Дайджест
18 Сентября 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 722

14 September 2015

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Camertone Award handed to media lawyer Galina Arapova

A ceremony to honour the winner of the 2015 Camertone Award, established in 2013 in memory of murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya, was held on International Journalists’ Day (8 September) at the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire. This year’s award went to Galina Arapova, director of the Voronezh-based Mass Media Defence Centre.

The 2013 award was given to Kommersant correspondent Olga Allenova, and the 2014 award – posthumously – to journalists Andrei Mironov and Andrea Rocchelli, who had been killed in Ukraine.

Galina Arapova and her Centre have for nearly 20 years now helped journalists to defend their rights in different kinds of courts nationwide. Special focus is on assistance to small provincial media outlets that have no legal services of their own and are actually defenceless before local officials and entrepreneurs who typically lodge the largest number of legal claims against the press.

“It all started by chance – I could say it was my job that found me,” Novaya Gazeta cited Arapova as saying. “After I graduated from Voronezh University’s law school in 1995, I worked for some time in a realty firm. It was boring and I didn’t like my job. Then someone told me people from Moscow were looking for a regional lawyer to work with a daughter company of the Glasnost Defence Foundation. Such branch firms monitoring freedom-of-expression observance and defending journalists’ rights were rather numerous in larger cities all across Russia at the time. But only one has survived – the Mass Media Defence Centre in Voronezh. I found my new job interesting and engulfing; we formed a remarkable team of young lawyers. I am convinced freedom of expression needs to be defended, although many tell me this is senseless because no freedom of expression as such exists anymore. Yet I make trips to different parts of Russia to help courageous and honest investigative journalists defend their rights. As long as there are such people around, there is freedom of speech, too. You just need to defend this freedom.”

“My professional duty as a media lawyer is to help journalists defend their right to freely speak about problems,” Arapova told the Voronezh news agency. “It makes no difference to our Centre whether to defend large media outlets, such as Kommersant or Rossiyskaya Gazeta, or small local newspapers with just a few people on the payroll. All equally need help, and we know legal ways of rights defending. Therefore, our work is needed in, and important for, society which we help not to stay in an information vacuum. And one other thing I’d like to stress: journalists are remarkable people who are not indifferent [to the country’s problems]. I thank fate for bringing me close to those who think like me and share my vision of the world.”

We congratulate our long-time friend and partner and hope for further fruitful co-operation with Galina Arapova.


RUSSIA

Mass Media Defence Centre in Voronezh challenges its blacklisting as “foreign agent”

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Leninsky district court in Voronezh on 10 September resumed hearings of the legal claim lodged by the local Mass Media Defence Centre (MMDC) against the Justice Ministry which has put the public group on the list of “foreign agents”.

The court sitting was for the most part devoted to discussing Justice Ministry representatives’ request for the court to order an expert study of MMDC publications to find out whether they are indicative of the Centre’s engagement in politics.

Actually, the ministry representatives want two expert studies to be held – a linguistic and a psychological, for some reason. When the judge suggested ordering an expert study to be carried out by political scientists instead of psychologists, his suggestion was turned down, although the defence could not clearly explain why a psychological study was needed.

Curiously enough, the ministry officials, without turning an eyelash, insisted that both studies be held at their own, regional Justice Ministry’s Forensic Studies Centre. Perplexed by both the psychological study request and the choice of agency for carrying this study out, the judge invited the MMDC representatives to voice their own attitude to the two issues.

The court was adjourned until 14 September, when the judge evidently decides whether or not to order the requested expert studies, and further adjourns the proceedings pending expert study results.

The MMDC was put on the foreign agent list in February. Shortly after, the Voronezh Justice Department turned to a magistrate court asking to fine the public group for its failure to register as a foreign agent of its own free will. The court fined the MMDC 300,000 roubles, which decision is being challenged now. In parallel, the Centre has lodged a legal claim challenging its blacklisting as a foreign agent.

Blogger Vadim Tyumentsev, accused of calling for “terror acts”, to spend six more months in pre-trial detention in Tomsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Kirovsky district court in Tomsk on 11 September held a preliminary hearing of the criminal case of blogger Vadim Tyumentsev, thereby raising the question of a further extension of the term of his stay under arrest. As we reported earlier, (see digest 720), Tyumentsev has stayed in a pre-trial prison for more than four months, since 28 April.

In line with the Code of Criminal Procedure, when a person accused of a medium-gravity offence (as in Tyumentsev’s case) is re-classified as a culprit, his stay under arrest may be extended for six more months at the longest. The district court used its procedural potential “to full advantage”: it received Tyumentsev’s case for handling on 28 August, which means the blogger is to stay in pre-trial detention until 28 February 2016.

As we have reported, Tyumentsev has been accused of “public calls for acts of extremism” and of “instigation of hatred or enmity”. The FSB and Investigative Committee imputed these offences to him in the wake of two short video addresses he posted online – one about “peaceful picketing actions to protest the outrageous behaviour of fixed-route taxi drivers”, the other about “a need for expelling Lugansk and Donetsk refugees [from Tomsk]”.

As Tyumentsev’s defence lawyer Anton Ivanov has explained in his VKontakte blog, unless a sentence is passed in his client’s case before the six-month deadline, Tyumentsev will be released from the pre-trial prison where no one would be entitled under the law to keep him beyond that date.

The judicial proceedings are scheduled to start on 24 September and to be held openly, Ivanov wrote, adding that his client would ask the court’s permission for media reporters to use video cameras in the courtroom.

Court in Omsk sides with government official, not with dead child’s family

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Central district court in Omsk has reviewed a legal claim lodged by Svetlana Gaura, an adviser to the regional health minister, against the city’s judicial news portal Omsk-pravo.ru and its editor Aleksandr Grass. As reported in the previous digest edition, the lady official is claiming compensation of the moral damage she allegedly incurred through media reports about hearings of another legal claim filed against the Odessa district hospital (in the Omsk Region) by the family of a 3-year-old girl, Arina Ostroushko, who died as a result of medical procrastination (see digest 721).

Gaura wants 100,000 roubles from the news portal to compensate her “moral suffering”. During the trial she initiated, Nina and Vyacheslav Ostroushko, the late girl’s parents, volunteered to testify as witnesses for the defence, saying that Grass’s publications “accurately reflected the depressing and explosive psychological atmosphere in the courtroom”, created by the health ministry adviser’s “clearly disrespectful and tactless” treatment of the dead girl’s family. Other witnesses, among them prominent Omsk-based human rights defender Irina Zaitseva and Medical Law Centre representative Natalya Gergert, confirmed the relevance of these assessments.

Aleksandr Grass reminded the court of Articles 3 and 4 of the Declaration on Freedom of Political Debate in the Media, adopted by the EU Committee of Ministers in 2004, stipulating that “Political figures have decided to appeal to the confidence of the public and accepted to subject themselves to public political debate and are therefore subject to close public scrutiny and potentially robust and strong public criticism through the media.” Moreover, the civilized world believes this criticism is “necessary for ensuring transparency and the responsible exercise of their functions”. All those present at the court sitting noted that Judge Olga Ryazanova listened to the defendant “with an ironic smile”. She was right, in a sense: applying European legal norms to Russian realities is indeed ridiculous.

The court granted the health ministry adviser’s legal claim partially, awarding her 15,000 roubles in moral damages. Grass told the GDF he would challenge the ruling before the higher-standing regional court.

Regional court in Vladivostok upholds local court decision rejecting district leader’s 1.1-million-rouble claim against newspaper

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Maritime Region Court has reviewed a legal claim lodged by Shkotovsky District leader V. Mikhailov against Arsenyevskiye Vesti journalist Marina Zavadskaya, author of an April 2015 critical publication that the official claimed to be “libellous and smearing”; he demanded 1 million roubles in moral damages from her, along with 100,000 roubles for the publication of his photo portrait under the article that hinted at him as a bribe-taker, which assumption he resolutely denied.

The regional court upheld the decision earlier passed in the case by Frunzensky District Court Judge N. Yelagina, who stressed that “the boundaries of acceptable criticism in respect of a government official performing his public duties may be broader than in respect of a private individual” (see digest 709).

House of Journalists opens in Yekaterinburg at long last

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The life dream of many generations of Sverdlovsk Region journalists came true with the opening of a House of Journalists in Yekaterinburg on 8 September – a landmark event against the background of numerous – unfulfilled – promises by regional administrators to assign “at least any building” to serve as the journalists’ professional association headquarters.

Finally, in December 2012, Governor Yevgeny Kuivashev announced that Pavel Utyakov’s mansion (built in the early 1900s) in downtown Yekaterinburg near the Verkh-Isetsky Pond would be given to the reporters’ creative union as a “gift”. Although renovations took three years to complete, the two-storey house, filled with light, is now in full order, boasting a press centre, a library, a computer classroom, and several administrative offices. The building will be in special demand by municipal press reporters and will come handy as a venue for future festivals, presentations, recitals, and concerts. There will be a press bar as well, which is to open shortly.

Reporters for the region’s lead media attended the opening ceremony together with veteran journalists, and every participant in this “housewarming party” seemed absolutely happy. For example, Boris Lozovsky, dean of Urals University’s legendary school of journalism, said the Russian Journalists’ Union (RJU) “has nothing of the kind in any of this country’s other regions”. “To me, it looks much like the one in Tallinn, but the Estonian [House of Journalists] is smaller in size,” he said. RJU President Vsevolod Bogdanov, who attended the festive ceremony, agreed with that assessment and wished the local journalists to “fill the House with meaningful creative content”.


OUR CONTRIBUTORS

More about journalistic ethics: Scandal around Forbes Russia at Baltic Weekend 2015 international communications forum in St. Petersburg

By Roman Zakharov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

A scandal around Forbes Russia’s alleged publishing of a paid-up story is a good occasion to ponder over not only journalistic ethics as such and the degree of honesty of home-grown PR specialists, but over how wise it is for media outlets to inform the public about individual misbehaving journalists.

The scandal flared up on 10 September during Eastern Europe’s largest Baltic Weekend forum on international communications, annually held in St. Petersburg since 2001. A fairly well-known PR expert, Denis Terekhov, publicly accused Kirill Vishnepolsky, a former first deputy chief editor of Forbes Russia, of publishing a paid-up article for which he, Terekhov, “personally paid 15,000 dollars while acting in the interests of Aleksandr Gaidamak the billionaire”.

Vishnepolsky was compelled to defend himself by launching a counteroffensive and publishing in his Facebook blog a pretty emotional story that read as follows: “Some group of ‘black PR” guys sent a ‘mole’ – a girl student of journalism – to our office… who started by announcing she had a contact with Gaidamak. She wrote a complimentary and rather silly text that I had, of course, to rewrite and improve on… It was at that moment that the mole was unmasked – Gaidamak himself called me on the phone and shouted that they’d already paid those ‘black PR’ guys, who told him they [allegedly] transferred the money to me.”

The scandal is not over yet: Terekhov continues insisting that the article appeared in the form coordinated with him in advance, and that he paid in person to Vishnepolsky for it. The latter denies this fact, and his words are confirmed by his colleague Ivan Golunov, who, too, worked on the controversial text.

The question arises as to why this story was published at all. According to Vishnepolsky, its edited version was fully in line with Forbes Russia’s standards; besides, the editorial board had no time to replace it because the cover page was already being printed, carrying an announcement of the would-be article. Thirdly, the situation gave the editor the opportunity to speak with Gaidamak, whom Vishnepolsly calls “an enigmatic businessman” and sees the very fact of their conversation as “a big journalistic achievement”.

What conclusions are to be drawn from this? It is sad that Forbes Russia’s reputation has been compromised by a dirty PR “expert”. Even if Terekhov’s words are to be trusted, the very fact of a PR man offering a bribe to journalists and a famous magazine is no merit to him and is at odds with the various codes of professional ethics which – may many journalists be informed of this – do exist and contain some pretty tough provisions.

My second point is much more evident and should be remembered by any journalist: no “journalistic achievement” is worth a stained reputation. Though many liken journalism to the other, “second oldest”, profession (which is confirmed, at least here in Russia, by the “yellow” press and the propagandistic efforts of pro-government and near-government media), a good reputation is still “a must” for a member of the professional journalistic community.

For a respectable magazine, and Forbes Russia is undoubtedly one, a stained reputation may mean a loss of income through the loss of readers’ and advertisers’ trust. It is not accidental that its incumbent chief editor, Elmar Murtazayev, promised to look at the situation at close quarters.

And one other point in conclusion. It is no one’s secret that many try not to discuss their in-house problems in public, especially in “exceptional cases” like these. It is quite likely that members of the Forbes Russia team have discussed the behaviour of that “girl student of journalism”, Maria Petrishcheva, whose journalistic career after 2006 has been unknown. But outside the media office, some may have taken her for a good professional and a person knowing what journalistic ethics is and bearing responsibility for the words she says. In an environment where many people and many journalists have their heads and minds fully confused, you should not make a secret of your colleagues’ unseemly behaviour! Strange as this may sound, you’d better make this information known to the public (e.g., through posts in social networks or blogs), rather than discuss it among yourselves in smoking rooms. Here, too, glasnost may be a remedy against dishonesty and unscrupulousness.

Perm MPs “ration out” glasnost on quarterly basis

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region Legislative Assembly prefers to see its activities summed up in quarterly performance reports, as shown by the reply furnished to a GDF inquiry by Nina Bayandina, deputy head of the regional parliament’s Public Relations and Media Department.

8 September marks a year since the opening of two criminal cases at once over the private business of Fair Russia party representative, MP Andrei Markov, charged with embezzling a total of 4.6 million roubles. According to the FSB version, two companies under Markov’s control, OOO Novyi Vek-Agro and OOO Tsentr Distribution, presented a priori false reports to the tax service and then received unjustified VAT reimbursement from the federal budget. The FSB also suspects MP Markov of having been on friendly terms with Anatoly Doluda, deputy head of the regional police’s Economic Security and Corruption Countering Department.

After his city apartment and country mansion, registered in the name of his daughter Alyona, were searched on 8 September, the parliamentarian vanished from Perm. Earlier, on 31 August, the GDF sent Legislative Assembly Speaker Valery Sukhikh an inquiry in line with Article 47 of the RF Media Law, asking for information about Markov’s attendance/non-attendance of plenary parliamentary sessions since September 2014. As per the date of the inquiry, the Assembly’s official website only featured information for the first quarter of 2015 which ended on 31 March.

Parliamentary apparatus official Nina Bayandina’s reply, which came two days later, said that the requested information was regularly posted on the Assembly website in the Performance Results section, on the page “Plenary Meeting Attendance”. By a strange coincidence, the official website was updated on the date of the reply, 2 September, to include information for the second quarter of this year, that is, as per 30 June.

As can be seen from the updated Performance Results report, MP Markov missed all the three plenary sessions – in April, May and June 2015 – as well as all the previous ones since September 2014 – allegedly because of “service trips”. And how about the third quarter of 2015, and did he attend the latest, August, session of the regional parliament? To learn this, electors will evidently have to wait until the next quarterly report is published: Bayandina’s reply to the journalists’ inquiry hardly amounted to anything more than a purely formal, uninformative scribble.


NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2015 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The jury of the 2015 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues accepting works submitted for this year’s contest. The submission 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, 2014 and October 15, 2015 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 (Journalists’ Union of Russia entrance), Office 438, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’.”

For further details, please see www.gdf.ru or dial (+7 495) 637 4947.


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.

Contacts:

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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Архив
ФЗГ продолжает бороться за свое честное имя. Пройдя все необходимые инстанции отечественного правосудия, Фонд обратился в Европейский суд. Для обращения понадобилось вкратце оценить все, что Фонд сделал за 25 лет своего существования. Вот что у нас получилось:
Полезная деятельность Фонда защиты гласности за 25 лет его жизни