4 Августа 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation Digest No. 667

28 July 2014


Media reporters first invited to, then ousted from, regional administration conference in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Media reporters a few days ago were invited to attend an event at the Omsk Region administration headquarters, but then – quite unexpectedly – were shown the door. The recently-appointed regional economy minister, Aleksandr Tretyakov, evidently decided that he is in control of the media too, including media that are not dependent on the regional government either administratively or financially.

Reporters for different newspapers and TV channels were invited to attend an administration-hosted ceremony to honour the winners of a contest of local entrepreneurs, Exporter of the Year 2013. In his opening address, the economy minister underscored that the regional authorities “are open to a dialogue with business and the public”. It appears now that he intends to set it up as a tête-a-tête dialogue closed off to the journalists, who he apparently believes have nothing to do with either business or the public.

Right after the handing of awards, Tretyakov asked the press to withdraw, since “You must have satisfied your interest,” as he put it. In the minister’s view, all the Omsk public wanted to know was the list of names of the best-performing exporters. Then why talk about “power transparency”, and to whom in particular the authorities plan to be “open”?

Some journalists did not move an inch and were absolutely justified in doing so, the newspaper Kommercheskiye Vesti wrote. First, because they value their time and do not want to waste it attending events about which they’ll have nothing to report to their readers or viewers; second, they are unwilling to put up with as boorish treatment as that, the newspaper said. If the minister believes that the media are supposed to subserviently obey those at the helm, then the journalists should explain a few things to him, and remind him that it is his role to be a public servant – especially considering that he has not yet done anything meaningful to improve the living standards of the people he is serving to, who pay from their pockets, among others, to the staff of the Main Administration for Information Policy. The latter, while not directly subordinated either to the Economy Ministry or to its head in person, decided nonetheless to take advantage of the opportunity to fawn on a big boss, and started insisting that the remaining journalists leave. The reporters did leave, in order to prevent the scandal from growing. One may wish they hadn’t – that might have been a good lesson to a bureaucrat who clearly exceeded his authority, and also to the public, who will never learn now what kinds of “state secrets” the entrepreneurs discussed with the “public servant” for a whole hour after shutting the door behind the press, Kommercheskiye Vesti wrote.

Migration service chief in Stavropol Region obstructs reporters’ work

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North-Caucasian Federal District

Government officials deterred two reporters for the Stavropol-based regional newspaper Otkrytaya Gazeta from doing their professional work last week.

The author of this report was told to go away when I attempted to talk to a group of Ukrainian refugees temporarily sheltered at a boarding school in Pyatigorsk. As it turned out, one is not allowed to speak with the refugees or service personnel or ask questions about their number, the places they fled from, whether they are satisfied with the way they’ve been accommodated, or what their current needs are. One is also prohibited to take any pictures; even children’s drawings are banned, the school’s deputy director and the police officer on duty that day told me, citing an instruction issued by the city administration. They dialled the number of Tamara Pavlenko, head of the city Department for Social Assistance to the Population, and handed the phone to me. The lady on the other end of the line was surprised to hear I knew nothing about the bans imposed by the mayor and the city’s Emergencies Department. She told me that in order to fulfil my editorial assignment, I had to file a request with the municipal administration, and they would assign a pre-selected group of Ukrainians to answer my questions “the right way”.

In my turn, I said I was surprised Ms Pavlenko wasn’t aware she was thereby breaching the media law and the Russian constitution.

By the way, refugees themselves are eager to talk: they give their names, tell frankly about what they’ve had to go through and what their plans are; they introduce their children to visitors, and thank local people and the city administration for taking good care of them.

The difference between what they are telling and what is shown on the “filtered” federal TV channels day after day explains why mixing with refugees is banned: the Russian authorities are very much afraid refugees may reveal something about the ongoing war that might be at odds with the government-approved version.

Separately, Otkrytaya’s Yelena Suslova was cold-shouldered at the regional Migration Service Department. Prior to her visit there, she wrote about a village woman with many children, who came to Russia from Tajikistan ten years ago, married a local man and gave birth to six children, but has never obtained Russian citizenship only because of bureaucratic indifference to her fate. Finally, in response to whistle-blowing media reports and to the regional human rights ombudsman’s interference, it was decided that a working group would gather at the Migration Service headquarters to look into the issue. Leaving the six kids with their 80-year-old great-grandmother, the woman and her husband took a 150-km trip to Stavropol under the scorching sun, with the temperature running at 35oC. So did Suslova, having notified the regional migration service chief, Kazbek Ediyev, a week beforehand, about her coming to attend the group’s meeting. Yet Svetlana Belova, head of the unit handling citizenship-related issues, in whose office the meeting was under way, shut the door in the journalist’s face, saying, “No one invited you to come here!”

Suslova was not allowed into the conference room, but a secretary told her Belova was consulting Ediyev on the phone.

Her new attempt to get inside was frustrated by the secretary’s brazen-facedly showing her the door. Once in the corridor, Suslova heard Belova speaking behind her on the phone and repeating her boss’ orders out loud: “Whatever she says, don’t let her through!”

Watching clerks rushing back and forth along the corridor and hearing high-pitched shouts inside the office, the reporter came to understand why the officials were so frightened: they simply were not prepared for the meeting, had not read the case of the mother with six kids, and did not even find the relevant case file at once. The woman and her husband were sent back home, while Yelena Suslova and Otkrytaya Gazeta complained to the regional prosecutor’s office about the migration officials’ actions which they thought fell under the effects of Criminal Article 144, envisaging legal liability for interference with a journalist’s lawful professional work.

Military commissar in Karelia attempts to conceal important information

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

Word went around in Petrozavodsk recently about reservists being called up for active military service. With a war going on in Ukraine, the rumour caused a great commotion in the city. Checking with their professional sources, journalists found out that the military commissar’s office was indeed issuing and handing out mobilisation certificates.

Nadezhda Mekkiyeva, a reporter for the newspaper Karelskaya Guberniya, turned to the republic’s military commissar, Col. Andrei Artemyev, for firsthand information and official comments. Initially, she wanted to record a telephone interview with him, but he declined, saying he would only speak to her at a personal meeting. Her editor sent her to the commissar’s office, asking her to turn in her report as early as possible.

Mekkiyeva once again told both the commissar and his secretary on the phone about her coming for an interview; so she was surprised to bump into Col. Artemyev right on the threshold of his office as he was leaving for somewhere else. Reminding him of their planned meeting, she tried to get the long-awaited answer out of him there and then. Learning the name of the newspaper she represented, the commissar refused outright to speak to her and called a guard to throw her out of the office building. No comment, he said.

Mekkiyeva filed a complaint with the Karelia Journalists’ Union, asking to protect her professional interests. The KJU sent the military commissar a message warning him that he was in breach of the federal law “On access to information about the performance of government bodies and local self-governments”, since he had unreasonably refused to provide publicly significant information to a media outlet. Information about the issuance of mobilisation certificates is not a state secret, which, by the way, gave Artemyev a free hand to comment on the matter to other media. This is a good way to prevent the spread of rumours, the KJU said in its statement, while also wondering why Karelskaya Guberniya, of all the regional media, was denied access to socially significant information. The answer, though, is on the surface: Karelia’s military commissar has long had complicated, to put it mildly, relations with that newspaper.

Since Artemyev, in the view of Mekkiyeva and the KJU chairman, has violated effective legislation, the media community is awaiting official explanations from him.

As regards mobilisation certificates, they have indeed been issued and handed out to reservists as part of the military commissar’s office’s routine work, carried out “systematically and permanently”, Artemyev told [other] journalists. It’s just that this time this fact drew public attention because of the ongoing war in Ukraine, he said, causing many to wonder why stir up a conflict over nothing.

Judge in Perm allows journalists to use video cameras but forbids defendant to use photo camera in courtroom

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm trial over Roman Yushkov, a geography professor accused of publishing an article featuring calls for acts of extremism (see digest 666), has been marked by new scandals. Judge Oleg Spiridonov on 25 July reprimanded the defendant – and had it written into the protocol – for taking a photo picture in the courtroom of the state prosecutor, Dmitry Krasnopyorov.

Initially the court, with both parties’ consent, allowed the cameramen representing the broadcaster Rifey TV and the newspaper Za Cheloveka to record the proceedings. By the way, Yushkov, as executive secretary with that newspaper, is considered to be a media worker. But when he took out a photo camera and photographed the prosecutor, the latter asked the judge to duly respond. Not only did the judge reprimand Yushkov – he forbade him to use his photo camera altogether on the grounds that he was “the one in the dock”.

After the lunch break, as defence lawyer Dmitry Lobanov started reading out the conclusions of six expert studies done within the framework of the case, Judge Spiridonov reprimanded Yushkov again – he thought the defendant had dozed off. Yushkov’s explanations that he just shut his eyes to better concentrate on the difficult text passages being read out were disregarded.

Many of those attending the hearing thought the judge was not simply picking on the defendant – he was deliberately trying to revenge himself on him: shortly before, Roman Yushkov, who faces extremism charges for publishing his article “A Fit of Hysteria, Pugachev-Style” in the newspaper Zvezda on 19 July 2013, complained to the leadership of the Motovilikhinsky court in Perm about what he called “numerous violations by Judge Spiridonov of the RF Code of Judicial Procedure and of the Code of Judicial Ethics”.

A Voronezh-based construction company accused of corruption claims 100,000 roubles in reputational damages from publishing firm

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Voronezh Region Court of Arbitration is reviewing a reputation protection claim lodged by the SMU-36 construction company against Semiluki Publishers’ Ltd. in the wake of a publication in the newspaper Semilukskiy Vestnik released by that publishing house. In the plaintiff’s view, the article “How Governor-Allocated Millions Are Being Spent in the District” featured inaccurate information undermining the business reputation of SMU-36 as the contractor for repairing the district House of Culture in Semiluki.

Specifically, the author alleged that SMU-36 was a façade firm for someone taking government orders and kicking money back to administration officials. The publication was illustrated by photos of what the newspaper described as “low-quality repairs” carried out by SMU-36. The construction company also claimed hurt by the passage saying that it “rents a 15 sq. m office … with three clerks – evidently, the entire staff of the firm – sitting there”. SMU-36 demanded a disclaimer and 100,000 roubles in reputational damages.

The parties were invited to reach an amicable settlement – and the plaintiff agreed to withdraw its damages claim – but the defendant declined to. The hearings will continue in August.

Sakhalin authorities promote themselves by misusing regional media’s subsidies

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Sakhalin Region administration has offered 1.5 million roubles for a publication in a federal newspaper, activists of the “For Honest Procurements” project sponsored by the All-Russia United Front (ONF) have found out. An online tender for the purchase of A3 format page space in a newspaper was to be held on 14 July, but since only one potential contractor had applied – Komsomolskaya Pravda Publishers’ – the auction commission decided not to waste time and to hold the tender on 10 July.

Trying to figure out what particular audience the Sakhalin officials were targeting and what goal they were pursuing when purchasing page space in Komsomolskaya Pravda is pretty difficult. If they wanted to attract investors, the latter would have found it easier to get the relevant information on the regional government’s official website than in Komsomolskaya Pravda, a federal newspaper with a nationwide audience. If they meant to drive home some information to Sakhalin residents, they could have done that more effectively through regional media, ONF Central Board co-chair Olga Timofeyeva observed perplexedly.

Moreover, if the regional authorities did have something interesting to tell the whole country about, any federal newspaper or TV channel would rush to offer their services free of charge, she said.

Now the regional media, which are already suffering serious losses because of the soaring tariffs of [the monopoly-holding national postal service] Pochta Rossii, will not receive any subsidies – the relevant budget allocations have been exhausted.

Typical conflict in Sverdlovsk Region: town mayor vs. municipal newspaper

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Another scandal between the mayor and a municipal newspaper has flared up in Turinsk, Sverdlovsk Region. The local newspaper Izvestia-Tur, nearly the only print media outlet in the district, required to change its ownership status and re-register as a “state-owned autonomous print media outlet based in the Sverdlovsk Region” (GAUPSO), has not done so far.

Turinsk Mayor Andrei Belousov still hasn't approved the GAUPSO status for the newspaper, while appointing a new director to lead the media outlet in its previous status, “The [municipal] newspaper Izvestia-Tur” – although its incumbent editor-in-chief, Irina Gitsareva, is fully able-bodied but currently on the sick leave.

According to Dmitry Fedechkin, director of the gubernatorial Press and Mass Communications Department, who initiated the reform of re-subordinating municipal media to the regional government, said negotiations with Belousov started a whole year ago, when there was no confrontation at all. Since then, a GAUPSO has been established, and Irina Gitsareva was appointed its director. For 12 years prior to that, she had been its chief editor. Now Izvestia-Tur regularly issues a “Regional News” supplement, just as other reformed municipal newspapers do, and computers worth half a million roubles have been purchased for the newspaper, Fedechkin said. What the reform is all about is to give the municipal newspapers a new boost, strengthen their positions as “leaders of the local media markets”, and raise the “social and professional status” of their staffs, he said.

According to journalists with the online news agency Znak.com, the Turinsk mayor is claiming he has nothing against the reform, but that a couple of legal issues need to be settled first.

“Currently, we have two legal entities – one municipal, the other state-owned,” he said. “I don’t see any problem with their operating in parallel. In that case, the newspaper will be able to fulfil both municipal and state orders, and consequently, earn more.”

Belousov says he is seeking to preserve the newspaper as a media outlet informing the public about municipal projects. Yet Chief Editor Gitsareva explains the mayor’s actions differently.

“The mayor’s term of office expires next March, which means he needs a ‘pocket’ newspaper for campaigning,” she said. “As chief editor, I will never breach electoral legislation by promoting only one candidate – I don’t want my newspaper to have problems.”

As soon as she took her sick leave, [the mayor] appointed Svetlana Pakhomova, a total outsider, to act in her stead, she added.

“Pakhomova has approached each staffer individually to persuade them to work for the municipal entity. But almost all of our staff are registered as GAUPSO workers, and no one agreed to her offer,” said Gitsareva, who hopes that the GAUPSO status will improve the newspaper’s financial position; this year’s budget allocations for its operation total 580,000 roubles, of which only 181,000 has been disbursed so far. Actually, the newspaper is compelled to work on credit.

Izvestia-Tur and the Council of District Newspaper Editors have appealed to colleagues and to Sverdlovsk Governor Yevgeny Kuivashev for support. Izvestia staffers complained that “We are awaiting default on wage payments in the near future, because, until a new edition of the newspaper’s charter is approved, we, GAUPSO workers, will continue to transfer all of our earnings to the municipal newspaper’s bank account.” In their message to the governor, other Sverdlovsk media editors expressed support for their colleagues, saying that “The mayor has acted turning a blind eye to Izvestia-Tur’s history and the merits of its staff. The situation is unlikely to be resolved, unless you interfere.”

Well, this is indeed a typical situation: with elections in the offing, mayors are tightening their grip on local newspapers to prevent them from attempting to support their rivals. Against this backdrop, journalists are appealing for support not to their audiences, for whom they are supposed to work, but to the ruling circles. This shows, unfortunately, that the press in this country is anything but independent.

[Based on Znak.com reports]


Adil Soz Foundation’s press freedom report for June 2014

The international press freedom watchdog Adil Soz Foundation has published a report on the freedom-of-expression situation and violations of the right to gather and impart information in Kazakhstan in June 2014.

The reported instances include:

  • Journalist Saya Issa was found guilty of libel;
  • MPs in Karaganda accused journalist Sergei Perkhalsky of insulting a government official;
  • A first-instance court ruled for Zharylkap Kalybai, chief editor of Anyz Adam magazine, to pay World War II veterans 13 million KZT in moral damages;
  • The decision on the closure of the newspaper Assandi Times entered into full legal force.

Of a total of 6 court decisions passed in June, none were in favour of the media or individual citizens. Since this year began, 11 persons have been charged with libel, and 48 claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation have been lodged in connection with exercising freedom of expression and the right to gather and impart information in Kazakhstan.

[For details, see www.adilsoz.kz ]


Media-oversight agency in Krasnodar Region grows warmer toward media

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing the sphere of public communications] Department for the Southern Federal District has held a conference in Krasnodar to discuss compliance with Article 27 of Federal Law No. 2124-1 of 27 December 1991, “On the Media”, and Article 7 of Federal Law No. 77-FZ of 29 December 1994, “On the Mandatory Copies of Documents”.

The delegates – mostly workers for regional and district print media – heard an address by the regional Roskomnadzor head, Alexei Rakhvalov, who reminded them that as of 1 July this year, the mandatory copy of each issue of newspapers and magazines shall be sent to the ITAR-TASS news agency, pursuant to the enacted amendments to the Mandatory Copies law. The relevant bill had been developed in implementation of the presidential decree of 9 December 2013, which, in order to make the state media’s work more efficient, liquidated the State Fund of TV and Radio Programmes and the Russian Chamber of Books. The former Chamber’s functions will now be fulfilled by ITAR-TASS, and those of the former State Fund by VGTRK, the All-Russia State TV/Radio Company.

A good half of the meeting was devoted to questions and answers. Conferees asked questions quite to the point, demonstrating excellent knowledge of the framework laws governing the media performance. Roskomnadzor officials left none of those unanswered. The oversight agency’s attitude came as a pleasant surprise. Addressing the conference, Rakhvalov specially stressed that they planned to hold these kinds of meetings regularly, in order to meet less frequently about potential administrative sanctions.

Until recently, relations between Roskomnadzor and regional media leaders were based on the principle “Legal ignorance is not an excuse for wrongdoing”, which caused the journalists to think of the oversight agency only as a “punitive” body. To be sure, the awareness-raising approach now adopted by the Southern branch of Roskomnadzor will bear better fruit.


2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The jury of the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues accepting works submitted for this year’s contest. The 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, 2013 and October 15, 2014 in Russian print or online 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 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

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.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

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.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 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

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