18 Мая 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation Digest No. 707-708

12 May 2015


Media forum in St. Petersburg sums up past year’s results

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

The second forum of independent regional and local media “Truth and Justice”, held by the All-Russia People’s Front (ONF) on 25-28 April in St. Petersburg was an excellent cross-section of the current state of Russian journalism. It remains loyal to the leader of the country, blames all other officials for lack of dialogue with the press, complains of economic problems, and stays alert for plots hatched by a “fifth column” and external foes.

The ONF arranged the benchmark event in Russia’s second largest city for the second consecutive year. Whereas it might have been viewed last year as a propaganda effort by a pro-Kremlin public movement, it is now time to have the ONF face the results of its work in the media sphere. The results are impressive, no argument here.

Following is an overview of the event:

The public acknowledgement of the dramatic economic situation in which regional and local media found themselves was the keynote of the forum. The first media conference in 2014 discussed the issue as well, but back then, the ONF administration, together with the officials led by President Vladimir Putin, made optimistic remarks that the situation would improve soon. Finding 90 million roubles in the ONF budget for journalists’ grants was what this organisation really accomplished. The Truth and Justice Foundation, which bears the same name as the forum and is affiliated with the ONF, should be given credit for its decision to give the money directly to journalists. Three hundred of 1,500 applicants received 300,000 roubles each, a considerable sum in Russia. One of the criteria for nominating the winners was the effect his or her article had on problem solution. It seems the Soviet school of journalism is reviving its best traditions where the press is a means of “eliminating certain drawbacks existing in the country.”

Two things took the shine off the contest. The first was the decision to give awards to 21 federal media journalists, with the commendation “For contribution to building confidence in mass media.” Regional reporters called their federal colleagues “celebrities for hire” because the latter had never applied for the contest. A small scandal flared up when Syuzanna Farizova from the newspaper Vedomosti refused to take the ONF money saying it was contrary to the regulations at her editorial office. Other “honorary winners” turned out to be less fussy. However, regional journalists were not surprised by the conduct of representatives of the Ridus news agency, the Vzglyad.ru online newspaper and the state-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

Changing the rules halfway into the contest was the second faux pas: initially, the participants could not represent state-run or municipal media, but this provision was eventually scrapped. The group of winners included many representatives of the mass media founded and/or owned by regional and municipal authorities. Also, the organisers changed the sum of grants, deciding that instead of differentiated ones, each winner was entitled to the same amount.

Hence, the ONF was only able to chalk up an allocation of 90 million roubles for the mass media. All other upbeat reports by the ONF administration on tackling media economic problems, influencing officials or negotiating with Russian Post are just empty words. They cannot be trusted merely because the ONF has no real influence on the government’s media policy, except that it performs the function of a public non-partisan body that echoes and spoon-feeds to the slow-witted ideology coming from the top down.

It becomes pretty obvious if we compare Putin’s speeches at the last year’s forum and at the present one. In both cases he said words of encouragement that sounded right and almost like slogans; he spoke of the need to support print media, that Pochta Rossii (Russian Post) tariff hikes were inadmissible and that media could publish more advertisements… But no headway has been made. One thing is clear, however: the Kremlin indeed regards the ONF and a tool of direct influence on journalists.

The president said so as he pointed out at the Foundation’s function, which was to support media. That the value of this support (a mere 90 million roubles a year) is several times lower than the sum of direct state procurements of “information support” for regional (and municipal) authorities is passed over in shamefaced silence. Truth be told, the ONF was ordered to keep an eye on such tenders and report if something went wrong. But which regional media are ready to put up a fight against the authorities if they expect funding from them in order to keep afloat? Apparently, the authorities’ “carrot” is more formidable that the “stick” as the Glasnost Defence Foundation repeatedly warned.

Back to media forum: the GDF notes the so-called “map of journalists’ rights’ violations” presented with much pomp by the ONF. In actual fact, it is a copy of the GDF’s “Glasnost Map” with one exception: it is based on “signals” and “complaints” coming directly to the ONF. The organisation reported as many as 107 such complaints in 12 months. So the country’s map indicating press freedom is hand-coloured according to the locations from which signals of violations were received. In 2014, the GDF recorded more than 1,200 violations of the rights of journalists and editorial offices (see www.gdf.ru).

The ONF showed no concern for the problem of “white spots” (the regions which do not report any rights violations because independent journalism no longer exists there); it did not enlist experts and failed to define a region’s crossing line from the “red group” to “orange” (to be more precise, the ONF definition of the crossing line was too vague). In other words, the map turned out to be a zilch though it was much advertised. Meanwhile, many regional journalists who attended the forum did not conceal their scepticism over the map, as they knew better whether or not a majority of Russian regions belonged to the free press category (according to the ONF map, a majority of Russian regions qualified as such).


Tomsk-based blogger Vadim Tyumentsev to spend two months behind bars

See digest 705

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Kirovsky district court in Tomsk has ruled for the renowned critical blogger Vadim Tyumentsev to spend two months in a detention centre.

As we reported in digest 705, the regional departments of the FSB and Investigative Committee in February charged him under two Criminal Code articles – 280 (“Public calls for committing acts of extremism”) and 282 (“Instigation of hatred or enmity”), and required him to give a written pledge not to leave town. The investigators suspected he had breached the restricted-freedom regime by leaving Russian territory and making a trip to Ukraine via Belarus.

The blogger’s relations with those at the helm grew tense after his taking part in an August 2014 march for Siberia’s federalisation. But even after that, Tyumentsev reportedly continued to criticise public officials, sometimes quite harshly, and to openly speak about corruption within the regional administration and the worsening political situation countrywide.

On the eve of the “Direct Line with the RF President” on TV, Tyumentsev asked a question online that did not however reach Vladimir Putin: “How long will Tomsk officials keep stealing money enjoying the protection of the FSB and prosecutor’s office, while the latter two agencies prosecute those exposing corrupt schemes?”

Criminal charges were brought against him over two video clips the blogger had posted: one about a potential action of protest against “the outrageous behaviour of fixed-route taxi drivers”, the other urging the authorities to “expel Donetsk and Lugansk refugees from Russia” (this clip has been shown on a number of Ukrainian TV channels). After the start of criminal proceedings, Tyumentsev wrote on his page in the VKontakte social network: “I deeply regret the form in which I expressed otherwise fairly sensible ideas.”

Tomsk-based Web users’ reaction to the news about his arrest has been mixed: some believe “he got what he deserved”; others are saying “he’d better be sent to a mental clinic, rather than to jail”; and still others – the majority – think that “the guy is telling the truth, although in his own peculiar manner”, and that their city and country “need the services” of whistleblowers like Tyumentsev.

Regional court in Chelyabinsk leaves journalist under house arrest

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The prosecutor’s office has urged the regional court in Chelyabinsk to toughen freedom restrictions on Chelnovosti.ru chief editor Igor Makarov from house arrest to institutional confinement because of his alleged “proneness to abscond from justice”.

The journalist was already arrested twice – on 3 December 2014 and on 28 January 2015, and spent quite some time in a pre-trial detention centre. According to Makarov, he had never attempted to hide but had been on vacation in Thailand, until he was apprehended by Chelyabinsk police officials on his way home at the Koltsovo Airport in Yekaterinburg.

Makarov is facing charges of commercial bribery under Criminal Code Article 204: managers of the Mnogo Mebeli furniture company allegedly offered him 15,000 and 30,000 roubles in two episodes for his removing critical articles from his website. The managers say he attempted “to extort” the two amounts from them.

Meanwhile, the same company lodged a legal claim with the Chelyabinsk Region Court of Arbitration demanding 1.3 million roubles from Makarov and his website as a legal entity in moral damages. The court turned the claim down (see digest 701).

Since 24 February 2015, Makarov has stayed under house arrest with a bracelet on his ankle, awaiting the court’s decision. How will he be punished? And who attempted to bribe whom in that story, after all? The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Chelyabinsk.

Journalists detained in Moscow while covering actions of solidarity with Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Several rallies in support of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko were held across Moscow on May 11.

Ukrainskaya Pravda reporter Anastasia Ringis was detained by law enforcement officers at the protest action near the Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison. She was taken to a police station. “They drew up a protocol although I had a journalist’s ID and everybody knew that I was not a participant in the rally; that I was just covering it…,” Radio Liberty quoted Ringis as saying. “They warned me that if I continued to cover any actions in Russia I had to obey the regulations,” she added. Police later released the Ukrainian journalist.

In central Moscow’s Lubyanka, where another rally stood up for the Ukrainian pilot, police detained three journalists covering the event. The detainees were Philipp Kireyev from Otkrytaya Rossiya, Andrei Novichkov from Grani.ru while the third journalist who represented Govorit Moskva radio was not identified. Some media reported that police had beaten Philipp Kireyev when detaining him.

The journalists were brought to a police station but later released. “We were released from the Tverskoi police station. All the videos in our cameras were deleted,” Andrei Novichkov tweeted.

Beaten-up TV journalist in Karelia does not link the beating with his work

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

Denis Bazankov, a TNT-Onego television journalist, came to hear his friend singing at a performance in a Petrazavodsk café. On the way home, Bazankov and his friend were attacked and had to be given first aid. Though outnumbered, the musician and the journalist emerged undefeated from the fight. However, they did suffer injuries: the unidentified attackers broke the musician’s jaw and gave the journalist a black eye. Bazankov, who anchors his own programmes, will have to stay out of business for some time.

Immediately after the incident, the journalists’ colleagues began to look for a “political connection” to the fight. The television journalist is a regular and outspoken critic of the Petrozavodsk administration, so one of the versions suggested this fact as a possible lead. But Denis Bazankov denied the speculations saying there was no foul play and that in this street brawl he, too, was partly to blame as he was unable to stop the verbal sparring from escalating to a fight.

NGO Soyuz, a Karelian partnership of legal experts, put on “foreign agents” list

By Aleksandr Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The Soyuz Partnership of Legal Experts, an association providing legal support of journalists, has been put on the list of “foreign agents.”

“In accordance with the federal law on non-governmental organisations, the Soyuz Partnership of Legal Experts was put on the list of NGOs performing the functions of foreign agents on 7 May 2015, the Russian Justice Ministry reported on its website.

The decision saying that the NGO showed the hallmarks of a non-governmental organisation performing the functions of foreign agent was made after a scheduled check of Soyuz documents. “We met the same fate as the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defence Centre,” deputy director of the association, lawyer Yelena Paltseva told the 7x7 online magazine. “We only handled the issues related to journalists and media. Our work was educational: we held tutorials and published booklets and handbooks for Karelian mass media.”

“We also handled journalists’ cases in courts and have not lost a single legal action in the nine years since the establishment of the organisation,” she went on. “And now what we’ve been doing has turned against us. We aren’t taking the matter to court understanding that it is useless. We’ll close down the non-governmental organisation. It is a shame, because foreign projects ended back in December; we nearly completed an application for presidential grant planning to switch to Russian funding, but were unable to do it on time.”

The Soyuz partnership became the first NGO in Karelia put on the “foreign agent” list. The sum which the organisation will have to pay for not registering as “foreign agent” voluntarily will be announced in the near future.

Mayor at law with municipal newspaper in Murmansk Region

By Aleksandr Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Mayor of the town of Zapolyarny Ivan Tsypilev has filed a defamation suit against director of the municipal newspaper Pechenga Irina Iskorneva.

The legal action followed an article in the newspaper dated 21 March 2015 reporting asphalting of the yard of the house where the mayor lived. The author of the article wrote that just half of the surrounding area was paved with asphalt, namely the part leading to the entrance to the mayor’s house.

In his statement of claim Tsypilev said he did not deny the facts reported in the article but resented the author’s opinion. “The article’s tone is discrediting, aiming to undermine the trust in the mayor and show him as a corrupt person and an official using his office for selfish purposes,” the mayor said.


Administrative charges brought against Belsat TV cameraman

Police opened a case of administrative offence against Belsat television cameraman Sergei Kravchuk, who had been shooting public hearings in Fanipol, Radyjo Ratsyya reported. The hearings focused on housing development in a small town, causing a sharp reaction to the independent journalists’ story.

“We took footage of “the public discussion of housing development in Fanipol” on 11 April. On Friday evening, police came to my place to hand in a summons in the presence of witnesses. They drew up a protocol,” Kravchuk said. “I refused to give evidence. They told me to expect a court summons.”

In Belarus, administrative persecution of journalists working for a foreign media outlet without accreditation has become a veritable scourge. This year alone, Belarusian journalists were found guilty of violating Article 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Offenses 12 times.

[Khartiya`97 report, 27 April]


Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in April 2015

Attacks on journalists – 7 (Vyacheslav Starodubets, owner and journalist, Moy Derbent news website, Dagestan; Nikita Prokshin, reporter, Pravda Severo-Zapada newspaper, Arkhangelsk; film crew with Vesti Kubani TV channel, Krasnodar Region; Irina Ostashchenko, journalist and executive editor, Informer web publication, Sevastopol; Biktor Buzdin, photojournalist, Klops.ru, Kaliningrad; Dmitry Kondratyev, sports reporter with Novosibirsk State TV/Radio Company, Novosibirsk; Dmitry Nesterov, reporter, Moy Rayon newspaper, attacked in Moscow Region)

Instances of censorship – 3 (Vesti Karelii website, Petrozavodsk; Novaya Buryatia newspaper, Ulan-Ude; Grozny State TV/Radio Company, Grozny)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers – 6 (Andrei Nekrasov, reporter, Den’ newspaper, Izhevsk, faced two charges; Yelena Denisova, blogger, Sevastopol; Vadim Tyumentsev, blogger, former chief editor of Abratnaya Svyaz’ newspaper, Tomsk, faced two lawsuits; Andrei Kovalenko, freelance journalist, Maritime Region)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 15 (Sport-Ekspress newspaper staffers: chief editor Dmitry Kuznetsov; deputy editors-in chief Boris Levin, Vladimir Geskin and Sergei Rodichenko; newsroom, sports and games and statistical unit members Oleg Shamonayev and Alexei Bezyazychny; boxing observer Aleksandr Belenky; tennis observer Yevgeny Fedyakov; executive secretary Lev Tigai; newsroom, sports and games and statistics unit observer Vladimir Mozhaitsev; ice-hockey unit head Yevgeny Bogdanov, and observers Igor Larin and Andrei Kuznetsov – all of Moscow; Andrei Anfinogentov, Sport-Ekspress correspondent in Nizhny Novgorod; Lyubov Stryapikhina, chief editor Novy Mir newspaper, Kurgan)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 9 (Tatyana Guchakova, former deputy chief editor of BlackSeaNews, Yalta; Amet Umerov, former cameraman with Crimean Tatar broadcaster ATR, Simferopol; Sergei Mikhailov, publisher, Listok newspaper, Gorno-Altaisk – detained at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport; Orkhan Jemal, Forbes correspondent, detained in Rostov Region; Eskender Nebiyev, ATR cameraman, Simferopol; Andrei Kovalenko, freelance journalist, Maritime Region; Olga Sapronova, reporter, Rabochaya Demokratiya newspaper, Moscow; Dmitry Florin, freelance journalist, Moscow; Vadim Tyumentsev, blogger and ex-chief editor, Abratnaya Svyaz’ newspaper, Tomsk)

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 28

Threats against journalists and media – 8 (Vyacheslav Starodubets, owner and journalist, Moy Derbent news website, Dagestan; Irina Ostashchenko, journalist and executive editor, Informer web publication, Sevastopol; Dmitry Kondratyev, sports reporter with Novosibirsk State TV/Radio Company, Novosibirsk; Anastasia Tsapiyeva, LifeNews correspondent, Moscow; Alexei Tikhomirov, correspondent, Versiya-Saratov news agency, Saratov Region; Svetlana Yefimova, press secretary to former mayor of Yaroslavl – threatened twice, Yaroslavl; Vera Mysina, freelance journalist, Moscow)

Disruption of TV and radio broadcasts – 6 (ATR and Lale television channels, Meidan-FM and Leader radio stations, all in Crimean Republic; Bolid radio station, Perm – twice)

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video and audio apparatus and computers – 3 (computer of blogger Yelena Denisova, Sevastopol; computer of Tatyana Guchakova, former deputy chief editor of BlackSeaNews, Yalta; photo camera of Dmitry Nesterov, correspondent, Moy Rayon newspaper – damaged in Moscow Region)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 33


Karelian media may face lawsuits for disclosing personal details about individuals reported missing

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

The press service of Karelia police sends regular reports on all kinds of accidents and missing persons to editorial offices in the hope that readers might help find them. As a rule, editorial offices publish this information given its social significance and readers’ interest. However, such publications occasionally cause conflicts with the missing persons’ relatives who blame the media for divulging details of their kin’s private life.

In a recent incident, a family demanded punishment for the journalists who had reprinted a report about a missing woman and attached a photo to it showing her in a nightgown. In another case, a mother accused an editorial office of invasion of her missing son’s privacy after the journalists reported that he had a tattoo. Similar examples abound. Fortunately for journalists, relatives do not file legal actions to protect their interests, yet they do complain to Karelia police and these complaints have to be addressed.

Summing up the practice of such complaints, the Karelia police spokesman sent a letter to the Karelian Union of Journalists asking it to review the issue and come up with journalists’ consolidated position on it.

The regional panel of the Grand Jury of the Russian Union of Journalists confirmed the fact of violation of journalists’ ethnics citing “unceremonious invasion of citizens’ privacy” by reporters who invented, for the sake of causing a sensation, unbelievable headlines to the information which was tragic in essence, and illustrated their publications without regard for possible moral pain they might cause to relatives.

The decision noted a violation of the Russian journalist’s Code of Professional Ethics where frivolous photos from social networks were used without owners’ or relatives’ permission. But since these complaints could be directed personally to any member of the Russian Union of Journalists, the final decision was that the topic should not be hushed up and that all the editorial offices should be informed about the discussion and the decision by the regional panel of the RUJ Grand Jury. Also, the RUJ suggested that the press service of Karelia police, together with the Karelian Union of Journalists, work out the regulations on disseminating the information in question in the mass media.


GLEDID improves website content by opening new section, Video Archives

A division of the Guild of Linguistic Experts on Documentation- and Information-related Disputes (GLEDID) which provides IT support, has improved the website content by refreshing a number of sections such as Expert Examination, Methodological Research Council Consultants in Russian Regions, and Media Publications about the Guild.

However, the main achievement by the GLEDID staff, with the credit largely going to proactive advisor to the Guild’s Board Lyubov Zborovskaya, is the launching of Video Archives, an entirely new section of the website.

A summary of the section says that the “Guild carries out expert research, publishing and educational activities in the Russian Federation. The Russian language is our national heritage. An increasing number of people in this country, from scientists, men of letters and teachers to ordinary readers, radio listeners and TV viewers are concerned about the condition and future of spoken Russian which, together with Russian culture, has been put in a difficult situation by this controversial epoch, and which needs support and protection.”

The Video Archives section contains records of speeches, talks, interviews, discussions, lessons and master classes involving Guild members of the past 15 years.

The records are arranged in chronological order (www.rusexpert.ru).



The independent newspaper YARMAKS combating corruption and lawlessness is persecuted in the attempts to have it shut down by any methods. But since our publications lean on documents and facts, the authorities, in the person of Y. Pankov, who was head of the Yartsevo district of the Smolensk Region at the time, filed a defamation suit – for want of a better move – against the newspaper, the author of the article and later against editor-in-chief. He initially demanded one million roubles in damages and later hiked the damages sum to three million for his criticism in the article published by the newspaper a year ago, titled “Can a person be trusted with running a district if he cannot control his drinking habit?”

The article, citing a road police protocol as a source, reported that the municipal official had been stopped and detained for drunk driving. He has been silent on the matter for a year, while the newspaper has continued to criticize the authorities. The court has been delaying the review of the case since November 2014. It does not consider the case on the merits, gives no opportunity to the defendants to lodge petitions and see the case materials, tampers with the protocols of hearings, withholds their verified copies and turns down the motivated motions to recuse the judge. At the latest hearing, the review of the case was suspended once again, with the court’s ordering a linguistic expert examination which had to answer the following questions:

1. Do the statements made in the article “Can a person be trusted with running a district if he cannot control his drinking habit?” mean Y. Pankov?

2. Do the statements made in the article have the form of affirmation of a certain fact, and if so, what is this fact/are these facts? Or are these statements the opinion of the author of the article or the editorial office?

3. Does the article contain the information humiliating Mr Pankov or derogating from his reputation? If so, in which form and by which means was it expressed?

YARMAKS is a public and socially significant project, receiving funding mostly from its founders and sparse advertisers and accepting contributions from interested citizens. Though confident in our cause, we would like to substantiate it with your authoritative opinion. We have no money to pay for expensive expert examinations. I ask you to comment (or recommend a person who can do it) on the questions listed above.

P.S. YARMAKS anti-corruption publication had an impact: on 17 February 2015, the judicial panel for civil suits of the Smolensk regional court reviewed Yartsevo prosecutors’ appeal and ruled to cancel the contract with head of the administration of the Yartsevo district municipality Y. Pankov in connection with “loss of trust.” Yet the litigation against the newspaper is continuing…

Igor Ogorodnik, YARMAKS Editor-in-Chief

The GDF recommended Ogorodnik to seek assistance from the Guild of Linguistic Experts on Documentation- and Information-related Disputes (GLEDID).

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.

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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