Дайджест
2 Июня 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 526

May 30, 2011

 

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Mikhalkov grows tiresome

The feeling that attempts to establish some kind of a committee or council to keep up society’s morals have been dropped turns out to be wishful thinking: the topic that once set everybody’s teeth on edge has surfaced again.

This time, the idea to set up a “council on morals” was voiced by a group of prominent filmmakers, writers, musicians, artists and theatrical workers – those who attended the May 25th Second Slavonic Art Forum “Golden Knight”. They appealed to Russia’s president pointing to the need to “form a supervisory board to ensure that the media comply with historically established norms of morality”. As can be gathered from the text of the appeal, the proposed board is to guarantee that “the process of the Russian nation’s spiritual and cultural development continues uninterrupted”.

The appeal was signed by movie director N. Mikhalkov; Prince G. Gagarin, head of Russia’s Noble Assembly; his first deputy A. Korolyov-Pereleshin; actors Y. Steblov, A. Livanov, V. Livanov, Y. Solomin, and N. Burlyayev, who, by the way, is a “Member of the Patriarch’s Council on culture”, where “Member” is capitalised, unlike “culture” (In accordance with the norms of literary Russian, only the word “Council” is to be capitalised – Translator.); writer V. Ganichev, another member of the same Council; and several other cultural personalities.

Among the evils borne by “uncontrolled” media the authors listed “the destruction of national historical, spiritual and cultural heritage”; “efforts to undermine the moral pillars of Russian society”; and “deliberate promotion of values that are alien to the Russian nation”, as well as the steadily growing rates of crime, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, corruption and paedophilia. As possible remedies, they proposed a set of measures that they think might fit well into the system of spiritual and patriotic upbringing of Russian citizens. One such measure would be to have the VGTRK television channel provide coverage of “major educational events contributing to people’s spiritual development”, such as Christmas, Easter, Russia’s Baptism Day, Russia Day, National Unity Day, Victory Day, Memorial Day, Fatherland Defenders’ Day, Slavonic Written Language and Culture Day and, finally, Family, Love and Faithfulness Day.

The authors emphasised that they do not insist on censorship – they would be satisfied with the sheer possibility of “public censure”, they said. If so, who prevents, say, Mikhalkov from censuring as much as he likes those who criticise his latest movie, or mock at his “Besogon (Exorcist) TV” project, or keep writing about the notorious flasher (which he had to dismantle from the top of his car, after all). It looks like the renowned film director has got tired of waging his struggle for public morals single-handed and feels he would be better off having a special council to assist him.

Media workers, however, did not believe the signatories of the appeal; moreover, it is the likely resumption of censorship that everybody started to debate fearfully. Pavel Gusev, head of the Public Chamber’s Media and Freedom of Expression Committee, described the proposed establishment of a supervisory board as a provocation. Even the Kremlin denounced the initiative advanced by Mikhalkov and his co-thinkers. “The idea of introducing censorship – yes, what they mean is censorship pure and simple! – is at odds with the constitution and leads away from the path of development this country once chose,” a presidential administration official told the RIA Novosti news agency.

It is not clear, though, what Russia’s White House thinks about the plans cherished by the self-appointed “morality keepers”…

Meanwhile, bloggers have begun gathering signatures under a response appeal against censorship, which opens with the words: “Screw off, dear cultural activists, will you?”

 

RUSSIA

Rostov-on-Don. Judge again rules to keep editor under arrest

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Rostov Region court has cancelled the Oktyabrsky District court ruling to put Margarita Yefremova, deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yuzhny Federalny (YF), under arrest on charges of extortion, and returned the case for review by the same court.

Another panel of district judges again refused to satisfy the defence’s plea for mitigating the restraint to a written pledge not to leave town, and for releasing Yefremova on bail before trial.

As we have reported, criminal proceedings were instituted against the deputy editor under Article 163.2d of the RF Penal Code (“Extortion of a large sum of money”) immediately upon her receipt of RUR 300,000 from a deputy head of the Morozovsky District administration (see Digest 521).

That was a provocation against Yefremova as acting sales director of YF, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Maxim Fedorenko told the GDF correspondent.

“We regularly published articles censuring corrupt practices and office abuses by high-ranking government and law enforcement officials. Our newspaper was the first to report on the brutal massacre in the village of Kushchovskaya, bringing that horrific collective killing to the focus of media attention nationwide. The police set up Yefremova deliberately, with a view to discrediting and shutting down our independent newspaper. While searching our office, they seized three PCs with the findings of independent anti-corruption investigations conducted also by other journalists,” Fedorenko said.

 

Republic of Karelia. Editor sacked unlawfully

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

O. Tervo, head of the Olonetsky District administration, has decreed the dismissal of Svetlana Guseva, director and editor-in-chief of the district newspaper Oloniya. The lady administrator declined to explain the reasons, only citing a charter clause saying she has the right to take this kind of decision. Guseva herself, who has led Oloniya since 1987 without a single reprimand, sees her sacking as stemming from a conflict with the district authorities that has grown fairly serious over the past six months. The new district head, Tervo, has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with different newspaper publications, each time requiring the editor to submit written explanations in violation of the law provision giving media outlets full independence as regards its editorial policy. Each time, though, Guseva managed to prove she acted in strict compliance with effective legislation. Nevertheless, she finally found herself out in the street.

Since the group of Oloniya’s founders also includes the District Council and the Respublika Kareliya news agency (working under the auspices of the republic’s government), finding out their attitude toward Tervo’s ruling seemed important.

The news agency’s general director had nothing against Guseva’s dismissal. As regards Council deputies, they met to discuss the matter on May 23 and passed a controversial resolution: while not openly challenging the editor’s sacking, they also wrote they objected to it, which could be taken as an indication of their unwillingness to get involved in the conflict. Guseva intends to go to law, most likely basing her defence statement on the resolution paragraph expressing the Council’s disagreement with her dismissal.

Karelia’s Journalists’ Union has watched the developments closely. On the eve of the Council sitting, it sent the deputies a message calling their attention to the fact that Guseva was not only director of the municipal newspaper Oloniya but also its editor-in-chief, which means her future should be decided in line with the federal Media Law provisions.

Oloniya is one of Karelia’s largest district newspapers, with a circulation of 4,500. It may as well be noted that its management has never breached the newspaper’s charter – unlike the district administration, which has not paid a cent since this year began for the official documents it regularly publishes on Oloniya’s pages.

 

Moscow Region. Court requires United Russia party to comply with law

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

A law court in Serpukhov near Moscow has considered a legal claim lodged by the newspaper Oka-Info against the local branch of the United Russia party (URP) after Vadim Motorin, secretary of the URP Political Council, refused to satisfy an information request filed by the newspaper. The ruling party executive was so sure he was right that he himself encouraged the newspaper management to try and sue him.

Oka-Info asked Motorin to provide official information about whether or not Vladimir Kirnitsky, a City Council deputy and URP member, had been held responsible for the wrongful actions his construction firm Soyuz had been repeatedly charged with – specifically, for destroying part of the local malthouse, an architectural monument of federal importance.

Motorin sent the journalists a purely formal and meaningless reply to the effect that “Kirnitsky’s behaviour is to be discussed at the next Council sitting; it could not be done earlier because preparations for, and holding of, a conference to hear reports and elect new officials proceeded in a complicated political environment”. In a private conversation with the author of the inquiry, Motorin openly said he would not supply the requested information within the 7-day period established under the law.

The newspaper filed a legal claim, and the court declared Motorin’s inaction unlawful, requiring him to provide full information regarding disciplinary measures taken in respect of Kirnitsky. The court also charged the judicial costs to the local URP branch.

Samara. Copyright “defenders” claim fee for public domain songs

By Viktor Sadovsky,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Volga department of the Russian Authors’ Society (RAS), the legal successor to the RF Copyright Agency, has urged the Samara branch of the RF Journalists’ Union to conclude with it an agreement on the use of intellectual property items in public domain. This requirement was voiced after the RAS learned about the journalists plans to organise public singing and dancing as part of the of the annual City Day celebrations opening this year with a Press Festival traditionally held on the last Saturday of May.

Samara journalists hold this festival in the city’s Gorky Park every year to hand awards to the winners of journalistic contests in many nominations, honour best-performing media outlets and veteran reporters, and encourage young talent. Naturally, festivities are accompanied by orchestras playing, people dancing and singing songs, including such popular ones as “Katyusha”, “Wind in the Reed” or “The Wide, Wide Sea”.

However, the RAS insists that each time such a song is sung in the park, the performers must pay a royalty on it, to be transferred to the author.

So the journalists in Samara are cudgelling their brains what to do. If they ignore the RAS demands, they may be held liable not only under Article 1301 of the Civil Code and Article 7.12 of the RF Copyright Code but also under Article 146 of the Criminal Code (“Violation of Copyright or Associate Rights of Authorship”. It may well happen that this year’s press festival will have to be held in gloomy silence…

 

Maritime Region. Lesozavodsk mayor claims RUR 100,000 in moral damage compensation

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

Local authorities are always highly sensitive to any media criticism of their performance. Alexei Stelmakh, the recently appointed mayor of the city of Lesozavodsk, Maritime Region, is no exception. On New Year’s eve, after only three months in office, he succeeded in carrying out a predatory action against the city residents – raising central heating rates by 50 percent on the pretext of municipal debts and threatening to cut off heat supply altogether to anyone refusing to pay. Lesozavodsk turned out the region’s sole city in which local authorities acted as brazenly as that. They did have the funds to repay their debts, but they preferred to do so at residents’ expense. To be sure, the relevant orders with accompanying estimates were published by the municipal administration’s newspaper.

But Pyotr Ruban, staff correspondent for the regional newspaper Utro Rossii, with utility service bills and calculations in hand, proved in a series of analytical articles that authorities had conspired to deceive ordinary people.

The enraged mayor rushed to defend his honour, dignity and business reputation in court, claiming he had been “insulted, disparaged and humiliated” by the critical publications.

The Utro Rossii editor then had to take time explaining to the young mayor what the notions of honour, dignity, business reputation and moral suffering actually mean. Judge I. Dyshlovoy of the Frunzensky District court agreed with the editor’s arguments and turned down the plaintiff’s legal claim in full.

 

Republic of Ingushetia. CE delegation meets with human rights activists

By Vakha Chapanov,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Caucasian Federal District

A Council of Europe delegation led by Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg visited Ingushetia on May 18.

After talks with the republic’s president, Hammarberg met with members of the Public Council under Ingushetia’s Human Rights Ombudsman and representatives of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, news agency “Maximum”, ROO Vesta, ROD Grozing, ANO Tsivilizatsiya, Ingushetia’s Youth League and other organisations.

In his introductory speech, he described the mission of the CE Human Rights Commissioner and the goals of his visit – to compile a report with recommendations on the observance of human rights in the Russian Federation, to be then submitted to the Council of Europe.

Participants in the Public Council meeting asked the CE official a variety of questions, including about the rights of internally displaced persons, the post-conflict situation in the Prigorodny District of North Ossetia-Alania, and the use of unlawful methods of interrogation and preliminary investigation.

 

GEORGIA

Reporters beaten by police

RIA Novosti special correspondent Andrei Malyshkin, was detained and beaten up by the police while covering a protest action staged by the National Assembly opposition party in downtown Tbilisi.

He was nabbed in Rustaveli Avenue, where the action was proceeding, late on May 25 – swept off his feet, kicked and clubbed by police officers, despite his showing his journalistic ID and citing the editor’s assignment he was fulfilling. The journalist was then pushed into a police vehicle and taken to a police station on the outskirts of the city, where he was kept handcuffed for more than five hours. He was released at about 6 Division head Grekhov wants to know …a.m.

Policemen also beat other reporters, among them Kommersant photo correspondent Dmitry Lebedev, Russia Today reporter Diego Marin and several Georgian journalists.

  • “RIA Novosti maintains this kind of Georgian law enforcement’s treatment of journalists performing their professional work is uMemorial plaque openednacceptable,” the news agency’s First Deputy Editor-in-Chief Maxim Filimonov said, expressing the hope that international organisations defending journalists’ rights would not leave this appalling attack on our colleagues unnoticed.

[RIA Novosti report, May 26]

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

 

ANNOUNCEMENT

GDF marks 20th anniversary

Next Monday, June 6, the Glasnost Defence Foundation will mark its 20th anniversary, of which we proudly inform all our friends and subscribers.

The memorable occasion will be celebrated at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow. The morning conference “The GDF and Its Role in Promoting Freedom of Expression in Russia” will be followed by an evening concert at the Grand Hall, with jubilee greetings expected from colleagues and with lots of friendly merrymaking planned.

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

No one can be safe from trial or prison…

By Yuri Chernyshov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The fairly long period of peace and harmony in Saratov’s media community seems to be over, now that two judicial cases at once are in the focus of public attention and subject to vigorous debating. Both cases are related to “Obshchestvennoye Mneniye (OM)” – a public and political monthly magazine and its website.

The first – a legal claim filed by OM against the regional Press Ministry department – is under consideration in the regional arbitration court, with the weekly demanding that the tender for the allocation of budgetary subsidies among the media covering the regional administration’s activities be declared null and void. The reason is that the tender was held on January 31 on the basis of an ordinary Press Ministry instruction, not the official rules of procedure which had expired at the end of last year.

According to the OM website, at the latest court sitting on May 17 the ministry representatives cited last August’s order that extended the rules of procedure, originally passed in 2007, until the year 2013. However, such an order could only enter into legal force after its official publication in the regional media, e.g. in Saratovskaya Oblastnaya Gazeta, which had never actually been done.

The ministry, for its part, insists that posting the order (in its old edition that expired last year) on the regional administration’s website is tantamount to its official publication. The defendants said they decided not to publish the document elsewhere because their website “is definitely the most frequently visited one”. Yet the OM site does not indicate the government’s website has ever been registered as a media outlet. Besides, no one can prove the order was not posted right before the latest court sitting. At the next one, the court may be compelled to go into such intricacies as what a media outlet is and whether the government website is one.

The other case is linked with an official request by Alexei Razumov, leader of the regional branch of Russia’s Public Movement, for the Saratov police department to institute criminal proceedings against OM editor-in-chief Alexei Kolobrodov, in the wake of what the plaintiff sees as “libellous” reports (posted on the OM website) about a series of picketing actions dedicated to Russian army reform. Razumov did not like that he was described as the initiator of forming voluntary nationalist teams throughout Russia to monitor illegal migration. “Obshchestvennoye Mneniye groundlessly asserts that picketers called for the establishment of some kind of people’s volunteer corps (of a National-Socialist, i.e., pro-Nazi, orientation) to wage armed struggle against illegal migrants,” Razumov wrote in his complaint.

“Listing me or other rally organisers among the Nazis… damages our honour, dignity and business reputation in Russian society,” he wrote. “Neither I nor other picketing action organisers have ever stated our adherence to Nazi ideology… What we see is a clear instance of libel – the circulation of a priori false and disparaging information. In view of all of the above, I hereby ask you to institute criminal proceedings against Alexei Kolobrodov, editor-in-chief and author of the news report being challenged, on charges of defaming Alexei Razumov, Denis Chukov and Yelena Shuganova.”

Meanwhile, no new report mentioned by Razumov could be found on the OM website as this story was being prepared for publishing.

 

OUR PARTNERS

2011 competition for Andrei Sakharov Award “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The Jury continues accepting works submitted for the 2011 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”. 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 October 15, 2010 and October 15, 2011 in Russian newspapers, magazines or almanacs, or posted on web portals registered as media outlets. 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 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 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, click on http://www.gdf.ru/lenta/item/1/845

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637 4947.

 

This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defence 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 organisation in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

Contacts: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, fond@gdf.ru

 

 

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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