5 Октября 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 539

3 October 2011


Media forum in Taipei: sad statistics cited

At a media forum in Taipei, Taiwan on September 25-27, International Press Institute (IPI) director Alison Bethel McKenzie reported on journalists’ harassment and intimidation around the world.

“Unfortunately, the 82 journalists killed in the first eight and a half months of this year are a bleak reminder of the continuing perils faced by reporters everywhere,” she said.

At least 10 journalists have been killed in Mexico which was identified as the most dangerous country to report from. Eight journalists have been killed in pursuit of their professional duty in Iraq, and six in Pakistan. Reporters in Myanma, China and North Korea have been under hard pressure, and instances of journalist harassment and torture have grown more frequent, McKenzie said. The situation in the North African countries seeing through social reforms – in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – is only slightly better.

Two reporters have been killed in Europe, according to the IPI; both of them died in Russia.

Meanwhile, the GDF Monitoring Service has registered 5 deaths of journalists in Russia. Anatoly Bitkov, editor of the Kolyma Plus TV channel, was found by the police at his home in Magadan on 22 June with traces of a violent death. Investigators say his killing may have been linked with his professional activities. Roman Nikiforov, editor of the TPO Red Media show, was killed near Moscow’s Ostankino TV Centre on 16 January. In Makhachkala on 28 July, Garun Kurbanov, head of the Dagestan president’s Information Policy and Press Service Department, was shot and killed from a submachine gun. Yakhya Magomedov, editor of the Avar-language edition of the Islamic newspaper As-Salam, was shot and killed in the same republic of Dagestan on 9 May. And Pavel Balakirev, cameraman for the Vesti-Peterburg TV channel, died while shooting a TV report in St. Petersburg.



Chelyabinsk Region. Media subjected to censorship

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Authorities in the city of Chebarkul, Chelyabinsk Region, have been seeking to replace Gennady Dontsov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yuzhnouralets. If they succeed, he may become the seventh media head-manager fired over the past 12 months.

The formal pretext for terminating the editor’s contract was an article he published – a fairly innocent one – quoting citizens’ comments and suggestions from the Yuzhnouralets chat forum about the building and renovation of highways around the city. The issue was not raised by chance: over the previous weekend alone, four people had died in road accidents in and near Chebarkul. The reason was clear: the roads have become better, the speed higher, but there is not a single “sleeping policeman” or other traffic-regulating factors at all. This was what people discussed on the newspaper’s chat forum.

But regional government officials found the comments “awfully disloyal” – moreover, attempting “to discredit the district head”. This had been explained to them by a lady PR technologist from the administration of Chebarkul Mayor Andrei Orlov. At one of the pre-election conferences, “Big Julia”, as local journalists had nicknamed her, openly warned them she would read all the newspapers prior to printing and watch all TV reports before they went on the air.

The journalists nodded agreeably: go ahead if you think that appropriate… Only Dontsov said that was against the law. That is when Big Julia ticked off his name on the list and proceeded to gather compromising evidence against him. She found him to have made a few statements that she believed “smeared the United Russia party and its regional leader” and reported those to her boss, who did not hesitate to tell his subordinates in no uncertain terms that media discussions of this kind were ill-timed, considering the forthcoming elections. I need results, he said, and demanded action. The editor was instantly labelled disagreeable, disloyal, an agent of rival parties, etc.

The disfavoured editor, by the way, has devoted more than 30 year to his newspaper. Public activists stood up to defend Donstsov. Their appeals to Russia’s president and the Glasnost Defence Foundation were signed by such district celebrities as Duma deputy Gennady Severin; regional Mufti Vugar khazrat Akperov; Father Superior Dimitry of the Chebarkul church; Anatoly Churakov, a leading member of the human rights organisation “For a Safe and Decent Life”; Vladimir Lazarev, head of the district Veterans’ Council and others. “Administration attempts to take the regional press under stringent control have resulted in many professional journalists fired,” they said in their message to the GDF.

The fate of the disagreeable editor was to be decided a few days ago at the regional Press and Public Communication Department. But Dontsov, overstrained nervously, was taken to hospital in a state of hypertensic crisis.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will closely follow the developments in Chebarkul.

Ryazan. Former editor of Vechernyaya Ryazan detained

By Dmitry Florin, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Journalist Nikolai Kirillov, former editor of the evening newspaper Vechernyaya Ryazan (VR), has been arrested.

He was detained in the “Golden Spur” restaurant in Dzerzhinsky Street on 28 September by officers of the regional Investigative Committee and special police force to combat extremism.

A few years ago Kirillov was accused of extorting money from Nikolai Bulychev, a United Russia faction member in the State Duma. The editor explained in court he had not extorted any money – Bulychev had failed to duly pay for an ordered publication as he had promised orally, and later asked Kirillov for a personal meeting to pay the debt. The editor was detained as the money was changing hands.

Vechernyaya Ryazan has had other problems too. As early as March 2010, it had one of its print runs arrested and its office searched. Legal proceedings were later started against it under Article 282 of the RF Criminal Code (“Instigation of hatred or hostility, or disparagement of human dignity”). Another criminal case was opened after VR carried an article that allegedly instigated hatred toward the police. And in late November 2010, Roskomnadzor (media oversight federal service) warned the newspaper of the inadmissibility of “extremist” publications like the article “To Be on Alert” that had given rise to charges of “instigation of social hostility”. But in February 2011 the Zheleznodorozhny district court in Ryazan cancelled the warning as unlawful and supported the journalists’ plea that police officers do not form a social group.

Nevertheless, Kirilov’s prosecution continued, and the court relieved him of his editor’s duties – the investigators claimed that remaining under investigation, Kirillov might otherwise “put pressure on witnesses”. The editor himself dismissed that allegation, pointing out that the final judgment on his case would depend on the findings of linguistic expert studies of his publications.

…The reasons for his latest arrest remain unclear: Nikolai Kirillov is known to have continued working in his newspaper in another, non-editorial, position. Anzhelika Yevdokimova, press spokeswoman for the Ryazan Investigative Committee, has been unable to comment because of being on leave.

Perm. Unnamed nurse awarded 105,000 roubles in moral damages

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Permskiye Novosti (PN) newspaper and the regional human rights centre have been required to make public the judicial decision passed on the case of an unnamed nurse who was allegedly smeared by a disputed PN publication.

“A nurse who had clearly had a few was making a plaster bondage cursing the patient badly for her not having been able to endure the pain at least until the morning. After the broken finger had finally been plastered haphazardly, the journalist was happy another one hadn’t been broken in the process,” Yekaterina Tsiulya wrote about her visit to a hospital in the article “Treatment with Condition: The Intricacies of Night-Time Traumatology” featured by Permskiye Novosti on 31 July 2009. In August, the newspaper Za Cheloveka issued by the regional human rights centre reported with reference to the PN publication, “On 14 July, journalist Yekaterina Tsiulya turned to the same first-aid station for medical assistance. Her broken finger caused an intoxicated nurse to rudely shout at the patient for not coming in the morning instead.”

Although the nurse’s name was not mentioned in the press, the Leninsky district court in Perm accepted an honour-and-dignity defence claim filed by Natalya Diyeva, a nurse at the traumatology department of City Hospital No. 4. The plaintiff said that in October 2009 (i.e. two months after the publication) the hospital management had demanded explanations from her. Under the threat of dismissal, she was compelled to prove she had been fully sober at her workplace on the night of 14 July 2009. Yet the incident became widely known among the hospital staff. Diyeva insisted that the author’s non-mention of her name did not, however, mean that the story was not about her, since “I worked that night shift alone, with no one else attending”.

Judge Yevgeniya Baksanova agreed with the plaintiff’s argument and qualified the article as defamatory, awarding Diyeva 100,000 roubles in moral damages payable by Permskiye Novosti, plus 5,000 roubles payable by journalist Tsiulya. The regional court turned PN’s appeal down, and on 21 September Judge Galina Krasnopyorova refused to forward the appeal higher up to the regional court praesidium in view of “no reasons to review this civil case”.

On 30 September, as the 6-month appeal term established under the law was drawing to a close, Permskiye Novosti appealed to the highest judicial authority, the RF Supreme Court. The defendant believes that since the plaintiff’s name was not disclosed in the media, the very fact of the primary court’s accepting Diyeva’s legal claim marked a flagrant violation of procedural law. Besides, payment of the 100,000 roubles may cause the newspaper to suspend its operation, according to PN deputy editor-in-chief Irina Kislitsyna. As is known, the 16 September 2010 plenary meeting of the RF Supreme Court ruled that moral damage compensation must be charged in reasonable and fair amounts and must not lead to violations of freedom of expression.

Omsk. Regional governor grows “too expensive”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

In addition to the 500,000-rouble claim he lodged before, the Omsk Region head has demanded one more million roubles from the publisher of the Biznes-Kurs (BK) business weekly.

Evidently, Governor Leonid Polezhayev decided to teach businessmen a good lesson and change their course radically. So far, he has only targeted BK and its publisher, TRIES Corp. As we have reported, three weeks ago the regional leader demanded half a million roubles in moral damages for BK’s featuring an article about the construction of a club for businessmen at the regional budget’s expense. The project is managed by a company owned by a regional Legislative Assembly member who is said to be one the governor’s close friends (see Digest 536).

Polezhayev claimed particularly hurt by BK describing him as “the Omsk Region’s number one corrupt official”. Commenting on the governor’s legal claim, TRIES President Sergey Suslikov published in Oreol (another newspaper his company owns) an article titled “Polezhayev Takes Offence” – a move that many thought to be “rash” from the viewpoint of his future business success. And so it was, judging by the governor’s reaction to the evaluative judgments the author took the liberty to publish.

As it turned out in the course of the first claim’s hearings, Polezhayev had lodged two more claims, each charging the same sum, 500,000 roubles, in moral damages. The Oktyabrsky district court decided to consider them as a package; so the total amount the plaintiff is claiming from the publisher is 1.5 million roubles.

Observers agree that Leonid Polezhayev is giving it to be understood that his name should not be taken in vain. But since any public event in the region – the opening or closure of whatever it may be – is somehow or other linked with the governor’s name, Biznes-Kurs may be compelled to leave blank spaces in its texts in the future, for the readers themselves to guess whose name has been omitted.

Kurgan Region. Regional media urged to fight corruption more actively

By Valentina Pichurina, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Vladimir Balakin, Chief Federal Inspector in the Kurgan Region, is dissatisfied with the way corrupt practices are covered in the media. Publications highlighting facts of corruption are more of an informative than analytical nature and fail to encourage citizens to actively fight corruption, he believes.

The government official urged the regional media to increase the content value of anti-corruption publications by bringing them to the fore of public attention; covering the theme in a systematic, consistent way; supplying analytical comments; introducing didactical elements into publications; and not hesitating to provide social assessments of situations being described. However, it is unlikely that these recommendations will ever be carried out.

Being heavily dependent on trustees for financial support, local newspapers have been very cautious about publishing revelations of corrupt practices in the upper echelons, as shown by media coverage of the criminal proceedings against three regional vice-governors, of whom two have already been convicted and one is under investigation. Details about these corruption cases can only be learned from federal print and online media reports. Regional reporters never attend court hearings involving high-ranking government officials and never cover those at all. Regional media editors attending the sitting of the Coordinating Council of Heads of Territorial Press Services might themselves explain a few things in the course of their discussion of corruption-related issues, but their speeches had not been planned and none of them ventured to ask for the floor. The agenda included only reports by senior spokesmen for the police, investigative department, regional court, prosecutor’s office and other executive agencies.

Pavel Ovsyannikov of the Uralpolit.ru news agency, though, tried to use the opportunity to find out how the municipal authorities and law enforcers had reacted to a YouTube-posted scandalous audio recording that compromised a high-ranking City Duma deputy. That, again, was all about corruption. The news agency had filed official inquiries about the matter with Kurgan’s law enforcement and executive bodies back in June, but had never received any replies except “Facts are being checked” notices.

Samara Region. Police inspector takes on censor’s functions?

By Viktor Sadovsky, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The office of the Novokuibyshevsky Vestnik newspaper in the city of Novokuibyshevsk, Samara Region, has been “attacked” by the Inspectorate for Minors’ Affairs whose chief Svetlana Kedimirova demanded editing out an interview that one of her subordinates had given to the newspaper without first consulting her bosses.

Editor Maxim Yeryomin – by the way, the holder of a doctor’s degree in philology – explained to the lady inspector that a newspaper must coordinate the text of a publication only with its author. That caused Kedimirova to start demanding that the interview be clipped out altogether, although it highlighted problems with the upbringing of minors, including juvenile delinquents.

It looks like the latest police reform has left a peculiar imprint on the inspectorate in charge of underage youth affairs.

Yekaterinburg. Media forum held

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Urals Media Forum-2011 in Verkhnyaya Pyshma brought together more than 200 journalists who spent two days attending workshops conducted by professors of the Urals University’s school of journalism, arguing with bloggers about the media’s civil mission, and discussing the prospects of digital TV development.

They also summed up the results of several creative competitions, and a master class held by Edvard Opp, director of Kommersant Publishers’ photo service, attracted a record number of reporters – both writing journalists and photo correspondents.

The media forum programme included a conference to establish the regional Association of Municipal TV Broadcasters and a plenary meeting of the Sverdlovsk Region branch of the RF Journalists’ Union, where your correspondent was re-elected executive secretary for another term.

The panel discussion “Media Community as a Factor of Regional Development” focused on analysis of the political situation in the run-up to the 4 December elections. “Criticise but don’t juggle with facts; expose but don’t look for sensations where there aren’t any,” Governor Alexander Misharin urged Urals newspaper editors. “Work with the entire range of political forces and facilitate inter-party competition but be impartial and don’t try to focus on drawbacks only – be sure to report on successes, too.”

The regional leader’s evasive answer to a question about the establishment of a House of Journalists in Yekaterinburg sounded a bit discordantly, since at the previous media forum in December 2010 the governor had pledged to get the problem solved in a month’s time by putting the property affairs minister in charge of the construction project. That minister has now resigned, leaving the matter hanging in midair - hopefully, not for long.



Some statistics cited

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



Web community under threat

By Yuri Chernyshov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Activists of the Saratov Region Bloggers’ Association held a round table on 24 September to discuss law enforcement agencies’ desire to toughen anti-extremism legislation by extending its effects to social networks in the Internet, and the steps they have recently taken in that direction.

The first of the two issues has already caused extensive feedback from Russian analysts, the media community and the general public. Saratov bloggers share concerns about anti-extremism actions being only a pretext for a deeper and more dangerous transformation of Russian society. Charges of extremism, which in the light of new legislation may be brought against actually any citizen, and unbridled provocations encouraged in the Internet are spearheaded, in the first place, against political opponents of the authorities in the run-up to next December’s elections. Accusing political rivals of extremism and removing them from the political arena through criminal prosecution also means intimidating pro-opposition electors. In this context, government efforts to toughen anti-extremism laws are particularly dangerous inasmuch they are intended to have the whole of the worldwide web recognised as belonging within the media area. Considering the quality of our police and judiciary systems, these intentions are aimed to stifle the media and suppress civil protests – a trend totally unrelated to civil society development or democracy.

These conclusions have been confirmed by recent developments in Saratov, where Mikhail Namestnikov, chief of staff of the regional branch of the Yabloko party, had to pay 2,000 roubles in fine only for posting on his web blog a link to a video that was later found by a law court to be extremist and therefore placed on the federal list of “extremist” materials; and where Fair Russia party activists holding individual picketing actions outside the regional Duma building were taken into custody. One of the latest incidents that occurred just before the round table was the farce detention of sole bloggers picketing outside the regional prosecutor’s office and investigative committee headquarters. An expert specially invited to the round-table conference carefully studied the police protocols and unambiguously concluded that the picketers had not breached the law in any way, which meant their detention itself had been unlawful.

All the latest facts, however insignificant they might appear to be, show the dramatic level of our law enforcers’ dullness, incompetence and blind readiness to obey; they also show how dangerous the enactment of the proposed amendments may be to the whole of society. The Bloggers’ Association condemned those actions and decided to prepare a special statement, to be sent to the competent agencies, media and human rights organisations.

Regional media: Fourth estate powerless?

By Natalya Yusupova, GDF correspondent in North-Caucasian Federal District

For several months now, discussions have continued in Kabardino-Balkaria of a draft national policy concept proposed by the republic’s leader Arsen Kanokov, who urged all citizens and public organisations to come up with their critical remarks and suggestions concerning the draft before 1 October. “Working on a final version of the concept, we will be sure to take the voice of the people into account,” a presidential press release said.

The republic’s Public Chamber has been discussing the draft concept too. In the course of debates, PC member and journalist Marina Chernysheva pointed to the fact that although “information-disseminating and propagandistic work via the media” is seen as a major instrument of the national policy implementation, “the media infrastructure in Kabardino-Balkaria fails to meet present-day requirements either structurally or technologically; it is anything but an efficient instrument of promoting interaction between the government and society. Specifically, even the republic’s largest official newspaper is at best available to 1 per cent of the population.”

“…At a time when satellite dishes are being installed everywhere, even in remote villages, it is too early to say the republican TV coverage is republic-wide,” she went on to say. “This is not a result of media managers’ negligence but an objective reality of the Internet era.”

Chernysheva suggested that bringing information home to the people and thereby contributing to the policy concept implementation would require Internet resources to be used on a broader basis along with conventional media, and the NGO potential would have to be tapped in covering topics listed in the draft concept. Also, a republican law “On Support for Socially Oriented NGOs” should be enacted and civil society development programmes approved at municipality level, she said.

“What’s to be done in a situation where the Internet – the primary source of information for youth – has been invaded by various (destructive) forces that are skilfully fanning mistrust toward government authorities and whipping up inter-ethnic and religious tensions?” Chernysheva asked. “To counter this harmful influence, constructive information needs to be presented; but the use of web resources for positive purposes in Kabardino-Balkaria has been reduced to development of official websites in implementation of the Information Disclosure Act. Sites of this kind are not visited frequently for quite understandable reasons.”

Web-based media are less expensive but far more efficient for information-disseminating purposes than other information carriers, Chernysheva pointed out in conclusion.


From editor in Ufa

Dear Mr Simonov:

Last Wednesday, 21 September, the Ufimsky Zhurnal web magazine carried my story “Practice Makes Perfect”, dedicated to the local leader of Pravoye Delo, a right-wing affiliate of the ruling United Russia party. A few hours later, the website ceased operating as a result of a powerful DDoS attack.

On Friday, I posted a story entitled “Playing a Trump” in my web blog, censuring United Russia’s unlawful methods of influencing the electorate. And on Sunday, I received an anonymous telegram saying, “The attack was only the first warning. Think hard: we’ll beat hell out of you.”

Ufimsky Zhurnal is Bashkortostan’s largest web-based publication expressing the republic’s independent public opinion. Yandex monitoring shows it is the single most frequently visited web resource in Ufa.

At present, money shortages and the continuing DDoS attack are seriously hampering our staffers’ efforts to put the website back into operation.

We hereby urge you to promptly react to this serious breach of freedom of expression in Bashkortostan.


Sergey Orlov,

Ufimsky Zhurnal journalist and winner of a diploma in A. Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”



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 Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’”.

Details about the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637 4947.



Presentation of new database on journalist rights defence

The RF Journalists’ Union, Glasnost Defence Foundation and International Federation of Journalists will present a new database dedicated to the defence of media workers’ rights. This new information resource is intended to help PC users to form their own opinion about the status of journalists and media in Russia.

One of the project’s main goals is to fight impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against journalists. The data featured in the database have been gathered based on monitoring media rights violations – for the most part, those reported by GDF correspondents in different regions throughout Russia.

The presentation will begin at the Marble Hall of the Central House of Journalists (8a, Nikitsky Boulevard) at 3 p.m. on 4 October. Taking part in it will be Journalists’ Union chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov; GDF president Alexei Simonov; European Federation of Journalists head Arne Koenig; representatives of the IFJ; analysts; and journalists.

We will be glad to discuss with you the prospects of cooperation in using the new database.


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.


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

Все новости

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