Дайджест
28 Октября 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 496

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

RSF Press Freedom Index published

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) published its annual Press Freedom Index October 20.

The Index, annually released since 2002, sums up information received from analysts in different countries, focusing on killings of, and attacks on, journalists; arrests and detentions of reporters; censorship and self-censorship; access to information; instances of administrative, legal and economic pressure on media outlets; and attempts to censor Internet postings. The latest Index edition reviews violations of freedom of expression in a total of 178 countries over the period between September 1, 2009 and September 1, 2010.

The best freedom-of-expression situation is in Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, with Austria, New Zealand, Estonia and Ireland also featuring among the top ten nations. The worst situation, just as one year ago, is in Eritrea (178th place), North Korea (177) and Turkmenistan (176). The group of the world’s most repressive countries toward journalists also includes Iran (175), Burma (174), Syria (173), Sudan (172), China (171), Yemen (170), and Rwanda (169).

Russia rose to the 140th position from last year’s 153rd – according to the authors, due to no major scandals involving the murder of journalists or human rights defenders over the period under review. But generally, the situation with freedom of expression in the Russian Federation is assessed as fairly complicated. “The system remains as tightly controlled as ever, and impunity reigns unchallenged in cases of violence against journalists,” the report says.

As regards the other ex-Soviet countries, Estonia is in the top ten (ranking 9th), followed by Lithuania (which shares the 11-13th rankings with Denmark and Japan), Latvia (30th), and Moldova (75th). The rest are at the bottom of the list: Georgia ranks 99th, Armenia shares the 101st place with Ecuador, Tajikistan ranks 115th, Ukraine 131st (because of the resumption of censorship and “stable deterioration” of the freedom-of-expression situation after Viktor Yanukovich’s election president), Azerbaijan 152nd, Belarus 154th (the situation there is “dreary and stable, with the regime making no concession to civil society”), Kyrgyzstan 159th, Kazakhstan 162nd, Uzbekistan 163rd, and Turkmenistan, as said before, 176th.

“Central Asia’s prospects are dismal,” the report says. The authors stress that in addition to Turkmenistan, where “only the state-owned media is tolerated and even that is often ‘purged’”, Kazakhstan (which “gained notoriety through repeated attacks on the rights of the media and journalists in the very year in which he presides over the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), when the country is bound to be subjected to particularly close scrutiny”) and Kyrgyzstan (which “joined this descent, into the depths of the Index, to the discredit of April’s change of power and June’s interethnic conflicts”) are ranked dangerously close to Uzbekistan, where independent journalists are subject to criminal prosecution.

The majority of developed democracies are in the upper part of the Index: Germany ranks 17th, Australia 18th, Britain 19th, the United States 20th, and Canada 21st. France is in the 44th place, and Italy in the 50th, because of political leaders’ meddling in media activities.

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Actions in remembrance of murdered editor held in Moscow and Elista

Larissa A. Yudina, editor-in-chief of the Elista-based newspaper Sovetskaya Kalmykia Segodnya (SKS), would have marked her 65th birthday October 22. But she was killed 12 years ago. Her killers have been identified and convicted – unlike those who ordered the killing.

Actions in memory of Larissa Yudina were staged in Moscow and Elista on her birth anniversary.

The Moscow action was organized by the Yabloko Party to which Larissa had belonged as the regional representative in Kalmykia prior to her death. Yabloko leader Sergey Mitrokhin opened the memorial rally by pointing out that not only the executors but also the masterminds of Yudina’s assassination must be tracked down and prosecuted, because “this crime will never be subject to a period of limitation”.

Glasnost Defense Foundation president Alexei Simonov noted that “the convicted persons do look like killers but in no way like any of those who might have ordered the murder”. Remembering Larissa Yudina, he said, “She was an unbendingly strong woman who was never prone to compromise. That’s why she was killed… I still have a feeling of guilt. We helped her, we won some little tactical victories together, but in the then environment it was clear we would sooner or later suffer a strategic defeat.” In conclusion, A. Simonov called on rally participants to urgently support the newspaper Sovetskaya Kalmykia Segodnya which continues to be released semi-legally.

He was seconded by Novaya Gazeta deputy editor-in-chief Andrei Lipsky, who emphasised that SKS needs to be helped without delay, since it has faced increasingly serious problems with the founders.

As announced during the rally, not only the GDF monitors violations of journalists’ rights, including media workers’ killings. With assistance from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a database has been compiled reflecting not only each reporter’s murder but also the actions taken by law enforcement. This enables monitoring of progress in the investigation of crimes against the press and helps put an end to criminal impunity. But this, as many speakers pointed out, will require political will on the part of Russia’s leaders.

A meeting in Larissa Yudina’s memory was also held in Elista. According to incumbent SKS editor Valery Badmayev, it was addressed by Yudina’s colleagues, and newspapers, books and photo pictures were presented reflecting her life and professional career. The event was attended by people for whom Larissa was actually the last resort. Badmayev stressed that the meeting was ignored by official media representatives, although invitations had been sent to them in advance. He also expressed the hope that his newspaper’s organizational problems would shortly be resolved with assistance from the Russian Journalists’ Union.

 

RUSSIA

1. Tyumen. Baseball bat as a trophy

Viktor Yegorov, the owner and editor of the Skotny Dvor website, is wondering what the young man who attacked him October 14 wanted of him.

“I had just walked out of the house and started the engine,” he recalled. “As I got out of the car to dust the floor mat, I saw a young man walking up to me along the house wall. I bent over to pick the mat and – bang! – I received a heavy blow on the head.”

The journalist managed not only to effectively fight back (although the attacker was a tall and sturdy man aged 20-25) but also to capture a trophy – the baseball bat the thug was armed with. Suffering a defeat in the quick fight, the attacker ran away. “I’m sorry I couldn’t overtake him,” V. Yegorov said.

“He left me with a ruptured ear but with no scull trauma. I now have to go to the police station to report the attack, and then to the hospital to have my ear stitched up,” he said.

[Based on Skotny Dvor website reports]

 

2. Omsk. Journalists attacked

Yevgeny Dolganev, a journalist and civil activist, has been beaten up by unidentified persons in Omsk. He was attacked near his house in the Kirovsky District early on October 17. Eight young men, apparently Caucasians, cracked down on him shouting “Here, take this, you Russian bastard!” The reporter had to turn to a first-aid station with numerous bruises.

The victim reported the attack to the police, asking for legal proceedings to be instituted on charges of “violence motivated by political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hatred”. The police later detained several suspects and invited him to participate in their identification, Dolganev told the DO-Info news agency.

His friends and Omsk-based bloggers, however, do not rule out that the apparently “nationalist” nature of the assault was only meant to disguise its political underpinnings. Y. Dolganev is the leader of the White Ribbon movement, a member of the Coordinating Council of the United Civil Coalition, and a freelance correspondent for the independent Provincial News Agency.

DO-Info also recalled that its editor-in-chief Viktor Korb was attacked last July, getting his two ribs fractured, and in January someone had broken windows in his apartment. Neither of the two incidents has been thoroughly investigated, and the editor’s repeated appeals to the law enforcers to protect him and track down and bring the perpetrators to justice have been left unanswered, except for a couple of purely formal and meaningful replies.

[Based on DO-Info news agency reports, Omsk]

 

3. Moscow Region. What is Khimki mayor afraid of? Continued from Digest 495

Vladimir Strelchenko, mayor of the town of Khimki near Moscow, failed to attend the October 21 hearing of a criminal case opened at his insistence against journalist Mikhail Beketov.

That was not for the first time he did so: on October 12 he likewise ignored the summons to court for questioning on the pretext he was away on a holiday. Beketov’s lawyer requested that the mayor be brought to court forcibly, but the judge did not dare to follow the example set 15 years before by another judge who was handling the notorious case “General Grachev vs. Journalist Poegli”. In Khimki this time, the court decided there was a good excuse for the plaintiff’s absence. Hearings again had to be adjourned – until November 9.

The criminal proceedings on charges of libel (under Article 129 of the RF Penal Code) were instituted against M. Beketov after the journalist suggested V. Strelchenko may have been involved in having Mikhail’s car set on fire in May 2007. In November 2008, Beketov became the target of a crippling attack that he barely survived. It may be noted here that problems started piling up for Beketov after his publishing in Khimkinskaya Pravda of a series of articles censuring the local administration’s poor performance (for further details, see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/775#tema).

Dragging out the judicial process is hazardous to Beketov’s health: each wasted week reduces chances that the surgical operation he badly needs now will end successfully. One cannot rule out that the mayor procrastinates deliberately, in order to punish the journalist in this malicious manner.

Whatever the reasons, Strelchenko failed to attend two court hearings. What is it that the Khimki head is so afraid of?

 

4. Perm. Evolution of university glasnost

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Perm State University October 21 canceled the show of a documentary made by TV journalist Robert Karapetyan of Yekaterinburg. The film, titled “Oil People”, described the catastrophic ecological situation around the village of Pavlovo in the Ordinsky District.

On the following day, the scandalous fact was reported by the Periskop news agency which said the show had been canceled “just one hour before the appointed time”. The university management was said to have made that very undemocratic move in response to a request by the news service of Lukoil Perm – the very organization that extracts oil near Pavlovo heavily polluting the local environment, according to the film’s author.

Evidently, other reporters, too, began calling the university on the phone, because a couple of hours later Olga Ilyina, deputy rector in charge of extra-curricular activities, posted on the 59.ru website a commentary reading as follows:

“No one is entitled to prohibit the students to watch films on whatever themes may be of interest to them. However, we maintain partner relationships with Lukoil Perm, and whenever problems arise, we have to tackle them…”

The deputy rector also stressed that the film show had been delayed, not canceled altogether. She acknowledged the fact of the phone call from Lukoil, suggestive of her university’s dependence on the outwardly innocent “partner relationships” with that company, but emphasised the unquestionable character of the students’ right to watch films, i.e. receive information. Had no one thought about that right one day earlier?

The office phone of Alexander Vnutskikh, dean of the Philosophy and Sociology Department, was silent that day. Finally, his cell phone number became known. Asked about the film show, he said, “It wasn’t canceled – only postponed. It is due to take place in a couple of weeks, with experts attending.”

Clearly, neither the university management nor the oil company press service had originally expected the film ban to cause so many people to frown. Then, yielding to public pressure, they must have decided that complete disrespect for students’ interests was a professionally silly line of behavior and sat down to look for a sensible way out of the awkward situation. But the scandal had already occurred, leaving some questions unanswered. Will the film be shown in two weeks, after all? And how could that have happened at all in a university claiming to be one of Russia’s best?

 

5. Ivanovo. Newspaper continues to be pressured

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Valery Smetanin, editor-in-chief of the regional independent newspaper Ivanovo-Press (IP), has told the GDF correspondent that during the past month, “people with regional administration member IDs have been driving around the city buying up IP issues from newspaper vendors”.

During the past three months, the telephones in the newspaper office have repeatedly been switched off – particularly when make-up work was in progress. That may signal deliberate attempts to disconnect the staff from the communication lines, the editor said.

According to him, for nearly five years now, all the regional printing companies have declined to print IP, compelling the newspaper to place printing orders first in Yaroslavl and then in Kostroma. Earlier this month, Kostroma, too, refused to provide its services, and now IP is printed in Vologda, 350 km away from Ivanovo. “If things go on like this, we may soon have to request printing services outside the Russian Federation,” V. Smetanin said bitterly.

On October 18, the regional branch of the RosSvyazKomNadzor [federal service overseeing the sphere of public communications] found Ivanovo-Press to be “in breach” of Article 27 of the RF Media Law because of failure to specify its printing company’s address (which was still not known at the time). Now the output data do include information about the new printing service provider…

 

6. Rostov Region. Newspaper wins in court against prosecutor and police chief

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

Last December, the newspaper Yuzhny Federalny published Sergey Sleptsov’s article “Pictures from Tatsinka” describing the unlawful seizure of land in the Tatsinsky District, Rostov Region. Several farmers refused to cede their land to the raiders, but the protesters’ land plots were plowed up together with the rest and a harvest was grown on them, and all the proceeds from its sale were pocketed by the self-appointed landlords.

When the victims filed official complaints about the wrongdoing, both the police and the prosecutor’s office said they did not see any reason for interference, which fact, too, was reflected by S. Sleptsov in several follow-up reports.

District prosecutor Dmitry Aristarkhov and district police chief Vladimir Grishchenko responded by filing with the Oktyabrsky District court of Rostov-on-Don claims in defense of their honor, dignity and professional reputation and demanded RUR 1,000,000 from the newspaper in moral damage compensation. Yet their claims were turned down in full by the court.

 

7. Sverdlovsk Region. PR specialist appointed newspaper editor-in-chief

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Sverdlovsk Region’s media community has mixed feelings about the assignment of the post of the regional newspaper Oblastnaya Gazeta’s (OG) editor-in-chief to Roman Chuichenko, a PR specialist from Saratov, who has only worked for less than six months as a team member of newly appointed Governor Alexander Misharin.

Regional Duma deputies Andrei Alshevskikh and Georgy Persky urged the prosecutor’s office to check whether that decision was lawful at all. The point is, with OG co-founded by the head of the regional administration and the Legislative Assembly, the candidacy of the official newspaper’s editor used to be approved by both parliamentary houses in the past. This time, however, the editor was appointed simply by a gubernatorial decree.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Polyanin, secretary of the RF Journalists’ Union, has pointed out in his web blog that only individuals and legal entities may pose as media founders. “The Sverdlovsk Region governor, mentioned as a co-founder of OG, falls under neither category, since he only performs as an administration official… The question arises under the circumstances as to whether or not he was entitled to appoint the OG editor-in-chief. Probably he was, if this is of zero concern to everyone around,” Polyanin wrote.

Yet journalists in the region known for its strong professional traditions and the prominent School of Journalism at Sverdlovsk State University find it rather strange that a PR specialist should be appointed to lead the newspaper recognized as Russia’s single most popular regional publication. OG has provided extensive coverage of the governor’s performance as it is, and even went as far as featuring 17 (sic!) photo pictures of Misharin in one of its issues… Is that still not enough?!

 

8. Chelyabinsk Region. Editor of newspaper Pravda Goroda Zlatousta arrested

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Chelyabinsk Region branch of the Investigative Committee under the Office of the RF Prosecutor General has accused Valery Uskov, 34, a resident of Zlatoust, of “instigating hatred or hostility, and disparaging the honor of a person or group of persons in terms of their race or ethnicity, through actions of an organized group carried out publicly or via the mass media” (as stipulated in Article 282.2 of the RF Criminal Code). A law court ruled to keep Uskov under arrest, the official website chelsupr.ru has reported.

According to the investigators, 25,000-40,000 copies of three issues of the newspaper Pravda Goroda Zlatousta edited by Uskov were circulated by unidentified persons in Zlatoust August 18-24. A study by linguistic experts showed the publications contained a number of discriminatory and disparaging statements, which caused the law enforcers to launch an investigation to identify those responsible.

As regards Uskov’s arrest, it was needed to “prevent further publications of this kind”, the investigators said. They are currently checking the hard discs, booklets and other confiscated materials that were used in making the newspaper that was distributed in the city for six months running. Besides, V. Uskov is suspected of involvement in compiling the “shooting lists” which unknown persons stuck onto the entrance door of the local printing house last January, threatening to have some prominent local politicians and businessmen physically exterminated (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/6/698#rus5). The legal proceedings started in connection with that incident were later suspended.

 

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

1. Social forum held in Chita

By Marina Meteleva,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The sixth annual social and civil forum “Trans-Baikal Residents Helping Home Region” opened at the regional philharmonic theater in Chita October 21.

Launched in 2002, the project was initially held as an annual fair and acquired its current form three years later, growing in importance for both public organizations and regional power from year to year. In 2008 it went beyond the framework of a social event to receive the status of a civil forum providing the venue for discussions of civil society problems, interaction between power and business, communal reforms, government openness to the media, etc.

This year, the organizing committee received 91 socially significant project proposals from 19 districts across the Trans-Baikal Region. Of the 52 proposals selected at the preliminary stage, exactly one half were recommended for implementation. The sponsors raised a grant fund of RUR 580,000 to finance various projects, with Sibir Group and TGK-14 Co. posing as the main sponsors.

This year’s forum was marked by the discussion of a concept of the regional administration’s and local self-governments’ interaction with non-governmental/non-profit organizations and businesses. Speakers, among them several prominent politicians, described it as a “remarkable” document – an assessment that NGO representatives generally agreed with. Businessmen, for their part, pointed out that concepts of this kind should emphasize the wellbeing of each individual and give everyone the opportunity to realize one’s ambitions, rather than merely acknowledge the vaguely formulated need “to improve the quality of life in the Trans-Baikal Region”. Journalists attending the forum noted that in line with the plan, the coordination of implementation efforts would be delegated to the regional media, as said in a few paragraphs at the end of the document. But not a single item of the Concept said anything about support for those same media, especially at municipal level, and the social project “Glasnost: A Road to Civil Society” (calling for the opening of websites for district newspapers free of charge, with one media outlet asking for money to purchase one computer and for a guaranteed hosting service) left both the organizing committee and the sponsors disinterested. The latter advised the authors to turn for assistance to the… regional authorities again.

 

2. The price of a publication

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Journalist Mikhail Lobanov has appealed to the presidium of the Perm Region Court against the same court’s ruling that he was wrong in applying the word “criminal” to a character of his independent investigation who turned out to have committed a number of crimes, been convicted for those, wrongfully entered a government service later, and again got under investigation on suspicion of fraud.

It all began May 18, 2007, when the newspaper Permskiye Novosti published M. Lobanov’s story entitled “Entertainment from a Racketeer?” reporting that a probe had been ordered into the performance of a government officer – Sergey Skamrov, deputy head of the regional construction inspectorate GosStroiNadzor. Having supplied details about the ongoing criminal investigation of a suspected case of large-scale fraud, Lobanov told the readers also about Skamrov’s activities prior to entering the government service. It turned out that back in 2001 he had been convicted by the Vereshchaginsky District court (Perm Region) for two grave offenses – violent extortion of money in collusion with a group of accomplices, and robbery. He had fled from the investigators at the time, only to be tracked down and spend nearly two months under arrest.

As he was applying for government service five years afterward, Skamrov had checked out “No” answering the question whether or not he had ever had any criminal record. That is why M. Lobanov called him “a repeat acquisitive offender”, “a criminal” and “a racketeer” in his publication.

Skamrov had kept a low profile for the following three years before finally deciding to file a legal claim in defense of his honor, dignity and business reputation. The Leninsky District court in Perm partially satisfied his claim August 18, 2010, requiring Permskiye Novosti to publish a refutation and pay the plaintiff RUR 40,000, and Lobanov to pay him RUR 30,000, in moral damage compensation. Mikhail challenged the ruling before the higher-standing regional court, which only excluded from the sentence the episode with Skamrov’s filling out the questionnaire, acknowledging that fact as “true”, and slashed the amount of compensation payable by the newspaper to RUR 30,000, and by Lobanov, to RUR 10,000. That was it.

Mikhail Lobanov is an experienced journalist with a more than ten-year record of crime reporting, and a person well-versed in legal matters. In his four-page complaint to the court of appeals, he thoroughly analyzed the situation, citing existing Russian and foreign dictionary definitions like “A criminal is a person who has committed a crime”; “Reketir (from English ‘racketeer’) is a person engaged in illegal enterprises for profit”, etc. “In Russian legislation,” he wrote, “there is no regulation forbidding the use in a journalistic report of the term ‘crime’ in connection with a person’s having served his/her prison term in full. Having once committed a crime, anyone will retain one’s criminal record as a fact of his/her life for the rest of one’s days.”

Restricting freedom of thought and expression is a different thing, Lovanov argued. He as a journalist is supposed to write a newspaper story observing existing literary norms. In his view, the first-instance court, in its August 18 ruling, substituted the notion of “criminal record” for the notion of “crime”, i.e., it applied the conviction-canceling provision of Article 86 of the RF Criminal Code instead of that of Article 14 defining the notion of crime. But the author did not even call Skamrov “a person with a criminal record”. He only reported about a series of proven criminal offenses committed by a man who was in the government service as per the date of the publication…

Neither of the two courts paid any attention to the social significance of the newspaper story. Lobanov fulfilled his journalistic duty by telling the public about a government serviceman who had deliberately concealed from his employer the fact of his having been convicted for robbery and extortion in the past. But, ironically enough, it is to that person that the court awarded the right of full exoneration and a considerable amount of money in “moral damage” compensation.

There is yet another important motive for the journalist to challenge this court decision. The Leninsky District court in Perm heard the case in the absence of M. Lobanov who at that moment was in hospital after a violent attack by a group of unidentified assailants. The doctors diagnosed him as having “a close craniocerebral injury, scull cup and basal scull fractures, and a brain injury of medium gravity,” according to the medical certificate he had presented asking to adjourn the hearings. “But the district court did not find that to be a valid excuse, and deprived me of the right to explain things or produce proofs,” Lobanov wrote. Instead of taking due notice of the breach of the defendant’s procedural rights, the court issued a determination saying that Mikhail’s absence “negatively affected the comprehensive and unbiased study of the case”.

The Glasnost Defense Foundation will inform the readers of the ruling to be passed on Lobanov’s complaint by the higher-standing judicial authority.

 

OUR PARTNERS

2010 Andrei Sakharov competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” draws to a close

November 1 is the deadline for the submission of works for the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on Russian journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values which Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2009 and October 15, 2010 in Russian newspapers, magazines or almanacs, or posted on web portals registered as media outlets. Candidates for the award may be nominated by both 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 Defense Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’”.

For further details about the contest, please see http://www.gdf.ru/lenta/item/1/699

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637 4947.

 

This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF).

 

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 Yefremov – 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.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, fond@gdf.ru

To be crossed out from the Digest list of subscribers, please e-mail a note to digest@gdf.ru.

Все новости

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