Дайджест
6 Сентября 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 581

3 September 2012

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Law to protect children runs into an absurd extreme

The time has come to gather stones together: after the State Duma enacted a new federal law to protect children from harmful information, the TV management ordered, just to be on the safe side, showing the famous “Just You Wait!” cartoon [a Wolf-and-Hare analogue of Disney’s “Tom and Jerry” – Translator.] at night time only, in order to “shield” kids from watching such “horrific sequences” as the one in which the Wolf appears with – goodness gracious! – a cigarette butt in his teeth…

As attempts to find a grain of common sense in this story failed, some MPs, to their merit, called the ongoing campaign an absurdity.

Finally, the cartoon was “amnestied”, and the TV people pledged not to cut anything out and continue showing it without any time restrictions. But there are a variety of other films, including classical, that may be qualified, if need be, as ones that are “harmful” to children; their future remains unclear in the new law’s light.

By contrast, the fate of Mikhail Labkovsky’s radio show “To Adults about Adults”, broadcast on Radio Ekho Moskvy, is already known: Ekho’s Chief Editor Alexei Venediktov announced on 28 August that the project was suspended in view of the children-protecting law taking full legal force as of 1 September. He called the law “slipshod” and “a potential pretext” for the closure of any radio or TV show discussing family issues. “Until this law is reviewed and corrected, not a single chief editor will risk putting any such show on the air,” Venediktov said. “As long as the Duma continues working like ‘a printer run amok’, one can never say what other odd pieces of legislation it may produce.”

We are left to wait and see which TV or radio show is slated for closure next. There is a strong suspicion, though, that neither [the scandalous reality show] “House-2” nor various other “high-rating” projects, together with numerous reports about paedophiles, rapists, and serial killers, will ever vanish from the screen…

 

RUSSIA

Yet another journalist attacked in Dagestan

By Magomed Magomedov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Magomed Khanmagomedov, a reporter for the newspaper Ploshchad Svobody, became the target of a violent attack early on 1 September.

On his way from his home in the city of Dagestanskiye Ogni to the newspaper office in Derbent, he was waiting to take a fixed-route taxi near the federal highway, when a grey Lada car with tinted windshields and with no license plates pulled over. Three men in facial masks got out of it to crack down on Khanmagomedov. The journalist attempted to run away and cried for help, but one of the attackers caught up with him and hit him on the back of his head with a fist, knocking the victim down. Several men rushed to Khanmagomedov’s help from nearby houses, causing the assailants to jump back into the car and drive away.

He had already seen that car parked near his home but had not paid any special attention to that, the journalist said. He has reported the incident to the police but is not hoping for the perpetrators to be found, ever.

Khanmagomedov sees the attack as linked with his professional work and says the assailants may have connections in the Derbent administration.

“So far, we have released two issues of Ploshchad Svobody,” the Caucasian Knot news agency cited him as saying. “We write about the poor infrastructural condition of Derbent – the city is degrading, with no normal roads or transport available, and with the utility service system actually unworkable. Naturally, the city administration doesn’t like this kind of criticism.”

District newspapers barred from parliamentary elections in Sakhalin Region

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

With elections to the Sakhalin Region Duma due in October, the independent media have labelled the ongoing election campaign “mute”.

A Moscow team of PR specialists hired by the regional government did ensure the “right” outcome of the parliamentary and presidential elections last December and March (although the general picture turned out not as rosy as expected) and is now working hard to get the would-be body of the regional legislature to be as loyal to the existing power vertical as possible.

A variety of PR actions have been held to distract electors’ attention from next October’s main event. And to prevent any independent or opposition candidates from having their say on the pages of district newspapers or in local TV and radio shows, the relevant categories of media have simply been gagged.

The editors who have announced the tariffs of campaigning stuff placement in their district newspapers (to earn a bit on the side beyond the meagre subsidised budgets) are frustrated: they have received phone calls from local bosses “strongly recommending” them to stay away from the election campaign. Of the five district newspaper editors interviewed by the GDF correspondent, two said they had been phoned by the district mayor, and the other three – by officials from the regional administration’s Information Policy Department. As regards political propaganda, Sakhalin administrators have long ceased doing anything beyond what they are told to from Moscow. Applications for participation in the campaign have been filed by just a few media in Severo-Kurilsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Nevelsk, and by the weekly Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Segodnya – although there is a municipal newspaper in each of the region’s 17 districts, and a local TV network in nearly each of them, the regional Electoral Committee said.

The “recommendation” was formulated politely, but not a single editor ever thought of saying no: those falling into disfavour would lose a lot more than a hundred thousand roubles or less they would at best earn by offering the maximum – 40% – of their page space to campaigners wishing to reach out to the public.

“To quarrel with the media owners over petty cash? No, not us – that’s sure to backfire someday,” journalists say. “And if something goes wrong with candidates’ publications, then we’re in for conflicts, litigations and fines. No, we’d rather keep a low profile.”

They are right, in a sense: being a humble slave at least means eating till you are full…

District residents subscribing to regional newspapers can be counted on the fingers of one hand: who needs a “fresh” newspaper number issued a week ago? Local newspapers are thought to be “smarter” and “more reliable” carriers of publicly significant information. Now that these have been gagged, electors are unlikely to learn anything at all about the newly nominated candidates (the 28 regional Duma seats are vied for by nearly 700 nominees). Clearly, this situation is to the advantage of incumbent politicians – almost all of them members of the ruling United Russia party – those whose names are regularly in the news and whom many think to be “pretty good”.

Karelian MP at law with journalist

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

D. Alikhanov, first deputy chair of Karelia’s Legislative Assembly, has filed a legal claim against A. Tsygankov, editor of the website Politika-karelia.ru, in the wake of a “libellous” publication that said Alikhanov in 2001 received part of the building which now houses the Karelia-Market trade centre, as an interest-free loan for 49 years. Describing the contractual relations between the Petrozavodsk administration and the businessman, the author erroneously called Alikhanov a “lessee” instead of a “borrower”; the plaintiff claimed offended and demanded a disclaimer and 200,000 roubles in moral damages.

He does not lease out any floor space in the trade centre (which is true), Alikhanov says, while somehow forgetting about the fact of his receiving, as an interest-free loan, some of the trade centre premises that he himself happily lets on lease. As a borrower, he settled his scores with the administration by transferring to its control comparable premises in one of the residential areas in Petrozavodsk where he had a trade centre of his own. The author of the publication described that deal as “inordinately generous” on the part of the city administration. This assessment, too, is being challenged by Alikhanov, who took it as an attempt to “smear” him in the eyes of the public.

One may wonder why a deal dating back to 2001 should suddenly come up for public discussion in 2012. The reason is simple: the incumbent mayor of Petrozavodsk has proposed a bill extending the rules of beneficial privatisation to three municipal facilities, among them the Karelia-Market Trade Centre Ltd. company established at one time with Alikhanov’s direct participation. If MPs supported the mayoral initiative, the trade centre (as part of municipal property) would come to be owned on beneficial terms by its current lessee. Tsygankov described this story in detail after attending the court hearings. It looks like Alikhanov the politician (who as a Legislative Assembly member has no right to engage in business) decided to put an end to the public discussion by going to law. The judicial proceedings are in progress, and the latest court sitting was adjourned at the request of Alikhanov, who suggested ordering a linguistic expert study of the two controversial passages from the publication he is challenging.

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

Court in Lipetsk qualifies news website’s erroneous report as defamatory

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Lipetsk Region Court of Arbitration has completed hearings of a legal claim lodged by the Lipetsk Electricity Company (LEC) against Stayer Ltd., owner of the LipetskNews.ru website.

Last October, the news site featured an article entitled “Lipetsk Region’s Largest Companies Fiddle with Taxes”, which, with reference to Vice-Governor Vyacheslav Scheglevatykh, circulated information that the plaintiff found “damaging” to its business reputation”. In the course of the hearings, LEC specified its claim and challenged the article’s heading and two passages reading, “…large regional companies attempt to deceive the state”, and “LEC increased its wage fund by 20% and its turnover by 25%, while officially showing losses; this has already resulted in 203 million roubles lost for the budget”.

Representatives of the defendant rejected the claim as ungrounded, since the heading and the first quote from the article did not directly relate to the plaintiff. As regards the second quote, it turned out that the author misinterpreted information about LEC’s reducing its income tax base by 203 million roubles, and described it as an amount underpaid into the regional budget.

The court turned down the first two claims but supported the third one, identifying the second quote as an “inaccurate report about a fact” that indeed was harmful to the plaintiff’s business reputation.

It ruled for LipetskNews.ru to disclaim that report and for Stayer Ltd. to pay LEC 8,000 roubles in judicial costs compensation.

Company’s legal claim against newspaper turned down in Voronezh Region

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

In the course of a trial in Voronezh, a plaintiff has withdrawn its legal claim against a local newspaper.

In July, PavlovskGranite Company (PGC) lodged a legal claim against the district newspaper Vesti Pridonya based in the city of Pavlovsk, demanding a disclaimer of an announcement of the convocation of an extraordinary general meeting of PGC shareholders.

The announcement was published on behalf of Nisoral Holding Ltd., which, the plaintiff believes, was not entitled under the law at the time to call a PGC general meeting. By publishing such an ad, the newspaper breached the provisions of Article 49 of the RF Media Law requiring journalists to check the information they publish, the plaintiff said. The PGC management asked the editor to publish a reply/address to the shareholders explaining the “unlawfulness of Nisoral’s action”. But the newspaper refused to publish such a reply on the grounds that its text was at odds with the official legal requirements to this kind of publications.

The plaintiff then went to law, asking the court to require Vesti Pridonya to feature the PGC address, but eventually withdrew its legal claim. The defendant’s interests were represented in court by Voronezh Media Rights Defence Centre lawyer Svetlana Kuzevanova.

Prosecutor’s office in Maritime Region zooms in on investigative journalist

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Libel charges are looming large upon the prominent Vladivostok-based journalist Viktor Bulavintsev. In June, the newspaper Dalnevostochniye Vedomosti published his story, “The Red-Roof Kiosk”, which drew close attention from the Vladivostok prosecutor’s office that has now invited the author to come for questioning.

The article was about illegal sales of alcohol. It was published after an interview with Yelena Koval, director of the Maritime Region Department of Licenses and Trade, and was based on specific documents, among them residents’ appeals for help to the city administration, as well as complaints about local police inaction. “Our law enforcement, however, has been pretty slow in responding to people’s appeals and complaints about illegal sales of alcohol,” the author said, illustrating this point with a few examples.

It looks like the law enforcers felt bad reading the following two passages:

  • “This (attempt to remove an unlawfully operating liquor shop) resulted in a phone call from someone who identified himself as Sergei Gusev, deputy chief of the Vladivostok police; the man demanded in no uncertain terms that [shop owner] Yusifov and his property be left alone. Similar phone calls were later received by the heads of the city administration’s Trade and Services Department”; and
  • “Who provides ‘the roof’ for those illegal kiosks which sell liquor of dubious quality and origin in violation of the law round the clock? What would be your guess? It just can’t be that the city police chief, Mr. Gusev, would start personally protecting those illegal alcohol traders! Or is that possible, after all?”

A month after the publication, its author was summoned to the Leninsky district prosecutor’s office in response to a complaint by Col. Gusev about Bulavintsev’s circulating “smearing” information about him. The journalist explained that his story was not about Gusev but about the problem of illegal liquor shops mushrooming throughout the city. Meanwhile, word has gone around that the authorities earnestly intend to crack down on the author of many serious journalistic investigations and to advance libel charges against him.

Administration launches hotline for the press in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Omsk Region administration has continued its course toward closer contact with the population. As the GDF Digest has reported, the new regional head Viktor Nazarov, inaugurated on 30 May, began by ordering the removal of barriers from the roadways near the regional and municipal administration headquarters, and by allowing all reporters to attend gubernatorial news conferences without special accreditation and regardless of the status or political orientation of the media they represent.

To facilitate access to information, the regional government launched a hotline for the press a few days ago, for any reporter to dial a single contact number at any time around the clock to get an administration official of any rank to comment on the developments anywhere in the Omsk Region. The officer on duty at the Central Department for the Press, TV/Radio Broadcasting and Public Communications will contact the relevant officials at ministries and other government agencies to find the requested details within a short period of time, sparing the journalists the need to file official inquiries and wait for a reply for a week as a minimum, or even for two or three weeks as they did before.

The administration’s official website OmskPortal.ru says that “the rules of contact with the media have been changed at media request in accordance with the principle of power transparency… The goal is to promptly provide requested information, unless its circulation contravenes effective Russian legislation”.

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Suspected attacker on journalist Ularbek Baitalak detained

The Tselinograd district (Akmolinsk Region) police department investigator conducting a probe into the recent attack on journalist Ularbek Baitalak has told the victim one of his suspected assailants has been detained, confessed to the crime, and been released with a written pledge not to leave town. Baitalak’s stolen documents have been found as well. All the other attackers will be tracked down and apprehended too, the police assured the journalist.

Beaten and left with a concussion, numerous bruises and broken ribs and teeth to die on the street in a suburb of Astana, Baitalak was picked up by an ambulance toward the morning of 8 August and rushed to the city hospital, where he has stayed up until now.

He contributed articles to the newspapers Dat and Tortinshi Bilik (The Fourth Branch), and to Altyn Tamyr magazine .

[Adiz Soz freedom-of-expression foundation report, 27 August]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in August 2012

Attacks on journalists – 13 (Vsevolod Vishnevetsky, chief editor, Peterburgskoye Kachestvo newspaper, St. Petersburg; Vyacheslav Rozumovich, cameraman, Klops TV company, Kaliningrad; Roman Pyatakov, journalist, Chetvyortaya Vlast newspaper, Saratov; Denis Prokopenko, correspondent, M-51 news website, Murmansk Region; Matvey Krylov, journalist The New Times magazine, Vladimir Romensky, correspondent, Dozhd TV channel, Yevgeny Feldman, correspondent, Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Rustem Adagamov, blogger, Veronica Maksimyuk, correspondent, Grani.ru, and Vladimir Vidilin, correspondent, Moy Rayon newspaper – all six of Moscow; film crew of Solnechnogorsk TV company, Moscow Region; Yakhya Kirov, correspondent, SportDialog newspaper – attacked in St. Petersburg; Pavel Nosachev, deputy editor, Gorodskiye Vesti newspaper, Volgograd).

Attacks on newspaper offices, TV centres – 1 (Rodnaya Niva newspaper, Ivanovo Region).

Instances of censorship – 5 (Zamoskvoretsky and Khamovnichesky district courts, Moscow; PR Department, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District; RosPrirodNadzor; ProGorod newspaper, Republic of Komi).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 6 (Lyudmila Vakhrusheva, chief editor, Nashe Slovo newspaper, Sverdlovsk Region; Svetlana Kravchenko, correspondent, Caucasian Knot news agency, Krasnodar Region; Vzyatka newspaper, Republic of Chuvashia; Vladimir Mironenko, deputy chief, Interior Ministry’s united editorial board, Moscow; Sergei Reznik, journalist, Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Rostov-on-Don; Yuri Kureyev, founder and acting chief editor, Gubernskiye Budni newspaper, Orel).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 5 (Yevgeny Feldman, Novaya Gazeta correspondent, Moscow; Ilya Barabanov, journalist, Kommersant Publishers’, Moscow; film crew of Channel Six, Vladimir Region; Sergei Reznik, Novaya Gazeta journalist, Rostov-on-Don; Yuri Kureyev, founder and acting chief editor, Gubernskiye Budni newspaper, Orel).

Refusals to provide information (including bans on use of audio recorders and video/photo cameras; refusals to provide accreditation; restrictions on admittance to official events held by government bodies, industrial enterprises or state institutions) – 39.

Threats against journalists and media – 3 (film crew of Solnechnogorsk TV company, Moscow Region; Dmitry Pozechko, freelance correspondent, Svobodnaya Rech newspaper, Omsk; Sergei Reznik, Novaya Gazeta journalist, Rostov-on-Don).

Refusals to print (or distribute) media – 1 (Vzyatka newspaper, Republic of Chuvashia).

Closure of media and TV/radio shows – 3 (F5 newspaper, Moscow; “To Adults about Adults” radio show, Ekho Moskvy radio, Moscow; Polis TV company, Tambov).

Withdrawal (purchase, arrest) of print run – 3 (Novomoskovskaya Pravda newspaper, Tula Region; Novgorodskaya Pravda newspaper, Veliky Novgorod; Bonus newspaper, Ufa).

Interference with web publications – 2 (Russia Today TV channel’s website; ecmo.ru website).

Release of duplicate (i.e., rival) newspapers – 1 (Iz Ruk v Ruki newspaper, Pskov).

Confiscation of or damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers5 (video camera of The New Times magazine; video camera of Klops TV company, Kaliningrad; cell phone of Denis Prokopenko, reporter for M-51 web portal, Murmansk Region; video camera of film crew of Solnechnogorsk TV company, Moscow Region; tripod of video camera of blogger Rustem Adagamov).

Other forms of pressure/ infringement of journalists’ rights – 46.

 

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitoring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.

Contacts:

Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 432, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or 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