17 Сентября 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 768


Journalists in different Russian regions appalled by what is happening to TV2 channel in Tomsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A group of Russian journalists have sent an open letter to President Vladimir Putin expressing their indignation at the Tomsk-based television company TV2's remaining subject to "humiliating treatment by authorities at different levels for more than a year now". They noted that TV2 is one of this country's oldest non-governmental broadcasters and one of a handful of those seeking to exercise the constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

Yet what has been happening to TV2 shows that this right is guaranteed to no one in Russia in real terms - neither to journalists nor to their reading, viewing or listening audiences: more than a year ago, Tomsk's most popular TV channel was shut down, then refused the opportunity to broadcast via cable, along with its integrated radio station which was required "to prove" that its chief editor does not have dual citizenship - and this despite the full package of proving documents duly presented to the media regulator Roskomnadzor (of which we repeatedly reported in GDF digests).

The authors of the open letter drew Putin's attention to the fact that "all those events have been happening on the eve of elections to the RF State Duma (parliament)", and asked him to "order a check-up of officials' actions in respect of the TV channel, make them stop power abuses, and ensure that the guilty persons are brought to disciplinary responsibility".

The text of the appeal is available on the Colta.ru news website (see www.colta.ru), signed not only by Moscow-based journalists but also by their colleagues all across the country, from Kaliningrad to Buryatia. The group of signatories even includes representatives of media outlets that are fully loyal to the current regime. One can hardly hope, though, that Russia's top leaders will react in any way to this petition (earlier, they totally ignored the 14,000 signatures Tomsk residents had gathered under an appeal in defence of TV2 and forwarded them to the presidential administration). But the very fact that such an open letter has appeared shows that there still is a journalistic community in this country and the word "solidarity" has not yet lost its meaning altogether.

The appeal is open for signing by any media representative who may wish to join the support campaign.


Reporter hit in face for trying to interview ruling party nominee for Omsk Region Legislative Assembly

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The incident occurred in the village of Tsaritsyno, Omsk Region, where Khabulda Shushubayev, a United Russia Party (URP)-nominated three-time MP currently running for his fourth term as a deputy of the regional Legislative Assembly, had arrived to meet with electors. His campaigning ambitions look rather odd against the background of criminal charges, such as "large-scale theft of others' property", "unlawful receipt of a loan leading to major [budgetary] damage", and "large-scale fraud based on abuse of office", brought against him by the regional Investigative Committee in April 2015; that, however, did not stop him from winning the URP primaries one year later.

According to investigators, his fraud schemes have cost the budget more than a billion roubles in unpaid loans and have left over 300 shareholders of the Yasnaya Polyana housing cooperative - as a result of unfulfilled promises by Shushubayev and his crony, ex-governor Polezhayev, to carry out an "affordable residential area construction project" - without their paid-for apartments for the eighth year running.

Shortly before the MP's visit to Tsaritsyno, one of the female members of the housing cooperative handcuffed herself to the door of the president's public reception office. Vakhit Niyazov, a reporter with the First municipal television channel, had arrived in the village early enough to ask Shushubayev how he intended to deal with the problems facing the conned shareholders, including that desperate woman. The campaigner for the 4th parliamentary term of office did not like the question and started twisting the microphone from the correspondent's hand. He failed to, though, and regaining his self-control, he proceeded to the conference room where electors sat waiting for him. Niyazov followed him, continuing to ask questions, only to be stopped at the conference-room door by another "people's servant" - Alexander Ovcharenko, an assistant to Shushubayev and himself a deputy of the Kalachinsk City Council representing the same ruling party. He pushed Niyazov back and hit him several times, including in the face, after which the reporter felt dizzy as a result of hitting his head badly on the wall. Ovcharenko grabbed his microphone and threw it out onto the street.

The assistant was defending his boss without asking any redundant questions and being so firmly convinced he was doing the right thing as he might otherwise defend some "true values", of which Khabulda Shushubayev evidently possesses a few, judging by his arrival in the village in "a huge black off-road vehicle".

As police arrived to look into the incident, the vehicle's driver, in the presence of witnesses and looking straight into a video camera pointed at him, told the journalist, "I'll meet you later and make you pay dearly for this!" The man looked so tall and evidently strong that the reporter may as well take some safety precautions.

Medics at the Kalachinsk district hospital certified Niyazov as having several facial bruises. The Investigative Department on 12 September started legal proceedings against Ovcharenko under Criminal Code Article 144 ("Interference with a journalist's lawful professional work"), which, though, is nothing new to the accused: according to Omsk media, he has previously been convicted on seven criminal charges, including "embezzlement based on abuse of office" and "persistent non-compliance with judicial decisions".

Kondopoga MPs in Karelia fear electors?

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

Constitution-wise, the work of representative power cannot be closed to electors' scrutiny. Councils of deputies are called representative bodies particularly because their members, elected to represent citizens' interests, must take decisions in an atmosphere of glasnost and openness, for people to see and understand the voting logic. Yet the Kondopoga City Council in Karelia has more than once prohibited journalists to report about what goes on during council meetings - either to make audio recordings or to use photo or video cameras.

Actually, all of that is allowable - but only if the deputies say so. If they vote for a reporter to be allowed to use a voice recorder or photo camera during a parliamentary session, he may go fulfil his editorial assignment unhindered. And, true, no journalist has so far been forbidden to use a notepad and pen.

Feeling unhappy about those bans on the use of audio, photo and video apparatus, Chernika web magazine correspondent A. Vladimirov has asked the district prosecutor's office to check whether the Kondopoga Council's internal regulations are in line with the federal Media Law and Law "On securing access to information about the work of government bodies and local self-governments".

Having studied the regulations at close quarters, the district prosecutors concluded the normative act was at odds with federal legislation and therefore had to be amended. With an official prosecutorial protest filed against them, members of the representative body must rewrite the Kondopoga Council regulations in the near future.

Omsk authorities want "positive" reporting to leave no room for critical reporting

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

As of January, not all of the journalists with press cards but only a few selected ones will be allowed to cover mayoral conferences, now that Omsk Mayor Vyacheslav Dvorakovsky has issued an instruction imposing tough accreditation requirements on media reporters.

Among other things, an accreditation seeker must present, in addition to a heap of formal papers (such as copies of his media company's articles of association, registration certificate, charter, etc.), "the latest issue of the print media product" the company produces. The question is why - to assess the degree of the media outlet's loyalty to the city authorities?

The reasons for denying or cancelling an accreditation certificate include "a media outlet's refusal to disclaim a prior publication that is not true to fact", or "a journalist's improper behaviour during a session, conference or another [mayoral] event".

As is known, whether or not a publication is "true to fact" can only be established in court, so officials likely will decide themselves - skirting the judiciary - which texts are "true" and which are "not true". The "improper behaviour" tag, meanwhile, may be put on any reporter asking, for example, "awkward" questions.

As regards accredited media representatives, there is a variety of additional requirements they must comply with: they must come to the mayor's office "in clean clothes", "observe the businesslike dress style… fire safety rules… and silence", so they would not differ from the mayoral clerks in terms of either appearance or behaviour.

Photographers and videographers are not allowed to film anything they want; they must keep to the "distinctly marked filming areas". Correspondents must coordinate with mayoral officials not only the texts of interviews but also all attached photos: "people's servants" should like the way they look in illustrated publications. And so on, and so forth. In a word, journalists should enter the "temple of municipal self-government" with trepidation and awe.

Dvorakovsky's term of office expires in June 2017, so his accreditation-related instruction must be intended to help the next mayor, who will differ from all of his predecessors in that he is to be elected not by city residents but on a competitive basis by a commission of members of the city council and regional administration.

Notably, throughout his stay in power since June 2012, the incumbent mayor has been open to criticism by any media except the newspaper of which the mayor's office is the founder. Evidently, the logic behind the accreditation instruction is this: if the next city head is not to report to residents but is to be appointed and controlled only by those residents' "servants", then why not deal shortly with them, the 1,200,000 people living in the city? They will learn about the work of the new mayor's office from journalists accredited with its press service - and that will only be good news; anyone venturing "negative" reporting will not have direct access to information about the process of mayoral decision-making.

Most likely, the instruction did not originate in Omsk. A month and a half ago, a similar one - almost word for word - was issued in Petrozavodsk, Karelia, a fact we have already highlighted in GDF digests. That one was even tougher: a journalist who has not covered the city administration's work for six months or more shall be stripped of his accreditation: there should be no long interruptions in the flow of joyful news about mayoral achievements! The document was signed by Petrozavodsk city manager Irina Miroshnik, who had replaced Galina Shirshina, the lawfully-elected previous mayor who had attempted something like a city revolution by showing officials their place. She had started with cancelling her own inauguration ceremony as a sheer waste of money, and proceeded by announcing that the mayor's office was open to all, and any city resident could attend mayoral work-planning meetings, participate in running the city as a member of an open online public council, etc. In the process, she had also cancelled the golden parachutes for mayoral officials and deputies of the Petrozavodsk Council. Over the 12 months of Shirshina's rule, the average wages at crisis-stricken city factories grew 4%, while public transport fees decreased from 17 to 10 roubles (the municipal transport company's revenues increased 12% due to greater passenger turnover on trolleybuses), which was something really unthinkable! Unwilling to tolerate such things anymore, council deputies voted for the mayor's early dismissal on 25 December last year, and life in Petrozavodsk "returned to normal": the republican and local media which used to criticise Shirshina for "economizing" on propaganda, are now brimming with "good news" reports.

Media still lack freedom in "free" Far Eastern port city of Vanino

By Tatyana Sedykh,

Editor, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye, Khabarovsk Region

Year after year, growing printing service rates and stifling taxes have compelled me to reduce the circulation of my newspaper, Moyo Poberezhye, while still getting bogged in tax debt.

Earlier, the newspaper was released on 10 pages in 4,500 copies; today, for money-saving purposes, it has been reduced to 6 pages in 2,000 copies. The printing of those 3 monochrome sheets of A3 format alone costs 12,040 roubles today (vs. 10,500 in 2014 and 8,600 roubles in 2012), as charged by not-the-most-expensive printing house based in the neighbouring city of Sovetskaya Gavan. Whatever the distance, we have to hire a vehicle once a week to drive several dozen kilometres there and bring back the fresh print run to the newspaper office in Vanino, where there is a local printing house, too - a few hundred metres away - but its services are even more expensive. Naturally, we also need to pay the salaries, communication service bills, for gas, different mandatory deductions, and taxes.

It has become a fashion to attract investors to the new "free ports" in the Far East. Vanino in the Khabarovsk Region, too, has been assigned the free port status, to which fact the regional authorities attach immense importance. "The leading development of the Vanino District directly depends on whether the new economic concept is successfully implemented," as has been proclaimed from high rostrums. Now potential investors are being lured into the free port with pledged 5-year profit and property tax exemption that should make their work as convenient as possible. The first potential residents have already been designated: coal transporters abroad, and logging and fishery operators.

Meanwhile, locals are barely surviving under the stifling tax burden. Not all of them, though. Companies engaging in garbage disposal and scrap metal gathering, rubber and plastic goods production, hunting, lumbering, and some other kinds of activities, are subject to only an 8% tax in line with a simplified system of taxation. At the same time, the small newspaper Moyo Poberezhye, which is not a timber exporter or salmon caviar trader, is required to pay a 15% tax in addition to other mandatory - pension, health insurance and other - deductions…

Murmansk journalists using video drone receive threats

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

A local resident came on 6 September to the office of the TV channel Polyarnyye Zori in the city of the same name in the Murmansk Region accusing journalists of using a video drone to shoot TV reports, which in his view was "unlawful" and "dangerous to residents". In a heated debate that followed, the man threatened reporters with physical violence. Since he clearly displayed signs of alcoholic intoxication, an arriving police patrol suggested they take him to the police station for questioning, and to a hospital for a medical check-up. The visitor refused outright and offered vigorous resistance to the officers' attempt to detain him.

After a brief struggle, the patrolmen pinioned the noisemaker and pushed him into the police vehicle, asking the witnesses to provide written testimony to the district police inspector.


Book "Journalist's Intellectual Rights, Imaginary and Actual" published

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

How can a media worker defend and retain his copyright to a text or a graphic, photo or video image? The answer to this question can be found in the book "Journalist's Intellectual Rights, Imaginary and Actual", recently presented in Murmansk.

The author, Mikhail Kadashnikov, has worked as a photo correspondent for different Russian media. Currently he is a senior lecturer with the school of journalism at Arctic Humanitarian University in Murmansk who teaches copyright law, professional ethics, and the legal basics of journalism.

This monograph is his first serious scientific opus exploring theoretical aspects of existing Russian and foreign legislation, and how it is applied in practice.

"There's no other such literature elsewhere in Russia or abroad today," Kadashnikov told the GDF. "Copyright is a pretty vague notion: presumably, it exists, while in real terms, it doesn't, because many laws, including Russian, stipulate that information is not protected under the law, which means a journalist's work remains legally unprotected".

Considering the book's specifics, it has been released, by regional criteria, in an impressive number of copies - 750.


2016 Andrei Sakharov competition "Journalism as an Act of Conscience" continues

The jury of the 2016 Andrei Sakharov Competition "Journalism as an Act of Conscience" continues accepting works submitted for this year's contest. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award "For Journalism as an Act of Conscience" 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.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between 15 October 2015 and 15 October 2016 in Russian print or online media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard (gate of Journalists' Union of Russia), Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: "Andrei Sakharov Competition `Journalism as an Act of Conscience'".

For further details, see www.gdf.ru or call: (+7 495) 637 4947.

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