Дайджест
26 Октября 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 588

22 October 2012

 

RUSSIA

Unexpected turn in hearings of editor’s legal claim in Rostov Region

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Novocherkassk Mayor Anatoly Kondratenko, who has fired Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti editor Irina Vassilyeva six times (sic!) already, has himself resigned now, while court hearings of Vassilyeva’s claim to be reinstated again are still in progress.

Participants in the 18 October sitting of the Novocherkassk city court were shown a video supplied by the defendant, the Novocherkassk mayor’s office. The 90-minute documentary showed the procedure of Vassilyeva’s firing and ousting from the newspaper office for the sixth time in minute detail. The court satisfied the defendant’s request for this video to be shown in the courtroom although it was evident that it could hardly add any important evidence to that already presented.

The video show ended already after the end of the working day, so the final hearing was again adjourned. To drag out the proceedings, the city administration’s lawyers had already requested delaying the hearings until the regional court upheld or cancelled the decision on Vassilyeva’s reinstatement as editor for the previous, fifth, time, as it had done four times prior to that, each time finding the editor’s dismissal unlawful. As expected, the regional court did leave Vassilyeva’s fifth reinstatement in force, while turning the mayoral protest down. It is now expected to return a similar verdict in the sixth case, too.

Meanwhile, the Novocherkassk mayor has tendered his resignation as a semi-compulsory move, because if he had not, the City Duma would have dismissed him anyway.

The point is, the mayor refused – for a whole year – to report to the Duma on the work done, for fear the deputies might find his performance unsatisfactory, which would mean immediate resignation anyway. A group of MPs lodged a legal claim with the city court, asking it to require Kondratenko to report as a “must”. Finally, the communist mayor chose to resign “voluntarily”. It is yet to be seen whether his stepping down will tell positively upon the editor’s career; as a minimum, he will be unable to fire her for the seventh time, which he would have been certain to do in the event of staying in power. It is with really maniacal persistence that Kondratenko and his team pressured the critically-minded editor to go.

Wire radio station closed in Chelyabinsk Region

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The wire radio station which operated in the city of Miass, Chelyabinsk Region, since 1936, has now been closed altogether, with its signature tune not heard on the air since last summer. The management is in default on wage payments to the staff for eight months, and the station’s audio archives have vanished, although some tape recordings were really priceless, reproducing the voices of Leonid Obolensky [a co-founder of Russia’s cinema industry]; the widow of prominent Soviet writer Yuri Libedinsky; and other Soviet-time celebrities. The voices of people who passed away long ago reflected quite a few memorable events in the city’s history.

To justify the radio station’s closure, mayoral officials say the wire radio was unprofitable, cost up to 600,000 roubles per year, and “no one wanted it anymore”. They are citing the findings of a poll allegedly showing most residents’ interests today lie in the sphere of the Internet and social networks, and that the 15,000 wire radio sets still remaining in the city (of a former total of 33,000) are a “good-for-nothing” resource.

No one, however, bothered to make those poll findings known to the station’s staff in due time. Moreover, the wire radio might come in handy for purposes, say, of warning the residents of emergency situations, technological accidents and man-caused or natural disasters, when early warning is absolutely essential. It might make sense to retain it in one form or another, staffers have contended. But the Miass administration is turning a deaf ear to their comments. Radio journalists are concerned the city authorities, driven by a desire to economise, may go as far as accusing them of bringing things down to an actual collapse by not hurrying to re-register their city radio station as one to be financed from the municipal budget.

Meanwhile, nine similar wire radio stations have continued beaming their programmes to listeners in those districts and villages where administrations are responsible enough to find the ways and means to keep them operational.

 

Reporter’s trip from Shali, Russia, to Shali, Chechnya

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Dmitry Sivkov, reporter for Shalinsky Vestnik, a newspaper issued in the Shali district, Sverdlovsk Region, had long dreamed of visiting the namesake district in Chechnya before he actually made a trip there earlier this autumn, gathering enough material to write a five-page report.

“I soon understood I couldn’t possibly produce a ‘hotter’ story that evidently was expected of me – something about ‘wicked Chechens’ or the republican press devoting ‘half of its page space’ to the Kadyrov clan and its ‘invaluable’ role in Chechnya’s history,” Sivkov wrote. “I never met a single ‘wicked’ person there in the first place, and second, I would never think of reproaching the most hospitable Khozhbaudi Borkhadzhiyev, chairman of the Chechen Journalists’ Union and editor of the district newspaper Gums (based in Gudermes), for anything at all. This courageous man was at one time in open opposition to Raduyev, then spent several months in the dungeons of Maskhadov’s secret services; moreover, he saw his name on the list of those sentenced to be shot, with the name of the executioner indicated… Well, in contrast to Russian municipal newspapers, local newspapers in Chechnya can afford not to bother today about such ‘trifles’ as circulation or advertisers: this is a well-deserved privilege. Or is it a privilege fought for and won?”

Instead, Sivkov described at length the fairly complicated relationships between the former belligerents in the recent war. Of course, healing the wounds is bound to take time, but this kind of reporting on the everyday, “rear” side of life gives a clear insight into how things actually are in today’s Chechnya.

The journalist addressed words of sincere appreciation not only to Borkhadzhiyev, who offered him a very warm welcome and an interesting programme of his stay in Shali, but also to Movsar Ilyasov, editor of the district newspaper Zama, who accompanied Sivkov on his tour of the North Caucasian republic.

Guild of Analytical Journalists established in Voronezh

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Voronezh University’s School of Journalism on 12 October hosted a constituent assembly that decided to establish a new public association of journalists.

The initiative to establish the Guild of Analytical Journalists was voiced by School Dean Vladimir Tulupov and supported by representatives of about a dozen Voronezh-based media.

The Guild, which will have NGO status, will see it as its major goal to consolidate the city’s leading analytical journalists. The organisers plan to promote productive relationships with the regional administration, and engage in educational and publishing work. Also, the Guild plans to actively co-operate with the public and specialists, and use its information resources in providing an open pad for the discussion of problems facing regional journalists.

The initiators said they see the new organisation not as an alternative to the existing local branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union but as a community focusing exclusively on specific challenges the regional analytical journalists face.

According to unofficial sources, the Voronezh Region government accepted the Guild establishment favourably and even promised to consider potential support for the new organisation, including through allocation of grants.

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Report by Adil Soz Foundation on freedom-of-expression situation in Kazakhstan in September 2012

General situation

Kazakhstan’s Culture and Information Minister Darkhan Mynbai said the government intends to take precautions against the spread of rumours in different emergency situations. “Only officially confirmed information provided by the authorised crisis-management body will be communicated to the population,” he said. “Such information will be disseminated via the republican media, state-run media in the first place, and passed on to the regional media.”

Media right to freedom of expression and creative activities

In late September, about 60 staffers of the Almaty TV Channel informed the management of their resigning as of 1 October – mostly because of the Almaty akimat (mayor’s office)’s meddling in the channel’s creative process and editorial policy. For example, TV reports about technical accidents on heating mains or gas pipelines were edited out with no reason explained. Also, the mayoral press secretary gave the channel’s editor a dressing-down for reporting about a villa owner setting up a turnpike on a piece of land in the public domain to extort a passage fee from motorists.

Legal charges against journalists

Criminal charges:

(1) The Karasai district court (Almaty Region) on 4 September acquitted journalist Aina Kasabayeva of the defamation charges (Article 130.2 of the Penal Code) brought against her by Yelubai Baitugelov, whose family problems were discussed in two publications in the republican newspaper Tarlan, “Road to the Truth: Where Is It?” and “An Ups and Downs Story”, dated 25 March and 26 May 2011, respectively.

(2) The Petropavlovsk city court in Northern Kazakhstan on 21 September started criminal proceedings against Kazakh-Zerno news agency editor Sergey Bukatov and the agency’s owner Mansur Rasulov on libel charges (Article 129 of the Penal Code). The charges were brought against them by Ak Bidai-Terminal Co. in the wake of 9 articles posted on the www.kazakh-zerno.kz website between 1 November 2011 and 9 April 2012, highlighting problems grain traders face when shipping grain for export via the sea port of Aktau. Also, the company claimed 100 million tenge in moral damages from the news agency, Bukatov and Rasulov.

Since this year began, a total of 15 criminal charges have been brought against media and journalists, as well as 75 legal claims for a total of 4,305,905,000 tenge (100 tenge ~ 20.5 roubles or US $0.6) payable in moral damages.

In January-August 2012, 190 denials of, or restrictions on, access to socially significant information were registered in Kazakhstan.

 

UKRAINE

Editor of Poltava-based newspaper hides his family from gangsters

Aleksandr Lutsenko, editor of the Poltava-based newspaper Podii i Komentari (PIK), has informed the police of a persecution campaign waged against his family, which has caused him to take his wife and two children out of town and hide them in another place.

Until recently editor of Poltavsky Visnik, the official newspaper of the Poltava City Council, Lutsenko believes he is being targeted because of the principled stand taken by the newspaper he currently edits. In the past three weeks, he said, unidentified persons have tried to block PIK’s computers by sending viral e-mail messages to his paper’s address. On 14 October, an unknown man called Lutsenko’s wife on the cell phone, citing her full name and home address and threatening to “slaughter” her because of some photo pictures. He used many dirty words talking to her, she said.

 

Aleksandr Lutsenko sees this pressure campaign against his wife as linked with the independent investigation his newspaper is conducting into a scandal over the publication of compromising photos and smearing information about an Udar Party nominee running for parliament.

His wife has filed a report with the Leninsky district police department in Poltava, but they never even invited her for a talk. This caused Lutsenko to seek shelter for his family beyond the city boundaries.

[Obkom.net.ua report, 16 October]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

Izvestia: Investigator to be held liable for attacking journalist Yelena Milashina

DV-Ross: Severo-Kurilsk authorities frown at independent media

Human Rights in Russia: Court in Khakassia to hear legal claim against journalist who videotaped police operation

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Author of anti-Pussy-Riot documentary accused of plagiarism and fact-juggling

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Arkady Mamontov, anchor of the “Special Reporter” show on Rossiya TV Channel, has released yet another, third, sequel to his documentary “The Provocateurs” about the scandalous Pussy Riot punk rock group. As expected, the new sequel did not differ much from the two previous parts, meaning that Mr Mamontov resorted to fact-wrenching again.

After the previous part of his film went on the air, the author was accused of handling the material with “excessive” freedom. One of the film characters, Alexei Vishnyak, for example, charged the author with “taking words out of context” and “re-editing” sequences from other documentary productions. His words about Boris Berezovsky standing behind the Pussy Riot action were “only a conjecture; I never called Berezovsky the mastermind”, Lenta.ru cited Vishnyak as saying. He later explained that his words had been insulated from the context by Mamontov.

The third part of “The Provocateurs” resulted in Mamontov’s coming to face charges not only of free re-editing of others’ films but also of plagiarism. After his showing some sequences from the documentary “The Prison Term”, its producers Alexei Pivovarov, Aleksandr Rastorguyev and Pavel Kostomarov said Mamontov had “exceeded the footage allowed for citing”, borrowing virtually a third of their film, Grani.ru reported. While his show’s format implies free citing of video materials posted in the Internet, “this doesn’t mean anyone is free to change the order of sequences with a view to deliberately changing the meaning,” the producers said.

Mamontov, though, has not been accused of breaking professional ethics, because many think his name is “simply incompatible” with any ethical norms at all.

The author of “The Provocateurs-3”, for his part, expressed the hope that the third part of his film about the “girl blasphemers” will be the last – a point that many analysts are questioning because “Mamontov seems determined to stick to that theme forever”.

His style of “special reporting”, though, has nothing to do with journalism. But he seems to feel fine about it, considering his “revelation” to Lenta.ru about his “working on a mandate from the Almighty”…

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2012 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” draws to a close

The 2012 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” in drawing to a close. The work-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’”.

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637-4947.

Media Rights Defence Centre (Voronezh) holds seminar in St. Petersburg

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

St. Petersburg on 8–10 October hosted a training seminar for journalists from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region. The seminar was entitled “The major legal risks media are exposed to: charges of defamation, intrusion in private life, and breach of copyright and advertising regulations. Legal safety rules: a media lawyer’s recommendations”.

The event attracted chief editors and journalists representing leading regional media. The seminar was organised by the Yamalo-Nenets Internal Policy Department and the regional mission in St. Petersburg; the classes were held by Galina Arapova and Svetlana Kuzevanova, legal experts with the Media Rights Defence Centre in Voronezh.

The first-day programme included discussions of honour, dignity and business reputation protection claims lodged against journalists and media; and specifics of the advertising law as applied to media performance. The second day was devoted to case studies regarding the observance of copyright and privacy regulations.

 

Letters

Dear Mr. Simonov:

You may find this information interesting, inasmuch as it directly relates to freedom-of-expression protection in the light of the revised Personal Data Law.

The Mariy El branch of Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications] has pilot-tested the said law’s application to the media, while totally ignoring its Article 6.8 allowing journalists not to seek the personal data subjects’ consent to their data publication.

Here is an example. After two10-year-old boys quarrelled at one of Yoshkar-Ola’s high schools, the father of one of them led the other boy out of the classroom with the teacher’s permission for a “man-to-man talk” with him. In the presence of his own son and other schoolchildren, the man, a colonel with the Penal Department, grabbed the boy’s ear and pulled it a couple of times so hard that the boy’s head hit the wall. A medical examiner found bumps on the victim’s head and a haematoma on his ear. The boy’s mother reported the incident to the police and the weekly newspaper Vash Novy Den.

We prepared an article and contacted the colonel and his wife, asking them to comment. They came to the newspaper office, described their vision of the situation in the presence of witnesses, and asked if their names would be mentioned in the publication. Hearing yes in reply, they said they wouldn’t object to that. However, after the story was published, the colonel, his wife and the class teacher actively supporting them all complained to Roskomnadzor about our newspaper’s disclosing their personal data – full names and places of employment – without their consent.

Ignoring the provisions of Article 6.8 of the Personal Data Law, Roskomnadzor charged me as the chief editor with committing an administrative offence and submitted the documents to the prosecutor’s office, which refused to start administrative proceedings at first, but then, on orders from the deputy prosecutor, did open a case against me.

The colonel and his wife told the judge of the peace assigned to review the case that they had nothing against the publication as such, but that they had not given any written consent to their personal data publication and had allegedly come to the newspaper office “just for a talk”. Based on two mutually exclusive clauses (1 and 8) of Article 6 of the Personal Data Law, the judge decided that we should have asked their consent, after all. Moreover, Roskomnadzor representatives insisted in court that such consent should have been expressed in writing, although the law explicitly states in which particular – rather few – cases that must be so. Neither the court nor Roskomnadzor wanted to hear anything about the Media Law as we tried to persuade them our story was about a publicly significant incident. The Roskomnadzor representative said beating a child at school was “not a publicly significant incident but a special situation”.

With this kind of approach to the Personal Data Law, a media outlet’s work may be fully paralyzed. As far as I know, this is Russia’s first ever case of that law’s being applied to media from such an angle. By “blazing the trail” in this respect, Roskomnadzor may find itself in a position not only to punish media for using personal data without the subject’s consent but also to effectively manipulate the media by requiring them to de-personify their publications, which would mean slashing the readers’ interest in socially significant events.

In an earlier attempt “to make good at media expense”, Roskomnadzor just pointed to photos in a few random publications and demanded that we show papers whereby people featured on the photos had expressed in writing their consent to seeing their portraits published. If this becomes a regular practice, other regions will start applying the Personal Data Law that way, too. It seems the court just cannot see what it’s all about, and refuses to recognise the special powers, rights and duties assigned to the journalist. Judges behave as if they are protecting some hypothetical “database”, while disregarding all the rest.

Last week, the Yoshkar-Ola city court considered my protest against the decision passed by that judge of the peace and left the decision in force. In the process, it simply ignored my key point – that the law allows the use of personal data without its carrier’s consent in cases where journalists are doing their professional work. The court did not pay attention to that argument at all and left it without commenting.

As we see, journalists – if only in the Mariy El Republic so far – are finding themselves in a deplorable situation. Any character of a publication, even a convicted lawbreaker, may claim “personal data subject” status and protest against his data’s “processing” by the media without his consent. This, by the way, was confirmed by the Yoshkar-Ola prosecutor’s office, which said that in the case of [serial killer] Chikatilo, too, asking his consent would have been a “must”.

Either this is an “anti-media” law or one meant to be applied so as to gag journalists. Its application paralyzes the media’s operation, because Roskomnadzor and the prosecutor’s office in Mariy El insist on journalists’ asking the written consent of publication characters even in cases where such consent can never be obtained by definition. This restricts the media freedom to openly discuss problems and conflicts – an outcome our law enforcement actively seeks. In my view, this absurd approach to Personal Data Law application provides additional leverage for putting pressure on the media.

Sincerely,
Alexei Batanov,
Chief editor, Vash Novy Den weekly, Yoshkar-Ola, Mariy El

 

[The GDF has forwarded this message to Roskomnadzor head Aleksandr Zharov, asking him to take a closer look at the situation.]

 

ANNOUNCEMENT

International TV/Cinema Festival opens in Moscow

The 4th International TV/Cinema Festival “Profession: Journalist” is opening at the Central House of Journalists (8a, Nikitsky Boulevard) at 7 p.m. on 22 October.

The organisers are the Russian Journalists’ Union, the Russian Guild of Film Directors, and the Netherlands Embassy.

The festival’s goal is to improve the public image of the profession, draw public attention to problems facing the journalists, and identify and encourage producers of the best films on the subject.

We invite you to attend the opening ceremony, during which the following special prizes will be awarded:

- Yuri Shchekochikhin Prize

- Sergey Govorukhin Prize, and

- Dmitry Kholodov Prize.

Please find enclosed our press release and the opening ceremony’s programme.

We would appreciate your posting an ad about the Festival on your website.

Thank you,

Festival Press Centre

tel. (+7 495) 691-0987, (+7 495) 695-5396

Contact person: Aleksandra Ivanova, tel. +7-916-178-9032

 

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

Все новости

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