8 Декабря 2014 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 686

1 December 2014


Jury names finalists of 2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”

The results of the 2014 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” were summed up in Moscow on 30 November. The Sakharov Award 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 annual competition was held for the 14th time this year. Earlier, the awards went to Elvira Goryukhina (Novosibirsk), Anna Politkovskaya (Moscow), Galina Kovalskaya (Moscow), Mikhail Afanasyev (Abakan), Igor Naidyonov (Moscow), Anna Lebedeva (Rostov-on-Don), Yevgeny Sholokh (Vladivostok), Tamara Proskuryakova (Kamyshin), Tatyana Sedykh (Khabarovsk Region), Vladimir Voronov (Moscow), Georgy Borodyansky (Omsk), Viktor Shostko (Rostov Region), and Yulia Suntsova (Izhevsk).

The Jury named the 12 finalists of this year’s competition, among them:

  • Yelena Racheva, Novaya Gazeta, Moscow;
  • Lev Shlosberg, Pskovskaya Guberniya, Pskov;
  • Alexei Tarasov, Novaya Gazeta, Krasnoyarsk;
  • Yelena Florina, inter-kavkaz.com, Moscow;
  • Dmitry Florin, inter-kavkaz.com, Moscow;
  • Sergei Khazov-Kassia, The New Times, Moscow;
  • Oksana Trufanova, Osobaya Bukva web publication, Chelyabinsk;
  • Larisa Sheremet, Volgogradskaya Pravda, Volgograd;
  • Zakir Magomedov, daptar.ru, Dagestan;
  • Victoria Ivleva, Novaya Gazeta, Moscow;
  • Igor Tsagoyev, Nevolya magazine, Nalchik;
  • Natalya Fonina, Arsenyevskiye Vesti, Vladivostok.

The nominees and winner of this year’s award, selected from the above list of finalists, will be named at a ceremony to honour the laureates, to be held at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow (8a, Nikitinsky Boulevard, Arbatskaya metro station) on 15 December.

The 2014 competition attracted journalists from dozens of areas across the Russian Federation, including Siberia, the Far East, the Caucasus, the Volga Region, the Urals, and the Northwest. The winner and nominees will be sent special invitations to attend the festive ceremony in Moscow, where they will receive prizes and diplomas. The Jury’s diplomas will be handed (to those living outside Moscow, will be sent by mail) to each finalist and each media outlet that published the winner’s and nominees’ writings.


Local media “optimisation” in Omsk Region causes little optimism

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The staffs of local newspapers in the Omsk Region will be significantly reduced starting this January. The regional Main Information Policy Department (MIPD) has notified the media managers in all of the region’s 32 rural districts. MIPD Director Sergey Korabelnikov, though, has assured the OmskInform news agency that the “optimisation” of those media outlets “will not lead to their becoming inoperative”.

It is still unclear how many local media staffers will be laid off. New staff lists will be approved based on chief editors’ recommendations, Korabelnikov said. A still more radical “optimisation” awaits the rural branches of the region’s largest TV channel: “Seventeen of a total of 26 studios will be closed,” according to regional media reports. “The channel will continue covering the entire region,” Omsk TV/Radio Company General Director Aleksandr Malkevich told the SuperOmsk news website, adding that the sound and visual quality of the programmes will notably improve as saved funds will be spent on the replacement of old transmitters, technical overhaul, etc.

Yet rural residents likely will lose access to local news releases which informed them daily about the developments in their towns and villages. District newspapers are issued once a week, while life – however difficult or miserable it may be – goes on. Malkevich claimed ready to let the local branches of the regional TV channel “float freely”, if the local authorities, business and residents need them so much; they would surely find a way to jointly finance them, he said. Maybe some will survive, but the vast majority won’t: rural life has been “too much optimised” lately, with schools, clinics, public clubs, post offices and public transport companies closing one after another. People are somehow managing to get by on the outskirts of civilization, but now a new blow is in store for them – their last sources of information will be shut down.

Courts in Udmurtia protect newspaper Den’ against MP’s legal claims

By Yulia Suntsova, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Since June 2013 the Izhevsk-based newspapers Den’ and Denyok have been under pressure from MP (Liberal Democrat) Andrei Markin, deputy head of the Land Relations and Construction Committee, who has pelletted them with legal claims in a bid to stop media criticism of his personality and to curtail journalistic investigations into his alleged involvement in “point construction” projects within the city boundaries.

In June-September 2013, Markin twice asked courts to start legal proceedings against Denyok under Criminal Code Article 128.1 (“Libel”), giving rise to two check-ups carried out first by police and then by the Investigative Committee of Udmurtia. Based on the findings, both his claims were rejected.

Attempting to present his case from a different angle, Markin filed several civil claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation in the autumn of 2013, two of which – against Den’ and Denyok – were reviewed by local courts in Izhevsk, with the plaintiff claiming a total of 1.9 million roubles in moral damages.

Neither newspaper acknowledged the lawfulness of his claims, citing as a precedent the 8 October 2009 decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of “Romanenko et al. vs. the Russian Federation”, which stated that the negative tonality of the newspaper articles being challenged by the claimant did not testify to the fact that their content was smearing; moreover, criticism in a democratic country is a form of freedom of expression, the court underlined.

The hearings of Markin’s claims completed on 26 November; the courts rejected all of his claims in full.

PR specialist claiming reputational damages from media outlets loses one case in court but hopes to win three others in Chelyabinsk

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Dmitry Orlov, founder of the Moscow-based Political and Economic Communications Agency (APEK), while suffering considerable reputational damage in his judicial struggle with journalists in Chelyabinsk, is still hopeful of winning compensation in court.

As can be gathered from the legal claims Orlov has filed against four Southern Urals media outlets – the news agencies Chelyabinsk Segodnya and Polit74.ru and the newspapers Guberniya and Kopeiskiy Rabochiy – the PR specialist felt his honour, dignity and business reputation were damaged by a news report passage published by all four, reading as follows: “A source has told Chelyabinsk Segodnya that representatives of APEK Director Dmitry Orlov have paid a private visit to Boris Dubrovsky (then-acting regional governor – Author.), during which they hinted that he should pay to get a higher popularity rating. The parties failed to strike a business deal, as can be seen from the rating published yesterday, 4 August.”

Yes, the acting governor’s rating turned out to be unexpectedly low as per that date, and clearly, the journalists couldn’t possibly have lied about the “payment hints”. They got this information from a very competent source within the regional administration.

In line with the media law, a journalist is entitled not to disclose his source, not even in court. That is what Chelyabinsk Segodnya Chief Editor Sergei Shumakov did when testifying in the case “Political Scientist Orlov vs. Newspaper Kopeiskiy Rabochiy”. The city court in Kopeisk on 26 November turned Orlov’s legal claim down in full.

So Orlov has failed to receive half a million roubles in damages from that newspaper. But he still hopes his claims against three other media outlets in Chelyabinsk will bring him about 2 million. “My representatives’ defeat in the city court in Kopeisk does not at all mean the trials in Chelyabinsk will end as haplessly. I think my positions are strong, and I’m far from being finished,” he wrote in his Facebook account in reply to a message from Chelyabink journalists.

Trial over Sergei Reznik in Rostov-on-Don to continue in December

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

A second trial over blogger and journalist Sergei Reznik is under way in Rostov-on-Don.

As we have reported, Reznik already is serving a prison term after being convicted of bribe-giving, false reporting to the police, and insulting a government official. Yet his colleagues say the true reasons for the blogger’s prosecution are his quick temper and his criticism of Rostov’s authorities and judiciary.

He is standing the second trial on four new charges, among them one more false report, and one more insult to a government official – this time, to a prosecutor whom Reznik compared in his blog to a “tractor driver” because of his slovenly appearance.

The court is currently hearing the position in defence. The linguistic experts who studied the publication which gave rise to the charges against Reznik have been summoned to court. The next hearing is scheduled for 8–9 December.

The prosecution campaign against Reznik has been discussed at a briefing held jointly by the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defence Centre (MMDC) and the Russian Journalists’ Union. The participants signed an open letter expressing concern over the denial of a fair trial to the prominent journalist and blogger (see mmdc.ru)

The MMDC is providing legal assistance to Reznik and paying for his lawyer’s services.

Court in Khakassia confirms independent newspaper’s right to freedom of expression

By Erik Chernyshov, newspaper Karatosh, Siberia

The Khakassia-based newspaper Karatosh, which has two laureates of the Russian Journalists’ Union Award “For the Best Journalistic Endeavour” and one nominee for the Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” among its staffers, has proven before the republic’s Supreme Court that criticism as such is not defamation, even if it is addressed to government officials.

A staffer of one of Khakassia’s courts, who happened to be the main character of a critical article carried by Karatosh, resolutely denied his involvement in shameful corrupt practices and lodged a legal claim against the newspaper, demanding 700,000 roubles in moral damages. Karatosh, without hiring a professional lawyer, managed to defend its right to freedom of expression first in the city court in Sayanogorsk and then in Khakassia’s Supreme Court, with both courts rejecting the plaintiff’s claim in full.

The independent newspaper likely is to face more claims in the future: its editor has already been approached by some shady dealers exposed by Karatosh, who threatened to sue him for “libel”. Also, they urged the Federal Antimonopoly Service to require the newspaper to disclose its source and to present documents proving the accuracy of information featured in the scandalous publication.

The Supreme Soviet of Khakassia is currently reviewing a complaint filed by MP O. Ivanov, head of the Beisky district administration, about Karatosh’s “daring” to request information about his activities as a local leader.

In the past, too, public officials coming under criticism repeatedly complained about the independent newspaper to the prosecutor’s office and even to the FSB in Moscow. One of electoral committee heads in Sayanogorsk urged the police to seize Karatosh’s entire print run and start legal – up to criminal – proceedings against the newspaper. Yet not a single such claim was recognised as a lawful or well-justified one. “The authors stay within the boundaries of effective legislation,” the courts would conclude based on the results of their check-ups on those complaints.

The newspaper Karatosh does what the Glasnost Defence Foundation has always done – it defends freedom of expression on the territory it feels responsible for.


Authorities in Khabarovsk Region use media “for fun”

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Who and why is trying to establish a new “personality cult” in the Khabarovsk Region? Why has the regional administration, while facing a steadily increasing budget deficit, paid big money to maintain a “free” newspaper actively promoting its interests? Why isn’t there a single editor of a district, party, business or industry newspaper or of the region’s other most popular media on the Public Media Oversight Council the establishment of which was announced the other day by the regional government’s Press and Public Communications Committee?

Journalists have been discussing these questions in what few of the region’s independent media have stayed afloat to date. Mikhail Karpach, Priamurskiye Vesti correspondent in the districts of Vanino and Sovetskaya Gavan and a laureate of the regional Golden Pen journalistic competition, noted that in terms of scale, the promotion of Khabarovsk Governor Viktor Shport seems to have surpassed Stalin’s in days of old. “What the regional propaganda media want the incumbent governor to look like can be seen from the Regional News weekly supplement to local newspapers. Each issue of the four-page insert features a portrait of the governor on the front page, and often on other pages as well, including the fourth. Comrade Stalin looked quite modest compared to Mr Shport.”

Karpach called Shport’s press pool “worthless propagandists” who sing the governor’s praises without ever noticing the problems facing the region. Also, he urged the All-Russia United Front (ONF) to investigate how it so happened they found millions of roubles in the region’s hole-ridden budget to finance a new newspaper, Khabarovskiy Krai Segodnya (Khabarovsk Region Today).

Andrei Mirmovich, deputy editor-in-chief at Khabarovskiy Ekspress, commented: “The Press and Public Communications Committee led by Vladimir Chernyshov, 32, has lost control not only over the information space region-wide, but also over the actual situation in the media industry.”

Journalists have dubbed the newly-established Public Media Oversight Council “the ruling elite’s chat club” and “New Year’s gift for the administration”. For some reason, the new pro-government body that was established, according to its charter, “to promote the Committee’s interaction with civil society institutes and with the public”, does not involve the editors of newspapers that more or less regularly carry analytical and critical materials – Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda, Primorskiye Vesti, or Molodoy Dalnevostochnik. True, one member of the 15-strong board – Stanislav Glukhov, chief editor of Khabarovskiy Ekspress – has honestly deserved this honour by acting for many years as a journalist of strictly independent views. Evidently, the council organisers recalled that Khabarovskiy Ekspress used to be in opposition to the previous governor, Viktor Ishayev, while being quite loyal to the incumbent one and even receiving subsidies from the regional administration; that’s why they put Glukhov on the board – in haste, post factum, and without his written consent, though.

Regional court in Krasnodar to consider journalist Aleksandr Tolmachev’s appeal this month

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Kushchevsky district court in the Krasnodar Region on 29 October sentenced Aleksandr Tolmachev, a prominent Rostov-based journalist and editor of the newspaper Upolnomochen Zayavit’, to 9 years in a tight-security penal colony under Criminal Code Article 163 (“Extortion”), with an additional 2-year term of post-prison restrictions on his freedom.

“I think the sentence passed in Tolmachev’s case should be cancelled as unlawful and ungrounded,” the journalist’s defence lawyer Eduard Uskov wrote in a 10-page appeal. He believes even his own appointment to represent Tolmachev’s interests in court was a crude violation of effective legislation and an infringement of the accused man’s rights.

“When Tolmachev’s [regular] defence lawyer could not participate in the proceedings because of health problems, the defendant had the right to choose and hire another lawyer, but the court denied him that right and appointed another lawyer at its own discretion,” Uskov told the GDF. “Moreover, ever since [Tolmachev] was ousted from the courtroom on 13 March 2014, both he and I have been denied the opportunity to read the protocols of court sittings or comment on those. His ousting, too, was unlawful. On the very same day, Judge Ananich had rejected a plea by one of the trial participants for the court to order Tolmachev’s examination by psychologists and psychiatrists; and had written in the resolution that his behaviour was “adequate and matching the method of defence he has chosen”. Yet minutes later she ordered Tolmachev out of the courtroom until the end of the pleadings in view of his “breaching the order and impeding the administration of justice”. As of that moment, he was disallowed to personally testify, present proofs, or make motions in court.”

The way the defence looks at it, another flagrant violation of the defendant’s rights might negatively affect the course of trial and, in the final analysis, the sentence passed in Tolmachev’s case. At the state prosecutor’s request and despite protests from the defence, the testimony of victims and witnesses who failed to appear in court was read out. The trial participants could not verify the accuracy of that testimony. Meanwhile, two witnesses did appear in court later and retracted the testimony they had given during preliminary investigation, thereby calling into question the sincerity of all those who did not come to the courtroom. Those are clear violations of the RF Code of Criminal Procedure which stipulates that any testimony obtained by such methods should be disregarded as inadmissible.

The judge repeatedly interrupted Tolmachev as he was making his last plea, and put time restrictions on his statement, which resulted in the defendant’s failure to express his position on three of the four charges brought against him. All the victims in the alleged “extortion” case felt hostile toward Tolmachev, and each had a motive to belie him. For example, Ms Degtyaryova, a victim, had come under prosecution on charges of stealing money from the organisation with which she worked as chief accountant. The organisation’s leaders, Mr Gologan and Ms Morozova, who posed in the case as co-defendants along with Tolmachev, had insisted that she return the stolen funds. Instead, they themselves and Tolmachev were accused of extorting the money from Degtyaryova, and it is largely based on her testimony that the sentence was passed.

The Kushchevsky district court accepted as additional proofs of Tolmachev’s guilt several other sentences previously passed by courts in the Rostov Region – and this despite the Supreme Court’s decision of June 2013 to relocate the trial over Tolmachev to the Krasnodar region in view of Rostov judges’ likely bias against the accused and the possibility of their passing unfair decisions (see digest 645)

Tolmachev’s appeal has been submitted to the prosecutor for scrutiny, and all trial participants are to acquaint themselves with its content before 28 November, after which a sitting of the regional court’s board of appeals will be appointed.

Karelian MPs urged to cut budgetary spending on self-promotion

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

Deputies of the Legislative Assembly of Karelia have approved after the first reading the republic’s draft budget for 2015 which makes provisions, among other purposes, for the media coverage of government activities. The amount of budgetary funds allocated for this purpose, and potential other, more expedient, uses of this money became a topic for a dispute during the parliamentary session.

In all, budget provisions for “informational work” amount to 64 million roubles. Presumably, these funds are to be spent not on the government’s self-promotion (although this purpose, too, is secretly written into the budget lines) but on the implementation of all media projects approved by the authorities. Those projects are rather numerous. There is, for example, an autonomous enterprise called “Respublika Karelia News Agency”, issuing official periodicals, financing municipal and local newspapers, etc. Also, there is Periodika Publishers’, uniting six Finno-Ugric publications, the Sampo republican TV channel fulfilling state orders, and other media outlets. It is in support of all those media entities that the 64 million roubles has been allocated, excluding the maintenance costs of press offices or image-building events praising the ruling elite (those moneys are scattered over other budget lines and have to be searched for specially).

As a separate line in the 2015 draft budget, 10 million roubles will be allocated for the media coverage of the Legislative Assembly’s performance. In line with still-effective regulations, each of the 50 deputies may spend 2 million roubles a year on describing his or her work in the media. For that purpose, bids are invited for the fulfilment of state orders, and the highest bidders obtain the right to devote their page space or air time to reporting about parliamentarians’ work. During the Assembly session, MP S. Pirozhnikov suggested ending what he called “this senseless waste of money”, because “nothing comes out of it anyway,” in his view. Judging by public discussions in the media, the public image of our lawmakers is on the decline, Pirozhnikov said, suggesting instead that half of the allocations be spent on developing the parliamentary website, since no one has relieved the MPs of their duty to inform the public about their work, and that the other half be reassigned so as to finance the most pressing social needs.

Whether his suggestion is supported or not will become clear after the second reading of the republic’s draft budget.


Media forum held in Sysert

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The 5th Regional Media Forum was held at the Ivolga holiday camp near Sysert, Sverdlovsk Region, on 29 November–1 December, bringing together about 200 media representatives. The group of organisers included the regional branches of the Russian Journalists’ Union (RJU) and Media Union, and the School of Journalism at the Boris Yeltsin Urals Federal University.

By tradition, the majority of delegates represented district and municipal newspapers; mixing with renowned professionals helped budding reporters to better see the creative plank they’ll need to raise to make good in the profession. And for those already knowing a thing or two about journalism, that was an incentive to avoid clichés and not allow themselves to get “dissolved” in the timeserving, opportunistic routine.

Although “highbrow” representatives of Yekaterinburg’s media community – also by tradition – actually ignored the media forum, numerous successful master classes were held, actively engaging participants in sharing their ideas, discussing blunders and omissions, and learning from professionals about media development efforts, copyright regulations, and journalist safety rules. As usual, delegates vigorously welcomed a discussion moderated by RJU Secretary Vladimir Kasyutin, who chose “Regional Media: Content Transformation” as the topic this time.

Delegates had an informal meeting around a bonfire with the regional governor, Yevgeny Kuivashev, who told them about the Middle Urals’ concept of internal tourism development and the media’s role in the process. Local newspaper editors voiced their support for the governor’s recent instruction for the regional administration to think through ways of facilitating district and municipals newspapers’ involvement in trade networks across the region.

This issue was earlier brought up during Kuivashev’s visit to the office of the newspaper Alapayevskaya Iskra, where Editor Svetlana Vostrikova described the dire financial straits in which municipal newspapers are finding themselves today. Her own paper, she said, had lost a third of its print run because of the soaring prices of subscriptions through [the national monopoly-holding postal service] Pochta Rossii. The media outlet is now looking for new forms of distribution making it possible to restore and increase the circulation. One is to start selling the newspaper through trade pavilions.

The festival’s programme allowed for much more informal mixing – a meeting with the renowned TV anchorman Pavel Lyubimtsev; an excursion to the Sysert porcelain factory to learn the secrets of local craftsmen; a horse race; and a football match. Journalists will meet again soon, when the long-awaited regional House of Journalists opens in Yekaterinburg.

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
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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:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни