24 Декабря 2015 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 736

21 December 2015


15th annual Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” handed to Yelena Kostyuchenko

A ceremony was held at Moscow’s Central House of Journalists on 15 December to honour the winner of this year’s Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”, which 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.

In different years, the award went to people thought to be the pride of Russian journalism, among them Elvira Goryukhina, Anna Politkovskaya, Galina Kovalskaya, Otto Latsis, Dmitry Furman, Boris Dubin, and others.

The 15th annual competition this year attracted journalists from across Russia – from Petrozavodsk to Vladivostok and from Stavropol to Yakutsk. At the final stage, the jury selected the most impressive works by nine participants, including:

  • Alyona Kork, Vostochno-Sibirskaya Pravda, Irkutsk;
  • Pavel Kanygin, Novaya Gazeta, Moscow;
  • Natalya Yakovleva, Uchitelskaya Gazeta, Omsk;
  • Victoria Ivleva, Colta.ru, Moscow;
  • Valery Ignatik, Izhevskiy Poligraf, Izhevsk;
  • Nighina Beroyeva, freelancer, Moscow;
  • Mairbek Agayev, Chernovik, Dagestan;
  • Marina Zavadskaya, Arsenyevskiye Vesti, Vladivostok; and
  • Yelena Kostyuchenko, Novaya Gazeta, Moscow.

After yet another round of debating and voting, the 2015 Award winner was named – Yelena Kostyuchenko. The group of nominees included P. Kanygin, N. Yakovleva, V. Ivleva, and N. Beroyeva.

The final session involved not only the Jury members present in Moscow, among them Alexei Simonov, GDF president and Jury chairman; Igor Naidyonov, Russky Reporter magazine special reporter and winner of the 2005 Andrei Sakharov Award; Gregory White, Bloomberg columnist; Vladimir Voronov, Sovershenno Sekretno observer and winner of the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Award; and Pilar Bonet, El Pais correspondent – but also Jury members in other cities and countries. Taking part in the voting by e-mail were Miyasat Muslimova, professor with the Russian Language and Literature Department, State University of Dagestan – in Makhachkala; Tatyana Sedykh, Moyo Poberezhye editor and winner of the 2009 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Vanino, Khabarovsk Region; Yuri Chernyshov, freelance journalist – in Saratov; Georgy Borodyansky, Novaya Gazeta correspondent and winner of the 2011 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Omsk, Siberia; Susanne Scholl, freelance journalist, in Vienna, Austria; Peter Vince, the Sakharov Award founder – in Kiev, Ukraine; Anna Lebedeva, editor of newspaper Bolshoi Rostov and winner of the 2006 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Rostov-on-Don; Yulia Suntsova, winner of the 2013 Andrei Sakharov Award – in Izhevsk; and Igor Tsagoyev, winner of the 2014 Sakharov Award – in Nalchik, Dagestan.

All the finalists received honorary diplomas; the nominees and laureate – diplomas and monetary prizes. Also, diplomas were awarded to the media outlets that published the works of the winner and nominees – the newspapers Novaya Gazeta and Uchitelskaya Gazeta (Moscow), and the web news portal Colta.ru. The Jury awarded a special diploma, “For Reporting Consistency and the Use of Reliable Sources”, to DOSH magazine (Moscow-Grozny).


TV2 broadcaster in Tomsk can only be saved through crowdfunding

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

On New Year’s eve, broadcaster TV2 is again saying good-bye to Tomsk audiences – most likely, for good and all this time. The Tomsk-based television company has been off the air since 1 January 2015, after the Russian TV/Radio Relay Network (RTRS) unilaterally terminated a 25-year agreement with TV2 on relaying its signal. Yet a news agency of the same name, TV2, has continued operating online up until now – but is likely to be shut down, too, as of 1 January next year. Of course, one can hope for a miracle, but no “miracles” are known to have happened in our media space in the past few years.

TV2 chief editor, Viktor Muchnik, in his farewell address to website readers on 17 December, wrote: “Neither political nor economic circumstances are conducive to our continued operation,” although TV2 has notably expanded its Internet audience over the past year, and started up a few new projects – and this with just a few members left from the old newsroom staff.

Yet “the main goal – the news site’s self-repayment” – remains unachieved. The company’s minimal costs amount to 7 million roubles, whereas commercial ad proceeds to a much lesser sum; and it would seem that the state has nothing to do with all this today, just as it didn’t seem to be involved in the broadcaster’s liquidation a year ago. The agreement was terminated at the time by “business partners” who claimed “insulted” by the fact that the company – and thousands of its viewers – attempted to “politicize” the issue of a feeder breakage in April 2014 that took TV2 off the air for 45 days (while the media regulator Roskomnadzor was threatening to suspend the broadcasting license unless the company resumed operation within 5 days). It remains unknown how long TV2 might have stayed idle if Tomsk residents had not started a campaign of picketing actions and rallies due to which the burnt feeder was promptly replaced.

The Russian presidential administration, too, appeared to be “offended” by Tomsk residents, since it ignored the 15,000 signatures they had gathered in biting frost under a petition to allow their favourite channel to resume broadcasting (see digest 718); it goes without saying that Roskomnadzor was among the “hurt” parties as well, because it refused to extend TV2’s broadcasting license which expired on 8 February.

In August 2015, TomskMediaGroup (of which TV2 is a part) sent the media regulator the full package of documents required to obtain a new license. Few ever doubted that Roskomnadzor would refuse to issue that license; most were just wondering what pretext the state might find to prevent a disfavoured broadcaster from going back on the air – or resuming cable broadcasts, for that matter. Yet the regulator did not bother to look for plausible justifications this time: it just stated that the package lacked evidence that TMG founder Viktor Muchnik did not have dual citizenship (sic!). “It so happened I’ve never sought a foreign country’s citizenship,” which fact is well known “to the people in shoulder straps who have so closely studied the history of TV2,” Muchnik wrote in his blog. “Clearly, this is only an artificial pretext for not letting TV2 exist in Tomsk in any form. Should they give us a cable license, we would earn enough money to continue operating. But it is in order not to see this happen that they made all that fuss last year about the feeder, the ‘conflict of economic entities’, and all the rest.”

The Sreda (Medium) charity foundation supported TV2 by issuing a grant to finance a 3-year programme to modernise its news website. Muchnik is certain that the site would become financially self-sufficient over that period. “But we weren’t given those three years, and we received only a portion of the grant amount”, Muchnik wrote, explaining that Boris Zimin’s foundation (just as the Dynasty Foundation established by his father Dmitry Zimin) ceased existing after it was added to the “foreign agent” list. Local advertisers, meanwhile, have taken care “not to come into the spotlight on our website”, which is quite understandable: who would want to spoil one’s relations with the authorities, TV2 journalist Yulia Korneva wrote in Facebook. The authorities, again, do not seem to have anything to do with all this; they don’t give any directions but simply create a certain business environment in which they allow only loyal “organisms” to survive, while quietly and secretly “putting the plug” on the rest. The Tomsk-based broadcaster is a vivid example of the latter, and of what someday may happen to any media outlet, regardless of its honorary titles, awards (TV2 has 22 TEFI Award statuettes), or popularity ratings.

Yet there still is a glimmer of hope for help – not from the authorities or influential businessmen, but from good-hearted ordinary people. “The info about TV2’s likely final shutdown has been circulated online,” the chief editor wrote. “Many of our social network friends – and we do have very many of them, really – are persuading us to try crowdfunding. They are saying gathering 7 million roubles is quite realistic.” Of course, Tomsk is not Moscow, it has less than a twentieth of Moscow’s population, and people there live far more modestly – especially with the crisis going on. But it’s worth a try. The meter on the website is counting down days, hours, and minutes. “Whatever we are able to scrape together, we will work off honestly after New Year’s Day,” Muchnik wrote.

Anyone can make a donation to help TV2 out (just copy-paste the Russian bank details below):

ЗАО «Телерадиокомпания ТВ-2»
ИНН/КПП 7017002009/701701001
ОГРН 1027000906811/ ОКПО 20892236
Юридический и фактический адрес 634012, г.Томск, ул.Елизаровых, 51а
Р/счет 40702810974790000289 в Восточно-Сибирском филиале ПАО
«РОСБАНК» г.Красноярск
БИК 040407388; К/с №30101810000000000388, открыт в Отделении Красноярск

Newspaper publisher in Voronezh, accused by district head of “co-operation with neo-Nazis”, goes to law

By Roman Zholud, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The Voronezh Region Court of Arbitration on 15 December started reviewing a rather uncommon legal claim in which a newspaper publisher poses as the plaintiff, not the defendant. OOO Vestnik Co. Ltd., which issues the district newspaper Semilukskiy Vestnik, is demanding that a municipal district head disclaim a number of passages in an interview it sees as “smearing”.

In August 2014 the newspaper Semilukskaya Zhizn, which is part of the state-run regional media holding RIA Voronezh, published an interview in which Semiluki district leader Irina Kokoreva was cited as saying: “The newspaper Semilukskiy Vestnik was established and financed for a long time by Semiluki ex-Mayor Markov. After Markov was arrested, Vestnik started actively looking for new sponsors. It ended up in the past 2-3 months co-operating with a group of local neo-Nazis, one of whose activists has been fined by a court of law for [drawing] swastikas on house walls in the city.” Also, she called ex-Mayor Markov “Vestnik’s main sponsor”, and noted that “back in July, Semiluki Publishers’, the founder of Semilukskiy Vestnik, decided to shut that newspaper down…”

The publishing company sees the above statements and phrases as untrue and damaging to its business reputation. It insists that its connections with the former mayor of Semiluki, who was convicted of a fraud attempt in 2014, are fictitious, as are its alleged relationships with neo-Nazis and the decision on the newspaper’s shutdown. According to Vestnik, the spread of that libellous information has led to a shrinkage of its circulation and advertiser pool.

The company wants a disclaimer and 40,000 roubles in reputational damages from the defendant.

Magistrate court in Krasnodar convicts and immediately amnesties journalist

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

A judge of the peace at Magistracy No. 24 in the city of Krasnodar has passed a decision in the case of local journalist Anna Mamayenko, a long-time contributor to the newspaper Tainoye I Yavnoye and other media.

We have already reported about criminal proceedings started against Mamayenko on charges of damaging other persons’ property (see digest 727). According to Anna, late on 25 February this year, two unknown men suddenly attacked her on a city street and started pushing her into a vehicle. She offered resistance and, in the heat of the struggle, she scratched their car with a kick. As it turned out later, the car belonged to bailiffs, who lodged a legal claim against Mamayenko in a bid to have her pay for the repairs.

The story became widely known, much so due to Anna’s own work as a blogger. A solidarity campaign was announced, with residents signing a petition in her support. Finally, the magistrate on 12 December fined Mamayenko for damaging the bailiffs’ car but amnestied her there and then.

The lady journalist nevertheless intends to challenge the convictive sentence as unfair, as she wrote in her social network blog.

Provincial politician in Perm pelts newspaper with lawsuits

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Dmitry Skrivanov, a deputy of the Perm Region Legislative Assembly, has lodged six legal claims against local media and is preparing a seventh, as announced on 16 December in the Leninsky district court in Perm during a hearing of his claim against OOO Megapolis, otherwise known as the newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets v Permi (MKP).

We reported on the provincial MP’s litigations with journalists in digests 730 and 735. The 5 June MKP article “FRM: Dmitry Skrivanov’s New Fiasco”, too, gave rise to a judicial dispute. The claimant, who not so long ago worked as head of the Monotown Development Fund (FRM) in Moscow, happened to dislike the heading and six phrases, including, “One of the Perm Region’s most conflict-prone MPs held his Moscow post for a record short time, for just a few months, without seeing through to the end a single serious project”; and “In 2011, as regional coordinator of the All-Russia Popular Front, Skrivanov had worked for only three months before he was replaced on orders from the Office of the Presidential Permanent Representative. That time, he was fired without any diplomatically-worded pretexts or thank-you letters written in advance.”

Skrivanov wants the heading and the six phrases to be removed from the newspaper’s website and 100,000 roubles – the amount he usually claims – to be paid to him in moral damages.

Critical newspaper reporters barred from attending “business Mondays” in Kazan mayor’s office

The fact that no accreditation is required for the press to attend these kinds of public events did not stop chief mayoral spokesman Sergei Lobov recently from ejecting a Vechernyaya Kazan (VK) reporter from the conference room with the words, “Go tell your newspaper head-manager I threw you out!”

While publicly declaring Kazan as “Russia’s third-largest cultural capital” which has “long lived in line with European standards”, the municipal authorities have actually behaved like mediaeval feudal lords, who trample down the law though knowing all too well that a clerk’s instruction to bar Vechernyaya Kazan from covering a business conference will restrict people’s right to be informed through the city’s single most popular newspaper with the largest circulation.

Not so long ago, residents of Tatarstan’s capital were appalled by the felling of trees in an old downtown park near Kazan University – the city administration had approved a plan to build an elite parking lot there. Naturally, the independent newspaper sharply criticized the project, as it always does when officials start feeling too free to do whatever they like. It is only due to President Minnikhanov’s interference that the park was saved from destruction. Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin at the time hastened to announce that he would invariably consult with residents each time before making important decisions in the future – such as on the felling of trees. This pledge is hard to believe, considering the ban on the coverage of “business Mondays” for reporters of a newspaper that is bold enough to speak the truth to its readers about arbitrary actions by the city authorities.

“Our bay named Kazan is much quieter now,” Mayor Metshin has written as a kind of epigraph on his official website – evidently expecting that with that ban imposed, reporters will bother him less. Well, good for him – but definitely not for residents of Tatarstan, who have thus been deprived of their right to receive truthful information.


Media forum in Pyatigorsk discusses “journalism at a time of total fear”

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

The city of Pyatigorsk has played host to the Third Forum of the North Caucasian Media which brought together more than 700 representatives of 150 media outlets across the region. Compared to last year, when a group of militants burned the Republican Press House in downtown Grozny on the eve of the media forum, the discussions proceeded in a much calmer atmosphere.

But the problems under discussion were as alarming as ever. Maxim Shevchenko, chief editor of KavPolit and a member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, reminded the audience that not a single high-resonance journalist murder has been solved in the North Caucasus. He read out the names of the victims: Timur Kuashev and Kazbek Gekkiyev of Kabardio-Balkaria; Zaghir Arukhov, Hajimurat Kamalov, Maksud Sadikov and Malik Akhmedilov of Dagestan; Natalya Estemirova of Chechnya, and many others.

The criminal probe into the killing of Timur Kuashev has been closed altogether, although the victim’s father, a Merited Investigator of the Soviet Union, found numerous procedural violations accompanying the investigation: some key witnesses were never questioned; not all of the necessary forensic expert studies were carried out, etc., Shevchenko said. No full-scale investigations into the murder cases of Kazbek Gekkiyev, reporter for the Nalchik State TV/Radio Company, or Magomed Yevloyev, chief editor of the Ingushetia.ru news website, ever took place. The perpetrators’ names have never been made public.

At a recent meeting of Council members with President Putin, Shevchenko proposed several measures that might help protect freelance journalists, he told the delegates. First, to amend the Criminal Code so as to equalize a journalist’s killing with that of a statesman or a public official. Second, transfer the journalists’ murder cases for handling from republican investigators to those at the level of the Central Investigative Committee, which should ensure operative oversight from the FSB.

Speakers representing government bodies said that unlike federal media which devoted half of the North Caucasus news content to catastrophes (reports about terrorist acts, crime, and corruption), they, for their part, intended to “generate positive news content” about the North Caucasian Federal District. Striking the same note, TASS Deputy Director Konstantin Parshin said that his news agency had launched a project named “TASS-Caucasus”, intended to bring “positive” regional news reports up to the federal level.

Delegates also spoke about the atmosphere of total fear preventing reporters from putting sensitive questions to top-ranking officials; they argued about the “dividing line” between criticism and provocation, PR and informing, and how information vacuum contributed to the increased activity of provocateurs and manipulators. Quite unexpectedly, Igor Barinov, head of the Federal Agency for Inter-ethnic Affairs (FADN), by way of advising where to look for representatives of the latter group, pointed to the Dagestani newspaper Chernovik, charging it with “popularizing” terrorism and thus “taking an anti-government stance”.

Sadly enough, Chernovik representatives did not respond to that challenge, thus once again showing that “an atmosphere of total fear” is quite a meaningful phrase.

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