17 Февраля 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 743

15 February 2016


Russian defence minister’s visit to restored paratrooper-training centre near Omsk excessively protected from media attention

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Sergei Shoigu has visited Paratrooper-Training Centre No. 242 near Omsk, where barracks collapsed last July, killing 24 sleeping conscripts and injuring 19 others. Seven months after, Russia’s defence minister arrived at the place to check the current condition of training facilities and living quarters.

Though the press was not scheduled to cover his visit, OmskInform photo correspondent Tatyana Shakirova was tasked by her editor to go to the township of Svetlyi, where the centre is located, to take some pictures of the minister and his retinue – even if from afar – to make sure their closed event did take place.

To begin with, the journalist attempted to get through onto the centre grounds, but in vain. So she started waiting for Shoigu and other military officials to come out through the checkpoint exit; she was standing some 100 metres away, on “civil” soil, where any Russian citizen or even a foreigner was allowed under the law to stand. Yet some overzealous major, who refused to identify himself, happened to get alarmed by the sight of a girl with a camera in hand, and he ordered – in a “command voice”, as OmskInform reported – that she come up to him. Although she was beyond the training centre grounds and was not supposed to obey, Shakirova, wishing to avoid a conflict with inevitable allegations of a “provocation”, started walking in the direction of the checkpoint, although by far not as fast as cadets usually obey officers’ orders. So the major himself ran up to the girl, grabbed her by the hand, and started pushing her inside the checkpoint cubicle to prevent her from being seen by the minister and others, who might appear any minute and might not like the photojournalist’s presence. Shakirova, introducing herself to the major, asked why he was behaving so rudely. He did not reply but snapped at the soldier on duty: “Get her inside, quick!”

After that, the unidentified major phoned someone to report that “everything’s O.K. now”. Meanwhile, the girl could see through the checkpoint’s window Shoigu’s cortege passing by.

Shakirova did not turn to a hospital for a medical examination but posted on her agency’s website a photo of her arm with black-and-blues from the paratrooper’s iron grip.

The barracks in Svetlyi, as investigators have established, collapsed, among other reasons, because of low-quality repairs carried out by migrant workers, many media reported. The situation is indeed absurd: foreigners were freely allowed onto the centre premises to stay there for unlimited periods of time during several months, while Russian journalists are barred from the area altogether and are not even allowed to be nearby during a visit by high-ranking military officials.

The training centre commanders should decide, as a minimum, who they serve and whose security they must safeguard – their fellow citizens’, who pay from their pockets for the army’s maintenance, or only their own superiors’, none of whom, by the way, was ever held liable for the Omsk paratroopers’ deaths.

OmskInform has officially urged the training centre’s command to apologize to Tatyana Shakirova during the time left before Fatherland Defenders’ Day marked on 23 February. The agency has not received any reply so far.

Novaya Gazeta journalist barred from attending regional government conference in Murmansk

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

The Murmansk Region government on 9 February held an expanded conference to discuss “ways of developing social partnership”. As Novaya Gazeta correspondent in the Arctic Region Tatyana Britskaya had learned, a commission from Moscow, responding to an inquiry filed by MP Boris Kashin, arrived to look into alleged law violations by the management of the Kovdor ore dressing and processing plant (GOK). Britskaya had more than once reported about the difficult working conditions GOK workers complained about, which is why she turned out an unwelcome person at the conference. Having in advance notified Dmitry Ishchenko, head of the regional administration’s Information Policy and Media Relations Department, about her coming to cover the meeting, she received his detailed explanations on the phone why she would not be let through. Her references to the Media Law provisions allowing any reporter to attend these kinds of public events did not help.

Here is how Britskaya herself commented on her Facebook page: “A well-mannered official met me at the administration headquarters’ entrance to very politely drive it home to me it was Mr Ishchenko in person who had told him to meet me but not let me through, allegedly because they had ‘not announced the event and not invited the press’. Also, the man confiscated my old electronic pass which as it was had been blocked by that time. Now, a few basic points for everyone to remember: (1) Article 47 of the Media Law stipulates that a journalist has the right to visit government bodies and organisations, enterprises and institutions […], have access to documents and other materials, except parts thereof that contain data constituting state, commercial or other secrets specially protected under the law. (2) Getting accredited is my right, but not my duty, and the absence of an accreditation certificate does not cancel the rights given me under the Media Law. (3) Closing information to a journalist is possible only if it contains law-protected state or commercial secrets or facts of child adoption.”

She might report her non-admittance to the administration conference to the prosecutor’s office, Britskaya told the GDF.


District and city newspaper privatisation plan cancelled in Krasnodar Region

By Galina Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

Five years back, Krasnodar Region ex-Governor Alexander Tkachev issued Directive No. 249-R of 28 February 2011, “On Accelerating the Privatisation of Regional Property”. And as early as March 2011, the editors of all state-controlled newspapers across the region received copies of a circular (No. 53-479/11-07) issued by the administration’s Media Relations Department, saying that the privatisation of district newspapers was impending. “The Krasnodar Region Property Relations Department, in implementation of the RF President’s instructions and driven by a desire to exercise its official powers as efficiently as possible, has urged the regional Media, Press, TV/Radio Broadcasting and Mass Communications Department to take steps to have the state unitary enterprises under its control throughout the region duly privatised in 2011,” the “consequential” document said.

The regional Assembly voted for including the administration-owned media in the privatisation plan, thus kick-starting the process. On 12 November 2014, the regional Property Management Fund announced an auction to sell the 100% stake in the authorised capital of Periodika Kubani Publishers’, setting the initial price at 2,199,000 roubles.

The auction attracted two Moscow-based legal entities, OOO Anteis and ZAO Vektor Nedvizhimosti, and one individual, Igor Tarasov, who emerged as the highest bidder offering 2,299,000 roubles for the lot. On the same day, he also purchased the region’s oldest and most profitable newspaper, Novorossiyskiy Rabochiy. And in December 2015, Periodika Kubani changed hands; its new owner, Vyselkovsky district resident Pyotr Gaivoronsky, was rumoured to be close to ex-Governor Tkachev. He had never engaged in the publishing business before and was registered for the first time as a private entrepreneur based in the Karachai-Cherkess Republic as late as last July.

Since Periodika still is the publisher of 45 district and town newspapers, the question of what the local newspapers’ fate might be after the change of owners naturally arose by itself. The goal of any business is to get a profit. Meanwhile, the economic position of local newspapers across the Kuban River Area has deteriorated so much in the past two years that most of them are finding themselves in a deep creative and economic crisis today. Nearly half of them had operated in the red by the end of 2014. Actually, only 4 or 5 newspapers are able to survive in 2016 without financial support from owners or investors. The rest are doomed to drag out a miserable existence hoping exclusively for administrative subsidising. Yet no member of the Krasnodar Region administration has been bold enough to publicly admit that local newspapers as they are today are of no interest to the district executive authorities, although these are still trying hard to scrape together at least some money to keep them going.

The new Krasnodar Region governor, Veniamin Kondratyev, has in a way become a hostage of his own electoral promises. During last summer’s campaign, he met with regional journalists at the annual festival Five Million People’s Pulse, pledging to secure financial support for the district newspapers. Now news has leaked about the regional administration’s decision to suspend the privatisation of local newspapers, which means it will finance the so-called “smaller press” in the region fully by itself – or, rather, will shift this burden onto taxpayers’ shoulders while a priori cancelling honest competition on the regional media market.

Will the new governor’s team be able to overcome hidebound attitudes on the part of some media editors and make them employ new methods of work? Or will considerations of “political expediency” take the upper hand? Starting this year, the Krasnodar Region enters a new period of significant elections: State Duma elections this autumn; regional Legislative Assembly elections in 2017; and presidential elections one year later. The secret of local pro-government media “immortality” in the region evidently boils down to our living in conditions of “permanent elections”, when not a single politician seems willing or ready to put his reputation at risk by breaking off with the press – even with the district newspapers in as miserable a shape as they display today.


Guild of Linguistic Experts in Documentation- and Information-related Disputes celebrates 15th anniversary

TO: Board of Linguistic Experts in Documentation- and Information-related Disputes

Dear colleagues and friends:

Your Guild, widely known among journalists as GLEDIS, celebrates its 15th anniversary on 15 February. Please accept our heartfelt congratulations to the Guild members, your partners in the media community, and to your students and postgraduates who will have after a while to take upon themselves the tremendously important work you have been doing!

We are especially glad to remember that the very idea of establishing such a highly-professional association as yours was conceived in the famous “incubator” at the Glasnost Defence Foundation, where your incumbent head, Dr Mikhail Gorbanevsky, successfully managed publishing programmes at the time. This is why many books and methodological recommendations on expert studies of disputable media texts were issued by GLEDIS and GDF as good partners and friends.

We wish you new creative successes, including effective assistance to the Russian judiciary in passing fair decisions. We wish you peace and patience that we all need so badly today! The best of health and prosperity to you!

Glasnost Defence Foundation team

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
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