23 Сентября 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 723

21 September 2015


Arbitration court ruling puts Khabarovsk-based news website on verge of closure

By Vladimir Dymov, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Over the two years of its operation, the web news portal Rigma.info has become highly popular in the Khabarovsk Region due to providing daily news reports, commentaries and interviews on topics of acute public interest. But now that its founder and owner, OOO MediaMax, has been required by an appellate court to return a subsidy of 1,732,767 roubles into the regional budget, the media outlet may be shut down.

The Sixth Arbitration Court of Appeals (presiding judge – E. Grichanovskaya), upon reviewing an appeal filed by MadiaMax Director Ksenya Isayeva, confirmed the first-instance court’s decision satisfying a legal claim earlier lodged against her web portal by the regional Press and Mass Communications Committee. As we have reported, the committee had meticulously assessed the number and quality of news reports posted on Rigma.info, and concluded that the news site was “in breach” of the existing agreement, producing every month from 88 to 110 stories praising the administration’s “glory deeds”, instead of 120 as agreed (see digest 713-714).

The defendant stressed that throughout the period until the agreement’s expiry, the Press Committee had never voiced any dissatisfaction with the quality or volume of the services provided by Rigma.info.

The court, however, disregarded this point, requiring MediaMax not only to return the subsidy but also to reimburse the Press Committee’s judicial costs.

“We’re moving out of the [rented] offices to continue telling people the truth as outworking reporters,” Isayeva said commenting on the trial’s outcome.

Novaya Gazeta correspondent barred from attending news conference at Kovdor ore-dressing plant in Murmansk Region

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

Novaya Gazeta correspondent Tatyana Britskaya was stopped by security at the gate of the Kovdor ore-dressing/processing plant (GOK) in the Murmansk Region, where a news conference for regional media reporters was scheduled to be held on 15 September. Earlier, she had likewise – repeatedly – been denied information by the GOK press office (see digest 720). This time, too, she was asked in the presence of other reporters to leave because her name was “not on the list of accredited journalists” invited to the conference.

“I came to attend the news conference because I had long been unable to get an official reply to an inquiry filed not even by myself, but by the Novaya Gazeta management,” Britskaya told the GDF. “I was covering a production-related conflict at the GOK and I needed to get comments from both sides. Colleagues told me about the would-be conference and I decided to go there, but the chief security officer told me he was letting reporters through according to an approved list of invitees. I showed him my press card but he still wouldn’t let me through, although [the news conference] was an open public event. My reference to Article 47 of the federal Media Law did not help, either. I explained that a security officer’s work description must contain a clause requiring him to comply with federal legislation, and since his actions might amount to a criminal offence, I called the police. The district police officer arrived and took me to the police station where I reported an instance of [GOK security’s] detaining me from doing my professional work. They are to notify me in writing about the results, and if they I find law enforcement’s reaction unsatisfactory, I’ll write a complaint to the prosecutor’s office.”

Crisis-stricken Oxymoron magazine in Omsk faces potential shut-down

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Omsk Region Department of Roskomnadzor [federal service overseeing mass communications and the media] has established “through systematic monitoring” that three Omsk-based media outlets are in breach of existing regulations. The media regulator advanced the most serious claim against entrepreneur Aleksandr Nemchaninov, the founder of Oxymoron magazine: his publication has not been released for more than a year now and hence may be stripped of its registration certificate, as a note on Roskomnadzor’s official website explained.

The 400-page journal tells the reader about religious beliefs and traditions of ancient Slavs, Russian history, and modern developments – from regional to worldwide, as seen in the light of the “Russian World”. Oxymoron’s chief editor is a prominent Russian satirist, Mikhail Zadornov, who suggested establishing the magazine four years ago, when touring the Five Lakes area in the Omsk Region’s north, believed to have been inhabited by gods whose offspring, Russes or Rusichi, became the forefathers of modern Russians. Entering into the spirit of those places and finding a potential business partner in Nemchaninov the publisher, Zadornov agreed with him to start releasing a journal the name of which is translated from Greek as “using contradictory terms in conjunction”.

Its reading audience is not so large and, evidently, not rich enough to compensate the million-rouble publishing costs, while commercial ads are not published in Oxymoron at all, according to Nemchaninov, who told the Biznes-Kurs weekly that his magazine has not been released for months because of the ongoing financial crisis which has stemmed the inflow of investments, and also because of a doubling of printing service rates. Roskomnadzor warned the publisher that “unless you present explanations and proofs of the reasons for your non-compliance [with existing regulations] before the established deadline, we will lodge a legal claim seeking to have your registration cancelled”.

Omskoye Naslediye and Literaturnyi Omsk – two magazines issued by the regional Ministry of Culture – received similar warnings. However, the drawbacks noted on their part are easy to rectify: all they need is to bring their output data in line with the Media Law requirements and “present compulsory copies of their documents to the ITAR-TASS news agency and Rospechat postal service”, and copies of their publications to Roskomnadzor, and to continue doing so in the future, after each new issue is released. In the meantime, Oxymoron may find it much harder to defend its right to existence – printing one next issue alone will cost it about 700,000 roubles.


Belarusian Association of Journalists marks 20th anniversary

“It is with profound respect and gratitude that we are speaking today of the founders of our organisation – those 38 persons who came to the Literary Workers’ House in Minsk on 16 September 1995 to establish the Belarusian Association of Journalists,” BAJ press office cited the anniversary statement as saying.

This and other landmarks in BAJ life – both joyful and tragic – can be found in Timeline, a release prepared especially to mark the occasion.

“We remember all of our colleagues who have passed away over these years, some of them not so long ago… Yet today is not only a day to recall the past; it also is a day to talk to each other, make plans, discuss and argue over things without which there can be no growth, no development, no society, and no friendship.”

“Corporate jubilee events are being held these days in the regions where BAJ departments operate. They have already taken place in Luninets, Brest, Gomel and Vitebsk, and are yet to take place in other Belarusian cities,” the anniversary statement says.

[Delovaya Gazeta report, 16 September]


Petrozavodsk court judge puts her personal will above law

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

The criminal case against two former agriculture ministers of Karelia has returned to court again, causing media reporters to re-start attending hearings to prepare news reports on progress in the “trout case” trial (the ministers are suspected of involvement in criminal deals). At one such court sitting recently, Petrozavodsky city court Judge N. Manenok questioned journalist Antonina Kramskikh’s right to attend the hearing without first letting the judge know – a charge the reporter warded off by stating that justice must be administered openly in Russia, and that the law does not require media representatives to notify judges about their presence in the courtroom. This remark, which sounded quite polite, nonetheless caused the judge to fly into a rage and snap, “I am the one in the courtroom who establishes the rules, always!”

Similar episodes had occurred in the Petrozavodsk court earlier too, and each time the Karelia Journalists’ Union (KJU) had insisted that an internal investigation be carried out; all of those probes ended in the journalists’ favour. This time, too, the KJU sent Aleksandr Sudakov, the city court chairman, a message urging him to closely look into the conflict and explain to Judge Manenok that a judge should set an example of law observance for the citizens to follow, rather than defy the law; and that Manenok’s statement about her personal will being “above the law” is indicative of her astounding non-professionalism.

As is known, the RF Constitution guarantees the citizens the right to be timely, truthfully and objectively informed about socially important developments (Article 29), which right shall be exercised with the help of the media, among other instruments. Hearing these elementary truths repeated again and again to judiciary officials is strange, as is the fact that Judge Manenok does not know that court sittings should be held with the doors open to all those wishing to attend, unless a special decision is taken on closing a court hearing to the public. Of course, each such decision must be very well substantiated. Provisions on the openness of justice administration are contained in the RF Code of Civil Procedure (Article 10.1), Administrative Code (Article 23.3.1), and Code of Criminal Procedure (Article 241.1). Moreover, the mechanism of citizens’ interaction with the judiciary is laid out in every detail in RF Supreme Court Resolution No.35 of 13 December 2012, “On the openness and glasnost of justice administration and on access to information about court performance”. From the latter document it follows that the judges are obligated to create normal conditions for reporters’ work in the courtroom; specifically, it is forbidden to hold court sittings in courtrooms that are too small to accommodate the press. A judge has no right to restrict a reporter’s access to the courtroom, while a journalist is not obliged to ask a judge’s permission for (notify a judge of) his/her presence at a court sitting.

In the course of the would-be internal investigation, which will be held at all events, now that an official request for it has been filed with the Petrozavodsky court chairman, Judge Manenok will have a chance to familiarize herself with the rules of interacting with media representatives. It is quite likely that some disciplinary measures may be taken in respect of her – similar to those taken in similar cases in respect of her wrongfully-behaving colleagues in the past.

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.


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