12 Марта 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 699

10 March 2015


Hopeful in election to top post of Karelia’s Union of Journalists loses job

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

Karelia’s Union of Journalists held two general meetings in a drawn-out election of its chairman in late 2014 and in February 2015. There were two candidates: E.Belyanchikov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper TVR-Panorama (part of Petrozavodsk businessman A.Mazurovsky’s media holding) was pitted against M.Tikhonov, director general of the news agency Respublika Karelia controlled by the regional government. We take a special note of the rivals’ places of employment because the main dispute at the congress revolved around trust in officials. Congress participants said both candidates could be worthy leaders of the republic’s Union of Journalists but it was the employers of each of the two that caused the same misgivings. Belyanchikov’s supporters claimed that with Tikhonov as chairman, the organisation would come under government control. Their opponents argued along the same lines, saying that otherwise, it will be run by private media business represented by Belyanchikov.

The candidates alternately won the vote at two general meetings and it became clear that none would be able to secure a two-thirds majority required by the Charter. Prior to the third congress in late February, each of the two rivals pledged to withdraw from the election voluntarily if he lost in the first round. Predictably, no winner emerged in the next voting and Tikhonov, who lost just three votes to Belyanchikov, dropped out as promised.

Thus Belyanchnikov came out the winner, whereas Tikhonov’s loss had grave consequences for him. On finding out that Tikhonov yielded to Belyanchikov in the election to the key post of a public organisation, his employees cancelled the contract with him and he found himself on the dole. Of course, there is no documented evidence that these two events were directly related, i.e. Tikhonov’s withdrawal from the election to the post of the Union of Journalists and his dismissal as director general. Yet it clicked in the public consciousness and as the media disseminated this version no denials followed. Apparently the authorities were indeed eager to put their man in charge of a public organisation of journalists, but Tikhonov upset their plans in a bona fide exit.

We might celebrate a victory over government’s selfish motive, yet the Union is apprehensive about the possibility of having to avoid the clutch of the businessman through his protégé. It may well be that the public organisation has jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

Court metes out stiff fines to pickets supporting Tomsk’s beleaguered TV 2

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Participants in one-person protests defending the TV 2 television company were fined 20,000 roubles each for “organising a mass action.”

The ruling by the Sovetsky district court of Tomsk seems to have put a price tag on freedom of expression for a Russian citizen, even though you voice your opinion not about government or geopolitics, but only about a local broadcaster. Officially, the authorities did not recognize TV 2 as a “dissenting” television channel (as we reported earlier, it was shut down allegedly for failing to come to terms with RTRN, the Russian TV/Radio Network, see digest 689). Tomsk residents expressed their opinion silently, in single-person pickets spaced 30 meters apart from each other, in accordance with the regulations, holding small posters in their hands reading “I’m for TV 2.” Two pickets – Ksenia Fadeyeva and Victoria Muchnik – were fined 20,000 roubles each for taking part in the action. The case against another picket – Yekaterina Matyskina – will be reviewed on 19 March.

It was an unprecedented hearing, and even bailiffs, when talking to journalists, admitted that they had never seen anything like that. Fadeyeva was told by phone that she had to appear in court two hours before the beginning of the hearing, while Muchnik had to come three hours in advance. Since no subpoenas were served on them, they could have ignored the phone calls, but as law-abiding citizens, they dropped everything (both are employed, and Muchnik has a small child) and rushed to the court. Judge Okunev turned down Fadeyeva’s petition to postpone the review of the case to the next day, explaining that the “cases where administrative arrest is envisioned as penalty must be reviewed on the day of coming to the court.” The judge’s words implied that the young woman had to be ready to spend ten days in detention room.

The hearing lasted nine hours. The court announced a break and then lapsed into musing (for 4.5 hours in the review of Fadeyeva’s case). In the meantime, the bailiffs, who had never worked so late, had to make phone calls home to calm down their families: “Don’t worry, it’s TV 2 that’s on trial.”

The court finished reviewing both cases just before midnight. The texts of the rulings, read one after another, were surprisingly alike, according to the TV 2 news agency. The only difference was that Judge Butenko cited a mitigating circumstance for Victoria Muchnik who has a small child; otherwise, she might have faced a ten-day arrest.

The court found Fadeyeva and Muchnik guilty of “organising a mass action”, i.e. the court decided that single-person pickets – despite the time and space separating them – added up to a rally. Both defendants contributed to “the mass picket,” the court said. Witnesses from among the police said Fadeyeva was distributing leaflets and posters to pickets and posted photos of single-person protests on her Facebook page: hence, “she was campaigning.” Muchnik, as police reports said, drove protesters to the scene, distributed campaign materials to them and even showed them the places where they had to stand.

All the witnesses for the defence testified that nobody had instructed the pickets: they came out to stage protests of their own accord and that nobody had urged them to. However, the court gave more credence to the testimony by police.

“So far, so good, they haven’t put [the girls] behind bars,” TV 2 chief editor Victor Muchnik wrote on Facebook. He believes that the court’s decision created a precedent for similar legal proceedings elsewhere in Russia. “If several people in Tomsk standing 30 meters apart from each other were recognised as ‘an organised rally,’ the authorities might as well assume that a random group of people filing out is a rally, too,” Muchnik wrote.

Interest in topic is punished by lawsuits in Krasnodar Region

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The Yeisk Sea Port management has brought two actions against the district newspaper Priazovskiye Stepi. In the first statement of claim forwarded to the Arbitration Court of the Krasnodar Region, the plaintiff demanded disavowal of the information in the editorial “Face-Off”, describing a labour conflict with the port administration which had been ordered by the court to sign a union contract. In the second litigation, the port administration protested the newspaper’s placing, by way of reply, the management’s view of the conflict side by side with the port union leader’s article on the same topic. Presenting the conflicting views together was the newspaper’s idea of complete and unbiased coverage of the argument between stevedores and the port administration.

The Yeisk Sea Port is an economic mainstay of the district and whatever happens at the port will reflect on the town’s socio-economic policy; hence the interest in the topic. However, the port administration was clearly not ready for public discussion and made haste to sue the newspaper. A preliminary hearing of one of the cases took place in early March. In an answer, the editorial office of Priazovskiye Stepi called the port administration’s move an attempt at direct interference in editorial policy, because the plaintiff’s statement did not name a single news item in the publication which would be contrary to facts. The plaintiff resents in principle the newspaper’s raising the issue.

Apparently, the port authority resorted to legal proceedings in the hope of discouraging Priazovskiye Stepi from writing anything about the port in the future.

Independent regional experts in legal regulation of mass media said litigations against periodicals that carry opposing viewpoints have become quite frequent in judicial practice of the Krasnodar Region and that they look like attempts to impose censorship.

District head in Chelyabinsk Region, Urals, in mortal fear of journalists

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Local deputies in Kopeisk, a district centre near Chelyabinsk, have met to hear a report on the results of work by district head V.Istomin. They invited journalist, blogger and GDF correspondent Irina Gundareva to the meeting. Some deputies believe that Istomin heavily censors the municipal media under his control and that the publications actually seek to promote him, while not presenting an unbiased picture of what is happening in Kopeisk to its residents.

Gundareva signed in and went into the hall, but the guards of a private security firm (why would a municipality hire a private security firm?) grew anxious for no good reason and approached her one after another asking her to leave as “she was not on the guest list.” The list is drawn by the Istomin administration, and accreditation would be denied to any non-local reporter, as there were such precedents before.

The journalist argued reasonably that she had the right to be present under the Media Law. (“The journalist shall have the right to visit government bodies and organisations, enterprises and institutions, public associations and their press services; to be received by officials in connection with information inquiries; to make recordings with the use of audio-, video-, cine-, and photo apparatus, except for the cases provided for by law”). Some of Istomin’s lists are illegal from the viewpoint of federal legislation.

A guard proceeded to grab Gundareva’s hands, knock on the camera and shout “What are you up to?” in a ruckus apparently raised at somebody’s order. The incident was unpleasant to all. The deputies who had invited the journalist, tried to explain that Gundareva’s presence was legal, but the guards had been given a clear order to make sure she stayed out.

If Istomin gives a performance report and has nothing to hide, why does he fear publicity? Is it because deputies might start asking sensitive questions which can leak to the press because of one journalist from Chelyabinsk, whereas the municipal media would never report them?

So what is Mr Istomin afraid of?

Karelia police admit defeat by hackers who crashed website

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

Stolitsa na Onego, a local Karelia-based news portal, came under cyber-attack in early February, as some 50 million inquires were sent to its newswire from 300 addresses. The overloaded server went off-line. It took more than a day to restore the website. Its administration demanded that the cybercrimes department of Karelia police find and punish the hackers.

Police recorded the website’s statement and replied a month later that “The website access data logs show no traces of malware which the purported wrongdoer used to ‘attack’ stolica.onego.ru with, and nothing warranted the conclusion that a rogue programme had been used”. For this reason, the editorial office was denied a criminal investigation into the cyber-attack.

From the very beginning, the editorial office saw political motivation behind the DDoS attack, and duly reported the fact. Stolica.onego.ru is probably the only news portal in Karelia which regularly criticises head of the republic A.Hudilainen. The website stepped up its activity after the arrest of businessman and legislator D.Alikhanov who controlled Stolica.onego. In the first comment for the press after the cyber-attack, website chief editor N.Zakharchuk insisted only on political motivation.

Karelia’s Union of Journalists immediately complained to police as it believed that the cyber-attack was an encroachment on freedom of expression, journalists’ constitutional right to collect and disseminate information and citizens’ right to receive this information. The board of the regional Union of Journalists demanded that law-enforcement bodies find and punish the masterminds behind the illegal action. It was not the first case in Karelia where “political and economic competition between groups and individuals led to such acts of intimidation against Internet media,” Karelia’s Union of Journalists said in a statement.

After the reply from Karelia police, it became clear to the Internet media that law-enforcement bodies could not be relied upon for protection.


Minsk authorities ban photography at railway station, Academy of Sciences. Journalists demand explanation

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) has asked the Interior Ministry to produce the official document banning photography of public places.

On 26 February, police detained journalist Dmitry Lasko from the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belorussii. Lasko planned to take photos of the illumination of the Academy building, BAJ press service reported. The Pervomaisky police department detained him for several hours. “Police referred to the resolution by the Belarusian interior minister dated 25 February 2015, which allegedly banned photography of administrative buildings,” the journalist said as he gave details of the incident.

On 1 March, the guards at the Russian Embassy in Minsk banned the journalists from taking pictures of the people who were bringing flowers and candles in memory of slain Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. On 2 March, independent journalist, BAJ member Dmitry Lupach with a Nikon camera in his bag was not allowed to enter the district executive committee in the town of Glubokoye. The guard said that entering the building with “professional cameras” was prohibited, per orders by the committee’s chief of staff. On 4 March, photojournalist Vladimir Gridin was detained in the Zavodskoi district court of Minsk in similar circumstances.

The journalists asked Belarusian Deputy Interior Minister in charge of public security Nikolai Melchenko to explain what was happening.

“Media outlets reported that you issued in February 2015 an instruction banning photography and cine-photography of administrative buildings,” BAJ said in a statement. “Referring to this order, police have already detained several journalists for photography at public places, thus violating journalists’ rights envisioned by the Belarusian Media Law (in particular Article 34 of the law on the status of journalist).

“The organisation requests to be informed if officials or the Interior Ministry’s collegiate bodies have issued any instruction on this account, and in case of positive answer, it would like to receive a copy of this instruction.”

On 4 March, the BAJ press service reached by phone Viktor Novikov, deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s information and public relations office, and asked him if such an instruction had ever been issued at the Ministry. Novikov said he had not heard about the document but promised to check the information.

On 3 March, Euroradio journalists tried to clarify the information on alleged photography ban. Minsk police chief Alexander Barsukov said on hotline that “nobody forbids anyone taking photographs [in this country].” He refused to elaborate saying that “hotline” was not “a news conference”.

[Yezenedelnik report, 5 March]


Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in February 2015

Attacks on journalists – 1 (Andrei Savchenko, former correspondent of opposition newspaper Den Sibiri, Irkutsk).

Instances of censorship – 2 (newspaper Murmansky Vestnik, Murmansk; news agency Ura.ru, Sverdlovsk Region)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist – 2 (Nadezhda Shcherbina, editor of municipal newspaper Azovskaya Nedelya, Rostov Region; Pavel Koltsov, Channel 41 reporter, Yekaterinburg)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 1 (Pavel Shekhtman, independent journalist, Moscow)

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 41

Threats against journalists and media – 1 (Jana Kiblitski, editor-in-chief of newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets v Serpukhove, Moscow Region)

Disruption of TV or radio broadcasts – 2 (cable television company TV 2, Tomsk; Radio Rossii in Omsk Region).

Closure of media – 2 (news agency Ura.ru, Sverdlovsk Region; newspaper Reporter, Saratov)

Withdrawal, purchase or arrest of print run – 1 (newspaper Chuvashia Segodnya, Chuvashia).

Interference with internet publications – 2 (website of newspaper The Moscow Times, Moscow; news agency PenzaNews, Penza)

Seizure of, or damage to, photo, video and audio apparatus and computers – 1 (video camera of newspaper Yartsevo-Nash Gorod, Smolensk Region)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 37


High rent forces editorial office to move into factory shop in Khabarovsk

By Anna Selezneva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The popular Khabarovsk-based newspaper Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda (TZ) had to move its office into a former print shop, as rentals soared three-fold from February. Konstantin Yegorov, the newspaper’s sales manager, gave the details:

“The rent pay for Tikhookeanskaya Zvezda’s offices has tripled since February. We’re now in talks over rent with the owner, the Khabarovsk regional printing house, and we temporarily moved into a print shop located in another section of the same building.

“We renovated the print shop but had to take out the machine tools. Of course, there was much more space in the old office. Journalists now sit in one room, and the old offices still accommodate the editor-in-chief, the accounting office and the press centre, but they, too, might move out soon. The new landlord, the regional state unitary enterprise Nedvizhimost, cannot hike prices because of its status. The newspaper, as all other print media, has increased its spending on plates and ink. There is no import substitution in this industry. In order to keep afloat, we had to begin cost-cutting, and changed the newspaper’s colour print to black and white from January.”

Denis Tsekhmistro, first deputy director-general of the Khabarovsk regional publishing house, said that although the rent had risen three-fold, it was still well below the market price. The publishing house is aware that private media earnings have fallen, yet the higher rentals are far below the commercial level.

“Also, we’ve reached an accord in principle that even if the newspaper runs a debt due to higher rent rates, we won’t press it and will even offer a grace period,” Tsekhmistro said. “If the newspaper’s financial situation improves, it can always return to the former premises. It can’t be helped: we’re all in the same boat. Journalists mould the public opinion, and newspapers should not go down, particularly in this difficult time. It is in Khabarovsk and Komsolmolsk-on-Amur that Internet media compete with print media, but in the North, people have print media only… Of course, we won’t supress media, never wanted it, and never did,” he said.

Lyudmila Boldyreva, TZ editor-in-chief, believes that the state should take a closer look at the economic conditions and to what extent they facilitate economic development. “The current situation largely stems from the government’s insufficient attention to home production,” she said. “We have not enough goods of our own and domestic production is poorly developed, including in the sphere of mass media. There are sectors whose overall economic influence is small, but some of them, such as the mass media, do have an impact. Therefore, this sector has a priority for the state, and the state should create and control general conditions on this market. For the optimum functioning of this sector, it is necessary to come up with a package of high-priority measures. These measures should foremost envision special taxation for media.”

“For media, an 18-percent VAT is absolutely ridiculous. The maximum VAT rate should be 5 per cent,” Boldyreva said. “A long time ago, media did not pay any VAT, and then the authorities introduced a minimum rate which later matched the VAT paid by all other organisations and all markets. This is not right, because each market and sector has its own specifics and development conditions. For some reason, this country only encourages the development of large business, and it is only large business that is entitled to incentives and compensations.”

Although the press now is taxed much as all other businesses, the authorities forgot to lift the bans on advertising, keeping media profits limited, the TZ editor-in-chief said. She also thinks that paper quotas are needed in the Far East for the development of print media, and that current conditions for the paper mills are too good, enabling them to export products to foreign states for hard currency. The authorities have to make sure that they reserve part of their output for domestic consumption.

“The final measure in the media bailout package is subsidies for the citizens wishing to read and subscribe to various periodicals. So far, the state has only provided this kind of targeted support to Pochta Rossii [monopoly-holding federal postal service], partially compensating delivery and subscription. Subsidies should be given not to Pochta, but to individuals,” Boldyreva said. “Northerners certainly need them: for example, Friday mail delivery to Okhotsk costs more than 20 roubles, while a six-month subscription costs around 3,000 roubles. Subsidies should be provided at welfare centres where people could file an application for the periodicals they want and have part of the subscription cost or all of it compensated depending on the social security level they’re entitled to.”


An action in support of Mass Media Defence Centre

The Russian Justice Ministry said the activity of the all-Russian Mass Media Defence Centre established in Voronezh by media lawyer Galina Arapova was “political” and ordered it to register as a “foreign agent”.

We support the all-Russian action by journalists in support of the Mass Media Defence Centre (see www.mmdc.me)

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.

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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