26 Декабря 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 689

22 December 2014


Plans to shut down TV2 television channel in Tomsk may be frustrated

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

More than 10,000 residents of Tomsk have signed a petition in support of the television network TV2.

The network is still operational. About 5,000 activists took to the streets on 14 December to speak out in its defence, according to eyewitnesses, while police put the number of protesters at “barely 1,500”, which estimate is clearly wrong, considering that the organisers managed over one hour’s action in the frosty square to gather 4,106 signatures (with signees’ addresses and phone numbers) under an appeal to President Putin “to prevent the killing of a public television channel”.

After another downtown rally on 21 December, the number of signatures increased to more than 10,000.

In spring, when TV2 vanished from the air because of a sudden breakage of the feeder, Tomsk residents held picketing actions and rallies, too (see digest 662) – with hundreds, but still not thousands, of activists participating. Since then, according to official public opinion polls, the people “have rallied even more around Russia’s top leadership” – but not in Tomsk, where things have been developing in the opposite direction, with ever more residents clinging to the so-called “fifth column” (as local web trolls dubbed TV2 after it took the liberty – only once – to give a neutral account of events in Ukraine, describing what company reporters had personally seen during a visit to Kiev’s Maidan; maybe it’s their unbiased reporting that led to the “sudden” breakdown of the feeder).

As we reported earlier, the transmitting antenna went out of order on 19 April. The agency in charge of its operation – the Russian TV/Radio Network (RTRN) – promised, citing technical difficulties, to have it repaired by 15 June. But on 15 May, Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing public communication] came up with an ultimatum: either TV resumed broadcasting in five days’ time or it would have its broadcasting license suspended. It was after this warning that public protests began; these, some say, may have actually helped in getting the feeder repaired before the channel’s closure.

But as it turned out, RTRN bore a grudge against the TV company because of its decision to appeal to civil society for help – that is, for daring to resist the authorities’ attempts to implement a thought-out plan of shutting the channel down.

On 3 December, RTRN notified TV2 that it would cease transmitting its signal as of 1 January 2015. Such a decision taken by the monopoly-holding agency meant the TV channel’s death. On 5 December, Roskomnadzor officially inquired TV2 whether or not it would be technically able to continue broadcasting; if not, then its broadcasting license, valid until 1 February 2015, would not be extended after that date.

Meanwhile, according to local media reports, a “joint REN-TV – IDC (Inter-state Development Corporation) information project, Novosti-24 Tomsk, is to be launched on February 2”. The IDC has its main office in Tomsk, headed by a prominent local businessman, Ivan Polyakov, whom the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda called “Putin’s recruit” at one time, when he, a 25-year-old fellow from St. Petersburg, was appointed director of a large federal industrial facility, the Popov Radio Factory. It looks a “niche” in Tomsk is being vacated specially for him. If so, something may indeed come out of it, considering Putin’s backing.

But then, it may end in nothing as well. Killing TV2 may be too difficult a thing to do, as shown by the activists’ signatures gathered in the course of protest actions. The television company just won’t fit into the flat TV screen – it has long since gone beyond it to become part of the live history of Tomsk. The list of its major achievements includes community folk song competitions; the Ordinary Miracle TV marathons which have raised funds for the treatment of hundreds of children with disabilities; and the series of Immortal Regiment memorial actions, the latest of which attracted half a million people in different parts of Russia as well as abroad – in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Israel. This, by the way, is all about the so-called “Russian World” which opponents of the “fifth column” have so actively promoted.

A rally in support of TV2 was also held in Moscow on 21 December, co-organised by the Yabloko party, the Glasnost Defence Foundation, and the Russian Journalists’ Union. Participants say the action involved about 500 people, including – quite unexpectedly – Fair Russia party members, who held a party council meeting on 19 December and adopted a statement saying, in part, “The threat of the independent network TV2’s closure stems from the unilateral, unmotivated refusal by … RTRN to provide communication services”. Fair Russia’s central apparatus appealed to the Federal Antimonopoly Service and the RF Ministry of Public Communications, asking them to “take appropriate steps to lift the threat of TV2’s shutdown”.


Authorities start blocking access to independent news websites

Internet users in Belarus late on 20 December found themselves unable to access some popular news websites – not only those reputed to be in opposition to the incumbent government but also some web resources that used to be perceived as politically neutral. Opposition sites had become inaccessible a few hours earlier than others.

By the end of the day, the Naviny.by news portal and the BelaPAN news agency – two of the “neutral” websites – had been blocked without any explanation. Throughout the day, “pro-opposition” sites had been difficult to access. All of the blocked ones carried information without first co-ordinating it with the authorities. This means it was independent news sites, which sought to provide as objective coverage as possible, which were targeted in the first place.

Editorial inquiries for justification of the access-blocking orders were left by the authorities unanswered.

As to Onliner.by, a website that carried news along with commercial information, the authorities said it was blocked by the Ministry of Trade because of “violating legislation regulating trade relations among citizens”.

[Birzhevoy Lider report, 21 December]


Workshop for GDF correspondent network members held in Moscow

A workshop “Journalistic investigations, school experiences, and future programmes” was held in Moscow on 15-18 December, attracting regional GDF correspondents from seven federal districts of Russia.

The correspondents attended the handing of awards to the winners of the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” (five of them themselves won this award in different years). As part of the workshop programme, they then heard a series of lectures, including “Media legislation novelties” by Viktor Monakhov, Ph.D. (Law); “A journalist’s professional ethics: a public board’s experience” by Yuri Kazakov, Ph.D. (Sociology); and “The legal foundations of journalists’ defence” by Svetlana Zemskova, Ph.D. (Law).

The trainees also discussed methods of monitoring journalist and media rights violations, agreed on would-be joint actions and projects, and congratulated GDF President Alexei Simonov on winning the Freedom of Expression Award from the International Association of Press Centres (IAPC). When receiving the award in Warsaw, Simonov said the entire Glasnost Defence Foundation had earned it.


Seminar for journalists from Russia’s northwest held in Oslo

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

On 16-18 December, the Norwegian capital hosted a seminar for Russian journalists, co-sponsored by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Barents Press community. Human rights and their coverage by the Russian media became the main topic for discussion.

The seminar attracted journalists from several regions in Russia’s northwest, including Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Karelia and St. Petersburg. Most of them have successfully co-operated with foreign partners, among them Norwegians, as part of the international community Barents Press.

The seminar participants compared the human rights situation and its coverage in the media in Russia and Norway. Instead of didactic lecturing, the Russian delegates heard questions reflecting the organisers’ sincere concern about how they work, what problems they come across, and how they feel about foreign criticism of Russian public policies. This atmosphere of openness encouraged them to speak frankly and honestly as they described episodes from their personal life experiences, difficulties they have run into, the passiveness of Russian society and the lack of interest on its part in seeing human rights duly respected. They touched on such sensitive issues as the Russian media community’s disunion and whether it is possible for journalists to establish a trade union that would effectively defend their rights.

Discussion of co-operation plans for the future showed that Russian journalists are prepared – even without Norwegian or other foreign assistance – to work at least at the regional level on projects aiming to identify problems facing society in general and the media community in particular. Implementation of these kinds of projects requires almost no financial input; all that is needed is initiative and a willingness to support each other.

GDF correspondents were among the seminar participants.

Trans-Baikal MPs intend to prove in court they are not an “organised crime ring”

By Marina Meteleva, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Parliamentarians in the Trans-Baikal Region intend to go to court to challenge a statement that compared them to an organised crime ring. Also, they will “show more tact” towards the press from now on – even despite their “having been subject to harassment in the media”.

It all began with Aleksandr Bukhvalov, a member of the regional branch of the Russian United Labour Front, addressing the 17 December session of the regional Legislative Assembly with the following statement: “It’s not a parliamentary corps – it’s more like an organised crime ring. The only thing our deputies have distinguished themselves by in the past five years is the number of criminal cases started against them. Valery Kotelnikov was accused of robbery with violence; Yuri Shkretov – of murder and banditry; Konstantin Namestnikov – of fraud and money laundering; Bair Nimayev – of office abuse; and Oleg Fedorov – of contraband and tax evasion.”

Bukhvalov also charged MPs with actively lobbying private business interests. “Suffice it to recall the long-term lease to China of a million hectares of forest land in the Mogochinsky, Tunghiro-Olekminsky and Krasnochikoisky districts. Actually, the Trans-Baikal Region will lose its status and will become just a source of raw materials for a foreign country. The numerous complaints from local residents are lying unanswered,” he said.

The regional deputies claimed hurt by this mention of their former colleagues’ “heroic deeds”. “Why keep silent? We’ve been insulted from this rostrum!” MP Andrei Nikonov said. Now they intend to defend their “honour and dignity” in court.

MP Yuri Volkov, for his part, suggested “showing more tact in our contacts with the press. Many, if not all, of us have been subject to harassment in the media at different times”.

The journalists attending the session found his statement bewildering, to say the least, since Volkov himself has a long record of work as a journalist and TV/radio anchorman. “Now, MPs too are claiming hurt by freedom of expression,” a reporter said in jest behind the scenes after the scandalous meeting, “because as regards the facts, they have nothing to raise an objection on.”


RSF 2014 report on violence against journalists released

The international press freedom watchdog Reporters sans frontiers (RSF, or Reporters Without Borders) released a 16 December report on crimes committed against journalists in 2014.

The report estimates the number of journalists killed around the world this year at 66, and of those who died in relation with their work in the past decade, at 720.

The year 2014 saw 119 journalists kidnapped, which is a 35% increase over last year’s figure. Forty journalists are currently being held as hostages.

According to RSF, the deadliest places for journalists to report from are the Iraqi and Syrian territories controlled by the extremist group Islamic State; eastern Libya; Baluchistan in Pakistan; the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine; and the Antioquia department in Columbia.

For details, see en.rsf.org

CPJ annual prison census published

“More than 200 journalists are imprisoned for their work for the third consecutive year, reflecting a global surge in authoritarianism,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in its annual special report published on 17 December.

“China’s use of anti-state charges and Iran’s revolving door policy in imprisoning reporters, bloggers, editors, and photographers earned the two countries the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst and second worst jailers of journalists, respectively. Together, China and Iran are holding a third of journalists jailed globally,” the report, which is based on this year’s CPJ-made census of imprisoned journalists, said.

The list of the top 10 worst jailers of journalists was rounded out by Eritrea, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Syria, Egypt, Burma, Azerbaijan, and Turkey.

The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those in the captivity of non-state groups. For example, CPJ estimates that approximately 20 journalists are missing in Syria, many of whom are believed to be held by the militant group Islamic State.

In all, 31 countries around the world are on the CPJ list of journalist jailers.

For details, see www.cpj.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.


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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:
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