29 Октября 2009 года


Yet another murder in the Caucasus


RSF issues annual press freedom index

1. Chelyabinsk Region. Seniors starve and die while authorities and media keep silent. Continued from Digest 448
2. Republic of Kalmykia. Journalists win case in court
3. Republic of Karelia. Prosecutor of Kostomuksha strives to clear advertising bulletin of non-commercial information
4. Voronezh Region. Court requires officials to share information with newspaper
5. Orenburg Region. Suspects acquitted of attempt on editor’s life to return to the dock. Continued from Digest 376

Chernomorskaya TV company cameraman attacked in Simferopol


Some statistics cited

“Media Standards and Quality: Russian and European Experience”


1. Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as a Deed” nearly over
2. Opinion poll by Regional Press Institute


Yet another murder in the Caucasus

By Dmitry Florin,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Maksharip Aushev, a human rights activist and former owner of the website Ingushetia.org, was shot and killed in his car near Nalchik last Sunday. The police have launched a criminal investigation.
A month earlier he had narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt. After a meeting with FSB officers in the republican government headquarters, he had been driving to Nazran when an armored personnel carrier had blocked the motorway near a traffic police checkpoint, with several special police servicemen, armed and wearing masks, attempting to kidnap him. However, he had managed to tear away, calling for help. Due to the interference of passers-by and traffic police officers he had been released, with the masked men claiming they had attempted to detain him by mistake, having received a report about his car being searched for by the law enforcers as a hijacked vehicle. They could not say why an unknown special police unit on a personnel carrier should be looking for his car – even if it had been hijacked.

Maksha Aushev became head of the Ingushetia.org website in August 2008 after the killing of the previous owner, Magomed Yevloyev, only to resign three months later in connection with the government reshuffle in Ingushetia.

Commenting on last Sunday’s tragedy, Magomed Khazbiyev, a friend of Aushev’s and the incumbent leader of the Ingush opposition, said: “The whole thing is still pretty vague. But even if we get to know the details, will that change anything? As regards Magomed Yevloyev’s killing, both the killer and the mastermind are known, and there are video sequences showing the minister’s arrival and people pushing him into a car to shoot and kill him. A year has passed since then – and what do we have? Nothing. With this kind of government at the helm, nothing can possibly change, ever.” In Khazbiyev’s view, no one will be held liable for Aushev’s killing, either.

M. Aushev was known as a consistent opponent of kidnappings and extrajudicial executions. During the last few months he was also a member of the team of experts working for Russia’s human rights ombudsman. His friends and relatives cannot explain his killing in any way: after President Murat Zyazikov’s stepping down to be replaced by Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Aushev officially said he was dropping his opposition activities because his main goal, Zyazikov’s replacement, had been achieved.

Thus it is the killers’ impunity that gave rise to this new crime.



RSF issues annual press freedom index

The international organization “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF, Reporters sans frontiers) has released its annual Press Freedom Index exploring the status of freedom of expression in 175 countries worldwide between September 1, 2008 and August 31, 2009.

The survey says it was issued due to the journalists and media experts who had completed the RSF questionnaires covering such matters as violence against media workers; threats to and detention of journalists; access to information; censorship and self-censorship; instances of administrative, economic and judicial pressure on the media, and the status of state-controlled media and Internet publications.

“Press freedom must be defended everywhere in the world with the same energy and the same insistence,” RSF Secretary-General Jean-François Julliard said as his organization issued its eighth annual world press freedom index.

The press freedom situation is deemed the worst in Eritrea (175th), North Korea (174th) and Turkmenistan (173rd), with Iran (172nd) at the gate to the bottom of the list as a country from which journalists are compelled to emigrate because of censorship, constant surveillance, unlawful arrests and ill-treatment of detainees. The group of unsafe countries to report from also includes Burma (171st), Cuba (170th), Laos (169th), China (168th), Yemen (167th) and Vietnam (166th).

Russia (153rd) tumbled 12 places, below Belarus for the first time. The reasons for this fall, three years after Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, include continuing murders of journalists and human rights activists who help to inform the population, and physical attacks on local media representatives. They also include the return with increasing force of censorship and reporting taboos and the complete failure to punish those responsible for the murders, the RSF report says.

As regards former Soviet nations, the best freedom-of-expression situation is in Estonia (5th), Lithuania (10th), and Latvia (which shares the 14th-15th place with New Zealand). Georgia ranks 81st, Ukraine shares the 89th-90th rankings with Senegal; followed by Armenia (111th), Tajikistan  (113th), Moldova (114th), Kirghizia (125th), Kazakhstan (142nd), Azerbaijan (146th), Belarus (151st), Uzbekistan (160th) and, as mentioned above, Turkmenistan (173rd).

According to the RSF experts, the best situation is in Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden (the top five), as well as in Estonia (6th), the Netherlands and Switzerland (7th-8th), Iceland (9th) and Lithuania (10th).

Some of the advanced democracies received surprisingly lower ratings than before.  For example, Britain and the United States share the 20th-22nd places with Luxembourg; Italy ranks 49th; and France (43rd) “did not fare much better, falling eight points because of judicial investigations and arrests of journalists and raids on news media, and also because of meddling in the media by politicians, including President Nicolas Sarkozy”.



1. Chelyabinsk Region. Seniors starve and die while authorities and media keep silent. Continued from Digest 448

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

Eight seniors positioning themselves as deceived shareholders of the Magnitogorsk metal works (MMK) have been on a hunger strike in Chelyabinsk Region for over three weeks now. They are regularly visited by psychiatrists, police officers and FSB men; video cameras are permanently in the “ON” mode. The action was launched by 16 pensioners (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/656 ), but half of them could not stand it because of the old age (60-70) and chronic illnesses. One lady protester, who was almost forcibly taken home by relatives on the third day of the strike, died at home a few days later.

The conflict flared up over 30,000 small holders’ shares kept at one time by the managing company MeCom but purchased at a heavily dumped price in 2003 by unidentified persons – by the MMK top managers, according to Sergey Vassilyev, coordinator of the struggle for the return of the shares. The protesters, who represent the interests of 400 members of the Deceived Shareholders’ Committee, have complained to authorities at all levels, staged picketing actions and protest rallies, but all in vain. Seeing no other way out, they went on a hunger strike 23 days ago, choosing a studio in Stalevarov Street as the site of their protest action.

“The day before yesterday two pensioners – Anatoly Shtukin, 74, and Viktor Loginov, 70 – were hospitalized in a critical condition,” Vadim Borodin, press spokesman for the Deceived Shareholders’ Committee, told the GDF correspondent. “They are now in a cardiology ward, having lost 11 and 9 kilograms, respectively. Each of the other strikers has lost 9 kilos, on average, too. The feeling of tragedy has been growing day by day, but those elderly guys are determined to continue their protest action until their demands are satisfied in full.”

Solidarity picketers have been coming out into the central square in Magnitogorsk every other day carrying placards: “Return the stolen shares to the MMK veterans!” But the city with 5 television networks and 26 newspapers has remained under a full information blockade, with not a single word reported about the hunger strike by any news media except the newspaper Uralskaya Otkrytaya Gazeta which ventured once to feature a note about the pensioners’ protest action on its front page. It is still unclear what price it had to pay for that; the GDF correspondent will do her best to find that out one of these days.

The freedom-of-expression situation in Magnitogorsk is indeed gruesome. When President Dmitry Medvedev came to the city on a visit recently and censured MMK Director Viktor Rashnikov for his company’s poor performance in the area of environmental protection, people only learned about it from federal media reports, with all the local media keeping mum. Not a single representative of municipal authorities or the ruling United Russia Party has ever asked about the elderly protesters’ health. The new gubernatorial appointee Yevgeny Teftelev, who is already performing as the acting mayor of Magnitogorsk, is rumored to have said in a private conversation that he is not planning “to come to grips with Rashnikov” in connection with the hunger strike.

2. Republic of Kalmykia. Journalists win case in court

The Civil Law Collegium of Kalmykia’s Supreme Court has confirmed the Elista City Court decision turning down a legal claim lodged by Andrei Tsirkunov, former first vice-premier of the republic’s government, against the newspaper Elistinskaya Panorama in the wake of its May 14 publication “A Corporation of Monsters” which struck him as libelous and a reason to claim RUR 1,000,000 in moral damage compensation from the newspaper and its author, Vera Brezgina.

The article, which caused broad public repercussions, was about the poor state of the republic’s road-building industry. An independent investigation had led the author to conclude that some of Kalmykia’s road-building and construction companies had been forcibly seized by raiders and reorganized to create an artificial legal entity, The Manych Ship Canal, as a kind of “bait” for investors.

The Collegium agreed with the primary court’s conclusion that sufficient documentary evidence had been gathered to confirm the majority of facts cited in the article, including statements about the deplorable state of roads in Kalmykia posing a threat to national security. Its determination on Tsirkunov’s appeal said, in part: “The article ‘A Corporation of Monsters’, which is critical in its tonality, does not afflict the plaintiff’s honor or dignity. Actually, it puts a socially significant issue to public discussion and criticizes authorities without breaking beyond the limits of decency prescribed under the law.”

Shortly afterwards, A. Tsirkunov was replaced as first vice-premier and the Kalmykia president’s chief of staff.

3. Republic of Karelia. Prosecutor of Kostomuksha strives to purge advertising bulletin of non-commercial information

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

A. Ravpuk, prosecutor of the city of Kostomuksha, Karelia, has warned Igor Nikitin, the founder and editor of the advertising bulletin Gazeta Obyavleniy Kostomukshi (GOK), against continued publishing of non-commercial information in his newspaper. Citing the federal Media Law, instructions of RosSvyazOkhranKultura [federal service in charge of public communications and the protection of cultural heritage] and intra-industry rules and regulations, the prosecutor claimed that a newspaper with a registration certificate positioning it as a media outlet engaged in commercial advertising has no right to feature anything else without first making appropriate amendments to its founding documents. At the same time, A. Ravpuk acknowledged that the share of commercial ads in an advertising bulletin can be “over 40 percent of the total content”. From this it can easily be deduced that the editor is free to use the rest of the page space at his own discretion, featuring whatever information he may find appropriate.

The issuance of the prosecutor’s warning is seen as linked with the major layoffs announced by the owner of the SeverStal ore-dressing and processing plant, A. Mordashov, whose plans of replacing local workers with guest workers were reported by GOK. The idea of economizing on wages at a time of economic crisis might have been accepted by the workers with understanding but for the surfacing of information about Mordashov’s gaining RUR 20.5 billion in dividend payments for the past few years.

Evidently, the GOK story pushed critical sentiments among the SeverStal workers high enough for the supervising body to take a closer look at the advertising newspaper. Prior to that, GOK publications had never once given rise to any official warnings over the three years of the newspaper’s operation.

4. Voronezh Region. Court requires officials to share information with newspaper

By Svetlana Kuznetsova,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

The Liskinsky District Court in Voronezh has satisfied a legal claim lodged by Lyudmila Akulova and Gennady Mamin, the editor-in-chief and founder of the independent district newspaper Peleng, against the municipal water supply and sewage company Vodokanal in connection with the latter’s refusal to provide information.

Breaking the established practice of turning a deaf ear to journalists’ complaints about problems with access to information, the court censured Vodokanal for unlawful inaction and required the municipal company to provide the blueprints and cost estimates of the ongoing construction of a water-supply pipeline in the village of Petrovskoye whose residents are not sure their monetary contributions to the project are being used properly. Peleng had repeatedly asked Vodokanal to disclose that information but its requests had been left unanswered.

Shortly afterwards, the Liskinsky Court passed a similar decision in respect of the headmaster of a district high school who had repeatedly ignored Peleng’s requests for information about his school’s preparedness for the new academic year. Now the relevant data are to be made available in line with the court ruling. 

5. Orenburg Region. Suspects acquitted of attempt on editor’s life to return to the dock. Continued from Digest 376

The Supreme Court has canceled the Orenburg Region Court’s decision on the case of an attempt on the life of Viktor Dmitriyev, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Buzulukskiye Novosti (BN).

As we have reported, late on December 1, 2006, Dmitriyev was approached near his garage by an unidentified man who fired six pistol shots at him and ran away (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/249#rus1 ). Wounded in his chest, stomach and arm, Viktor managed to survive. The police carried out an investigation identifying three suspects, all of them former law enforcement officers. The case was submitted to court, although according to Alexander Andreyev, the incumbent editor of BN, local people felt apprehensive about the outcome. “There are reasons to believe attempts are being made to soft-pedal the investigation and eventually close the case,” A. Andreyev said in one of his interviews. Yet the trial did take place – a trial closed to the press – resulting in all the suspects acquitted by a panel of jurors last July (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/249#rus1 ).

Finally, according to Andreyev, on October 6 the Supreme Court considered the prosecutor’s office’s protest against that verdict and canceled it as unlawful and unjustified. This means the accused are to be tried anew. Hopefully, the hearings will be unbiased this time and the court will name not only those who attempted to kill V. Dmitriyev but also the masterminds of the crime.



Chernomorskaya TV company cameraman attacked in Simferopol

On October 19 reporters for the Chernomorskaya television company were not admitted to a closed conference of the Party of Regions held at Simferepol’s Russian-Language Theater. The journalists were left to wait in the lobby near the booking office where people were freely admitted to buy tickets. After some time an unknown man walked out of the hall where the conference was underway and demanded that the reporters leave the place. He did not identify himself nor explained his demand; he attacked Chernomorskaya cameraman Igor Demidov there and then.

I. Demidov recalls: “He grabbed the lens with one hand and my throat with the other, and started to bend me back towards the window. The struggle continued for forty seconds or so; then he made a few steps back and threw the camera aside. He had no insignia, no badge on his lapel – nothing like that at all. He did not identify himself – just leaped at me at once.”

The Crimean TV company sees the attacker’s actions as interference with the lawful professional activities of journalists fulfilling an editorial assignment. Two days later the reporters filed a complaint with the police, compiled by the company lawyer who will help them defend their rights.

According to one TV editor, that was not for the first time that Chernomorskaya journalists came under attack, with none of the wrongdoers ever brought to justice prior to that. This time the reporters are determined to go all the way to court, to make potential attackers think twice before behaving like that in respect of media representatives.

[Revizor.od.ua report, October 22]



Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defense Foundation was referred to at least 20 times in the Internet, specifically at:




“Media Standards and Quality: Russian and European Experience”

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

That was the topic of a training seminar held in Yekaterinburg jointly by the Journalists’ Unions of Norway and Russia.

The first major stumbling block in the discussion was the realization that the standards we have adhered to have for some reason or other failed to become a norm of professional life in this country – evidently, because of our own stereotypes and our own nihilism. While recognizing and publicly hailing certain ethical rules, as well as laws, we have not used those as guiding lights – suffice it to recall prepaid propagandistic publications that are released by the score in the disguise of “social orders”; the majority of Russian media editors seldom blush while accepting money for this kind of “information services” that are deemed to be vital to their media outlets’ survival.

Milica Pesic of the Media Diversity Institute, Britain, made a brilliant report on the press reflecting the full spectrum of interests, feelings and moods in society; the audience applauded gratefully. Speakers pointed to the fact that that is what the media are for, generally. But the attendees agreed that Russian journalists cannot afford this kind of diversity for various, chiefly economic and political, reasons. The seminar brought together, by the way, nearly thirty colleagues from leading regional and district newspapers.

So what is an ethical norm? It is a rule that is approved and adhered to by the whole or part of society (for example, by the media community). Dmitry Polyanin, head of the Sverdlovsk branch of the Journalists’ Union of Russia, ventured to suggest that, judging by the trainees’ reaction to Milica’s speech and by his personal exchanges with colleagues from a variety of media outlets, it is not diversity or lack of bias in reporting but the provision of services for authorities and/or oligarchs that is deemed to be THE ethical norm in Russia.

That point was indirectly confirmed by Boris Lozovsky, Dean of the School of Journalism of Ural State University, who shared with colleagues his ideas about the nature of the Russian media, giving it to be understood that Russian experience is still very different from European experience today.

At the same time, even in the non-free political and economic environment in which the majority of Russian media are compelled to operate, each journalist is free to decide whether or not to observe the norms of professional ethics, Lyubov Shapovalova, division head with the newspaper Uralsky Rabochiy, said. She is convinced that many fellow journalists make their choice in accordance with the Code of Professional Honor. For that section of the media community, mixing with Western colleagues is a kind of moral support. The trainees received such support from the seminar moderator, Milica Pesic, who showed in-depth understanding of the media community specifics in Russia.



1. Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as a Deed” nearly over

The 2009 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as a Deed” is drawing to a close. The deadline for the submission of journalistic works 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.

2. Opinion poll by Regional Press Institute

RosSvyazKomNadzor [RSKN, federal service in charge of public communications] has opened a hotline for media and journalists (see http://www.rsoc.ru/hotline/form/ ), claiming it intends to promptly react to appeals and complaints by acting in defense of media workers’ lawful rights and interests and seeing to it that law violators are brought to justice. Besides, based on the results of feedback analysis, RSKN pledges to take measures to prevent and forestall potential breaches of the law.

In this connection, the Glasnost Defense Foundation and Regional Press Institute are asking fellow journalists to answer the following questions (choose one of the reply options below each question):

1. Do you think the RSKN hotline will prove effective as an instrument of defending journalists’ rights?
- Yes, it certainly will.
- Maybe it will.
- Let’s wait and see what the results are.
- It is unlikely to be effective.
- It will be ineffective.
- Other:

2. Since RSKN is a government agency performing as the media registrar, controller and supervisor, do you think it will be able to combine those functions with the defense of journalists’ interests?
- It certainly will.
- It may, although that is sure to be difficult.
- That is out of the question because …
- Other:

3. Should you or your media outlet find yourself in need of help, who would you turn to for assistance in the first place? (More than one reply option may be selected here).
- RSKN hotline.
- Law enforcement agencies.
- Law court.
- Journalists’ Union or other journalistic associations.
- An independent organization defending journalists’ rights.
- Fellow journalists, other media outlets.
- Friends and good acquaintances.
- Other:

Please send your replies to: asharogr@yandex.ru

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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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