Дайджест
12 Сентября 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 582

10 September 2012

 

RUSSIA

New Karelian leader ponders over new media policy

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

As repeatedly happened in the past, the republican leader’s replacement in Karelia automatically entailed the replacement of heads of the administration-controlled media; so the latest personnel reshuffle within the news agency “Republic of Karelia” and the republican TV channel “Sampo” was quite predictable.

The administration has terminated its work agreement with Sampo General Director Yelena Malishevskaya, who, too, was appointed instead of the channel’s former management after the previous governor, A. Neklidov, came into power two years ago. To Malishevskaya’s merit, her two-year tenure as general director was beneficial for the TV channel: its creative team was reinforced with young talent, and new interesting televised shows began to be made. So when word went around about her impending resignation, Sampo staffers appealed to the public for support by circulating an open letter that praised their former director for quite a few company achievements scored under her leadership. The appeal specially stressed that what used to be a “TV branch of the Karelian administration’s press service” has now turned into an independent and dynamically developing media company.

The reasons for Malishevskaya’s replacement remain unclear: no official explanations have ever been offered up until now – not even in the wake of the journalists’ open letter that triggered heated debates in the Internet. Administration officials overseeing the media have indicated in private conversations that Malishevskaya resigned because of “financial machinations that will be detailed later”; but again, nothing at all has surfaced about that to the present day. True, Sampo journalists have complained of wage payment delays during the past few months, which are now attributed to the channel management’s allegedly wrong handling of budgetary funds. It is yet to be seen whether this turns out true. Anyway, the authors of the open letter maintain that Malishevskaya’s dismissal was “unfair and irrelevant; it met the narrow interests of certain administration officials and individuals said to be close to them”. Regardless of the gravity of these accusations, the authorities have left them unanswered.

Many expect Andrei Arkhipov, general director of the Republic of Karelia news agency, to step down soon, too – very likely, in connection with alleged “financial machinations” again.

Regional government in Omsk mobilizes journalists and public activists for action against corruption

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The regional government in Omsk will encourage journalists to more actively contribute to the fight against corruption, and will empower public activists to check the validity of budgetary expenditures.

During the latest sitting of the Commission to Combat Corruption, Governor Viktor Nazarov suggested establishing a special award for “journalists conducting independent probes into corrupt schemes and other crimes, and keeping chronological records of cases under prosecution”.

“The journalists acting as whistleblowers and thinking it to be their professional duty to protect society and the state from damages by means of drawing broad public attention to various criminal practices, deserve to be not only respected but also rewarded,” the administration’s official web portal cited the governor as saying. The size of the reward is yet to be determined but, far more important, the relevant directions in journalism used to be in disfavour in the Omsk Region until recently: investigative journalists were in for all sorts of trouble, from legal claims to violent attacks and worse; whereas awards were given for the “clever” coverage of the work of regional authorities who were “above suspicion” as far as corrupt practices were concerned.

Today, the regional government is mobilizing not only journalists but also public activists for anti-corruption action by concerted effort. “The governor,” the same web portal said, “has ordered creating a single online pad for public discussion of any government acts and resolutions concerning budgetary spending in excess of 10 million roubles, and of the disposal of public assets.” In the eyes of Andrei Tkachuk, head of the Chief Administration for the Press, TV/Radio Broadcasting and Public Communications, this kind of transparency “should attract voluntary public specialists who would help disclose corruption schemes behind inordinately large expenditures or underpriced asset sales”.

However novel this approach to budgetary spending may seem, it is fully consistent with what Governor Viktor Nazarov said at his very first news conference after inauguration: “People must feel it is they who are in charge; that they aren’t subject to manipulation by anyone.”

MP in Smolensk at law with Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta (RG) is challenging a primary court’s decision on an honour-and-dignity protection claim lodged by Smolensk City Council Deputy Sergei Petrakov.

MP Petrakov, who is a member of the ruling United Russia Party, was detained in his private car in Smolensk on 26 January without a driver’s license and in a suspected state of intoxication. He refused to undergo a test for alcohol but presented his parliamentary card and demanded his immediate release. RG correspondent Dmitry Raichev reported on the incident in his newspaper; Petrakov responded by lodging a legal claim against the author, RG and the city police department as the source cited in the publication.

The Leninsky district court in Smolensk satisfied his claim partially on 19 July and required RG to disclaim two sentences from Raichev’s report, namely, “A justice of the peace found MP Sergei Petrakov guilty of drunk driving”, and “The parliamentarian… brandished his deputy’s ID, behaved aggressively and swore.” The court based its decision, among other considerations, on the fact that Petrakov’s intoxication was not officially certified at the time of his detention. It awarded the plaintiff 20,000 roubles from RG and 5,000 roubles from Dmitry Raichev in moral damages.

The newspaper’s staffers took that as an unfair decision and, with assistance from the Media Rights Defence Centre, challenged it before the higher-standing regional court. The defendant stressed that Petrakov was indeed arrested and held administratively liable for his drunk driving, which means he breached the law and gave the public a reason to critically assess his honour and dignity.

The inaccuracy of the article’s phrase characterising his physical condition during the detention resulted from the way the regional police chief, Maj.-Gen. V. Morozov, had described it during a news conference, saying that the plaintiff “was showing unmistakable signs of alcoholic intoxication”. The article itself was published before the primary court found Petrakov guilty of an administrative offence. As regards the phrase about his aggressive behaviour and swearing in public, the defendant insisted it was an evaluative statement that did not require a disclaimer. The defendant also stressed that the primary court “did not establish any fact of moral or physical suffering inflicted on the plaintiff” by the publication of the above-mentioned phrases.

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Court clears journalist of libel and defamation charges

On 4 September Judge Azat Izbasarov of the Karasai district court in Almaty Region, Kazakhstan, acquitted Anna Kasabayeva, a reporter for the Tarlan newspaper, of the libel and defamation charges advanced against her by Yelubai Baitugelov, whose family problems were discussed in two Tarlan publications, “Road to the Truth: Where Is It?” and “An Ups and Downs Story”, dated 25 March and 26 May 2011, respectively, and signed by the pen name “M. Zarlyk”.

Legal support for A. Kasabayeva was provided by Galiya Azhenova, a lawyer with the Adil Soz International Freedom of Expression Defence Foundation.

[Report by Adil Soz Foundation’s Monitoring Service]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

Lenizdat.ru: Thirteen journalists attacked in Russia in August

Kasparov.ru: Operation “Media” underway

UNIAN.net: Thirteen attacks on journalists registered in Russia in August

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2012 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The Jury continues accepting works submitted for the 2012 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, 2011 and October 15, 2012 in Russian print and Internet-based media. 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’”.

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

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637-4947.

Journalistic contest “I, You, We Have the Right…” starts shortly

Applications for participation in the journalistic contest “I, You, We Have the Right…” are accepted in Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm and Novosibirsk until 20 September.

Eligible for the competition are legal education and human rights stories that have been published in the press or gone on the air between 1 September 2011 and 20 September 2012, in five nominations:

  • Print media publications (articles or series of articles)
  • Thematic periodical publications (in newspapers and magazines)
  • TV stories and shows
  • Radio features
  • Web publications (independent, not duplicating “traditional” media) and stories featured in social networks on the Internet (blogs, live journals, etc.).

The contest, co-sponsored by the Ya Vprave (“I Have the Right”) Programme and the Glasnost Defence Foundation, is to be held in two stages – regional and inter-regional. At the first stage, works by journalists from 16 Russian regions will be evaluated by a jury panel representing the organisers, among them the Press Development Institute Siberia (Novosibirsk), Media Rights Centre (Voronezh), Media Technology Centre (Nizhny Novgorod), and the Perm Region branch of the RF Journalists’ Union (Perm). Journalists and human rights defenders will have joint discussions, master classes and debriefings.

Regional contest winners will be invited to Moscow in November to attend open discussions held by the jury panel, which is chaired by GDF President Alexei Simonov and involves prominent journalists, independent analysts and human rights specialists. After the final results are summed up, a ceremony will be held in Moscow to honour the winners – the authors of the best print and online media reports.

For further details about the contest, click on vprave.org

 

Letters

Dear colleagues:

There was a web blog in Bashkortostan, in which unknown authors wrote critical stuff about government officials’ poor performance; now that blog is inaccessible.

As it turned out, the blog was blocked by Bashkortostan-based Internet service providers. When I appealed to the General Prosecutor’s Office to help find out why it was blocked, they sent me a reply saying, “Nothing of the sort, it works all right”. Actually, the reply boiled down to this: the website is technically operational, and if I can’t access it, then it’s my own problem.

Three days later, colleagues sent me some files featuring a court decision of May 2012 requiring the providers to block the above-mentioned website’s operation on the territory of Bashkortostan.

Janitors have been picking out the newspaper Bonus from residents’ mailboxes – someone must have told them to do so. And now this court decision, not saying a word about expert conclusions while accusing the site of “stirring up social and interethnic enmity” and instructing the providers to block it…

The freedom-of-expression situation in Bashkortostan is far from perfect. My attempts to openly criticise government authorities have resulted in numerous cyber-attacks on RBinform.ru, an officially registered Internet publication. I filed a report with the police, but in vain. They refused to start criminal proceedings: while recognizing the very fact of a cyber-attack, they declined to open a criminal case in view of “no elements of crime” in that attack…

Sincerely,

Azamat Galin

***

After REN-TV Ufa showed an interview with GDF Monitoring Service Chief Boris Timoshenko, who criticized the freedom-of-expression situation in Bashkortostan, Artyom Valiev, the republican president’s spokesman, sent the Glasnost Defence Foundation a message reading as follows:

“All the media in the Republic of Bashkortostan,” the message said, “are offered equal terms and conditions for publication and for the efficient operation of journalistic teams regardless of the form of ownership of their media outlets or the information policy they pursue. Republican newspapers, including non-governmental publications and regional supplements to federal newspapers, are printed on the territory of the republic, for the most part by the state publishing company ‘Bashkortostan’.”

***

The below message was received by the GDF from the newspaper Chetverg (based in the Orenburg Region):

“In the city of Mednogorsk, Orenburg Region, there is the city administration led by A. A. Gubanov. Also, there a newspaper, Chetverg, which we make together with partners. It’s a pretty good newspaper enjoying a high degree of popularity.

“Our newspaper once published a letter from angry readers who were appalled by the disgusting performance of the municipal transport company. Also, we sent Gubanov a journalistic inquiry about what the authorities planned to do to improve the situation. A reply from the city head read as follows:

‘Regarding your journalistic inquiry (no.3), the Mednogorsk administration hereby informs you that residents should personally contact us, or send to the administration their suggestions on how to improve the quality of transport services in the city. The administration does not intend to comment on any statements cited in unofficial publications.

‘We hereby ask you not to send us any such publications anymore, in order not to jam the incoming mail. In the event of your contacting the administration in the future, we recommend attaching to your message a copy of a citizen’s appeal, to prevent misinterpretation of the essence of the problem raised therein.

‘Administration head

A.A. Gubanov’

“There’s the rub! As it turns out, people’s complaints jam Gubanov’s incoming mail! By writing such a reply, the official breached not only several federal laws but also the ordinary rules of politeness.”

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