Дайджест
6 Апреля 2013 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 609

1 April 2013

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Novaya Gazeta: 20 years in service to glasnost. GDF’s congratulations to colleagues

When you just hatched out, our Foundation caringly and willingly took you under its wing. Today, we are already celebrating your newspaper’s 20 years, which should perhaps be multiplied at least by the number of the rulers who have replaced one another at this country’s helm over that time.

Don’t let’s talk about age, though – rather, about the problems of life. You have found a most efficient form of existence, without stooping to the everyday, while rejecting the “elitist” weekly, rate of your paper’s release. You have found your own isle in a sea of readers’ preferences: those who dislike you nevertheless subscribe to NG; and those loving your newspaper buy it three times a week to have enough good stuff to read on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends.

You have not yet found an efficient form of financing – but no one in Russia has so far. You can and do defend your staffers courageously, because you love them, remember them, and don’t forget about their parents, children and grandchildren, either.

You have an elected chief editor, whose easily-carried-away, romantic, sober-minded and not-so-sober-living personality adds so much to the face of your each new release, which is otherwise determined by your brilliant art director, P. Sarukhanov.

No longer do you appeal to us – it’s we who appeal to you whenever help is needed in defending someone’s rights or undoing some injustice. Many thanks to you from your spiritual fathers and grateful children, as well as grandchildren!

God give you prosperity; we shall not wish you rest, since you will never have it in this so dearly loved and so badly misruled country!

Glasnost Defence Foundation team

RUSSIA

A real or imaginary threat to journalists in Chelyabinsk?

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Journalists from the Ura.ru news site have posted an audio recording of a telephone conversation with Chelyabinsk-based businessman Valery Alyoshkin that they see as an attempt to intimidate them in the wake of their repeated reports about Alyoshkin and his company’s debts to international partners, the Pension Fund, the Social Insurance Fund, etc.

Tired of the journalists’ close attention to his personality, the businessman, who is also a prominent public figure and politician, called them on the phone in a fit of temper to speak his mind. He accused them of impudence, told them they “are the limit”, and hinted that he knows “everything” about them since they come from the Urals, just as he does.

Colleagues took that high-toned conversation for a real threat, Ura.ru correspondent Sergei Leonov said.

“It couldn’t be interpreted differently, so we reported it to the police at once,” he said. “He has repeatedly attempted to gag reporters in the past, too. We’ve been told Alyoshkin tried to check, via his connections in law enforcement, if it was possible to put pressure on our correspondents in Chelyabinsk. […] We urged him to settle disputes, if any, in a civilized manner in court. Alyoshkin already complained to the city police department last autumn about one of our publications, but police didn’t find anything wrong with it; on the contrary, they found our reporting very civil and polite. Now he has sunk to personal threats.”

Today, police are considering two complaints filed: one by the Ura.ru correspondents, the other by Alyoshkin, who sees the journalists’ attention to his activities “too close” and verging on a deliberate persecution campaign against him.

Critical media barred from Maritime governor’s news conference in Vladivostok

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

On the eve of a big news conference in Vladivostok, scheduled to be held on 26 March by Maritime Region Governor Vladimir Miklushevsky to review the results of his first year in office, journalists were invited to send in their applications to attend.

They were only to give their name, the name of the media outlet they represented, and the question they wanted to ask the governor. But as early as 22 March, many journalists started receiving phone calls from the administration telling them they “hadn’t passed the draw”.

By a queer coincidence, the group of “the chosen” did not include any critically-minded reporters. Among those barred from the conference were the prominent journalists Marina Zavadskaya and Anastasia Popova, reporters for the newspaper Dalnevostochniye Vedomosti and others. Were the holders of the draw prejudiced against them?

“It seems the lists of those admitted to the news conference have already been compiled, and members of Miklushevsky’s apparatus are just pulling our leg when they say they’ll call us personally later,” a chat forum commentator wrote in connection with the pending “big meeting”.

“Unfortunately, not every reporter will be admitted, since the conference room can hold only 700 people at the most,” Sergei Nekhayev, head of the regional Information Policy Department, said.

Meanwhile, gubernatorial apparatchiks had sent memos in advance to 150 federal and local media reporters, with details about the place where they might receive their registration cards, and the time at which they would be collectively bussed to Russky Island to attend the news conference.

Actor Nikolai Burlyayev wins lawsuit against Demagogy.ru website

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The prominent movie actor has been awarded 10,000 roubles in moral damages from Demagogy.ru for the unlawful use of his photo image.

Burlyayev filed his legal claim after his biography illustrated with a photo portrait was posted in the news site’s “Heroes” section without his consent, which struck the actor as a violation of Article 152.1 of the RF Civil Code, affirming anyone’s right to have one’s image protected. Moreover, Burlyayev found the publication insulting, since, as he put it, “I am not a demagogue and not interested in demagogy”. The plaintiff demanded the removal of the website postings and claimed 500,000 roubles in moral damages.

The defendant succeeded in persuading the court that it had been guided by public interest when publishing Burlyayev’s image, as additionally proven by the website’s editorial policy orientation and the plaintiff’s broad publicity as a well-known actor; in cases like this, no explicit consent is required by law to be expressed by the person whose image is slated for publishing.

Actually, it is not his portrait’s publication as such, but rather the fact of its having been posted on a website named “Demagogy” that Burlyayev claimed offended by. However, the above-mentioned Civil Code article does not regulate defamation-related cases.

Besides, different other Internet resources have featured thousands of the actor’s photos shot from different angles, and he has never filed legal claims against any of those. This indirectly confirms that his claim against Demagogy.ru was motivated by something other than the alleged violation of his right to have his image protected.

This notwithstanding, the Simonovsky district court in Moscow upheld Burlyayev’s legal claim partially, slashing the compensation amount to 10,000 roubles.

Demagogy.ru, however, intends to challenge this decision before a higher-standing judicial authority. The defendant’s interests were represented in court by defence lawyer Svetlana Kuzevanova of the Voronezh-based Media Rights Centre.

 

UKRAINE

Journalist beaten up in Kiev

A journalist has been beaten up in Kiev’s Podol district.

Yevgeny Agarkov, a reporter for the 2Х2 TV Channel, was taking pictures of huge icicles hanging down the roof of a vocational school for seamstresses and hairdressers, when a man about 50, standing at the entrance, suddenly ran up to him to start pushing him away and shouting that the use of cameras was prohibited there. After Agarkov told him he was a journalist and showed him his press card, the man attempted to snatch it away. Finally, the hooligan picked up a massive block of ice weighing several kilograms and hurled it at the reporter. The two men then came to grips, and Agarkov was left with a torn jacket.

The attacker was later identified as the school deputy principal’s husband. Agarkov reported the incident to the police as an instance of interference with his lawful professional activities.

[Ura-Inform report, 28 March]

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

District newspapers in Chelyabinsk Region doomed to closure?

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

At a meeting of chief editors of municipal and district newspapers, organised by the Chelyabinsk Region administration on 28 March, the editors were told they should not expect any subsidies from the regional budget in 2013 – unlike last year, when nearly 35 million roubles was allocated in support of 39 media outlets.

For several decades now, city and district newspapers have received gratis aid to offset part of their printing and distribution costs – for the proclaimed purposes of “guaranteeing the people’s right to be timely, fully and objectively informed, and encouraging the regional media’s development”.

Problems with the distribution of subsidies first emerged in 2011, when an attempt was made at having some newspapers, among them Kyshtymsky Rabochiy, Ust-Katavskaya Nedelya, Kopeisky Rabochiy and Ozyorsky Vestnik, crossed out from the list of subsidized media outlets. Some municipal media head-managers and Dmitry Fedechkin, the-then chief of the regional Press and Public Communications Department, stood up for the local media at the time. Long and difficult negotiations helped to preserve the system, but subsidies were made available to the addressees only after a long delay.

Last year’s conferences of media representatives heard more calls for a thorough overhaul of the system of financial support for the media. Someone suggested holding competitions for access to grants to finance “socially significant” projects, the way the Federal Press Affairs Agency had done for many years. As a later initiative, newsprint was to be supplied to newspaper offices to help them economise on costs; but that idea, too, was dropped after a while.

Finally, Sergei Komyakov, acting head of the regional administration, signed new regulations on the distribution of media subsidies in 2013-2015. In line with them, to be eligible for government subsidizing, a media organisation will be required to “distribute its products on the territory of at least 25 municipal entities within the Chelyabinsk Region, with a population of at least 70% of the region’s total; and have a one-time weekly print run covering at least 4% of the region’s population”.

Clearly, not a single local newspaper released in any municipality will meet those requirements – unlike the newspapers Yuzhnouralskaya Panorama, Parlamentskaya Nedelya or Guberniya issued by the governor’s Granada Press pool. No doubt the new rules were “tailored to fit” Granada’s capabilities. As a result, the 35-million-rouble subsidies will go directly to a commercial media holding. If Komyakov’s regulations have not yet caught the competent agencies’ eye, it must be because they were signed as late as 20 March.

The city and district newspaper editors were enraged by this new approach to the distribution of media subsidies, which for many news outlets are the only way to make both ends meet. Also, editors have voiced concerns over their newly-imposed duty – to print and deliver the weekly supplement to Guberniya, a regional public and political newspaper promoting Governor Mikhail Yurevich and his team.

This supplement has been issued for quite a long time, but formerly it was owned by the publishing company of the same name, which, in turn, had been established by the regional government. The previous administration used to honestly recompense the local press for all costs related to Guberniya’s printing and distribution. The incumbent bosses – Guberniya Director Olga Yurova, Granada Press Director Sergei Filichkin and their trustees from the number of regional administrators – have adopted a totally different stand, telling the local editors that “the Guberniya supplement is an integral part of your newspapers”, which evidently implies that cost-sharing is inevitable. Meanwhile, the “integral part” quietly went through re-registration on 21 May 2012 without putting the city and district press community in the know, and came to be owned by Sosedi Advertising Co. Ltd., which means that the impoverished local press, already deprived of support from the regional budget, is now supposed to perform as a sponsor of a commercial project launched by some advertising agency! Russia-wide, one could hardly ever name another scheme as inventive as this to deflect budgetary funds…

“One gets the impression that some groups are consistently pushing our district and city newspapers toward the brink of a precipice,” conference participants told the Vesti Ural web news agency. “True, there remain a couple of other sources of income that are still unavailable to Granada Press – the printing of municipal documentation slated for mandatory publishing, and the advertising markets in those municipal areas where the living standards are more or less high. But now that the regional budget’s subsidies have been redirected into the private sector, all the authorities have to do now is to trample us underfoot altogether and redirect the money flows from cities and districts to the same destination. No one seems to care that the newspaper issued in a village or a small township is the last resort for local residents, who will go to the editor to share their concerns in hopes for at least someone’s help. But really, who would ever think of people when millions of roubles are at stake?”

Press release by Kabardino-Balkaria’s Human Rights Centre

Kabardino-Balkarian radio journalist Murtaz Pachev in early March recorded an interview with Valery Khatazhukov, an activist of the republican Human Rights Centre, about a government commission’s efforts to help former militants who voluntarily gave themselves up to law enforcement to adapt to peaceful life.

The interview reviewed the commission’s performance in the past year, with special focus on why not a single militant wanted by international, Russian or local police has ever requested the commission’s help over the entire period of its operation, and how similar commissions have performed in Dagestan and Ingushetia.

The interview never went on the air, because Maryana Teuvazhukova, chief editor of the Russian-language service, so decided – and this despite the interview’s original approval as one meeting all the established requirements. The editor did not think it necessary, either, to notify Pachev of her decision.

[Nalchik, 27 March 2013]

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

Civil Control human rights group’s appeal to Public Communications Ministry

The Civil Control human rights group based in St. Petersburg has notified Public Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov that one of his orders restricts people’s constitutional rights.

Cited below is the text of the activists’ message (in a slightly abridged form to facilitate understanding):

Dear Mr Nikiforov:

Your Order No.268 of 19 November 2012, “On Approving the Rules of Using Communication System Equipment […]”, just as your ministry’s Order No.70 of 20 April 1999, “On the Technical Requirements to the Means of Communication Facilitating Investigation and Search Operations (ISO) in the Russian Federation”, violates the people’s constitutional right to the privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations and other forms of communication.

As stipulated in Article 23.2 of the RF Constitution, “Restriction of this right may only be possible based on a court decision.” However, the appendices to the said two orders detailing the algorithms of information exchanges between remote control panel operators in the process of ISOs fail to provide any command lines confirming the availability of a court decision allowing the conduct of ISOs in respect of a network user. This leaves room for unauthorized and uncontrolled access to user information exchanges by remote control panel operators conducting ISOs. Moreover, the two orders are at odds with Articles 32 and 37 of the federal law “On Telecommunications” inasmuch as they provide access to user information without the notification or participation of the telecom service provider guaranteeing the users’ right to privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations and other forms of communication.

For that matter, the RF Supreme Court on 25 September 2000 ruled to exclude from Public Communications Ministry Order No.130 of 25 July 2000, “On the Rules of Applying the Technical Means Facilitating the Conduct of ISOs via Cable, Mobile and Cordless Telephone Communication Systems […]”, Paragraph 2.6, relieving the telecom service provider of the responsibility of guaranteeing the privacy of communication and the duty of providing access to telecom channels only in case the ISO-conducting agencies present the legally required warrants.

The above-mentioned two orders also fail to describe the mechanisms of documenting ISOs at remote control panel or the mechanisms of control over the conduct of ISOs as provided for in Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the federal law “On Investigation and Search Operations”.

We hereby ask you to notify us when and what particular measures your ministry intends to take to stop violations of the people’s said constitutional rights and ensure compliance with the Supreme Court Decision of 25 September 2000 – or if we are mistaken, to inform us of what it has been doing to protect such constitutional rights while enforcing compliance with the said orders.

Sincerely,
Civil Control Deputy Chairman
Y. I. Vdovin

 

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 Monitring 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