20 Сентября 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 583

17 September 2012



Karelian leader revamps budget-financed media management

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

The past two weeks have seen the replacement in Karelia of the general directors of two autonomous media companies, the “Republic of Karelia” news agency and the “Sampo” TV channel (see Digest 582). Apart from firing the two head managers, the authorities merged the two formerly independent organisations into one media holding, whose newly-appointed general director, Tatyana Sokolova, has already been introduced to the staff. Until recently, Sokolova led the TNT-Onego television company. The structural change has not yet entailed any personnel reshuffle that, however, seems to be only a matter of time.

The establishment of a government media holding had been discussed back at the time when the previous governor, A. Nelidov, was at the helm; while some meaningful structural changes had been carried out, no actual merger had occurred at the time. Two years ago, the publishing company “Karelia” which released a government/parliamentary newspaper of the same name, was reformed into a news agency that started to additionally release the newspaper Karelia-Moy Petrozavodsk (distributed free of charge) and the web journal Respublika (with the official newspaper’s website preserved). Plans to establish a united media holding were stalled until the new governor, A. Hudilainen, carried the merger out in full, thereby strengthening the single decision-making centre.

It is yet to be seen how this will impact the creative work of the media outlets within the holding. Sampo staffers’ recent campaign of solidarity with their sacked general director, T. Malishevskaya, drew no comment from the TV channel’s founders. It is still unclear whether the signatories of the solidarity appeal will suffer for daring to criticize government officials neglecting the journalists’ interests: not a single official statement on the subject has so far been made by either the administration or the new general director, Sokolova, who is now in charge of both the news agency and the TV channel.

Newspaper in Rostov Region to pay 100,000 roubles in fine

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

One year ago Leonid Zaplatkin, a resident of the city of Proletarsk, Rostov Region, filed two complaints with the regional branch of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), asking to have the local newspaper Velikoknyazhesky Kuryer (VK) held liable for breaching the advertising law. According to VK Chief Editor Tatyana Bondareva, Mr. Zaplatkin had carefully read a thick file of newspapers, picking out a few ads that were not explicitly marked as such. Those were “nothing more than make-up errors,” the editor said about the absence of special markings.

The FAS department lodged a legal claim with the regional arbitration court, asking to levy a fine of 100,000 roubles on VK. The court satisfied the claim, and the higher-standing judicial authority confirmed that decision, turning a blind eye to VK’s financial reports showing the newspaper is unable to pay so large a penalty.

VK is expecting the bailiffs to come one of these days to enforce the court ruling; meanwhile, Mr. Zaplatkin has filed several more complaints informing FAS of similar law violations committed by other local newspapers.



Authorities to restrict circulation of information about emergency situations

Kazakhstan’s Culture and Information Ministry intends to conclude agreements with non-governmental media on their refraining from criticizing government authorities’ actions in the event of emergency situations occurring on Kazakh soil, the ministry head Darkhan Mynbai said.

“Until an emergency situation is overcome, agreements with non-governmental media managers will be in effect on non-circulation of unofficial information or alternatively interpreted official data, in order not to give reasons for doubting the trustworthiness of information or the speaker’s competence; to rule out criticism of the government’s (crisis-management) activity; and prevent calls for different (alternative) kinds of actions,” Mynbai said at a government conference on 11 September.

He stressed that measures would be taken to stem the spread via all media channels of information differing from that circulated by the government.

“Updating the public via the media on the situation in areas where earthquakes or other emergencies are likely, and taking steps to stem disinformation and provocative rumours will proceed as follows: only official information confirmed by the appropriate crisis-management authority will be communicated to the population via the media – in the first place, via republican government-controlled media – and made available to the regional media via local government bodies,” the minister said, adding that such an approach will ensure that over 98% of the potential audience is duly warned about an emergency.

A series of earthquakes of a magnitude of 2 to 5.5 points were recorded some 75km north-west of Kazakhstan’s largest city of Almaty in early May last year, resulting in no destruction or casualties, according to the Kazakh Emergency Situations Ministry. The unprecedentedly long series of earthquake shocks, coupled with zero information from official sources, caused panic among the population. Many families walked out into the open carrying essential personal effects and documents, and were afraid to return home. Judging by Twitter message exchanges, some residents drove out of the city in personal cars. Word went around in social networks that, according to emergency service forecasts, a devastating earthquake might hit the city any moment then.

In this connection, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov instructed the authorities to reprimand the officials who failed to give early warnings to the government bodies and residents, and to have the system of emergency warning and response overhauled and adjusted.

[Novosti-Kazakhstan news agency report, 11 September]



Activists in Kiev commemorate murdered journalists

A public action was held in Kiev’s Independence Square on Sunday evening (16 September) to commemorate the Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze, who was kidnapped and killed 12 years ago. The action brought together about a hundred journalists and public activists, who lit candles in memory of Gongadze, the LIGABiznezInform news agency reported.

The organisers paid tribute to nearly 60 other fellow journalists who have died in Ukraine over the years of independence.

The candles were covered by paper cubes listing the victims’ names, which were burnt up toward the end of the action; this was supposed to symbolize the end of the freedom-of-expression era in Ukraine.

The participants stood in a minute of silence in remembrance of the murdered colleagues, then started along Bankovaya Street toward the presidential headquarters to express their protest against government inaction in investigating the journalists’ killings.

[LIGABiznesInform news agency report, 16 September]

MP publicly apologizes for attacking journalists

Konstantin Grinchenko, an Odessa Regional Council deputy representing the Motherland Party, has publicly apologized to Valeria Ivashkina and Vera Zaporozhets, reporters for the newspapers Dumskaya and Khrabro.

By doing so, he implemented the decision of an open sitting of the Freedom-of-Expression and Journalist Rights Committee at the Public Council under the regional administration, which discussed a conflict that had flared up between the MP and the press during a meeting with electors held by Motherland Party leader Igor Markov, who is running for a seat on the Regional Council. The incident occurred late on 5 September, when Grinchenko insulted V. Zaporozhets and broke V. Ivashkina’s photo camera.

“I want to officially apologize to Valeria Ivashkina in the first place, and second, to Vera Zaporozhets,” Grinchenko said. “Yes, I behaved in a manner unbecoming to an officer…”

Dumskaya Chief Editor Oleg Konstantinov and journalist Ivashkina said they were satisfied; they promised to withdraw the reports they had filed with the prosecutor’s office. Zaporozhets, for her part, refused to accept Grinchenko’s apology.

[Dumskaya.net report, 11 September]



News website in Trans-Baikal Region labelled “too democratic”, slated for closure

By Marina Meteleva, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A scandal has broken out in the Trans-Baikal Region: in response to a complaint filed by Chita Mayor Anatoly Mikhalyov on 22 June, the regional prosecutor’s office intends to have a court of law seal off access to the region’s oldest online news resource – the city web forum.

The mayor’s complaint came in the wake of his personal data disclosure on the web forum, where an announcement of preparations for judicial proceedings has now been posted, together with a report about Deputy Prosecutor Svetlana Kozlova’s lodging a legal claim urging five Internet service providers – Rostelecom, Transtelecom-Chita, Chita Multi-Cable Networks, Loctelecom and Mobile TeleSystems – to block access to the forum. The claim is to be heard by a panel of judges chaired by Judge Novikov, in the Central district court in Chita at 2 p.m. on 10 October.

Having checked the mayoral complaint as a preliminary measure, a special investigator at the regional Investigative Committee started criminal proceedings on 30 July against an unidentified police officer suspected of unlawfully selling to a chat forum participant (web nickname: Vedernikov) in 2009 a CD carrying “classified/restricted-access” information and “state secrets”, which data were published on 5 June on a foreign-based file-exchange web resource with links thereto on the city web forum.

The unlawfully disclosed documents, collectively entitled “An Estimate of the Operative Situation and Achievements in the Fight against Organised Crime in the First Half of 2008”, reportedly featured information about the Chita Region’s social and economic development and data about organised crime rings led by underworld kings Osintsev, Titov, Vassilyev, Nagel, Glovatsky and Mamedov, with details about gang strength, and members’ passport data and corrupt connections in the top power echelons. Regional Police Chief Yuri Larionov, though, has said in an online interview for Zabmedia.ru that the said documents do not contain any state secrets and do not correspond to the security classification assigned to them.

Earlier, Viktor Dibirdeyev, regional parliament’s acting speaker, refused to comment on forum-reported corrupt links of MPs Kurenkov and Kon with Nagel’s crime ring, as later did Governor Ravil Geniatulin (who dismissed allegations about his reports’ collaboration with criminal elements as irrelevant) and Chita Mayor Anatoly Mikhalyov (who was away on a business trip to Manchuria, and then on his summer vacation).

The city web forum in Chita, established in 2004, is the region’s oldest. Until 2011, it was part of the city web portal, and since then it has operated as an independent web resource. Currently it features more than 650,000 reports; is available to more than 20,000 registered PC users; and is visited by some 5,000 people a day. The forum discusses various aspects of city life, and helps in organising different kinds of charity actions in support of sick children and orphanages. Evidently, the authorities are seeking to close the website because they feel it is “too democratic”.



Public TV channel launched in Perm Region (Urals)

A new public organisation – Regional Public Television – has been registered in the region of Perm, with an appropriate certificate issued by the Justice Ministry.

From the outset, the organisation has been led by prominent Perm-based journalist and producer Yelena Veselkova. The project was approved by the regional administration and has been supported by Perm Region Human Rights Ombudswoman Tatyana Margolina. Methodological assistance has been provided by GDF President Alexei Simonov and Mikhail Fedotov, Chairman of the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights Development.

The work to establish a public TV channel in the region began in February this year, after the idea was approved by the regional governor. For the first few months, the Maxim Gorky Regional Library provided the venue for organisers’ meetings, which led to the city’s Association of Municipal Libraries becoming a Public Television Project (OTV) partner.

Today, the OTV Board involves representatives of the regional Public Chamber, Municipal Entities’ Council, Public Institute of Professional Development, the Perm branch of the International Press Club (the regional Internet community), and businessmen engaged in the promotion of information technology. In developing a programme policy for OTV, the Board has organised a series of brainstorms involving representatives of different target groups, such as businessmen, government servants, and young public activists.

In the meantime, OTV has started working on a new cycle of public TV shows within the framework of a government order placed with Ural-Inform TV Company. The new series, entitled “Brainstorm”, will consist of ten TV shows that the organisers say will necessarily feature interviews with people in the street, as well as analysts and experts. Civil society activists will pose as anchors; and independent specialists will oversee the production and release of the TV shows.

The first show in the new cycle went on the air on 7 September. Prior to that, a pilot series “We and Those at the Helm” was shown on Ural-Inform TV in March through May, with all the features dedicated to one and the same socially important theme – public control over government performance. The sries included the following releases:

OTV contact person in Perm: Yelena A. Veselkova

Tel. (+7 922) 242-1006; email: eveselkova@mail.ru

CPJ names winners of International Press Freedom Awards

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has named the four winners of the 2012 International Press Freedom Awards, among them FerghanaNews reporter Azimjon Askarov of Kyrgyzstan, jailed for life for what the authorities saw as attempts “to fan interethnic strife” prior to and after the ethnic riots in Osh in June 2010.

The CPJ, on the contrary, believes that Askarov “is serving a life term in prison after a judicial process marred by torture, lack of evidence, and fabricated charges”, and calls attention to the fact that “his prosecution and conviction have been challenged by a range of human rights organisations as well as the Kyrgyz government’s own ombudsman’s office”.

Askarov “was charged with complicity in an officer’s murder and a series of anti-state crimes”, but “a CPJ special report, based on interviews with Askarov, his lawyers, and witnesses, has shown that no independent witnesses or material evidence were presented in court to support the charges against him,” the official CPJ press release said.

The other International Press Freedom awardees are Mauri Koenig (Gazeta do Povo, Brazil); Mae Azango (FrontPage Africa и New Narratives, Liberia); and Dhondup Wangchen (jailed documentary filmmaker from Tibet, China).

“We are inspired by these journalists who have paid a high price for their enduring dedication to the truth,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Two – Azimjon Askarov and Dhondup Wangchen – have actually been arrested and jailed for their critical reporting. We will not rest until they are free.”

[CA-NEWS (KG) report, 14 September]



The GDF lawyer Svetlana Zemskova has received a letter of appreciation from the newspaper Gorodskiye Vesti (city of Yaroslavl) for helping that media outlet defend against a legal claim lodged against it by a local lawyer, Maksim Muravyov, in the wake of a publication that he saw as “damaging to his honour, dignity and business reputation”. The plaintiff demanded a disclaimer and 924,000 roubles in moral damages from Gorodskiye Novosti.

The letter read as follows:

“Dear Ms Zemskova:

“Many thanks for your assistance in settling a dispute over publications in the Yaroslavl-based weekly Gorodskiye Novosti!

“Owing to GDF assistance, the court required us only to compensate the plaintiff’s judicial expenses, without paying him anything for his allegedly damaged ‘honour, dignity and business reputation’.

“We wish you and your colleagues every success in your further work to defend the lawful interests of the Russian press.

Alexei Malakhov,
Director, Gorodskiye Novosti newspaper, Yaroslavl”


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.


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

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
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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:
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