19 Ноября 2009 года


Karelian journalists choose freedom

1. Trans-Baikal Territory. Virus defeats glasnost
2. Perm Territory. Legal claim against newspaper turned down. Continued from Digest 443
3. Samara. FSB takes closer look at journalists
4. Krasnodar Territory. Editor determined to go all the way to defend her rights in court
5. St. Petersburg. Was there any interview at all?

Some statistics cited

In support of Mikhail Beketov 


Karelian journalists choose freedom

Last week saw the election of the head of Karelia’s Journalists’ Union. Judging by the giant work the gubernatorial administration carried out selecting its delegates to the republican forum of journalists, its goals were clear from the outset – to secure the chairman’s seat on the important public organization for its own nominee.

Besides press secretaries still staying in contact with the Journalists’ Union, the delegation included administration officials who suddenly volunteered to regain their membership of the Union which they had lost years before and never cared ever since about the existence of the journalistic association. Special assignments were given also to media outlets within the sphere of gubernatorial influence. All that preparatory work had ceased being anyone’s secret long before the journalistic congress. Candidates were named whom the governor would like to see at the helm in the Journalists’ Union of Karelia, replacing the incumbent chairman, Anatoly Tsygankov, whose human rights activities the gubernatorial administration had found very unnerving.

The 15th congress of the Karelian Journalists’ Union focused on the candidates’ face-off, although the agenda included not only a report on the previous five years of the organization’s performance but also the adoption of a new Charter of KJU as a republican branch of the federal Journalists’ Union. A total of three candidates were nominated: the incumbent Union leader Anatoly Tsygankov; his most likely successor Andrei Farutin, deputy editor-in-chief of the government newspaper Karelia; and Maxim Tikhonov, the governor’s press secretary whose candidacy had popped up shortly before the congress. Right before the voting, however, Tikhonov had refused to accept his nomination – evidently, not to interfere with the approved scenario.
The way the discussion unfolded after the opening was the most unexpected part of the congress. Speakers went far beyond discussing the two candidates’ personalities to focus, very appropriately, on the essence of the journalistic profession, with the gubernatorial representatives insisting that staying in touch with the authorities was “a must” (for which purpose Tsygankov was by far not the best choice) and with ordinary journalists warning colleagues against throwing themselves too passionately into the administration’s “friendly” arms. The line of confrontation was clearly visible, triggering debates on a topic that was long ripe: do the newspaper reporters turned press secretaries (who were once members of the Journalists’ Union) continue to be co-thinkers of the active journalists today?

Konstantin Gnetnev, a former KGU leader who spent a few years working for the government press service, hit the bingo by saying that there can be no understanding at all between reporters guided by the Media Law, official press spokesmen guided by the Government Service Law, and private company press secretaries guided by their internal corporate regulations. Nothing personal – each of those groups has totally different functional tasks set before it. The press secretaries are expected to defend administrative or corporate interests (which is what they are actually paid for), while journalists are called upon to monitor administrative or business performance on behalf of society. It is because of the confusion of statuses that this wild situation occurs where administration officials retaining their KGU cards attempt to impose their employer’s instructions on the public organization they once belonged to.

A. Tsygankov’s supporters insisted that it was the active life stand of the Karelian Journalists’ Union, the undisputed leader within the republic’s journalistic community during the past five years, that had caused the gubernatorial pool of journalists – or, rather, their employers – to try and replace Tsygankov as the Union chairman. The debate was long and the degree of criticism was high. 

The resulting secret-ballot voting showed what KGU members wanted in the first place. Commenting on the 41-14 returns of the vote for A. Tsygankov vs. A. Farutin, one of the congress delegates summed it all up very accurately: “The journalists made their choice in favor of freedom.”


1. Trans-Baikal Territory. Virus defeats glasnost

By Marina Meteleva,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Local authorities in the Trans-Baikal Territory have been hushing up the situation with the current epidemic of flu, understating the actual statistics in a bid to prevent panic.

As of November 11, a total of 604 officially confirmed cases of А/Н1N1/09 flu have been registered, with children under 17 making up 32 percent of the patients. Of the 34 flu-related deaths so far, 16 have been confirmed by laboratory tests, according to the regional department of RosPotrebNadzor [federal agency supervising the observance of consumer rights and the sanitary and epidemiological safety].

On the one hand, the regional administration claims it is concerned with the current situation. According to Vice-Governor Natalia Zhdanova, in view of the growing incidence of respiratory infections and flu, quarantine has been announced in a number of districts, and the head of the regional RosPotrebNadzor department has identified a high level of the flu pandemia development. On November 11, regional prosecutor Maxim Shipitsyn officially warned the governor of the need to “prevent breaches of the law protecting the people against natural and anthropogenic calamities”.

A physician at one of the clinics in Chita, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job, said: “The number of patients gravely infected with the virus includes 116 pregnant women and 117 children; about a hundred people diagnosed as having pneumonia are in the 70-bed infectious disease department where some lie in the corridors… We are short on artificial pulmonary ventilation apparatuses which are to be delivered one of these days, because the necessary funds have already been allocated for the purpose, but many are unlikely to live as long as that.”

Many local journalists have tried to get at least any comments from local physicians but received none because most of them are afraid of losing their jobs. Truthful information is only voiced at medical conferences. Speaking at one such conference in Chita behind closed doors, Russia’s Chief Sanitary Physician Gennady Onishchenko said a total of 4 million people are expected to catch flu in Russia this year. In Chita, people have already started dying of that disease.

Meanwhile, Governor Ravil Geniatulin has told journalists that the situation is “fully under control and nothing out of the ordinary is happening”. In his latest TV address to the residents, he said “there is no need to declare a state of emergency now, as there wasn’t earlier, either. Due to the active interference of federal specialists, among them Gennady Onishchenko, as well as to our permanent consultations with the Health Ministry and the recent visits to our city by Russia’s chief infectiologist and chief pulmonologist, the situation has begun to stabilize.”

After the recent funeral of our colleague Dmitry Karandayev, a 20-year-old student of journalism at Trans-Baikal State Humanitarian and Pedagogical University and a freelance reporter for the newspaper Zabaikalsky Rabochiy, young journalists in Chita attempted to publish a truthful report about the actual level of flu incidence in the region – but they failed because of many local officials fearing glasnost as a source of potential serious career problems…

By claiming to be concerned with the flu epidemic while hushing up the real state of things, the authorities have actually added to the panic sweeping the Trans-Baikal Territory’s population.

2. Perm Territory. Legal claim against newspaper turned down. Continued from Digest 443

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Vereshchagino District court in Perm Territory has turned down an honor, dignity and business reputation protection claim filed against the local newspaper Vereshchaginsky Vestnik (VV).

This was reported by the GDF back in July 2008 (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/641#rus1), after the newspaper carried a story titled “Charged With Fraud” signed by police major A. Chernov, chief of the district police department against economic crime, who reported that a criminal case had been submitted to the district court in which over 70 people figured as victims of fraudulent activities on the part of the “Education & Career” Business Center operating under the municipal employment center in Vereshchagino. The business center offered training and retraining courses for unemployed, charging money for its services in violation of the RF Employment Law. According to the author, the organizers of unlawful training (whose names were not mentioned) were facing charges of collective fraud and office abuse under Article 159 of the RF Criminal Code.

The case had fallen to pieces in court because no fraudulent intent had been proven. Yet the business center head managers E. Brazhkina and A. Brazhkin had filed legal claims for the newspaper founder, ZAO Forum, to pay each of them RUR 200,000, and Vereshchaginsky Vestnik and Maj. A. Chernov, RUR 50,000, in moral damage compensation.

Court chair V. Tiunova took into consideration the fact that criminal proceedings had indeed been instituted and the case had been submitted to court. The plaintiffs, by the way, did not challenge that fact. And since the newspaper had reported only the fact of the criminal case being opened, Judge Tiumova, with reference to the relevant Supreme Court ruling and Article 10 of the Universal Human Rights Convention, ruled that Article 152 of the RF Civil Code was not applicable to the case under consideration. The legal claim was turned down, as were all the financial claims lodged against VV, its founder, editors and staff.

3. Samara. FSB takes closer look at journalists

Early on November 12 Alexander Lashmankin, a correspondent for the human rights news agency Svoboda, was stopped in the street by FSB servicemen and summoned for questioning to A. Vospinnikov, an investigator with the regional FSB department.

Earlier, his agency had circulated an appeal by Valery Karlov, leader of the regional movement “Civil Initiative”, to have Samara Governor V. Artyakov resign and be held liable for embezzling regional budgetary funds.

Lyudmila Kuzmina, a prominent human rights activist and head of the movement in defense of consumers’ rights, too, has been summoned by the FSB for questioning in connection with allegedly “extremist” calls posted on the web forum Al-lashman.livejournal.com. She was invited to Division 1 of the regional FSB department’s investigator A. Polstyanov together with Samarskaya Gazeta reporter Maxim Kalach.

Evidently, Samara’s FSB department has kept a watchful eye on the regional media ever since the Kurt-Adzhiyev case was opened.

[Based on Svoboda Human Rights News Agency reports]

4. Krasnodar Territory. Editor determined to go all the way to defend her rights in court

By Victoria Tashmatova,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

Three days prior to local self-government elections in the Apsheron District of the Krasnodar Territory, the newspaper Zhivaya Kuban (ZK) carried an article titled “To Go Through Electoral Committee And Survive”, stating that only one self-nominated candidate, having effectively defended in the district and regional courts, had come out one of the finalists in the election. The story, illustrated by a portrait of that Cossack, also suggested that the election process had not been “absolutely fair” and that the major nominees for heads of local administrations in the Apsheron District had run against “backup” candidates, with the self-nominees, according to the author, “blocked off” by the regional electoral committee. “Can one seriously talk of fair elections […] if documents somehow get bogged up in the depths of the electoral committee?” the author wondered.

On the following day, a legal claim against Zhivaya Kuban was filed with the local justice of the peace, identifying the Cossack’s photo portrait as part of unlawful canvassing. JP Popov sentenced ZK editor Galina Simkina to a fine of RUR 1,200, which decision was confirmed by the Apsheron District court. The editor, who insisted she was not guilty, said: “We have a website of our own where all the newspaper issues are posted. I resolutely object to the decision passed by the judge. That was not canvassing – neither the story nor the photo picture illustrating it. Regrettably, we lost in court trying to appeal against that decision on November 5 – but we went to a higher-standing court of appeals because the previous decision had been passed in absentia, and, if need be, we will go as far as it takes to defend our rights,” Simkina told the GDF correspondent.

5. St. Petersburg. Was there any interview at all?

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

Amidst an outburst of passions fueled by the proposed construction of a Gazprom skyscraper in the historical center of St. Petersburg, journalists and media have come under increasingly strong pressure from both proponents and opponents of the project who have been trying to accuse each other of ‘black PR’ practices, false reporting and fact-juggling. Just last week, journalist Maxim Shevchenko, speaking live on Channel One, said that the St. Petersburg-based newspaper Metro, distributed free of charge, had carried an interview that he had “never granted it”.

The reference is to a November 6th story titled “Maxim Shevchenko: ‘Okhta-Center May Make St. Petersburg a Less Provincial City’” in which Channel One’s prominent news anchor was quoted as saying: “Frankly, I don’t really see how the Okhta Center can possibly disfigure the downtown part of the city architecturally. I think it can actually add some new visual lines and touches that many may find interesting and attractive. […] To be sure, if implemented, this project would boost the city’s finance and take this touch of provinciality off St. Petersburg.”

Shortly after Shevchenko’s interview an audio recording was posted on the Internet as a proof of his having made a statement to that effect. Commenting for other news media, the journalist made a reservation that his words had been “clipped out of the general context”, that he had spoken on the topic “as far back as last August” and that he was “not planning to lodge any legal claims”.

Earlier, Metro had been publicly censured by opponents of the skyscraper construction project for carrying Okhta Center publications without specifying that those were commercial ads prepaid in accordance with the existing price list. The city’s largest newspaper belonging within the Metro International network had not reacted to that criticism in any way.


Some statistics cited

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



In support of Mikhail Beketov  

A rally in support of Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda, is to be held near the monument to A. Griboyedov in Moscow’s Chistoprudny Boulevard on November 16. The action is organized by the Movement in Defense of the Khimki Forest and the Yabloko Party, with assistance from the Human Rights Movement, the Moscow Helsinki Group and Human Rights Watch.

On November 12, 2008, M. Beketov was found in the village of Starbeyevo near Moscow in the backyard of his own house with a scull trauma and hemorrhage (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/229#event ). By a pure miracle, he survived but remains physically handicapped. After several surgery operations, he is to undergo yet another one that may help him learn to speak anew, and is being trained for using an ammunition leg. Naturally, his stay at the hospital is for pay…

On November 16, Novaya Gazeta published Mikhail Beketov’s bank requisites in case someone volunteers to make a donation:

ИНН 5047107799
КПП 504701001
Р/C 4070381060049 0676000
БИК 044585342
ОКПО 29296665
ОКОНХ 96120
ОГРН 1067711004360
Кор/счет 30101810400000000342

Contact officer: Lyudmila Fedotova, (+7 495) 645-9902.

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.
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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.

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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