Дайджест
1 Октября 2009 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 446



RUSSIA
1. Chelyabinsk Region. Five bullet holes in TV company entrance door
2. Sverdlovsk Region. Journalists: in whose way do they stand?
3. Sverdlovsk Region. Editors forced to resign
4. Rostov Region. Court allows mayor to publish indefinite number of his portraits in municipal newspaper
5. St. Petersburg. Governor fears “idle speculation” in the press
6. Krasnodar. Trial of suspected attackers on reporters draws to a close
7. Vladivostok. Prosecutor files legal claim in defense of honor and dignity

KAZAKHSTAN
Journalist Ainur Kurmanov beaten up

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION
Some statistics cited

OUR PUBLICATIONS

Interethnic concord starts to crack


OUR PARTNERS

Andrei Sakharov Competition “For Journalism as a Deed” continues



RUSSIA

1. Chelyabinsk Region. Five bullet holes in TV company entrance door


By Irina Gundareva
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

Coming to work early on September 21, Zlat-TV staffers in Zlatoust, Chelyabinsk Region, found their television company’s entrance door riddled with bullets: there were five holes left by bullets fired from a gun of an unknown make. They called the police and questioned the security. To their utter amazement, the night watch said he had not heard any noise at all on Sunday night. The police concluded the guard had slept like a log.

The TV workers wondered what all that might mean: a warning or a chance shoot-out near the company building? Or else, a pretty logical development in the run-up to the mayoral election scheduled in Zlatoust for October 11? The position of head of the town administration is being vied for by a whole four candidates. This gave a clue: a few days before, a heated TV debate had been recorded and shown. Besides, security guards finally recalled that late on Saturday evening a group of men identifying themselves as electioneers for one of the candidates had knocked on the door demanding an immediate meeting with the company management – but it was too late, and there was no one to meet with them. By the way, that particular candidate was charged on the following day with releasing a fake leaflet on behalf of his rival. With the scandal in full swing, the police are investigating the circumstances as thoroughly as they can.

Journalists do not rule out that it may have been an attempt to intimidate them. “That seems quite possible,” Zlat-TV deputy director Anatoly Marmyshev says. “We do our best to provide objective coverage of local developments. Just a couple of hours ago, two mayoral candidates, who were having a TV debate, had to answer sensitive questions asked by reporters. Some may be feeling bitter about that; they would prefer to have us performing as their personal mouthpiece only.”


2. Sverdlovsk Region. Journalists: in whose way do they stand?

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

Until recently, the Sverdlovsk Region was listed among the Russian territories where journalists felt quite comfortable as far as press freedom was concerned. But over the past few weeks the situation has changed for the worse.

Regrettably, the youth newspaper Na Smenu, one of Russia’s best, has been closed. It used to be a training center for many budding reporters, now prominent journalists, and an active partner of the School of Journalism of Ural State University. During the past few years Na Smenu found itself pressed hard for money, receiving financial support only from UralTransGaz Co. which issued its own supplement, Trassa. But now the gas corporation is itself in dire financial straits and compelled to drop all non-productive assets, drawing a line under the youth newspaper’s glorious 50-year history.

The situation looks still gloomier considering the recent firings of a number of municipal newspaper editors whom the new heads of district administrations elected last March happened to dislike. The areas where editors have been replaced include the districts of Rezh, Nevyansk and Tavda; in Irbit, the editor’s dismissal is deemed pending…


3. Sverdlovsk Region. Editors forced to resign

By Irina Gundareva
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

A chain of scandalous dismissals of district and municipal newspaper editors has swept the Sverdlovsk Region, affecting about half a dozen media outlets. Significantly enough, the sackings began soon after new district administration heads came to power.

“After a new team of administrators was recently elected in the town of Rezh, the municipality has been in a flap,” a well-informed source at the Information Policy Department of the regional governor’s office commented. “People known to have been close to the previous administration have been given the bag by the score, including officials of the health care and education departments; now the municipal newspaper editor’s turn has come.”

Galina Musalnikova, editor of Rezhevskaya Vest, has never been known to be in confrontation with the new administration; she just had to stand up in defense of people who had started receiving notices of discharge. But even that proved enough for her to be summoned to the district leader’s office and warned that they were unwilling to work with her. Soon afterwards, when the editor was on the sick leave, the new mayor’s chief of staff called a general meeting to impeach her by a majority vote. That, however, was a breach of the rules of procedure because an editor cannot be dismissed by a meeting; the mayor must first file a written inquiry and then issue a dismissal order. Musalnikova has continued to work up until now, but who can guarantee that the district leader will not summon her again to his office “to talk things over at length”?

In Tavda, the future of Leonid Mezenin, the municipal newspaper editor with a 21-year record of work, remained uncertain for a long time, hung by a thread by Mayor Alexander Solovyov (staying in power for ten years or so now) who kept extending the employment contract with Mezenin for two to three months several times until finally giving him “a birthday present” – the dismissal, and appointing in his stead a man who had never worked a single day as a journalist until then. And this despite the newspaper’s having been fully self-sufficient under Mezenin and never asking a kopeck from the district budget! A wise move at a time of economic crisis, is it not?

Everyone in Tavda is certain the mayor’s decision was prompted by his personal hostile attitude towards the editor, since Mezenin’s newspaper had never actually criticized Solovyov much on its pages.

The situation with the newspaper Zarya Urala in the town of Krasnoturyinsk is totally different, but there, too, the dismissal of Oksana Prisyazhnaya, the editor, came soon after the election of a new district head, Sergey Verkhoturov. Once in his office, the lady editor was offered to choose between voluntary resignation and the prospect of being charged with financial malpractices. It is still unclear whether or not she had breached the financial rules in real terms; the editor just chose to quit without trying to defend herself, although she was offered legal assistance. Most observers agree the conflict was heavily politicized.

Furthering the trend, district newspaper editor Larissa Morozova has been fired in Nevyansk. A month after the new mayor was elected, the staffers unanimously voted against the editor’s staying in office, and the head of municipal administration only had to subscribe to that. They say there were no political underpinnings here.

In Irbit, word has gone around that editor Valentin Zhivulin of the municipal newspaper Voskhod is doomed to get the sack because of his uncompromising position: he took the liberty of criticizing a vice-mayor (who is also leader of the local branch of the United Russia Party) and accusing him of incompetence. In 2002, Zhivulin had already had an open confrontation with the authorities, with the mayor of Irbit telling him in response to a critical publication to get the hell out of town. But the editor is still safe and sound, and has continued to work ever since. When we called him on the phone to ask how he was, the obstinate editor said: “Before kicking me out into the street, they will have to prove I am a poor professional!” With the staffers backing up their chief through thick and thin, his dismissal indeed looks problematic.

Against the general background of meager support for the media from the district and municipal budgets and inability to help people cope with their financial difficulties, local rulers’ attempts to improve their public image in the press through editors’ dismissal and replacement with PR specialists from the number of close friends look awkward and altogether irrelevant. According to the Sverdlovsk Governor’s Information Policy Department, at least three of the five dismissals of editors in the region will be thoroughly reviewed in the near future.


4. Rostov Region. Court allows mayor to publish indefinite number of his portraits in municipal newspaper

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

With mayoral elections scheduled in the city of Azov for October 11, the election campaign is in full swing, with the incumbent mayor, Sergey Bezdolny, being one of its most active participants (he is running for another term). One of the latest issues of the municipal newspaper Azovskaya Nedelya carried a whole nine (sic!) photo pictures of him taking part in different social events.

Another mayoral candidate, Tatyana Fedotova, at one time Bezdolny’s deputy, seeing this as a breach of the regional law on mayoral elections (the publications were not paid for from Bezdolny’s election fund), has filed a legal claim for the annulment of his registration as a candidate. The regional election committee and Azovskaya Nedelya posed as defendants. It may as well be noted that ever since Fedotova’s claim was lodged, that newspaper has never carried more than five to six photo portraits of Mayor Bezdolny at a go…

The city court in Azov turned the claim down as “ungrounded”, stating that the underlying publications had nothing to do with electioneering, only describing Bezdolny’s activities as the incumbent mayor, and that this kind of reporting, including through featuring photo pictures, was not prohibited under the law.


5. St. Petersburg. Governor fears “idle speculation” in the press

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

The Government of St. Petersburg met last week to discuss amendments to the municipal law “On the Protection of Greenery”. The Urban Development and Roadway Maintenance Committee wants 161 green public areas within the city boundaries to be excluded from the list of the specially guarded zones, which means that all those parks and gardens may be destroyed to make room for housing or industrial construction.

In the process of discussion, Governor Valentina Matviyenko showed she cared not so much for how wise it would be to reduce the number of green areas in the city as for how actively the matter might be discussed in the press. “Make sure the reporters do not start claiming that the number of guarded zones is being reduced in the interest of investors; I don’t want any idle speculation of that kind!” she said sternly. It turned out some of the land plots were already under construction, which is against the law. But then, Vice-Governor Roman Filimonov gave it to be understood that the majority of those construction sites were financed from the city budget and aimed at building up the social infrastructure – kindergartens, schools and outpatient clinics. It is not clear, however, why the city residents should get all those very important and useful facilities built at the cost of losing some oxygen-producing green areas. The journalists, as we see, were strongly warned against raising this question in the press.


6. Krasnodar. Trial of suspected attackers on reporters draws to a close

By Victoria Tashmatova,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

A justice of the peace in Krasnodar is completing hearings of a criminal case about an attack on a crew of reporters for the television company Krasnodar-Plus. The parties are to present their cases on September 30, which is “a must” before a sentence is passed.

As we have reported, a road incident occurred in Krasnodar’s Yubileiny District on November 24 last year: a husband and wife with a pram were hit by a Hyundai Sonata while crossing the street on the green light. A crew of TV reporters arrived to cover the accident, but three men standing beside the Sonata – L. Pozoyan, V. Kovalchuk and I. Shumeiko – demanded that the journalists switch off their camera. Hearing “no” in reply, L. Pozoyan pushed the cameraman, and V. Kovalchuk gave him several blows. Then the attackers confiscated the recorded video cassette. Another team of reporters sent by the TV company management to help out their colleagues had had the time to videotape the scene of the accident and the car and faces of the attackers before they too were told to switch off the camera. Hearing “no” again, one of the men smashed the camera with his fist and punched the cameraman in the face.

L. Pozoyan, V. Kovalchuk and I. Shumeiko posed as the defendants. As it turned out, they are acquaintances of the driver who was only questioned as an eyewitness. Accused under article 144.1 of the RF Criminal Code (“Interference with journalists’ lawful professional activities”), they are in for up to one year of imprisonment or a large monetary fine. The group of victims includes senior cameraman Valery Gritskevich, cameraman Mikhail Zakhozhiy, special reporters Irina Kizilbasheva, Alexander Leonenko and Lev Konovalov, and Krasnodar-Plus lawyer Anna Likhashva.


7. Vladivostok. Prosecutor files legal claim in defense of honor and dignity

By Anna Seleznyova,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Prosecutor Yelkin, the central character of critical publications in the newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti (AV), has filed a legal claim in defense of his honor and dignity and demanded compensation for the moral damage he allegedly suffered.

The scandalous campaign against Arsenyevskiye Vesti was triggered by the newspaper’s reprinting a complaint lodged in the prosecutor’s name by E. Lazarenko, chair of Housing Owners’ Partnership Ltd., under the heading “Prosecutor Owes RUR 35,000,000 to Housing Owners” (AV issue No. 29). Yelkin demanded a refutation, but AV responded by carrying another article, “Teaching the Basics to Prosecutor Yelkin” (AV issue No. 32), which pointed to his unawareness of several newly-adopted provisions of the law. That caused Yelkin to urge the city prosecutor’s office to initiate criminal proceedings. On August 20, investigator A. Kvyk arrived at the AV headquarters with two subordinates to search the place and confiscate a computer and part of the print run of newspaper issues Nos. 29 and 32. He did not show his ID or make a protocol of the search. Furthermore, he called the AV office “the scene of a crime”, obviously referring to the writing of a critical article about prosecutor Yelkin there. AV editor Irina Grebneva complained to the regional prosecutor about the search in her office and arrest of the print run. Reports on those developments were carried by many newspapers. E. Lazarenko, author of the initial complaint and critical publication, was detained shortly afterwards as she was leaving the AV office.

Yuri Khokhlov, the regional prosecutor, who was required under the law to reply to the editor’s complaint within a week’s time, has never done so up until now. Meanwhile, prosecutor Yelkin has estimated the moral damage allegedly done to him at RUR 60,000. His honor-and-dignity protection claim is to be heard in court on October 19.




KAZAKHSTAN

Journalist Ainur Kurmanov beaten up


Ainur Kurmanov, a prominent Kazakh journalist and human rights activist, has been beaten up in Almaty, the Kazakhstan Today news agency has reported with reference to the Adyl Soz International Freedom of Expression Defense Foundation.

According to Adyl Soz, Kurmanov was attacked outside his apartment block by two unidentified men at about 9:30 p.m. on September 22, and taken to hospital with serious scull traumas and a wrist injury. His condition is assessed as “of medium gravity”.

“A. Kurmanov’s colleagues believe it was an act of intimidation linked with the journalist’s human rights and professional activities,” the Adyl Soz report says.




GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defense Foundation was referred to at least 10 times in the Internet, including at:

http://www.polit.ru/news/2009/09/22/simonov.html
http://www.epochtimes.ru/content/view/28600/3/
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,4711712,00.html?maca=rus-rss_rus_yandex_new_comments_2-4163-xml
http://www.lenty.ru/gosearch.html?http://lenty.ru/cgi-bin/gop.cgi?http://li.ru/go?http://www.newsland.ru/News/Detail/id/414227/@1138
http://www.lenta.cjes.ru/?m=9&y=2009&lang=rus&nid=13520
http://www.epochtimes.ru/content/view/28686/9/




OUR PUBLICATIONS

Interethnic concord starts to crack


By Yuri Chernyshov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District
 
The media community in Saratov is looking today like a field where a whole crowd of duelists are challenging one another in a bid to defend their honor and dignity, as well as – imagine that! – the financial interests of their seconds. This makes one think not of “the fourth branch” but rather of several “fourth branches” of power, with the group of victims including persons who have nothing whatever to do with the interests being defended… One of the latest such victims is Ivan Bryantsev, minister and chairman of the Public Relations and Interethnic Policy Committee of the regional administration and a member of the Journalists’ Union, who tendered his resignation on September 18.

Considering the circumstances that caused the minister to make as uncommon a move as that, his action can definitely be called praiseworthy. Ivan Bryantsev was one of the figurants of the so-called “Jewish scandal” that broke out on September 4 to instantly spill over from regional to nationwide level. On that day, the newspaper Kommersant carried an article by Saratov-based journalist Tatyana Nikitina “Saratov Rabbi Unravels Anti-Jewish Conspiracy” (in the all-Russia edition, there was a subheading: “‘United Russia’ Gets Implicated in Anti-Semitic Affair”), which said that Michael Frumin, the Rabbi of Saratov, had urged the prosecutor’s office to provide a legal assessment of several publications in the newspaper Nasha Versiya v Saratove and the magazine Otkrytym Tekstom – two media outlets which he thought were effectively controlled by the local branch of the United Russia Party and pursuing, in his view, a targeted anti-Semitic campaign. The prosecutor’s office promised to check the facts mentioned in the complaint.

For the full text, see http://www.gdf.ru/lenta/item/1/650




OUR PARTNERS

Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as a Deed” continues

The Jury continues accepting works submitted for the 2009 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as a Deed”. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as a Deed” is conferred on Russian journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values which Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2008 and October 15, 2009 in Russian newspapers, magazines or almanacs, or posted on web portals registered as media outlets. Candidates for the award may be nominated by both 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 Defense Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as a Deed’.”

For further details about the contest, please see http://www.gdf.ru/lenta/item/1/517

Contact telephone: (+7 495) 637 4947.



This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), http://www.gdf.ru.

We appreciate the support of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Digest released once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.
Distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

Editorial board: Boris Timoshenko – Monitoring Service chief, Pyotr Polonitsky – head of GDF regional network, Svetlana Zemskova – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy – translator, Alexander Efremov – web administrator in charge of Digest distribution.


We would appreciate reference to our organization in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

Contacts: Glasnost Defense Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, fond@gdf.ru
To be crossed out from the Digest list of subscribers, please e-mail a note to 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