Дайджест
8 Декабря 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest no. 548

5 December 2011

 

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Duma elections: habitual violations of electoral law

The latest election campaign was again marked by numerous scandals flaring up in connection with journalist and media rights violations that no longer surprise anybody, it seems.

A variety of unlawful methods were used to effectively block information coming from ruling party opponents.

For example, campaigning video clips made by the opposition were taken off the air on personal orders from Central Electoral Committee head Vladimir Churov, according to Newsru.com reports. Communist party (CPRF) lawyer Vadim Solovyov sees this as a clear instance of Churov’s going beyond the range of his official powers – an offence punishable by up to 7 years in jail in line with Article 286 of the RF Criminal Code. Evidently feeling well protected against this criminal penalty, the CEC head required federal and regional TV channels to submit all political parties’ campaigning material “for additional verification”, which resulted, for example, in the Fair Russia party’s two (sic!) pre-election video clips banned in Astrakhan…

Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing the sphere of public communications] followed suit by demanding “an immediate end to violations of RF legislation” and forbidding the Ekho Moskvy radio station to air a People’s Freedom party appeal to the public to vote “against all” during the Duma elections, although the Constitutional Court earlier ruled that this kind of voting is perfectly lawful.

There were other incidents too – for example, in the Tula Region, where Radio Ekho Moskvy suddenly went dead on the listeners of a live interview with CPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov. Duplicate (fake) newspaper issues were released – of Novaya Gazeta in Moscow; Krasny Voronezh in Voronezh; Pervomaisky Vestnik and Spravedlivaya Rossiya in the Altai Region; and Argumenty i Fakty in Izhevsk. Some media outlets had problems printing or distributing their newspapers, among them Moi Gorod Kostroma and Ivanovo-Press in Central Russia, Sovetsky Sakhalin in the Far East, and Noviye Kolyosa in Kaliningrad, Western Russia. Besides, some web portals became the targets of DDoS attacks, including Zaks.ru, Lenizdat.ru, NovayaGazeta.ru; Kommersant Publishers’ website; and Mymozhem.ru.

Instances of seizure of opposition newspaper print runs increased from the average 3-5 per month to a record 17 in November. Among the victims of “police vigilance” were the newspapers Spravedlivaya Rossiya, which was seized several times in the Kurgan Region alone; Tulskaya Pravda, seized in Tula twice; as well as LDPR Guberniya in the Sverdlovsk Region; Permskaya Pravda in the Perm Region; Oblastnaya Gazeta in Volgograd; Yugorskiye Khroniki in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region; My Grazhdane in Voronezh; Vecherny Neftekamsk in Bashkortostan; Sovetskaya Rossiya in Tula, and several other newspapers elsewhere in Russia.

All those malpractices looked very much like re-imposition of censorship. But then, pre-election situations with censorship hanging in the air have become quite habitual.

It is still unclear, though, what is it that the authorities feared so much, since everyone knows that the decisive word in the latest election campaign is reserved for Churov, who is known to have a knack for counting votes “the right way”. The Central Electoral Committee head has learned the rules of the game well and knows for sure what to do.

What about us?

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Andrei Sakharov Competition finalists named

At its final sitting on Saturday, 3 December, the jury of the Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” named this year’s finalists. The Sakharov Award is conferred on journalists for publishing stories that reflect the authors’ active life stands and defend the values which Dr. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime. The annual competition was held for the eleventh time this year. Earlier, Sakharov Awards went to Elvira Goryukhina (Novosibirsk); Anna Politkovskaya (Moscow); Galina Kovalskaya (Moscow); Mikhail Afanasyev (Abakan); Igor Naidyonov (Moscow); Anna Lebedeva (Rostov-on-Don); Yevgeny Sholokh (Vladivostok); Tamara Proskuryakova (Kamyshin); Tatyana Sedykh (Vanino); and Vladimir Voronov (Moscow).

The group of the 2011 Sakharov Competition finalists includes:

Yelena Kostyuchenko (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow); Viktor Bulavintsev (Novaya Gazeta vo Vladivostoke newspaper, Vladivostok); Pavel Gutiontov (Delovoi Vtornik newspaper, Moscow); Dmitry Florin (InterKavkaz.ru website, Moscow); Abdulla Duduyev (DOSH magazine, Moscow); Vassily Avchenko (Novaya Gazeta vo Vladivostoke newspaper, Vladivostok); Natalya Ostrovskaya (Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Vladivostok); Georgy Borodyansky (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Omsk); Lev Rubinstein (Grani.ru web newspaper, Moscow); Lada Glybina (Dalnevostochniye Vedomosti newspaper, Vladivostok); Alexei Tarasov (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Krasnoyarsk); Natalya Fonina (Arsenyevskiye Vesti newspaper, Vladivostok); Boris Vishnevsky (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, St. Petersburg); and Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Segezha penal colony, Karelia).

 

The jury will award a special diploma to Anna Seleznyova, a member of the Public Council under the Maritime Region Human Rights Ombudsman and a GDF correspondent in the Far Eastern Federal District, for “strengthening the A. Sakharov Award’s prestige in the Far East”.

The names of nominees and the winner to be selected from the above group of finalists will be announced at a ceremony to be held in Moscow’s Central House of Journalists (8a, Nikitsky Boulevard, Arbatskaya metro station) at 6 p.m. on 15 December. Attendees will be presented with copies of the GDF’s new book “The Way We Live”, featuring the best works by participants in last year’s Sakharov Competition.

In 2011, the contest involved about a hundred authors in dozens of Russian regions from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok and from Grozny to Kyzyl. The laureate and nominees have been invited to Moscow to receive the prizes and honorary diplomas. Diplomas will also be given to all the finalists and the media outlets that published the winner’s and nominees’ writings.

 

RUSSIA

Khabarovsk Region. Newspaper print run bought up

By Tatyana Sedykh, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The full print run of the Moyo Poberezhye newspaper was bought up from the press kiosks in the township of Vanino within two hours of the newspaper’s receipt by the retail sellers. “Unknown persons purchased the newspaper by whole stacks which they drove away in vehicles,” press vendors would tell the frustrated regular readers who then had to go home empty-handed.

The pre-election issue featured a report about a meeting of residents in the village of Uska-Orochskaya in the Vanino district, where the head of district administration and the local prosecutor’s office came under criticism. People urged the district leader to resign and answer a variety of “burning” questions: why the village bath-house has been closed, together with a savings bank office and a children’s boarding school; why there is no physician in the neighbourhood; why the roads stay unrepaired for years; why no building materials are available for housing renovations, and why people have to tear down wooden fences to knock up coffins for their deceased relatives. Also, the latest newspaper issue featured reports about a docker strike; about local medical authorities’ ban on sharing information with Moyo Poberezhye; and a critical letter from a reader.

Curiously enough, the buy-up of the newspaper occurred just before the Khabarovsk Region governor’s arrival in Vanino as a leg of his fact-finding trip around the region...

 

Sakhalin Region. Vigorous vote rigging at polling station

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The voting day’s night turned out difficult for Alexander Chernega, publisher and editor of the Paramushir-Vesti newspaper in Severo-Kurilsk.

Although he had given a 24-hour notice to both the territorial and local electoral commissions of his intention to stay at the polling station (to observe the process of vote counting), had received a pass, and duly brought his passport to Precinct No. 160, at 8 p.m. sharp on the voting day the commission head required him to leave. He demanded, citing Article 48 of the Media Law which regulates the rules of accreditation, that the journalist show his accreditation certificate.

Despite the chairman’s insistence, the police officers present at the polling station refrained from turning Chernega out by force, noting that “he is behaving in full compliance with the law”. The chairman then put the issue to the vote and had 9 commission members vote for the journalist’s departure versus one who abstained. Chernega once again reminded the commission about Article 30 of Federal Law No. 67 requiring the election process to be transparent…

One the very eve of elections, 30 November, lawyer Yuri Antonenko had been appointed electoral commission chairman. As we have reported in the GDF Digest, Chernega and Antonenko were at law after the 2009 elections, when the lawyer already headed the territorial electoral commission which, as established in court, falsified the election returns at the time. The journalist won the judicial case, proving his revelatory reports were true. Antonenko was replaced as territorial commission chairman for committing a series of electoral law violations and for misappropriating budgetary funds.

Now he is again performing as commission leader – this time at precinct level, with all the other members having zero record of prior work in commissions of this kind. To make room for him, the previous chair, N. Grishina, had been persuaded on 29 November to resign “because of health problems”, although she had not applied for medical assistance. Antonenko was quickly voted in and, in view of his considerable experience in the area of vote rigging two years ago, appointed commission head.

Chernega recorded the voting from beginning to end, exhausting eight camera battery sets in the process. The observer from the United Russia party and the commission chairman took pains to cover up the ballot box with their bodies and kept demanding that the video camera be re-positioned and set right against the window so that the voters’ faces could not be seen.

According to Chernega, falsifications did occur that day again. Toward the end of the voting but before the ballot box was opened, the commission’s vote counters and Communist party observers turned out to differ considerably – by a whole 300 ballots – as to the results. When the stationary and portable ballot boxes were opened, the ballots they contained were mixed into one heap (as confirmed by the video recording) instead of coming to be counted separately. In the end, however, all the figures tallied by some miracle, and the sole complaint filed was about the CPRF observer’s having been left behind when the commission was holding a sitting beyond the polling station premises.

 

Sverdlovsk Region. Journalists manhandled by TV/radio company owner

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The chain of attacks on journalists in the Middle Urals continued as Andrei Gorbunov, director and owner of Altex Media Ltd. Co. in the city of Artyomovsky, whose TV and radio station beams to the local district, came to grips with journalist Yevgeny Skutin on 1 December after offering to pay him for some urgent work several times less than he had promised to.

It should be noted that Gorbunov prefers to agree with staffers on their functional duties orally and is known to have repeatedly used force against his reports, including female workers. But now that Skutin has complained about the beating to the police, the case is likely to go all the way to court. The pugnacious employer had two journalists quit working for him the very same day, and a third is leaving shortly. The rest are bound to think hard whether it is worthwhile working for a media outlet run by a head manager with such a dubious reputation …

 

Sankt-Peterburg. Reporters barred from polling stations

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

The election campaign in St. Petersburg was by far not as smooth as municipal authorities claimed. Many voters could not find their names on the voting lists; others, on the contrary, found out they had “cast ballots” even before they came to the polling station. Reporters’ work was seriously hampered by electoral commission executives and police officers.

Journalists covering the 4 December voting in St. Petersburg say they never saw as many barriers placed in their way before. Evidently expecting things to develop that way, the St. Petersburg Journalists’ Union opened a hotline to register electoral law violations. Complaints were numerous, particularly by freelance reporters who were required, apart from the editor’s confirmation of their employment and job assignment, to show the original certificate of their media outlet’s registration! Journalists working for web-based media were the focus of special attention from the electoral commissions.

Showing the press card, though, did not always work. The film crew of one of the TV channels could only start working after officially complaining to the city electoral committee. Generally, the use of photo and TV cameras caused commission members to feel uneasy – even in the event of prior agreement to have journalists cover the voting process. Police officers “defended” people’s right to freely express their will so zealously that the number of photo correspondents ousted from the polling stations reached a dozen.

Asked by the Glasnost Defence Foundation to comment on the large number of conflicts with journalists on the voting day, an official at the St. Petersburg Electoral Committee said, “No complaints at all have been filed about our executives’ performance at polling stations.”

 

Vladikavkaz. Lady journalist detained in Liberty Square

By Natalya Yusupova, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

In Vladikavkaz’ Liberty Square, where a rally of supporters of South Ossetia’s former presidential candidate Alla Dzhioyeva was to be held on 3 December, police officers detained journalist and blogger Maria Pliyeva, against whom administrative charges of disorderly conduct were later advanced because she had allegedly “talked rudely” to the police.

The rally outside the government building in the North Ossetian capital was to begin at noon on Saturday, but police officers told the activists that no public action was allowed on “silence day”, the eve of the State Duma elections.

As they were detaining Pliyeva, policemen were eager to learn if it was she who had organised the rally and why the action had been announced in her web blog.

Her case was considered on the following day, with the journalist acquitted in view of no elements of an administrative offence in her actions. The police officers who had detained her were not attending the court sitting, Pliyeva pointed out in an interview for one of the web-based media.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in November 2011

Attacks on journalists – 4 (Denis Prikhodko, journalist, AIF-Peterburg magazine, St. Petersburg; Yelena Nikishchenko, correspondent, Kommersant-Ural newspaper, Yekaterinburg; Alexander Kalinin, journalist, RosBalt news agency, St. Petersburg; Dmitry Zykov, correspondent, Grani.ru, Moscow).

Instances of censorship – 11 (NTVshniki show, NTV, Moscow; Nerealnaya Politika show, NTV, Moscow; VGTRK, Moscow; Channel One, Moscow; Sverdlovsk Regional TV, Yekaterinburg; Abakan radio station, Khakassia; Inosmi.ru portal, Moscow; Central Electoral Committee – on TV; Ekho Moskvy radio station, Moscow; Gazeta.ru, Moscow).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 2 (Dmitry Pronin, blogger, Moscow Region – 2 cases).

Illegal sacking of editor or journalist – 3 (Mikhail Kozlov, editor-in-chief, Znamya newspaper, Smolensk Region; Tatyana Syrvacheva, editor-in-chief, Татьяна Сырвачева, Respublika Bashkortostan newspaper, Bashkortostan; Maxim Shalygin, journalist, Golos Rossii state TV/radio company, Moscow).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 9 (Anna Busygina, journalist, Dozhd TV channel, and Lolita Gruzdeva, journalist, Kommersant-FM radio station, both detained in Moscow; Anton Nosik, blogger, detained at Domodedovo airport, Moscow; Maxim Kulayev, journalist, Rabkor.ru portal, St. Petersburg; Oleg Myasoyedov, correspondent, Piter.tv channel, St. Petersburg; Andrei Novichkov, correspondent, Fronde TV web channel, Moscow; Dmitry Zykov, correspondent, Grani.ru web newspaper, Moscow; Sergey Mingazov, editor, AmurMedia news agency, Khabarovsk; Ilshat Ganiyatullin, correspondent, Vakyt newspaper, Ufa; Alexander Ignashov, staffer, DLD cable TV channel, Samara).

Legal claims against journalists and media, registered – 21, worth a total of 26,700,504 roubles.

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 20.

Threats against journalists and media – 6 (Yelena Nikishchenko, correspondent, Kommersant-Ural newspaper, Yekaterinburg; Tatyana Prishchenko, owner of Inside publication, Voronezh; Andrei Novichkov, correspondent, Fronde TV web channel, Moscow; film crew of Piter.tv, St/ Petersburg; NTV Plus television company, St. Petersburg; Yekaterina Rodina, correspondent, Russian News Service, Moscow).

Refusal to print (or distribute) media – 4 (Moi Gorod Kostroma newspaper, Kostroma; Ivanovo-Press newspaper, Ivanovo; Sovetsky Sakhalin newspaper, Sakhalin Region, twice).

Interference with TV or radio broadcasting – 1 (Ekho Moskvy radio station, in Tula Region).

Closure of media – 4 (Nerealnaya Politika show, NTV, Moscow; Live with Savik Schuster show, RBK-TV, Moscow; Rossiiskiye Vesti newspaper, Moscow; Itartass-sib website, Novosibirsk).

Confiscation, withdrawal or seizure of print run – 17 (Spravedlivaya Rossiya newspaper, Kurgan Region, thrice; Vestnik Spravedlivoi Rossii newspaper,, Kurgan Region; Tulskaya Pravda newspaper, Tula, twice; LDPR Gubernia newspaper, Sverdlovsk Region; Permskaya Pravda newspaper, Perm Region; Zvezda Altaya newspaper, Gorno-Altaisk; Oblastnaya Gazeta newspaper, Volgograd; Yugorskiye Khroniki newspaper, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region; Spravedlivaya Rossiya newspaper, Yakutsk; My Grazhdane newspaper, Voronezh; Vecherny Neftekamsk newspaper, Bashkortostan; Tolko LDPR newspaper, Maritime Region; Sovetskaya Rossiya newspaper, Tula; Zashchitim Ostrov Vassilyevsky newspaper, St. Petersburg).

Interference with internet publications – 6 (website of FederalPress news agency; website of Zabyty Polk inter-regional coordinating centre; website of 8 Marta parents’ movement; Mymozhem.ru web portal; Livejournal, twice).

Interference in editorial activity - 1 (TV-6 Vladimir television channel, Vladimir).

Release of duplicate, i.e. rival, newspapers – 6 (Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow; Krasny Voronezh newspaper, Voronezh; Pervomaisky Vestnik newspaper, Altai Region; Spravedlivaya Rossiya-Altaisky Krai newspaper, Altai Region; Argumenty i Fakty newspaper, Izhevsk; Vecherny Novoaltaisk newspaper, Gorno-Altaisk).

Confiscation of or damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 1 (photo camera, video camera and PC of Ilshat Ganiyatullin, correspondent for Vakyt newspaper, Ufa).

Administrative pressure (unplanned inspections by sanitary, fire or tax services) - 4 (Perm Region media; Moi Gorod Kostroma newspaper, Kostroma; Slava Trudu newspaper, Rostov Region; Viktor Zyryanov, correspondent for Orlovskaya Pravda newspaper, Orel).

Economic pressure – 3 (Sovetsky Sakhalin newspaper, Sakhalin Region; Zvezda Pridonya newspaper, Rostov Region; municipal newspapers in Rostov Region).

Other forms of pressure and infringement of journalists’ rights – 32.

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

Republic of Dagestan: journalist sacked for statements posted on her personal web blog

By Magomed Magomedov,

GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Dagestani journalist Nailya Dalgatova wrote in her web blog (nurmagomedova.livejournal.com ) on 28 November she no longer works for the Molodyozh Dagestana newspaper because she was forced to resign – allegedly of her “own free will”.

Describing prior events in the chronological order, she wrote that on 23 November, chief editor Shamil Abashilov invited her to his office to tell her that the newspaper’s trustees – the Government and People’s Assembly of Dagestan – had decided to replace her.

“Abashilov looked confused and frustrated by the need to talk to me about my dismissal, but he couldn’t do anything to help,” Dalgatova wrote, “because no one had asked his opinion; they’d just told him they were going to sack someone by all means – either me or him.” It should be noted that no official claims had been advanced against Dalgatova, since she had criticised the authorities in her own blog, not on the pages of the newspaper she worked for. Yet that in particular was what the trustees felt so sore about – that “I (Dalgatova – Editor.), a staffer of a state-owned newspaper, dared to criticise the power system in my personal LiveJournal blog and in Facebook. Moreover, I was bold enough to suggest that the Shariah law is the single best form of running this country, which form is no doubt better than the Constitution.” The trustees demanded Dalgatova’s immediate dismissal, although Abashilov tried hard to explain to them that the lady journalist is in her 6th month of pregnancy and that in a couple of months she will anyway take a long maternity leave.

Commenting on the incident in an interview for the Caucasian Knot news agency, chief editor Abashilov said he had not had a say in sacking Dalgatova; the decision had been taken “by the trustees, and if Nailya hadn’t resigned voluntarily, or if I had said no, they would have anyway found a way to attain their goal”. They would not have allowed her to continue working for their newspaper while openly criticising the authorities and publishing in social networks statements that run counter to their newspaper’s policy, the editor said.

The presidential administration and the republic’s government started frowning at her as of the day she “began wearing the hijab”, but the conflict “goes beyond religious matters”, Dalgatova said. “I know each of the persons standing behind my dismissal,” she wrote. “I know they persuaded the trustees to sack me in a bid to take personal revenge. I don’t think it necessary to mention their names – they will unmask themselves in chat forum comments in social networks as they more than once did before.”

“Respecting the humane pattern of relationships among the staffers of Molodyozh Dagestana, I decided against insisting to stay – I didn’t want to harm the editor-in-chief,” Dalgatova added.

Her forcible expulsion from the newspaper caused vivid debates in the Dagestani segments of LiveJournal and Facebook. It is not for the first time in the past two to three years that chief editors of different republican newspapers have been pressured into firing some or other “disagreeable” journalists. In 2009, reporters Svetlana Anokhina and Yana Sutayeva were likewise “asked” to voluntarily resign from the Novoye Delo weekly magazine, and journalist Gurizada Kamalova narrowly escaped dismissal. Anokhina believes that her chief editor was approached by Zaurbek Gaziyev, a relative of the President of Dagestan, for purposes of getting her turned out. Gaziyev is a prominent TV journalist who was head of the Memorial human rights association branch in Dagestan at the time; he is incumbent editor-in-chief at the Svobodnaya Respublika weekly magazine.

Kamalova says the chief editor of the Nastoyashcheye Vremya weekly newspaper where she works was pressured by a representative of another government structure, who wanted her to leave because she “asked too many awkward questions”. Her boss, however, did not like “an outsider’s interference” in the work of his non-governmental newspaper and firmly said no.

Victimised bloggers and journalists have pointed to Dagestan news agency director Nariman Gadzhiyev as yet another person who has been heard making proposals that are “hard to reject”. He is also known as a “pusher of state ideology” into social networks.

Asked by the GDF correspondent to comment on Dalgatova’s dismissal, N. Gadzhiyev said:

“Nailya Dalgatova should sue. She should withdraw her resignation notice and file a legal claim. Besides, those who ordered her dismissal should speak out at long last – I mean, the editor-in-chief, and the Press and Public Communications Committee head Umarosman Gadzhiyev. Personally, I had nothing to do with the pressure put on the Molodyozh Dagestana editor. Those suspecting me of masterminding this affair should speak out too, explaining in what way I might have had a hand in it. I’ve never met that newspaper’s chief editor personally nor spoken to him on the phone; I’ve never even read that newspaper.”

Press Committee chief Umarosman Gadzhiyev had this to say on the subject:

“It’s up to the editor-in-chief to make decisions on hiring or dismissing a journalist... An editor’s freedom of action consists in the opportunity to select journalists and other staffers who share his media outlet’s goals and objectives and are ready to put all their knowledge and experience into the work of attaining those targets; a journalist’s freedom of action is in the opportunity to select a media outlet whose editorial policy corresponds to his or her life ambitions and world outlook. Joint work is possible when the two positions coincide. As is known, freedom is not permissiveness; it’s the opportunity to choose. There are plenty of choices, always. In this particular case, as I see it, the editor’s and journalist’s positions are absolutely different.”

P. S. Against a background of attempts by individual government officials to put pressure on Dagestan’s journalistic community, one can point to a clearly evident and very sad trend: driven by personal considerations (e.g., good relationships with the chief editor), journalists are generally unwilling to defend their rights in court. Editors (as a rule, of government-controlled media), for their part, clearly understand they may lose their jobs if they start to actively defend their staffers. This causes most of them to adopt a wait-and-see stance...

 

OUR PARTNERS

Moscow Helsinki Group prize winners named

The Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) has named the winners of its 2011 awards, among them journalist Leonid Nikitinsky of Moscow. Full list of the laureates.

The MHG Honorary Diploma “For Analytical and Research Activities in the Human Rights Area” was awarded to John Crowfoot (Britain), nominated for the prize by the Glasnost Defence Foundation for his compiling a database on journalist and media rights violations in Russia.

The GDF heartily congratulates all the winners of this prestigious prize.

TV/Radio Anti-Terror Festival laureates honoured

At a 29 November ceremony in Pyatigorsk, North Caucasus, the winners of the 5th All-Russia Festival “TV/Radio Anti-Terror” were honoured. The festival was organised at the initiative of, and with support from, the Federal Agency on the Press and Public Communications.

The ceremony took place in the North Caucasus for the first time ever. The choice of the place was not accidental: first, the very theme of countering terrorism is closely linked with the region; second, 3 of the 7 highest awards this year went to North Caucasian journalists. Moreover, all the three Golden Bells went to one and the same Caucasian republic – Kabardino-Balkaria. Journalist Natalya Konareva and Federal Drug Service Dagestan Department chief Zalina Suanova received the main prize in the “Courage Against Dishonour” nomination. Their documentary is dedicated to the 5th anniversary of militants’ attack on Nalchik. Another Golden Bell went to the TV show “Living in WHO’S THERE Mode” made by Lyudmila Kazancheva, director of the Kabardino-Balkaria State TV/Radio Company.

The fact that yet another highest award was given to Natalya Yusupova, GDF correspondent in the North Caucasian Federal District and a radio broadcaster with the Kabardino-Balkaria State TV/Radio Company, gave us a particularly pleasant feeling. She received her Golden Bell for hosting the radio show “Russian Wahhabists: Along the Road of Jihad”, which analyses the growing influence of so-called terrorist “Russian Islam” throughout the North Caucasus and in Kabardino-Balkaria in particular.

A special prize for the documentary “Wahhabism, Pure and Simple” was posthumously awarded to Abdulla Alishayev, former director of Dagestan’s TV-Chirkey Company, who was killed on 2 September 2008, shortly after the film was shown on TV. Investigation into his killing has continued ever since. The bronze statue was collected by his brother who arrived specially to attend the cerem

Letters

Dear Mr. Simonov:

This is from Yevgeny A. Spiridonov, deputy editor of the analytical newspaper Berdsk-Gorodskoi Vestnik released in the region of Novosibirsk. You once came to visit our region and I had the pleasure of talking to you. That was in 2003, as the results of the regional competition “Tolerant Journalism as an Instrument of Building Civil Society in Russia” were being summed up.

I recalled that meeting when browsing the internet for stories about the 20th anniversary of the Glasnost Defence Foundation. You said at the time that the Russian press today is freer than two years ago, but the majority of journalists are busy singing power’s praises instead of criticising it. Also, you said glasnost does exist in Russia: one may say whatever one thinks, but one’s message is unlikely to be heard, ever.

This is particularly true as applied to the situation which has taken shape in our city lately. In Berdsk, four information bulletins and a number of commercial newspapers are issued today, and there is a city TV station. However, only Berdsk-Gorodskoi Vestnik (BGV) is bold enough to discuss outstanding problems and criticise municipal authorities, big business and top-ranking law-enforcement officials. The rest of the media prefer not to argue with the administration or businessmen. When a United Russia party member was the mayor in Berdsk, local authorities would turn a deaf ear to our criticism, in full accordance with what you said. At times, it was indeed disappointing to see our critical work going down the drain, with the authorities showing zero reaction to it, as if it did not concern them at all.

But this spring the situation changed drastically, after a communist mayor won the municipal elections and formed a communist faction in the City Council. Shortly afterwards, those communists led by the mayor started actively lobbying the interests of two or three local businessmen who had supported them during the elections.

Naturally, our newspaper kept reporting on those and other matters, such as the new mayor and his team’s incompetence in running the city. In other words, BGV found itself staying in opposition to the city administration. This, by the way, was acknowledged by the Berdsk prosecutor who told our correspondent he regularly reads BGV and finds this reading useful, since ours is the city’s sole opposition newspaper pointing to facts that the other local media simply hush up. Suffice it to say that the prosecutor, having read just one issue of BGV, ordered three (sic!) inspections to check the alleged malpractices we highlighted.

Meanwhile, the communist mayor and the businessmen he protects have viewed BGV as a threat. They have declared an actual war on us, never hesitating to use any, even the most shameful, means to suppress our criticism. Our chief editor Vitaly Shapran has more than once been threatened with violence and even murder by some local VIPs. Special issues of phony newspapers have been repeatedly released for the sole purpose of smearing Berdsk-Gorodskoi Vestnik.

More recently, our opponents started lodging scores of legal claims against BGV in defence of their “honour, dignity and business reputation”, claiming 500,000-1,000,000 roubles in moral damages and hiring the best lawyers from Berdsk and Novosibirsk in a bid to ruin our newspaper and eventually have it shut down. Another evident purpose is to intimidate us and cause us to forget all about attempts to criticise the rulers or conduct any kind of an independent journalistic investigation.

We would appreciate your prompt reaction to this message, and would welcome whatever support you may offer to help us cope with our current difficulties.

Sincerely,Yevgeny Spiridonov
1 December 2011

 

 

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