22 Октября 2009 года


Election-related scandals

1. Rostov Region. Duplicate newspapers released on eve of elections
2. Moscow/St. Petersburg. News programs to become fewer?
3. Tula. Prosecutor’s office issues warning to Emergency Situations Ministry department
4. Krasnodar. Suspected attackers on journalists convicted
5. Sverdlovsk Region. Media market trends
6. St. Petersburg. Identities mixed up

Chechen reporter detained


Some statistics cited

First online media festival held

RosKomNadzor address to media


Election-related scandals

The latest elections in Russia were, as before, pretty scandalous: vote rigging was reported from many regions, and all State Duma factions except United Russia walked out last Wednesday in protest against the results of October 11 elections and demanded a nationwide re-count of votes.

Quite as usual, reporters were barred from some polling stations on such dubious pretexts as “You should have got accredited in advance”, “This is a closed area” or “We know nothing about your newspaper”. Protests were simply disregarded.

In some cities, however, passions went too high by any Russian standards. In Astrakhan, journalists Vyacheslav Yashchenko of the Caucasian Knot news agency and Oleg Teplishchev of the newspaper Zhitel were not let through to a polling station but, before leaving, they managed to shoot a few sequences of their encounter with security guards. Just a few blocks away, a group of sturdy young men led by someone wearing a deputy’s badge caught up with them to demand that the video recording be erased. In the process, the reporters suffered some bodily damage. Fortunately, Yashchenko’s dictaphone was switched on, producing an audio recording that will serve as evidence in the lawsuit to be lodged by the victims against the attackers.

In Derbent, Dagestan, people in camouflage uniform fired shots in the air and confiscated video cameras from REN-TV and TV Makhachkala crews of reporters who then turned for help to the law enforcers, and soon the TV equipment was found (a miraculous thing, wasn’t it?) in a roadside garbage bag…

Notably, in all those conflicts journalists’ opponents felt quite self-confident, as if it was not they who were breaking the law.

The question is why reporters continue to be barred from polling stations. One may suspect that normal ballot casting is combined there with some secret activities that need to be kept away from outsiders’ eyes…

As a result, elections have been turning into a kind of entertainment show, with ever fewer people taking them seriously. Isn’t it time for Mr. Churov, head of the Central Electoral Commission, to tender his resignation? Or at least shave off his beard, as he promised at one time?



1. Rostov Region. Duplicate newspapers released on eve of elections

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The newspaper Chitai-Telenedelya, the most popular one in the town of Azov, has been issued for ten years now, often carrying sharply critical stuff and readers’ comments on matters of local importance. More than a year ago, a rival newspaper, Chitai-Azov, began to be released by businessman Timur Chumak, copying the original newspaper’s general design and make-up and seeing it as its main task to keep attacking Chitai-Telenedelya and its founder Yuri Golubev.

“It has often gone as far as personal insults to me and even my wife. One of the issues of Chitai-Azov featured my photo picture next to Hitler’s and excerpts from ‘Mein Kampf’ as an alleged proof of my pro-fascist ideological stand. After I complained to the prosecutor’s office, they issued a warning to Chitai-Azov,” Y. Golubev told the GDF correspondent a year ago (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/227#pub1). After that, T. Chumak kept a low profile for a few months, only to resume the release of his newspaper shortly before the October 11 mayoral and municipal elections in Azov, this time targeting, apart from Golubev, the opposition candidates from the Communist Party and Fair Russia.

True as ever to his editorial style, Chumak kept insulting his political opponents while praising the United Russia nominees. He called Golubev “a clown”, “a lunatic” and “a socially dangerous madman”. Insults aside, by featuring those publications in his newspaper during an election campaign Chumak clearly breached federal and regional electoral legislation because any publications for or against a candidate are only allowed if they are paid for from one of the candidates’ election fund. No reference of this kind was ever made in Chitai-Azov publications.

“We reported that fact to the city police which launched an investigation and submitted the facts for consideration to a justice of the peace,” Anatoly Pshenichny, head of the Azov Electoral Commission, told the GDF correspondent. In line with Article 5.12 of the RF Administrative Code, the release, distribution or placement of electioneering materials in violation of the Law on Elections and Referendums by an ordinary citizen is punishable by a fine of RUR 1,000 to RUR 1,500; by a government official – by a fine of RUR 2,000 to RUR 3,000; and by a legal entity – by a fine of RUR 50,000 to RUR 100,000. However, T. Chumak was smart enough at one time to register himself as an individual publisher, not a publishing company. 

Hearings of his case are scheduled to open shortly. Meanwhile, the Rostov Region Department of the RF Federal Antimonopoly Service has charged Chutai-Azov RUR 20,000 in fine for a breach of the advertising law and for unfair competition. It may well be that the newspaper will not be released temporarily – until the next election.

2. Moscow/St. Petersburg. News programs to become fewer?

As announced last week, the REN-TV and Channel Five networks in St. Petersburg will cease showing their own news programs and start relaying those produced by the government-controlled television channel Russia Today, which means that the last few independent news sources will be closed.

Colleagues have come up with expressions of concern that seem quite understandable. “We habitually start worrying whenever we hear bad news. No one ever thinks of saying: ‘That just can’t happen!’ Because any really wild thing can happen; the question is only when, where and to whom. That’s what the freedom-of-expression situation looks like in today’s Russia,” GDF President Alexei Simonov has told The Voice of America.

But then, the REN-TV management shortly afterwards refuted the reports about its curtailing its own news program production. According to the network’s press spokesman Anton Nazarov, under consideration is only the possibility of merging the two companies’ news services which both belong within the National Media Group. Meanwhile, REN-TV news presenter Marianna Maksimovskaya has told Grani.ru that she is “absolutely convinced REN-TV’s information policy will remain unchanged in the near future”. And, according to A. Nazarov, Russia Today will only provide technical support for REN-TV and Channel Five.

But journalists in St. Petersburg are looking at the situation differently. They have already prepared an appeal to Russia’s top leaders asking to prevent any organizational change to their company that may lead to “the emergence of yet another commercial Moscow-based channel that will cause St. Petersburg to keep silent again”.

So it looks like independent news programs on TV are going to become fewer, after all, causing the media’s freedom-of-expression area to shrink further…

3. Tula. Prosecutor’s office issues warning to Emergency Situations Ministry department

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

After a number of newspapers in Tula carried an article titled “Cleaning Up, Tula-Style” that described the poor performance of Emergency Situations Ministry servicemen while liquidating the aftermath of a major fire, the ESM press service got “insulted” and sent all the media outlets notices of its intention, in connection with a publication “damaging the honor and dignity of fire-fighters”, to share any information with the journalists only upon its receipt of prior written inquiries.

The news agency Tulskiye Novosti reported the incident to the regional prosecutor’s office and received a reply saying that “the ESM press service’s refusal to provide information except with a prior written inquiry may lead to breaches of the people’s right to be truthfully and timely informed about ESM activities in the Tula Region”. The prosecutor’s office officially warned the ESM department chief of the inadmissibility of said breaches of the Media Law, pointing out that in the event of his failure to share with the journalists any information, whether oral or written, he would be held liable under Article 13.16 of the RF Administrative Code for interference with lawful media activities.

[Based on Tulskiye Novosti news agency reports]

4. Krasnodar. Suspected attackers on journalists convicted

By Victoria Tashmatova,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

On October 12, a justice of the peace found Igor Shumeiko, Levon Pozoyan and Vladimir Kovalchuk guilty under Article 144 of the RF Criminal Code of interference with lawful professional activities of reporters for the television/radio network “Krasnodar”.

As established before and during the trial, late on November 24, 2008, having received information about a road accident involving a woman with a pram and a Hyundai Sonata car, the Krasnodar TV/Radio Company management sent a crew of journalists to the site of the accident to shoot a report. Hardly had they started working when they were approached by the Hyundai passengers, L. Pozoyan and V. Kovalchuk, who ordered to switch the camera off. Hearing “no” in reply, Pozoyan grabbed the cameraman by his clothes and pushed him, and Kovalchuk gave him several blows in the face. The recorded video cassette was confiscated by the attackers. The company management sent to the site another team of reporters; the latter were approached this time by the Hyundai driver’s acquaintance, Igor Shumeiko, a deputy company commander with the 5th traffic police regiment in Krasnodar. Talking threateningly, he told the journalists to switch off the camera. When they declined to, Shumeiko smashed and damaged the camera with his fist and gave the cameraman a blow in the face. As a result, the journalists were compelled to stop working.

The court sentenced Kovalchuk to 120 hours of coercive labor; Pozoyan to a fine of RUR 30,000; and Shumeiko to a fine of RUR 20,000. The convicted offenders’ lawyers intend to challenge the sentence before a higher-standing court. The Krasnodar Company’s legal expert Anna Likhasheva, in her turn, is satisfied with the fact that interference with journalists’ lawful professional activities was proven in court; now they intend to lodge a material damage compensation claim with a civil law court.

5. Sverdlovsk Region. Media market trends

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

Over the past few months the regional media market has heard not only “traditional” reports about media outlet closures and journalists seeking alternative jobs but also some positive news.

For example, the Sverdlovsk Region branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union has begun posting vacancy ads on its website regularly, although job offers to reporters and editors of newspapers, magazines and Internet publications are seen four to five times less often than those to advertising managers, press secretaries, PR specialists, sales managers, media project coordinators, marketing communications managers, etc.

Performing as employers are not only publishing firms and newly opening (sic!) media outlets but also larger companies and banks that must have had to seriously cut down their payrolls during the crisis but have apparently grown fat enough again to resume their PR activities. The major requirements to applicants are creativity, mobility and mandatory prior work experience in the relevant area.

6. St. Petersburg. Identities mixed up

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

Last week the press service of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg made an official statement concerning an October 2 publication in the local supplement to the national daily Izvestia.

The publication, titled “For the First Time over the Past 100 Years”, expressed support for the idea of erecting a skyscraper, The Okhta Center, on the Neva embankment in the protected downtown part of St. Petersburg. The museum asked not to mix up the article’s author Yulia Demidenko with its deputy director in charge of scientific research, Yulia B. Demidenko, because the latter “has nothing at all to do with the said publication”. By distancing itself as resolutely as that from its direct boss, the municipal administration (which is known to have been actively supporting the scandalous construction project and recently approved the future building’s height at a mark nearly three times over the established city maximum), the museum once again showed how unpopular the skyscraper idea is in the city.

The St. Petersburg office of Izvestia has declined to comment on the situation or confirm whether the article’s author is indeed a full namesake of the prominent art critic and historian.

It is not for the first time that publications in support of the Okhta Center construction are signed by the names of St. Petersburg and national celebrities. Moreover, a number of media outlets have had to defend themselves in this connection, claiming that the publications in question were only commercial ads. The editor of the newspaper Moy Rayon, for one, had to apologize to the readers for the release of a special commercial supplement of that kind without a note that it was a prepaid commercial publication and not an editorial article. Meanwhile, the PR department of the Okhta Center Construction Directorate has continued claiming they do not pay for any media releases promoting their project.



Chechen reporter detained

Azerbaijani law enforcers have detained Asya Umarova, a journalist from Chechnya, for reasons that are still unclear.

Umarova was detained after attending the seminar “Journalists for Peace” held in Tbilisi on October 12, bringing together reporters from different regions of the Caucasus. Focusing on methods of journalists’ work in conflict-stricken areas, the seminar was conducted by the renowned military reporter and Radio Liberty correspondent in Moscow, Andrei Babitsky.

A. Umarova is the winner of the 2008 competition “International, Government and Public Mechanisms of Human Rights Defense as Applied to the Chechen Republic”; she won it still as a student of journalism of Chechen State University and was awarded a trip to Strasbourg.

[Gruziya-Online report, October 13]



Some statistics cited

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




First online media festival held

By Vassily Moseyev,
President, Perm branch of Russian Journalists’ Union

The first ever festival of TV/radio companies was held in the Perm Territory on October 8, attracting journalists representing 30 municipal and district media outlets across the region. The program included a variety of training seminars and round table conferences. Towards the end of the day the results were summed up and the most active participants were given awards.

The previous series of print and online media festivals in Perm, held in the mid-1990s, was not a success because of numerous organizational blunders that resulted in a split-up, with only the print media following up with a whole twelve “Journalistic Spring” festivals providing good venue for the sharing of best professional practices and scientific ideas. Professors of Moscow and Ural State Universities have come to Perm to conduct master classes; creative competitions have been held in 23 nominations.

This year the public Association of TV and Radio Companies, supported by the regional administration, proposed its own system of festivals which, judging by the first results, proved to be of interest to the media community and, hence, can be expected to continue developing.

The regional branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union supported the new project by sending its representatives to take part in the festival.



RosSvyazKomNadzor address to media

RosSvyazKomNadzor [RSKN, the federal service supervising the sphere of public communications], has posted on its website (http://www.rsoc.ru/hotline/) an address to media and journalists that reads as follows:

A Hotline for Media Editors and Journalists

Dear colleagues,

As the federal service empowered to defend the journalists’ rights and lawful interests, RSKN sees it as its major task to immediately react to breaches of law in respect of print and online media workers, and threats to media outlets and individual journalists.

We have worked in that direction within the framework of the 2008 agreement signed between RSKN and the Russian Journalists’ Union, providing, among other things, for information sharing with RosSvyazKomNadzor about threats against media outlets and journalists, and violations of their rights and lawful interests, including by government authorities.

With this kind of information coming in promptly, RSKN will be in a position not only to stop law violations already committed but also take measures to prevent and preempt similar situations arising in the future.

Using this official RSKN website as a feedback channel, you can inform us of any actions in respect of media outlets or individual journalists that you deem to be unlawful.

All your messages will be promptly analyzed in cooperation with territorial RSKN departments. Where the facts of alleged law violations are confirmed, immediate action will be taken to stop or prevent such violations and bring those responsible to justice.

To send us a message, please click on http://www.rsoc.ru/hotline/form/

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
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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