, FC Kuban’s security service, jointly with the city police, has continued a probe into the beating of Life News reporters.

The attackers deserve to be duly punished: their actions fall, as a minimum, under the effects of Criminal Code Article 144 banning interference with journalists’ lawful professional work. And FC Kuban’s management, too, should be asked why the reporters were allowed into the guest fan sector without steward or police escort – in violation of the established stadium security rules, however questionable these may be from the viewpoint of effective Media Law provisions.

Voronezh courts turn down legal claims against two newspapers

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Voronezh Region Court of Arbitration has turned down a legal claim lodged by the Multi-Functional State and Municipal Service Centre against the newspaper Semilukskiy Vestnik (SV) in the wake of its November 2013 publication entitled “Venal Power”.

The publication said the service centre leased 500 sq. m of floor space to a local shopping mall for 21 million roubles a year – tenfold the actual amount, according to the plaintiff, which protested the author’s hints at the potentially corrupt behaviour of “decision-makers establishing our local rent rates”, and claimed 100,000 roubles in reputational damages from SV (see digest 638).

Yet the court refused to recognise the publication as libellous or smearing, and turned the plaintiff’s claim down in full.

The Leninsky district court in Voronezh, meanwhile, has reviewed another claim, filed by Denis Petrov, director of the local branch of the Russian State University of Commerce and Economics, against the newspaper MK v Voronezhe (MKV).

Petrov demanded a disclaimer of last October’s MKV publication titled “A High-Quality Fake: Why Some Political Parties Are Established”, which he saw as “smearing, libellous and damaging to my honour, dignity and business reputation”. Specifically, he was enraged by the newspaper’s doubts as to the authorship of his doctoral dissertation and by its mention of his conflicts with faculty members. Also, he claimed 1 million roubles in moral damages (see digest 646).

Recognising the disputed passages in the publication as expressions of the author’s subjective opinion and admissible criticism of a public figure, the court rejected Petrov’s legal claim in full.

Controversy over allegedly unlawful disclosure of personal data in Perm resolved in journalists’ favour

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region branch of Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications], seeing the weekly newspaper Novyi Kompanyon (NK)’s 24 September 2013 publication “A Seaside Barbeque” as a graphic instance of illegal personal data disclosure, punishable under Administrative Code Article 13.11 and a fine of up to 10,000 roubles, urged the prosecutor’s office to start administrative proceedings against NK.

The results of Roskomnadzor’s check-up of the facts pertaining to the case were announced at the 5 May 2014 session of the Leninsky district court of Perm, which was reviewing a complaint by Andrei Agishev, a former deputy of the Perm Region Legislative Assembly, former general director of PermRegionGaz Co. and former member of the ruling United Russia Party, about two prosecutorial refusals to start the administrative proceedings requested by Roskomnadzor (see GDF digests 635 and 644). Initially, Agishev had demanded a disclaimer and apology from Novyi Kompanyon for its reporting about the arrest of his assets on a court warrant as part of the criminal proceedings against him, and on 30 December he turned to Roskomnadzor to inform the oversight agency that NK had reported about the property arrest without his consent.

The newspaper editor noted in his reply to a representation from regional Roskomnadzor head Yuri Shchebetkov that the information referred to by Agishev was in the public domain ever since it was posted on the official websites of the Leninsky district court and the Perm Region court; therefore, its reprinting in the media did not constitute a breach of the personal data law.

Indeed, anyone accessing the said websites via the RF State Automated System “Justice” (GAS Pravosudiye) to see the lists of cases reviewed on 22 July and 24 September 2013 will see the link “A. V. Agishev, Article 115, RF Code of Criminal Procedure”. A click on the case number will open the full text of the relevant document. Although all proper names are substituted with initials on official site postings of this kind, the phrase “The accused, Mr. A. …” clearly refers to A. V. Agishev and indicates that it is his assets that were arrested.

Still, Roskomnadzor officials moved to react to what struck them as an apparent law violation. Yet the Leninsky district prosecutor’s office decided to approach the issue of how to correctly use the GAS Pravosudiye information tool from the angle prescribed by the law. On 31 January Deputy Prosecutor Dmitry Byzov refused to start administrative proceedings against Novyi Kompanyon, and on 21 February Prosecutor Vladimir Rybailo upheld his decision on the grounds that Agishev had missed the 3-month deadline established by Administrative Code Article 4.5 for this category of cases.

Contrary to Roskomnadzor’s assertions, media use of publicly accessible data cannot be regarded as disclosure of citizens’ personal information, a prosecutor’s office representative told the GDF.

Judge Sergei Syrov on 6 May announced his decision to turn down Agishev’s complaint regarding the two prosecutorial refusals. And on 14 May, the same Leninsky district court of Perm adjourned the hearings of the Agishev case in essence because of Judge Natalya Malysheva’s illness. The next open hearing is scheduled for 28 May.



Channel 5 film crew beaten up in Karaganda

A Channel 5 film crew was attacked near Devachan Restaurant in Karaganda’s Nurken Abdirov Avenue on 13 May. Reporter Aiymtora Abdina and cameraman Argyn Omir had arrived there to shoot a video report about the tear-down of summer cafés in line with the city development plan – a process that had given rise to complaints from residents disturbed by excessive noise.

As Omir was shooting some video sequences, the crew was approached by a man about 50, who presented himself as the restaurant owner and demanded that the camera be switched off. After the reporters refused to, the man started to push the camera and insult Abdina, and finally struck her. When the cameraman attempted to stop the ruffian, the restaurant owner cracked down on him too, starting a fistfight.

Abdina called the police on the phone, causing the hooligan to retreat.

The crew members turned to a hospital to have the beating officially certified, and reported the attack to the police.

[adilsoz.kz report, 13 May]



Some statistics cited

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

Civitas.ru: Karelian prosecutor’s office forbidden to ban publication of correspondence between Ukrainian and Russian citizens

Civitas.ru: Freedom of the Press 2014 report released

Civitas.ru: FAS charges Omsk-based media with using portraits of WWII heroes in beer promotion



Data protection against illegal access discussed in Moscow

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A conference “Access to Information in an Internet-Censored Environment” was held at Moscow’s Andrei Sakharov Public Centre on 30 April. The organisers – Andrei Soldatov, chief editor of the Agentura.ru news website, and Runa Sandvik, senior IT specialist with the Centre for Democracy & Technology and analyst with the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the TrueCrypt Audit project (USA) – told the conferees about existing methods of information protection against undesirable surveillance.

“In a situation where access to important and independent online information is blocked, and where the latest legislative initiatives on blogger registration restrict online freedom of expression, web users need a new strategy to help them feel freer. The Tor project, launched by a group of enthusiasts, helps users to secure their anonymity in the internet and to skirt censorship,” the organisers said announcing the conference agenda.

Runa Sandvik of the Tor project has worked on developing a web browser that makes it possible to view blocked websites. Tor and a few other browsers have been in great demand in the past few months – ever since the Russian authorities blocked a whole range of opposition websites, among them Kasparov.ru, Grani.ru, Yezhednevny Zhurnal and others – without letting the relevant media staffs know for what particular law violation their sites were blocked.

Another major topic for discussion at the conference was how to secure the confidentiality of online information. Fresh on everybody’s memory are the recent scandals stirred up by a number of media based on hacked correspondence of politicians and prominent public figures. Sandvik, who is a digital security specialist, has worked in Washington for four years as a Tor security trainer for law enforcers and journalists. “Safe methods of work need patience,” she said addressing the Sakharov Centre conferees. She cited examples of scandals that had flared up over the hacking of logins to Forbes staffers’ IP addresses by a group of hackers calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army, and made an overview of some tricks hackers play to crack logins to different e-mail and other web accounts.

“As regards telephone and SmartPhone security, the universal answer to this would be: you’d better not have any phone at all,” Sandvik said.

Asked if she thought it likely for Russia to switch the internet off altogether on its territory and to replace it with a domestic analogue network, she said, “I don’t think that will happen. Many governments in different countries have tried to but failed. Even in North Korea, the internet isn’t blocked throughout the country. Technically, of course, that would be possible, but I can’t imagine what country might be able to do it.”

Toward the end of the meeting, volunteers were offered to get brief instructions on how to use different information security tools – the Tor anonymizing browser, the Adium messenger with a correspondence-coding application, and others.



ICFJ competition announced

The US-based International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has invited journalists to take part in a global health reporting contest. Stories focusing on maternal and child health in Brazil, India, Russia and China, published, broadcast or posted online in any of these countries’ languages between 1 December 2013 and 19 May 2014, qualify for the four regional competitions. An applicant is entitled to submit several stories. One winner from each country will receive a cash prize and a study tour to the United States: Washington – Atlanta – New York.

For details, see www.icfj.org


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.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
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