1 Мая 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 706

27 April 2015


Russian and Ukrainian journalists continue dialogue (Vienna, Austria)

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

A new round-table conference at the Vienna office of the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom on 23 April brought together representatives of professional journalistic associations, among them the Journalists’ Union of Russia, the Glasnost Defence Foundation, the National Journalists’ Union and Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine, the International Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute, the National Union of Journalists (Britain), the Open Society Foundation, and the Austrian branch of Reporters Without Borders.

Speakers noted that while the dialogue between Ukrainian and Russian colleagues has not been easy, the most important thing is that it still goes on. This is particularly important considering that other public or professional organisations in the two countries have not held these kinds of meetings so far. Maybe journalists are blazing the trail because the situation with freedom of expression in Russia and Ukraine, difficult as it is, has drastically worsened recently, with media correspondents finding themselves targeted – both literally and figuratively – by all sorts of radicals.

“We deeply mourn the journalists and other media workers who perished in 2014-2015, express our condolences to their families and dear ones, and will press for the full investigation of those crimes as well as all the other attacks on, threats against, and rights violations of, journalists,” the conferees said in a statement adopted during the meeting (for the full text, see the section News from partners below). “We consider impermissible any attempts to use facts of journalists’ deaths or rights violations as instruments for conducting propaganda or fanning hate.”

However complicated the political situation may be, the parties nevertheless should seek and find a common language, since no military solution is ever possible. Ukrainian colleagues suggested organising exchanges of groups of regional journalists, who could see with their own eyes what is going on in the neighbouring country and provide unbiased coverage of developments on both sides of the border. Also, they voiced the idea of having local media publish reciprocal inserts – reports by Ukrainian correspondents in Russian newspapers, and by Russian correspondents in Ukrainian newspapers.

Ukraine is currently busy reforming its media legislation and creating public television, which OSCE experts say may set an example for all the media to follow of how to report objectively and observe the norms of journalistic ethics. Participants in the standing dialogue of professional journalistic organisations in Russia and Ukraine stated that they will defend the principles of honest and responsible journalism and resist aggression and propaganda in the two countries’ media. They see professional solidarity as the main weapon against attempts to disunite journalists and turn them into instruments of political and ideological rivalry.

Ukrainian colleagues told the conference they had information about harassment of relatives of journalists who moved from Crimea to Kiev after the peninsula was annexed by Russia. Representatives of the Journalists’ Union of Russia intend to independently research locally what is happening there in real terms.

The professional journalistic associations’ dialogue will continue.


Governor and human rights ombudswoman stand up for Media Defence Centre in Voronezh

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Voronezh Region Governor Alexei Gordeyev has publicly voiced his support for the regional Mass Media Defence Centre (MMDC). At a meeting with regional media representatives on 23 April, he described the Centre’s listing as a foreign agent as a “wrong” decision, and claimed ready to “testify anywhere” that the MMDC does not engage in politics.

“We have repeatedly met with MMDC lawyers to discuss various issues,” RIA Voronezh cited the governor as saying. “They are a team of professionals. I can testify anywhere that I’ve never seen them approaching their work from a political angle.”

The Centre has never criticised the authorities just for the sake of criticism but has always been guided by the principles of professionalism, Gordeyev said, noting that the regional government’s interaction with MMDC “has always been constructive because it, too, is based on the same principles”.

Regional Human Rights Ombudswoman Tatyana Zrazhevskaya also stood up for the Media Defence Centre by stating that since there is no ground for labelling the organisation as a “foreign agent”, there is nothing to sanction it for, the Moe-online.ru news website reported.

Perm-based ex-MP accused of embezzlement recognises himself in anonymous press release

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Andrei Agishev, an ex-deputy of the regional Legislative Assembly and former general director of the state-control gas holding Permregiongaz, on 22 April finally lost his legal claim against the police, and about 20 other claims against the media outlets which reprinted the regional police department’s online report on the results of a probe into the work of “the unnamed head of an unnamed gas company”.

Earlier, the ex-MP was sentenced to a suspended two-year term of imprisonment for illegal business activity in 2002-2009 that brought him 29 million roubles in revenue. In the autumn of 2013 he was amnestied and his conviction was declared expunged. Yet in the spring of 2014, police completed a new investigation, charging Agishev with office abuse, two instances of embezzlement and a fraud scheme that allegedly had brought him a total of 55.5 million roubles, including 30 million stolen from the regional budget.

Nearly two dozen local and federal media reported that fact with reference to the police department’s website, where an official press release was posted on 11 April 2014, entitled “Investigation of Large-scale Embezzlement Scheme Completed in Perm”. Although the suspect’s name was not disclosed, some media linked the scandal with the former MP. Agishev, too, recognised himself in the unnamed former head of a large company and a public official, and responded by lodging a legal claim against the regional police department for its posting “untrue and smearing” information; also, he demanded that the press release be removed from the site, and a disclaimer be published.

Having heard both parties’ arguments, Judge Yulia Yarinskaya of the Sverdlovsky district court of Perm on 22 January 2015 found that the law enforcers had committed no violations and that the information being challenged was true to fact, merely reporting the circumstances established during the investigation of the criminal case against Agishev.

The plaintiff appealed to the higher-standing Perm Region Court. On 17 April, shortly before his case was to be reviewed, Agishev presented a linguistic expert opinion provided at his request, which said that the post on the police department’s website asserted that Agishev had committed criminal offences. A panel of judges led by Dmitry Pyankov on 22 April refused to add such a document to the case files because it had not been reviewed by the first-instance court. At the same time, the panel did add to the case files some excerpts it had requested from the two-volume indictment against Agishev.

Making sure the police report was accurate, the regional court upheld the district court’s decision thus putting it into full legal force.

Journalist, observer beaten at polling station in Moscow Region

Moy Rayon newspaper correspondent Dmitry Nesterov and poll observer Stanislav Pozdnyakov were beaten at Polling Station No.576, where elections to the City of Balashikha’s (near Moscow) Council of Deputies were being held, Newsru.com news website reported.

Nesterov and Pozdnyakov detained a woman with a stack of ballot papers whom they suspected of attempting a throw-in. They called the police, but a group of unknown men arrived in a black BMW car with no license plates earlier than law enforcers. The men beat up the journalist and the observer and took away their cell phones and photo cameras. One camera was found later –smashed and without the memory card.

Also, Newsru.com reported that independent media representatives were not admitted to several polling stations; in violation of effective legislation they were required to present their accreditation cards. Observers say the Moscow Regional Election Committee’s reaction has boiled down to denying any facts of ballots thrown in illegally, even despite photos and video sequences proving the contrary, the news website said.

Police in Moscow detain reporters mistaking them for activists

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Borrowers affected by the rouble’s collapse staged a brief unauthorised protest in front of the Central Bank headquarters in Moscow’s Neglinnaya Street on 22 April: as they passed by, they threw empty plates, spoons and handwritten notes to the bank’s doors. Police were late to react to what was going on; they just had the time to seize only six random persons walking at the end of the column.

Two of the detainees turned out to be Olga Sapronova, a reporter for the newspaper Rabochaya Demokratiya, and GDF correspondent Dmitry Florin. Although the young woman presented her press card, a police officer held her by the wrist for several minutes. Asked by attending media reporters why, the officer said, “She’s not a journalist – she is a leader of this action!”

After a while, evidently failing to receive any definite instructions from their superiors, police released all of the detainees, having copied their passport data and made a few video sequences recording their appearances.


Some statistics cited

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

Radio Ekho Moskvy: Modern Russian TV reconstructs, rather than reports, life events

Civitas.ru: Officials put pressure on Udmurt-language newspaper to write in Russian

Kurer-sreda.ru: Alexei Simonov: Speaker of Berdsk City Council takes on KGB functions


Hackers track down appeal to President Putin to “concerned” retiree

See digest 689

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A group of hackers calling themselves Anonymous International have found out who may have filed the complaint which gave rise to the closure of the Tomsk-based broadcaster TV2. As we have reported, the TV station was shut down in line with the decision of the management of the Russian TV/Radio Network (RTRN) which unilaterally withdrew from the work agreement with TV2 as of 1 January, and after the media oversight agency Roskomnadzor refused to extend the station’s broadcasting license which expired on 8 February this year.

The computer programmers hacked the e-mail account of Roskomnadzor head Aleksandr Zharov, and The Insider published some excerpts from his business correspondence. Radio Liberty, meanwhile, has called attention to a July 2014 message from the presidential Citizens’ Letters Department, sent during the period when the transmitting antenna feeder had suddenly broken, taking TV2 off the air for 45 days. The message was entitled, “Here, a public activist has finally been found who is opposed to TV2”.

The title itself is telling: it suggests someone must have specially searched for some “concerned” citizen who might express his indignation at TV2 activities, and both the sender and the addressee appeared to know about those searches. Also, it is evident that it was not that simple to find such a person, but he was nevertheless found at long last.

The man who agreed to sign the “appeal” (or, rather, the information against TV2) by his real name – anonymous opponents of the Tomsk-based broadcaster are rather numerous in the Web but few of them ever risk popping out from behind their assumed names – was Igor Bykov, a retiree. The message was addressed to Vladimir Putin in person. Actually, the author might write it of his own free will, sincerely annoyed by the TV station’s attempt “to politicise technical problems” behind the threat of its closure. It was this “politicising” that later turned into the major pretext for RTRN, as its press release said, to break off its agreement with TV2; there was no other reason, since the station had accurately paid its bills all the time until then. RTRN was on the alert to instantly detect the signal sent by the “concerned” retiree to Russia’s president, whose apparatus then forwarded it to Roskomnadzor.

Here is what the opponent of “politicising” wrote to Putin:

“Dear comrade Commander-in-Chief and President of the Russian Federation:

“For several weeks now, the TV2 broadcaster based in our city, which has been off the air for technical reasons and under the threat of closure and de-licensing, has tried to politicise this fact and to think up some kind of pretext for it. As an engineer with a 40-year work record, a former employee of a research-and-production company, a Cossack and a patriot of my homeland, I want to call you attention to the fact that this channel is a markedly, to the point of blackness, pro-opposition one. Any opposition should be systemic, or as a minimum constructive, while those ‘human rights defenders’ see it as their duty to splash with mud and to smear what adequate people do. The rallies in Bolotnaya Square, discontent with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, support for Ukrainian nationalists in Maidan are all their key topics for discussion. They present serious, complicated political and economic processes to viewers as banal things anyone is able to understand. Only they follow up with very peculiar commentaries – that our country is rotten and vile.”

The “non-politicised” retiree asked Putin “to take due response measures in respect of this TV channel”. So far TV2 journalists have been unable to get anyone on the phone mentioned in the appeal; so they have reasons to doubt that the author really exists. The way Radio Liberty looks at it, and in our own view too, “It may well be that Staraya Square officials cherished plans to shut down the TV station as early as a year ago.” Looks very much like that, considering the Citizens’ Letters Department’s failure to furnish any reply to Tomsk residents’ demand “to quit destroying TV2” which it received last December. It was signed by 14,000 people who needed not to be searched for – they staged protest rallies at 20 degrees below zero of their own accord, and put their signatures (see digest 689). Yet the country’s top leadership, judging by everything, took Bykov the retiree’s appeal far more seriously.


Statement by participants in dialogue between professional journalistic associations of Russia and Ukraine

We, participants in the standing dialogue between professional journalistic organisations of Russia and Ukraine (the Journalists’ Union of Russia and the National Journalists’ Union and Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine):

  • deeply mourn the journalists and other media workers who perished in 2014-2015, express our condolences to their families and dear ones, and will press for the full investigation of those crimes as well as all the other attacks on, threats against, and rights violations of, journalists;
  • consider impermissible any attempts to use facts of journalists’ deaths or rights violations as instruments for conducting propaganda or fanning hate;
  • will continue to defend the principles of honest and responsible journalism and resist aggression and propaganda in the two countries’ media;
  • reaffirm our commitment to further dialogue and continued co-operation, since we see professional solidarity as the main weapon against attempts to disunite journalists and turn us into instruments of political and ideological rivalry;
  • are convinced that only professional dialogue, open discussions and exchanges of experience, as well as dialogue among journalists of different generations, will help preserve the basic values and dignity of our profession, which will cause us to do everything possible to expand the venue for our dialogue, overcome misunderstanding and prejudice; it is particularly what will cause us to continue working to expand the dialogue and create new pads for regular professional discussions and organise courses to improve journalist skills;
  • are ready to practically contribute to organising exchanges of groups of regional journalists from Russia and Ukraine;
  • believe that tomorrow’s journalism depends on the efforts both we ourselves and our colleagues are prepared will put in.

City of Vienna, 23 April 2015

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,
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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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