Дайджест
27 Февраля 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 466


TOPIC OF THE WEEK
CPJ report “Attacks on the Press”

EVENT OF THE WEEK
Round-table conference in Moscow discusses media situation in Caucasus

RUSSIA

1. Samara Region. Editor unwilling to give in. Continued from Digests 418, 441
2. Khabarovsk Region. Editor threatened by a mentally deranged man. Continued from Digest 462
3. Far Eastern Federal District. Journalists barred from conference on combating extremism
4. Republic of Karelia. Administration officials at law with the press
5. Komi Republic. Supreme Court intends to strike friendly relations with media
6. Arkhangelsk. Secret ban on reporting about protest rally
7. Republic of Buryatia. Radio station under pressure
8. Perm Territory. You publish photo pictures? Contract the author and pay him!

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

DIGEST MAIL




TOPIC OF THE WEEK

CPJ report “Attacks on the Press”


The international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has presented its annual report, “Attacks on the Press”, surveying the working conditions of journalists in more than 100 countries. The authors noted “growing threats to the journalists’ work worldwide”.

CPJ lists the countries where journalists died while performing their professional duties in 2009. In Kenya, Iran, Columbia, Salvador, Indonesia, Madagascar, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Nepal, Venezuela and Nigeria, one journalist was killed in each; two in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Mexico; four in Iraq and Pakistan; nine in Somalia; and thirty-three in the Philippines. Russia is on the list too, with three slain reporters and two others whose deaths the CPJ researchers do not link with their professional activities.

According to human rights activists, Russia ranks fourth in the world as regards the number of murdered journalists, and one of the last in terms of the number of killings solved. The authors explain this by the fact that justice in this country has been thwarted by systemic shortcomings at every level—political, investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial. “Investigations of the murders of journalists have been consistently opaque, often compromised by internal conflicts of interest, and frequently subjected to undue political influence,” Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, states citing as an example the case of Maksim Maksimov, a St. Petersburg reporter who was investigating corruption in the local Interior Ministry when he disappeared in June 2004. “In the hands of the same local authorities Maksimov had been examining, the murder probe went nowhere,” N. Ognianova points out.

In the section dedicated to Russia, other methods of exerting pressure on the media are described as well, including beatings, threats to reporters and their families, and criminal prosecution – often heavily politicized. The authors point to the problem of impunity for the perpetrators “inducing further self-censorship” among journalists. Besides, probing journalists have been effectively banned from influential federal television channels—the main news source for most Russians—and pushed to limited-audience print and Internet publications. “These journalists are vulnerable to attack given their isolation and the official hostility to their work,” the CPJ report says.

GDF president Alexei Simonov agrees with the authors’ conclusions: “About one hundred journalists systematically engage in independent investigations in Russia, and the level of their protection is abominably low. Many have been attacked, and some have had to emigrate. The CPJ report very rightly states that crimes against journalists are investigated very badly here, with impunity provoking ever newer crimes.”

For the full text of the report, see http://www.cpj.org/ru/




EVENT OF THE WEEK

Round-table conference in Moscow discusses media situation in Caucasus


By Dmitry Florin,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

A round-table conference in Moscow on February 16 discussed the media and civil society situation in the North Caucasus. The event in the House of Journalists was co-organized by Article 19 (Global Campaign for Freedom of Expression) and its Russian partners – the Media Rights Defense Centers of Voronezh, Russia, and Makhachkala, Dagestan, with active assistance from the Glasnost Defense Foundation.

The conference brought together journalists, human rights defenders, civil activists and experts to discuss ways of facilitating the media and human rights organizations’ performance in the North Caucasus in today’s situation which most often comes to the focus of public attention in connection with ever newer killings, terrorist acts or armed clashes plaguing the lives of ordinary people living there.

The group of experts at the conference included Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Civil Co-Action Committee and a member of the Human Rights Council under the RF President; Lyudmila Alexeyeva, president of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Alexei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation; Grigory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of the news website Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot); Lev Ponomarev, leader of the Human Rights Movement; Ali Kamalov, secretary of the Russian Journalists’ Union and head of the Journalists’ Union of Dagestan; Novaya Gazeta observer Olga Bobrova; RF Public Chamber member Nikolai Svanidze, and others.

The participants agreed that the “Caucasian theme” in Russian media is generally connected with some emergency situations, with the federal TV channels seldom going beyond reports about killings, terrorist acts or fire exchanges. A sports festival, even if an event of regional importance, is only likely to be covered by federal media if assassinations or hostage crises are involved. This kind of selective approach to the news seems either a superimposed policy or one “automatically” pursued by the media themselves. The “bootlicking” media outlets only follow the logic of their owners who believe that if Caucasian problems are not dealt with but hushed up at government level, that pattern of behavior must be an example to follow for the media, too. “You have something special, like a pile of corpses? Okay, we’ll send a crew of cameramen to shoot some sequences,” they will tell you. But when a major wrestling tournament was underway in one of the Caucasian republics, the federal TV channels charged as much as USD 5,000 for the show of a 2-minute story “unrelated to warfare”…

“Today, we have a kind of social atmosphere in which it seems easier to kill than try to understand who is right; when neither the state nor society is interested in looking for some reasonable and mutually convincing compromise. There is no ideology to back any such compromise. That is why it is essential to wake everyone up: on the one hand, society is scared stiff, on the other, it starts dozing off trying to overcome its fear. And it is indeed a problem how to keep it awake,” GDF president Alexei Simonov said in his opening address to the conference.

Dagestani Journalists’ Union head Ali Kamalov’s speech did not add much optimism to the discussion: “This meeting is very important, especially in the light of the reorganization of the North Caucasian District where talk is going on about whether or not things are going to improve after the appointment of [RF President’s personal envoy] Khloponin, and when at long last the journalists stop to be victimized. Of the eleven killings of journalists in Dagestan since 1992, not a single one has been solved. All of the victims used to be my friends. Down there in Dagestan we have a lot more freedom of expression than in other republics, but with us, freedom of expression means death. I am not sure Khloponin’s appointment will help restore law and order in our republic. As a big manager, he may at best be expected to bring the economy in order. But without a centrally developed ideology in Moscow, in the Kremlin, can one really hope to have law and order restored in a separate republic?”

Nikolai Svanidze observed that we in Russia show little interest in the North Caucasian developments because we generally show little interest in people’s life in Russia as a whole. It seems our natural political and social instinct is to deal with problems by hushing them up – until yet another explosive device is set off somewhere, triggering yet another wave of blood-freezing media reports. As for civil society in the North Caucasus, what on earth can it possibly be built on if the Kremlin has offered the Chechen president’s post to Ramzan Kadyrov – a man who, according to Svanidze, is “a problem per se”?

The devil fears publicity; the free media are a strategically important element of civil society development. One will never work without the other.

If only we could attain that goal by concerted effort! At the Moscow conference, participants made bold statements and exchanged contacts. Will that lead to any improvements? If journalists in the North Caucasus feel certain they have human rights defenders and colleagues backing them all across Russia, maybe something will change for the better, and the phrase “North Caucasian civil society” will cease sounding as illogical as it does today?



RUSSIA

1. Samara Region. Editor unwilling to give in. Continued from Digests 418, 441


Problems have continued piling up for Alexander Popov, former editor of the district newspaper Selskaya Tribuna. As we have reported, Sergiyevsky District leader Anatoly Shipitsyn fired the editor and closed his media outlet back in December 2008. After a dragged-out series of judicial hearings, the RF Supreme Court finally reinstated A. Popov in his former position, but the editor has no workplace to come to: Selskaya Tribuna’s premises and equipment have been offered to another newspaper, Sergiyevskaya Tribuna, established by the district administration (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/520#rus4 ; http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/636#rus4 ).

The bailiffs’ attempts to restore A. Popov’s rights de facto have met with strong resistance from the district authorities. The editor himself is unwilling to give in: he has been notified by the European Court of Human Rights that his complaint is now being studied and hearings thereon are to be held soon.

After appealing for help to Ella Pamfilova, head of the Civil Society and Human Rights Development Council under the RF President, A. Popov received a reply signed by senior counsel S. Kurinov, saying that Pamfilova had sent a message to V. Malinovsky, deputy prosecutor general in charge of the Central Federal District, asking to take appropriate measures to have the unlawfully closed newspaper reopened, as prescribed by Russia’s highest judicial authority.

Hopefully, those measures will help persuade the “omnipotent” district leader to comply with the Supreme Court decision …


2. Khabarovsk Region. Editor threatened by a mentally deranged man. Continued from Digest 462

The law enforcers have rather quickly identified the man who made threatening phone calls to Tatyana Sedykh, editor of the newspaper Moyo Poberezhye issued in the village of Vanino, Khabarovsk Region, and the winner of the 2009 Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as a Deed”.

As we have reported, an unknown man called T. Sedykh in the middle of the night demanding answers to a number of questions and finishing the conversation with the aggressive “What do you want – your house burnt down or yourself done in?” The editor complained to the FSB. They told her that “we don’t deal with this kind of things” but accepted her complaint (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/696#rus2 ).

A few days ago, Tatyana received two reply messages at once. One was from Lt.-Col. A. Petrov, head of the local FSB department, saying they had identified the caller and were forwarding her complaint to the district police department for further action. The other was from Lt.-Col. M. Mudritskaya, acting chief of the Vanino District police department, making it clear that the man who had called her on the phone was diagnosed as a mentally deranged person who was now undergoing a course of treatment in a mental clinic in Khabarovsk.


3. Far Eastern Federal District. Journalists barred from conference on combating extremism

By Anna Seleznyova,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

An inter-agency conference on combating extremism and interethnic strife in the Far Eastern Federal District has been held in Khabarovsk. The group of participants included Victor Ishayev, President Medvedev’s personal envoy to the district; Viktor Ozerov, head of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee; Yuri Gulyagin, RF deputy prosecutor general in charge of the Far East; as well as prosecutors, senior justice, police and FSB officers, migration service representatives, RosKomNadzor [federal service supervising the sphere of public communications] officials, and regional governors and vice-governors. The main report was delivered by Vyacheslav Sizov, chief of the RF Prosecutor’s Office department responsible for the enforcement of laws on federal security and interethnic relations, and on combating extremism.

The topics discussed were very important: media outlets have been increasingly often warned and sanctioned of late for carrying what the prosecutors and RosKomNadzor see as “extremist” publications. The journalists, who were keenly interested in the conference proceedings, had been notified in advance that they would only be admitted to hear the main report. But even that was denied to them, after all: they were asked to leave right after the opening ceremony.

According to the regional administration’s press service, measures to combat extremism will be toughened considerably in the Maritime Territory in the wake of the conference.


4. Republic of Karelia. Administration officials at law with the press

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

V. Asanov, chief of the Economic Affairs Department of the republic’s administration, has filed a legal claim with the Petrozavodsk City Court against the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets v Karelii (MKK).

He claims to have suffered moral damage as a result of an MKK publication about his spending RUR 170,000 from the republican budget on laying a power cable to his personal dacha. He wants an official refutation and RUR 200,000 from the newspaper and its author in moral damage compensation. This is already the second judicial case involving law violations committed during the construction of personal villas for high-ranking administration officials at Shuiskaya Chupa, not far from the RF President’s residence. A week before, Lyudmila Kosyuk, the regional governor’s chief of staff, had filed a similar claim against MKK, charging RUR 500,000 for the “moral damage” she had allegedly suffered (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/705#rus1 ).

Karelian parliamentarian Viktor Stepanov, himself head of the republic’s administration in the past, has called the gubernatorial officials’ behavior “shameful” and demanded the holding of a special parliamentary hearing to see how executive officials have been handling the state assets.


5. Komi Republic. Supreme Court intends to strike friendly relations with media

By Tamara Makarova,
City of Syktyvkar

Vyacheslav Shishkin, chairman of the Komi Republic’s Supreme Court, has called on the heads of district and city courts to establish good cooperative relations with the journalists, the Biznes Novosti Respubliki Komi news agency has reported. His appeal was made public on February 15, in the wake of Shishkin’s meeting with journalists accredited with the Supreme Court at which reporters had complained of some judges prohibiting the use of photo cameras or voice recorders in the courtroom.

The top-ranking judicial officer reacted promptly by posting a same-day comment on the Supreme Court’s website that unambiguously allowed the journalists to use photo and video cameras outside court buildings without any restrictions, and inside the courtroom, with the chairperson’s consent, during the first five minutes of each court sitting. The use of cameras during the reading of judicial sentences is unrestricted in case of open hearings but prohibited in cases where people’s private relationships are involved. Inside the court building, photo pictures may be taken and video sequences shot near the courtroom only in the presence of a judicial clerk and with no disturbance to the work of the court. The same rule regulates the interviewing of people inside court buildings; if too much noise is produced or if a judge or other participants get otherwise distracted, a journalist should be offered to continue the interviewing process outside the court building. Audio recordings at open court hearings are allowed with zero restrictions and without asking the chairperson’s consent.

The website posting also urges court chairpersons, their deputies and all judges, including justices of the peace, to be attentive to journalists’ requests, especially those voiced by reporters accredited with the republic’s Supreme Court.



6. Arkhangelsk. Secret ban on reporting about protest rally

By Tamara Ovchinnikova,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Communists in Arkhangelsk are concerned over too few residents’ knowing about the all-city rally to be held on February 21 in protest against the soaring communal service tariffs.

According to regional Communist Party Committee secretary Vladimir Fedorenko, the media have been secretly instructed not to publish any announcements of the pending event. “We have even suggested paying for the info as for placing a commercial ad – but all in vain, with print and online media editors declining to sign any official refusals to publish our announcement. They have indicated in private conversations that they were earnestly requested not to publish any information at all about the planned protest rally,” V. Fedorenko said.

This information is only accessible to Internet users, with all the newspapers and TV networks continuing to describe the regional situation in invariably positive tones, the CP activist said.



7. Republic of Buryatia. Radio station under pressure

By Valery Trenogin,
Board chairman, Buryatia branch of Russian Journalists’ Union

The war declared on the regional radio station Puls Radio has been gaining momentum. The regional branch of RosKomNadzor (see Item 3 above) has been picking on the radio journalists trying to find at least any fault or omission. In addition to one preplanned and 5 sudden inspections held in 2009, three unplanned checkups have already been held since the beginning of this year.

Last year’s preplanned inspection resulted in the issuance of an instruction from which it is absolutely not clear what to do or which failures to rectify. That instruction was submitted to an arbitration court to be annulled as unlawful. With judicial proceedings still in progress, RosKomNadzor held a sudden “long-distance control” inspection in January in one of remote villages knowing all too well that a technical failure at the local power station had led to power supply disruptions there. The resulting protocol of inspection recorded some breaches of the license terms, yielding a RosKomNadzor warning with very unclear recommendations again.

On December 30, 2009, the Arbitration Court of Buryatia had already declared one sudden inspection’s protocol null and void, thereby thwarting RosKomNadzor’s attempt to sanction Puls Radio for failure to adhere to its program concept. That decision must have caused the controlling agency to try “killing” the independent radio station at any rate.

The staffers are tired, exhausted and at a loss what to do. Maybe they should close their media outlet and try earning a living by selling Chinese-made bed slippers?


8. Perm Territory. You publish photo pictures? Contract the author and pay him!

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The newspaper Okhanskaya Storona has published some photo pictures of historical buildings in the town of Okhansk. The photographer A. Kosykh was shocked to see his pictures distorted by editing, with no agreement of publication ever signed with him and no note of his authorship acknowledgement printed below.

His attempt to get the newspaper editor to publish a refutation proved fruitless, causing Kosykh to sue Okhansky Publishers’ for a breach of his copyright and claim RUR 120,000 in moral damage compensation.

A district court awarded him RUR 5,000 in compensation payable by the newspaper in line with Article 1251 of the RF Civil Code. The higher-standing regional court in Perm, where Okhansky Publishers’ had turned to challenge the primary court decision, found the compensation amount reasonable enough for the decision to be left in full legal force.



GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defense Foundation was referred to at least 15 times in the Internet, including at:

http://www.kommersant.ru/doc-y.aspx?DocsID=1324204
http://cpj.org/ru/2010/02/-2009-3.php#more
http://www.inosmi.ru/russia/20100217/158229779.html
http://www.ikd.ru/node/12525
http://www.civitas.ru/news.php?code=8597
http://www.zagolovki.ru/daytheme/journ/18Feb2010
http://news.sarbc.ru/main/2010/02/19/97825.html
http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/russia-civil-society-and-media-organisations-forge-a-way-for-free-media-in-t.pdf
http://www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2010/018/24.html
http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/165689/




DIGEST MAIL

Dear Mr. Simonov:

I cannot say at present what kind of practical assistance the Glasnost Defense Foundation could possibly extend to my newspaper. Actually, we have not been in need of any assistance at all so far because I have paid little attention to all those half-hinted, hinted or direct threats coming from my opponent’s patrons. What I have been seriously concerned with is different: all my friends and other and well-wishing people, having read my series of critical articles “The Maslyaninsky Syndrome” [see the previous Digest edition – Translator.], have been telling me one and the same thing: “Drop it at that, buddy, or they’ll beat you to death in a quiet by-lane someday!” The worst thing is that they all – each and every one! – expect the conflict to end as fatally as that. Instead of encouraging me to further probing efforts, they are telling me “Let them go on scaring you, don’t fly off the handle – it’s better to be scared than dead…”

That kind of talk makes me sit down and think gloomily to myself: What kind of society do we live in, my dear Mr. Simonov, if everyone around sees only one way for a critically-minded journalist to end up? What kind of glasnost should we expect in the press if public conscience labels a reporter speaking his mind a kamikaze? Do you see how much the situation has changed for the worse since the 1980s-1990s, and how timidly we are taking those changes?

I am writing this not to ask for some specific assistance – just to stop feeling as lonely as I do. People here are all sitting and waiting for the outcome. Who will take the upper hand – Yarmanov, who is backed by his party, the governor with his apparatus, a relative heading a law enforcement department, and piles of money on top of that all; or the journalist commonly known to have very few backers and supporters in this remote province? It is indeed little fun to feel like a gladiator coming out onto the arena to fight against a lion before a crowd of idle entertainment-seekers… I just wanted a bit of moral support which I have already got from you and which I appreciate very much.

Sincerely,

Andrei Chelnokov,
Editor, newspaper Sibir–Moment Istiny

***

Dear colleagues,

This is to call your attention to the actually unbearable press freedom situation in the city of Berezniki, Perm Territory.

For several years now, the local media have been under strong pressure from the potassium-producing company OAO UralKaliy and the municipal administration almost fully controlled by it (UralKaliy also owns 80 percent of the city’s media, including several newspapers and a TV network). In a city still suffering from the aftermath of the October 2006 accident at BKPRU-1 resulting in one of the potassium mines flooded and forming a gap with landslides right under a residential area, any open discussion of the problem of resettlement is banned; another taboo theme is the construction of a new township for re-settlers on the site of a former cemetery. Dissenters and media reporters disloyal to the “potassium regime” are toughly suppressed.  The situation has been growing ever worse since the beginning in January of preparations for next month’s elections of a new body of the City Duma and a new mayor, as well as a new Berezniki representative in the regional Legislative Assembly.

The sole uncensored pad for information and opinion exchanges is the web forum www.berforum.ru, which is not a registered media outlet and is only accessible to PC users.

After the release of the first issue of the newspaper Inaya Gorodskaya Gazeta (IGG) featuring a resettlement-related story, our staffers and distributors found themselves under surveillance. Unidentified characters have followed newspaper distributors on their heels, either fishing out newspapers from the mailboxes or proposing to buy up the whole print run. According to some sources, copies of another newspaper, Nedelya.ru (which does not belong to UralKaliy), have been removed from residents’ mailboxes, too.

Instances of staffer surveillance have been reported to the prosecutor’s office and police, with the license plate numbers of spy cars indicated, but no response measures have followed.       

The scandal climaxed in the “disappearance” of the entire print run of an issue of Nedelya.ru (distributed by OOO Bereznikovsky Rabochiy belonging to UralKaliy) and the offhand confiscation of the full print run of an IGG issue by traffic and public security police officers en route from the printing house.

Late on February 15 the vehicle carrying IGG stacks from the printing house (OOO Novaya Tipografiya-Perm) was stopped on the outskirts of Berezniki by police officers who ignored the documents certifying the lawful status of the media outlet and the fact of its belonging to a Russian citizen, and confiscated the newspapers without a warrant or any other justifying document except a protocol of “confiscation from the scene of the crime” (What on earth kind of crime did we commit?!). The operation involved five patrol vehicles and was personally coordinated by A. G. Baranova, deputy chief of the public security police department of Berezniki.

The unlawful confiscation was reported to the prosecutor’s office; the Investigative Committee under the RF Prosecutor General; the regional police commander, Gen. Y.G. Orlov; as well as to RosKomNadzor and the human rights ombudsman in the Perm Territory.

A week has passed since the incident, but there has been no response. The police are declining to return the print run.

Hopefully, journalists all across Russia will find this story instructive. We rely on your understanding and information-disseminating support.

Sincerely,
Galina Guseva, editor-in-chief, newspaper Inaya Gorodskaya Gazeta
Contact phone: (+7) 908-264-1547

February 20, 2010




This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), http://www.gdf.ru.

We appreciate the support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Digest released once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.
Distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

Editorial board: Boris Timoshenko – Monitoring Service chief, Pyotr Polonitsky – head of GDF regional network, Svetlana Zemskova – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy – translator, Alexander Efremov – web administrator in charge of Digest distribution.


We would appreciate reference to our organization in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

Contacts: Glasnost Defense Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
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Архив
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