27 Октября 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 542

24 October 2011



Youth meet with President Medvedev: FSO decides everything

On 20 October, Moscow State University’s School of Journalism hosted President Medvedev’s meeting with students.

Actually, the place was only a formal venue for the president’s meeting with students brought specially for the purpose from universities in different regions of Russia after careful selection, as well as activists of pro-Kremlin youth movements, observers say.

As regards the school’s own students of journalism, only three of them were present, according to some sources. Many had failed even to get inside the building to attend regular classes. Moreover, seven persons were detained by the presidential security service (FSO). Specifically, Vera Kichanova, a student of journalism and author of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was detained with a group of friends for unfolding placards that read, “Did you consult the prime minister about coming here?”; “You spend your time in Twitter while Khodorkovsky serves his time in jail”; and “Aren’t you ashamed of spending so much money on this kind of ‘elections’?”

“We’d planned to ask Medvedev a number of questions, but since we were barred from the meeting, we decided to ask these questions in a form that we found acceptable,” Kichanova told the Noviya Izvestia newspaper.

Some of the detainees were threatened with expulsion from the university. However, Yasen Zasursky, President of the School of Journalism, firmly stated that he “will not expel anyone”.

Not only students but also journalists who came to cover the president’s meeting with youth were held at arm’s length. Yegor Mostovshchikov, a reporter for The New Times, wrote on his Facebook page that he and a group of other reporters “had to wait for two hours at the entrance, and then found ourselves driven out each time we ventured inside”. “We aren’t free to act,” faculty members would tell them, “because it’s the FSO that decides everything at the moment.”

Thus the authorities once again showed to everyone “who calls the tune”.

And students of the school of journalism have decided to hold an extraordinary cleaning day on the campus after the meeting with Medvedev. “There are no political underpinnings in our action,” the organisers said. “Some of us just feel a hygienic urge to tidy up our home.”



Omsk. Governor’s legal claim against journalists satisfied partially

See Digest 539

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Court hearings of the Omsk Region governor’s legal claim against a local newspaper have had a few things in common with ongoing proceedings in London’s High Court.

The Oktyabrsky district court considered a package of three legal claims lodged against TRIES Publishers’ by Governor Leonid Polezhayev, who demanded a total of 1.5 million roubles in moral damages in the wake of a “smearing” publication in the Biznes-kurs magazine (about the construction of Businessmen’s Club at the regional budget’s expense by a company owned by one of the plaintiff’s close friends), and the defendant’s comments on the first claim that were published on the Biznes-kurs website and in the Vash Oreol newspaper released by the same publishing house.

All the three publications described the governor as “the Omsk Region’s ‘number one’ corrupt official”, which point TRIES President Sergey Suslikov tried to prove by citing factual evidence in the course of three (sic!) judicial sittings, for the court to finally decide whether or not his characteristic of the regional leader was accurate.

Meanwhile, observers have said that this matter was actually decided on 5 October – not in Omsk but in the London High Court of Justice, where Boris Berezovsky’s claim against Roman Avramovich, a close friend of Polezhayev’s (and godfather of his son) was heard. Abramovich’s defence lawyer admitted in High Court that “Sibneft’s establishment scheme was of a corrupt nature”. And as Governor Polezhayev acknowledged in Omsk (which statement quickly spread around in numerous local and federal media reports) this time, it was he who had personally devised that scheme once and continued pressing as “chief ideologist” for its implementation.

It looks like he does have reasons to feel offended: by calling him “the regions No.1 corruptionist”, Biznes-kurs clearly belittled his role, because the deal is known to have been of tremendous importance to the fate of the entire nation – it provided the funds to finance the ORT television channel which secured Boris Yeltsin’s victory in the presidential race. Nor did Polezhayev ever attempt to deny that another elaborate scheme he had thought up resulted in 15% of Sibneft shares pocketed by his son Alexei.

The Kommercheskiye Vesti newspaper and SuperOmsk website have suggested the Omsk governor will likely be summoned to London to testify as a key witness in the Berezovsky-Amramovich proceedings which will evidently last long. “Beyond doubt he knows a lot – actually, he may be one of those who are the most comprehensively knowledgeable about the matter,” Vitaly Ivanov, director of the Politics and State Law Institute, commented.

The Oktyabrsky district court ruled on 21 October to satisfy Polizhayev’s claim partially: Sergey Suslikov is to pay him 50,000 roubles; Biznes-kurs, 30,000; and Vash Oreol, 10,000 roubles in moral damages, with disclaimers to be published. Thus the amount awarded to the Omsk governor is nearly 17 times less than what he originally claimed.

The TRIES management intends to appeal to the higher-standing regional court; in the event of failure there, it may go all the way to Strasbourg in hopes that the London High Court’s opinion will finally be taken into account.

Ingushetia. An incident during bloggers’ forum

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

The first All-Caucasus Forum of Bloggers, held in the Dzheirakhsky district of Ingushetia on 15-17 October, brought together nearly 50 representatives from the Karachai-Cherkess Republic, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, Dagestan and the Stavropol Region.

The discussions focused on a variety of issues, including inter-ethnic relations in the North Caucasus and throughout Russia. Speakers agreed that in defending their views and opinions, bloggers need to observe certain ethical and moral norms and maintain dialogue within the framework of Caucasian ethics and culture.

The general impression was spoilt by an incident with Aslan Kodzoyev, a member of the RF Journalists’ Union and general director of the Kavkasion autonomous non-profit association. Upon learning about his presence at the forum, Ingush President Y. Yevkurov had the entire Dzheirakh police on their toes, and Kodzoyev was compelled to flee.

“Honestly, I thought at first that it was an FSB provocation,” Kodzoyev said. “But then they turned out to have nothing to do with it – it was President Yevkurov, a lieutenant-general and Hero of Russia, who put aside his state affairs and rushed to fight such a ‘dangerous’ criminal as me… The forum attracted very interesting people, although not all the delegates behaved respectfully toward colleagues. But then, I only had the time to attend one discussion and I don’t know if there were more. They ousted me not only from the forum but from the Dzheirakhsky district too.”

Yekaterinburg (Urals). Judges drive reporters into “corral”

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Media head managers in Yekaterinburg have complained to regional court chairman Ivan Ovcharuk about journalists’ inhumane treatment in district courts.

The October 19 sitting of the Verkh-Isetsky district court, which was to extend the term of arrest of Yekaterinburg Vice-Mayor Viktor Konteyev, became “the last straw”: the journalists who came to cover the allegedly open hearing were not allowed into the courtroom. Two dozen reporters for different news agencies, TV channels, newspapers and radio stations were driven into a kind of “corral” near the entrance. Fenced in by benches and watched by justice officers, the journalists spent nearly 8 hours on their feet, time and again asking to be ushered by the officers to the WC.

After 6 p.m., the official end of the working day in court, the journalists were told to leave the building to stay outside in the freezing cold for another hour and a half awaiting the verdict. To crown it all, the arrested vice-mayor was not permitted to comment to the press on the judicial decision passed.

The media managers asked Ovcharuk to create an acceptable working environment for the reporters, particularly as regards coverage of judicial proceedings with broad public repercussions.

Yekaterinburg. Journalist threatened by … striptease dancer

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Journalists at the URA.ru news agency have been repeatedly threatened by unclean hands from the number of businessmen, politicians and representatives of other social elites, but never once until recently by … a striptease dancer.

On 7 October, URA.ru’s Yevgenia Timofeyeva wrote a report about the previous-day contest of male striptease dancers from different parts of the Urals Federal District. During the show, she had talked to one of the performers, Konstantin Votyakov, who had already won a similar contest in 2009. Having informed him of her media reporter status, Timofeyeva asked him why he was doing striptease. “That’s my job,” the man said, “and I like it.” The reporter noted in her story that Votyakov has a wife and children, who “accept his line of activity with understanding”.

After the report was published on the URA.ru website, Votyakov called the news agency asking to remove the mention of his family from the text. However, upon consulting the editor, Timofeyeva decided not to change anything in her report. The striptease dancer called again, this time showing aggression and using dirty language. He said the publication “smeared” his family and threatened to “meet the author someday soon”.

Fearing for the lady journalist’s integrity, the editor reported the incident to the police asking to note the fact of an open threat against a journalist performing her professional duty.

Kurgan Region (Urals). Authorities blame regional newspaper’s shrinking readership on postal service

By Valentina Pichurina, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The regional public and political daily newspaper Novy Mir, co-sponsored by the Kurgan Region’s Government and Duma, has been rapidly losing subscribers. The trustees see this as a result of the poor performance of the postal service which delivers the newspaper irregularly – once instead of five times a week, with all the numbers brought as a stack. Delivery disruptions have compelled the editors to shift to a tri-weekly work schedule, causing the Duma deputies to frown and summon Valery Klyuyev, director of the regional branch of the Pochta Rossii federal postal service to a sitting of the Economic Policy Committee for a good dressing-down.

“Here is an official complaint by subscribers who say they don’t need a newspaper delivered as badly as ours,” Duma deputy chair Alexander Sapozhnikov told him. Three district administration heads who were present at the meeting said district newspapers had been delivered irregularly too, triggering complaints and money-back claims by angry subscribers.

Klyuyev, for his part, noted that in line with the regional postal service development programme, correspondence and press delivery in rural areas has proceeded on a tri-weekly basis since October 1, as prescribed by the 24 March 2006 RF Government decision “On the Frequency of Mailbox Collection, Exchange, Transportation, Delivery and Re-sending of Written Correspondence”. The daily press delivery system piloted in 2008 did not bring about any growth in the volumes or quality of postal services, and subscriptions continued to shrink, Klyuyev said adding that his service’s subscription-related incomes do not exceed 3%. On average, one letter and 20 newspapers are delivered to a village in the Kurgan Region per day. Still, the postal service has sought to duly fulfill its mission, Klyuyev said. Subscriptions for the second half of this year have generally remained at last year’s level, and district newspaper circulations have even grown 0.16%, which can be viewed as progress in an environment where the funding of budget-financed organisations and the size of the population have been on the decline, he said.

The Duma deputies made the postal service director give them his word that delivery disruptions would not lead to a further shrinkage of subscriptions and steps would be taken to restore the daily press delivery system.

Chechnya/Dagestan. Reporters Without Borders assesses level of freedom of expression in North Caucasus

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

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres, RSF) has published a report analysing the media situation in Chechnya and Dagestan based on the results of a fact-finding mission to the North Caucasus by RSF analysts Johann Bier and Tikhon Dzyadko, who met with local journalists, government officials and human rights activists.

The authors describe Chechnya and Dagestan as two extremes of the Caucasian conflict: one of the two republics witnessed this conflict’s outbreak; the other is finding itself in the centre of warfare today. The absence of pluralism, a high level of corruption, widespread media self-censorship and the actual personality cult of the republic’s president have all added up to result in the total absence of political competition in Chechnya. In Dagestan, relative pluralism and well-developed competitiveness have occurred amid economic difficulties, and journalists have found themselves targets of violence in the course of law enforcement’s clashes with radical Islamists.

Among other things, the report features recommendations on how to improve the regional situation. The RSF urges the Dagestani authorities to create a favourable environment for normal competition between the state-controlled and independent media; put an end to impunity; give up attempts to use the press as a transmitter of government-generated signals; and stop viewing critically-minded journalists as accomplices of armed extremists.

Recommendations for Chechnya include establishing political and media pluralism; ensuring equal access to government resources for all media outlets; and facilitating the full-scale investigation of killings of journalists and human rights defenders in the republic.

Russia, in the authors’ view, should regard fighting impunity as one of its national priorities.

And the international community is called upon to constantly voice its concerns over the freedom-of-expression situation in the North Caucasus; keep impunity high on the agenda of public discussions; and provide assistance to individual journalists and human rights activists in the North Caucasus.

Full text



Some statistics cited

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



Habitual self-censorship in Nevskoye Vremya newspaper

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

By editing out an interview with political writer Viktor Shenderovich, the St. Petersburg-based newspaper Novoye Vremya (NV) has again shown how deeply rooted self-censorship practices are in certain media outlets.

When Yeleva Dobryakova of NV’s cultural affairs unit proposed interviewing Shenderovich, the editor warned her she should talk with the prominent journalist predominantly on culture-related topics. Even after it turned out after preliminary phone talks with the would-be interviewee that leaving his political views beyond the framework of the discussion would be impossible, the editor gave the reporter the go-ahead. As a result, a fully prepared and proofread interview was announced in Novoye Vremya but then, as it so often happens in the Russian media, someone at the bottom of the newspaper hierarchy wavered, starting a chain reaction of unwillingness to take charge of the publication all the way up until it was finally banned altogether.

True, Shenderovich had expected this outcome and had alerted Yelena to potential difficulties, as shown by their online correspondence which he published in his web blog. The lady journalist herself had thought complications likely; yet she proved courageous enough to perform a little heroic deed by posting the banned interview on her private website.

“That publication in my personal blog caused a mixed reaction – from censure to full approval,” Dobryakova told the GDF correspondent. “They warned me I might face career difficulties, and the editor-in-chief demanded explanations. After I told him I hadn’t intended to set our newspaper up, he apologised for his sharp-tone reprimand.”

But even today, when the conflict seems to have been settled (Yelena said she had not been subject to any sanctions), chief editor Mikhail Ivanov sounds pretty bitter talking about it.

“Shenderovich acted dishonourably by publishing private correspondence,” he told the GDF. “I’d rather not comment on what happened. An editor is free to publish or not publish a story – it’s up to him as a professional to decide this.”

However, whether an interviewer’s online exchanges with an interviewee are a strictly private matter is a question to be discussed separately, as is any other aspect of a media outlet’s operation, except its non-disclosure of sources that need to be protected. Media transparency coupled with mandatory public – not state! – control over media performance is an essential element of democracy. It is exactly because the Russian media are controlled by the authorities and private owners, not by society, that the freedom-of-expression situation in this country has been growing worse from year to year.

All of the above is an example of in-house media censorship – the worst variety of self-censorship – since it depends not on the professionalism and honesty of an individual journalist but on the degree of his bosses’ conformism and eagerness to please the ruling elite.



2011 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 2011 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, 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’”.

Further details

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637 4947.



Dear colleagues,

I am Marina Yeliseyeva, whose replacement as editor-in-chief of the Tarskoye Priirtyshye district newspaper was reported in GDF Digest No. 540 (“Omsk Region. Editor of one of Russia’s best district newspapers dismissed”), so I am omitting the details.

After the Omsk Region’s Chief Administration for the Press terminated its contract with me under Article 278.2 of the Labour Code, I did not intend to go to court since I thought it was impossible to get reinstated. But now that I’ve read about Valentina Shepeleva’s case on your website, I know there is a precedent, and I hereby ask your legal assistance in helping me regain my job in a newspaper for which I have worked for more than 10 years. Unfortunately, I am pressed for time – there are less than two weeks left before the deadline for me to file an official protest.


Marina Yeliseyeva

GDF comment:

Our lawyer has already contacted M. Yeliseyeva and will give her all the necessary assistance as soon as she sends us the full package of relevant documents.


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

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, 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

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ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни