19 Марта 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 700

16 March 2015


700th edition of GDF digest released

Dear friends,

You have before you the 700th edition of the GDF digest, which means our interaction with you has lasted for more than 14 consecutive years since our first digest came out in August 2000, so you might say a whole epoch has passed. We sincerely congratulate you and ourselves on this benchmark date and our only questions are “Are you fine with the digest? Does it lack anything? What would you like to improve in it?”

Let’s congratulate each other and think about the future.

Take care.

P.S. Please forward your suggestions, if any, to fond@gdf.ru


Omsk Academy pro-rector puts freedom of opinion above his job

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

A former presidential representative has been fired from the Omsk Academy of Law for “disloyal” publications.

The pro-rector of the Omsk Academy of Law has resigned. Alexander Minzhurenko wrote in his blog that he had tendered his resignation at the suggestion of the rector, Merited Lawyer of Russia Yuri Solovei, who had candidly told him that he had nothing against him personally. Solovei warned Minzhurenko, though, that if he did not quit of his own accord, the Academy administration would move to oust him through a legal action. It is the only way for the administration to act, because otherwise, the Academy risks finding itself in disgrace, he said. It is a private educational institution which put a lot of effort into establishing itself and securing acknowledgement by the government: at present, the Academy’s standing is so high that some students’ tuition is paid for by the state. The rector said he had no right to risk what had been achieved by the staff over these long years.

Minzhurenko believes that the rector came under pressure from the “no-nonsense people” at least in the rank of general, who monitor publications on current affairs. They repeatedly warned Solovei that the pro-rector’s publications in the Biznes-Kurs weekly were “not compatible” with his office. The rector kept the author informed about these warnings. The article which exhausted the patience of the “no-nonsense people” was quite innocuous, in the author’s view, compared with his other stories in Biznes-Kurs. It explained how “public opinion” is formed in this country. “Initially, the state, using omnipresent television, cultivates ideas among the population, and then professes to study ‘public opinion’. That’s substitution and cheating,” the article said.

Even the “no-nonsense people” would find this hard to deny. However, there are doubts that it was precisely this article that put them out of temper. For example, another story, titled “Boris Nemtsov’s Murder. Or Execution?” might have rattled them even more. Its lead said, “Anti-Maidan, Putin’s brainchild, has begun to fulfil its key tasks.”

The author had known the slain opposition politician well and could not keep his emotions in check. On August 27, 1991, President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Boris Yeltsin simultaneously appointed Boris Nemtsov and Alexander Minzhurenko his representatives in the Nizhny Novgorod Region and the Omsk Region, respectively. “Every time we met in later years, Boris [Nemtsov] reproached me for stopping short of becoming regional governor,” Minzhurenko recalled.

But he said he had no regrets about his past or the lost position of pro-rector at the Omsk Academy of Law (of course, he wrote a statement of resignation in order not to set up his colleagues). He believes he has one crucial advantage over the “no-nonsense people,” namely the opportunity to freely express his opinion which sometimes is at odds with what “the public” thinks. He still enjoys that opportunity in his blog, on pages of Bizness-Kurs, in some local publications, and elsewhere.

The “no-nonsense” people must feel envious.

Murmansk officials bar journalist from attending indigenous people’s conference

By Aleksandr Borisov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Members of the regional Association of Kola Sami (AKS) uniting representatives of a small ethnic group living in Russia’s Murmansk region held a meeting in Murmansk on 15 March. The delegates discussed the only issue on the agenda – the election of a new president. Magazine 7x7 correspondent Yevgenia Volkova was invited to attend the meeting.

Hardly had the young reporter taken a couple of pictures when Alyona Martynova, head of the regional Committee on Interaction with Public Organisations and on Youth Affairs, came up to her and said that the AKS meeting was closed to the press and that a press release from the AKS would follow. However, as Volkova continued to talk with representatives of Sami organisations, she soon found herself facing Nadezhda Chuprova, head of the Murmansk Centre of Indigenous Small-Numbered People of the North, who asked the journalist to put away her camera and leave.

Under the rules, the Association can indeed hold the election of its new president behind closed doors. However, it is up to the representatives of the organisation to announce whether or not they wish it. The rebukes and requests to leave came only from officials who themselves were present at the meeting as guests.

Chelyabinsk firm accuses journalist of extortion, demands 1.3 million roubles in damages

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

A Chelyabinsk-based furniture firm, Mnogo Mebeli [Much Furniture], has brought against a local media outlet a defamation lawsuit that was heard at an arbitration court on 10 February 2015. The defendants were AlyansMediaUral Ltd. and ChelNovosti.ru editor-in-chief Igor Makarov. The plaintiff demanded that the information in the article titled “Much Furniture Causes Many Troubles to Chelyabinsk Residents” be recognized as contrary to facts and as defamation. Following are the lines which Mnogo Mebeli Ltd. moved to challenge: “A wave of negative comments about the quality of products and service, as well as numerous cases of barefaced fraud, caused overstock at warehouses and shutdown of several stores”; “Media reported numerous litigations against Mnogo Mebeli and its dealers over rent- and wage arrears and instances of undelivered furniture for which the clients had paid”; “The company uses intimidation against editorial offices or offers them remuneration which is then ‘reported’ as extortion to police”; “A sweeping shutdown of company stores is underway in regions; Mnogo Mebeli has been compelled to fully withdraw from the cities of Pskov, Velikiye Luki and Veliky Novgorod”; and “The rumour has it that RosSelkhozBank arrested Mnogo’s production shop and a warehouse in Saratov.”

The company said the articles carrying this information were “discrediting”, and demanded one million roubles in damages from AlyansMediaUral and 300,000 roubles from website editor Igor Makarov. Arrested for bribery after the company offered him 30,000 roubles for deleting the article from the website and then reported “extortion” to police, Makarov had spent some time at a pre-trial detention centre before he was placed under house arrest with an electronic bracelet on his ankle. Meanwhile, prosecutors have insisted on his return to the detention centre.

But the arbitration court pointed to some inconsistencies as it postponed the review of Makarov’s case. According to the list of registered media on the website of Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing public communications, information technology and the media], the ChelNovosti.Ru news agency is not registered in Makarov’s name. AlyansMediaUral is not the publisher of the information agency and never has been. Consequently, the above company cannot be the defendant in the case. If the plaintiff has evidence to the contrary, it has to place it at the court’s disposal.

Mnogo Mebeli also must submit to the court a written assessment of reputational damage, and the judge’s ruling thereon can only be based on this document.

Karelia prosecutors look into repost of hate article in social media

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

Last November, the Free Karelia group shared a link in Russia’s biggest social network VKontake to an article published on the webpage of another group, “Stop the Occupation of Karelia.” Those who clicked on the link were directed to “The Petition of the Karelian People.” The publication, in terms of its content, is anti-Russian and Russophobic but the fact might have passed unnoticed in the thick of other stories. However, the republic’s prosecutors at that moment happened to be working on a statement from Karelia legislators who suspected the group “Stop the Occupation of Karelia” of stirring up inter-ethnic enmity.

After a scrutiny of the materials posted by the group “Stop the Occupation of Karelia” on its website, a court hearing took place in January 2015, and both web resources – the website and its page in the social network – were found extremist. The court confirmed that the materials on those Internet platforms incited inter-ethnic hatred and strife. A linguistic expert examination ascertained that the articles showed a markedly negative attitude towards the Russians.

With the court ruling on hand, Karelia prosecutors waited for a month for an appeal which however never came from the website owners, though they had been informed practically on the day of the review that their resources were blacklisted as extremist and therefore banned.

Founder of the Free Karelia group Vadim Shtepa, when confronted by prosecutors, explained that he had not meant to disseminate Russophobic information, but only wished to present the position as stated in “the Petition of the Karelian People.” He said he himself did not support hate ideas and that he believed he had not violated the Law on Countering Extremism while disseminating the information, because the website was not on the list of extremist ones at the time. The ruling in question was only passed in late January 2015.


Police search Mogilev journalist’s apartment in defamation case

Police in the city of Mogilev, Republic of Belarus, have searched the apartment of journalist Igor Borisov, editor of the website Nash Mogilev, allegedly in a defamation case. He has never faced prosecution for libel before. Criminal proceedings were started under Article 188 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (slander in public speech or media publications), Radio Liberty reported.

The Criminal Code article carries the following penalties: up to two years of correctional labour, a fine, a six-month arrest, or supervised release. No details of the slander case are available.

The search was reported by local rights activist Boris Bukhel, who cited the journalist’s wife as the source. Igor Borisov cannot be reached by phone at present.

[Khartiya’97 report, 12 March]


Crisis vs. glasnost: cutting print runs, frequency of publications, and journalist personnel

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

All print media are now facing cuts in print runs, frequency of publications, media personnel, and pay. Some media outlets may be shut down. Oleg Kulgin, editor-in-chief of the Khabarovsk-based regional newspaper Priamurskiye Vedomosti, reflected on not-too-rosy prospects for print media and their staff and the first anti-crisis measures implemented by editorial offices.

“All print media ran into serious problems starting this year. A large portion of them in the Khabarovsk Region may be shut down as early as this year: they are inhibited by a softened advertising market, inflation and soaring delivery prices, so the media need urgent assistance,” Kulgin told the news agency AmurMedia.

Sales of newspapers and magazines are probably the key problem in the present conditions. The problem emerged a while ago and worsened during the crisis, and is particularly aggravating for print media. “The market situation is ridiculous: in retail prices, our share is 30 per cent, with 70 per cent collected by the seller who never pays the production costs: he just cashes in on us by taking advantage of his market monopoly,” he said.

The situation with subscription is the same: the state postal monopoly Pochta Rossii charges outrageous prices for its services. “Our share is 30 to 40 percent: the rest goes to Pochta for delivery and subscription services,” the Priamurskiye Vedomosti editor said. He believes that his newspaper suffered too because of these problems: “Though it was a painful measure, we had to cut the frequency of publication from three times a week to one, making the newspaper a weekly. We also cut the office space by half, and cut the staff and their pay. The measures hurt, but otherwise we would have closed. Our immediate objective is to keep afloat, live on till better times, and continue to work. Our austerity measures helped halve the production cost of the newspaper from two million roubles to one million year-on-year.”

If the advertising market had not collapsed, the newspaper would not have needed any subsidy, the chief editor said. In the time of crisis, media need more subsidies, and if such assistance is delayed, a majority of the existing newspapers and magazines might close with unemployed journalists replenishing the labour market.

The overbearing issue is the price of publication. The cost of newsprint, plates, ink and real expenditure to produce print products has increased 25 to 30 percent. For newspapers, it nearly spells closure. Another problem is that the crisis-hit advertising market has shrunk by three times. “Whereas advertising and related services earned us one million roubles a month in early 2014, the advertising revenue fell by two-thirds this year,” Kulgin said.

Even with the sweeping bailout measures at the federal level meant to ease the financial burden on the media with large print runs, a majority of cash-strapped district and municipal newspapers will get no support, as their print runs are below the benchmark 5,000 copies, having decreased dramatically because of the availability of the Internet and the complicated situation on the media market.

Krasnodar ministry spokesman awarded anti-prize 2014 for worst media relations

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

The board of the Golos Kubani regional public organisation has awarded the anti-prize 2014 for the worst relations with media to Igor Sturit, spokesman for the regional Ministry of Culture.

Sturit became the fifth holder of the anti-prize, called “Zhareny Petukh” in Russian, an allusion to the saying about do-it-at-the-last-moment persons. In a secret ballot, the public judging panel unanimously named the press service of the Ministry of Culture of the Krasnodar Region the winner. The consensus at the voting is easily explained as the president announced the year 2014 the Year of Culture. Throughout the year, the government paid more attention to this sphere while placing special responsibility on it. In its summary statement, the jury noted that the anti-prize was the assessment of both the spokesman’s and the Ministry of Culture’s performance, because the transparency and accessibility of the press service heavily depended on the openness of its director.

In early 2014, Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky spoke about the key principles of holding the Year of Culture in the country, emphasizing that “The Year of Culture in Russia is not only a chance to get additional funding. The Year of Culture will first and foremost help to highlight problems and formulate future tasks. Of course, powerful information support of all public events is an important and indispensable condition for reaching the key objectives. In this, media play a special role.”

“I suggest a series of video reports this and next year from various platforms including the Federation Council upper house of the Russian parliament, which would involve government officials of all levels, cultural figures and artists, to highlight the preparations for the Year of Culture and draw maximum attention to it,” Medinsky said. “We can give a powerful stimulus to further development of culture only if the Year of Culture becomes nationwide, if it involves the best creative individuals, cultural figures and artists, our museums, libraries, clubs, schools and higher educational institutions.” “Only then will all this make sense, and turn out good and proper,” he added.

It would seem that with this kind of message from the minister, the press service of the Krasnodar Ministry of Culture should have been more active in interaction with media, informing them about the public events which had already taken place or were in the making, arranging roundtable discussions, news briefings and news conferences, and reporting on regional culture’s problems and achievements. However, as Krasnodar journalists noted, getting even the simplest information from the press service of the regional Ministry of Culture was a problem. The ministry often failed to meet deadlines in written answers to the media, and what replies it did provide were often purely formal and obscure. With such a policy, new effective forms of work of the regional Ministry of Culture were out of the question. Much to the regret of the journalistic community, the Year of Culture 2014 did not encourage the press service of the regional Ministry of Culture to better work.

Throughout the year, Golos Kubani conducted regular polls among the media staff who talked about their problems in interacting with regional press services. The results of the polls were published in newspapers and posted on websites, and discussions followed. By the end of the year, it was not too difficult to see who “the winner” was, so the rooster figurine manufactured by the Etazh Novostei advertising and production company from the town of Timashevsk went to Igor Sturit.

The anti-prize has long moved from the sphere of professional journalism into that of public life. The winner is the press service whose operation fails to meet three key criteria: rapid response, reliability and accessibility. The main objective of the anti-prize is to stimulate the work of press services, reminding them that the implementation of citizens’ constitutional right to be informed should become a priority in their work. The conditions for awarding the anti-prize in 2015 have not changed and the contest is continuing. The founders of the anti-prize just hope that one day there will be nobody on the receiving end to take the rooster figurine.


Reporters Without Borders, a France-based international press freedom watchdog, has begun an action against online censorship

Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) will unblock access to nine information websites in 11 countries as part of its campaign against cyber-censorship.

The international organisation set up mirrors to censored websites using Amazon and Microsoft cloud services. Blocking these services is fraught with high economic and political risks for the states put on the list of “Enemies of the Internet.”

The action, called Operation Collateral Freedom, involves the following websites:

Grani.ru, blocked in Russia

Fergananews.com blocked in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

The Tibet Post and Mingjing News blocked in China

Dan Lam Bao, blocked in Vietnam

Hablemos Press, an independent news agency blocked in Cuba

Gooya News, blocked in Iran

Gulf Centre for Human Rights, blocked in United Arab Emirates

Bahrain Mirror, blocked in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

Operation Collateral Freedom is using the techniques developed by Chinese cyber-activists from the organisation GreatFire. Earlier, this group successfully set up mirror sites of Deutsche Welle, Google and China Digital Times, unblockable and accessible to Chinese users. Open-source- code GreatFire methods can be used by any activists to circumvent online censorship.

RSF urges users to join the action against cyber-censorship by placing in social media a list of mirrors to banned sites using the hashtag #CollateralFreedom.

Russia’s Roskomnadzor already has blocked 300 mirrors of Grani.ru. Access to the main website was blocked on orders from the Prosecutor General’s Office on 13 March 2014 for “calls for participation in mass events involving breaches of public order."

Simultaneously, the sites EJ.ru and Kasparov.ru, as well as Alexei Navalny’s blog on LiveJournal, were blocked for the same reasons.

In May, Moscow’s Tagansky Court turned down Grani.ru’s legal claims against the Prosecutor General’s Office and Roskomnadzor, and in September, the Moscow City Court turned down Grani’s appeal. The website then forwarded a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.

[Hro.org report, 12 March]


Saratov Region police report on journalists attack probe

To Alexei Simonov, President of the Glasnost Defence Foundation

Dear Sir,

I hereby inform you that the interrogation office of the Saratov Region Interior Ministry Department has opened two criminal cases under Article 166.2a of Russia’s Criminal Code over grievous bodily harm caused to journalists S. Vilkov and A. Krutov.

A group of investigators and operatives was set up to carry out an objective and comprehensive probe into the criminal cases. Its members are taking the necessary investigative actions and conducting search operations aimed at solving these crimes. Group members make weekly reports to the regional police leadership on progress in the investigation.

One of the leads is the professional activity of Vilkov and Krutov, however there are no reasons at present to re-classify the crime under Article 144 of Russia’s Criminal Code, as the interrogation department has not gathered enough evidence proving that the unidentified persons tried to prevent the legitimate professional activity of Vilkov and Krutov by forcing them to disseminate or not to disseminate information available to them. The investigators do not rule out that the unidentified persons’ actions may be re-classified as falling under Article 144 of Russia’s Criminal Code at a later stage of the probe.

To make sure the course and findings of the investigation receive due media coverage, members of the Public Council and Public Relations departments of regional police have placed an identikit picture of a suspect on the police website and the sites of seven news agencies: Vzglyad Info, Versiya Saratov, Svobodnye Novosti, Saratovinform.Ru, Obshchestvennoye Meninie, Saratovnews and Sarnovosti.

Due to high public significance of the case, the investigation is under the supervision of the regional police leadership.

S. Neyaskin, deputy regional police chief

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

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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