11 Января 2010 года


1. Perm Territory. Newspaper did not fan interethnic hostility
2. Murmansk. Two local TV new networks switched off
3. Arkhangelsk Region. Fire in opposition newspaper office
4. Republic of Dagestan. Municipal newspaper editor dismissed
5. Yekaterinburg. Journalists reacting to police rudeness

Journalist Gennady Pavlyuk died

Opposition newspaper office raided


Some statistics cited


Two NGOs officially warned by Justice Ministry


1. Perm Territory. Newspaper did not fan interethnic hostility

By Vassily Moseyev,
Member of Scientific Consulting Council, Perm branch of RosKomNadzor

That conclusion was made by the Scientific Consulting Council under the Perm branch of RosKomNadzor [federal service supervising the sphere of public communications] after the study of publications in the newspaper Za Cheloveka (founded by the regional Human Rights Center) under the common title “Karagai Café Case: One Year Later”. The newspaper was charged with inciting interethnic hostility.

A mass-scale interethnic fistfight occurred at Beryozki (Birch Trees) café in the village of Karagai late on May 18, 2008. A group of police officers arrived but failed to take any action to disperse the fighters. Moreover, one of the policemen, Shamkhan Arsanaluiev, got involved in the fight on the side of guest workers from the Caucasus and beat two local residents. Criminal proceedings were only instituted after some media publications in August and September, but all the three cases were closed “in view of no complaints filed by the victims”.

Za Cheloveka was the only newspaper at the time to report that that was only one of a whole number of interethnic conflicts in the district fueled by the current pattern of economic relationships between local residents and the owners of 80 sawmills of whom all are Caucasian migrants. The district is teeming with guest workers who engage in timber poaching paying almost nothing into the local budget.

Against the background of a high level of unemployment among the local people and plenty of jobs for guest workers, of whom many stay there illegally, the situation has been growing ever more explosive. The author of the article “Karagai Café Case: One Year Later” cited numerous facts of guest workers from the Caucasus beating local police officers and ordinary people.

However, district authorities and law enforcement officers have been opposed to in-depth media analysis of the situation they themselves have created; they do not want information about interethnic conflicts to become known to the general public. Also, corrupt practices seem quite likely, considering zero influx of sawmill money into the budgets at different levels, and the large number of illegal aliens in the district. A study of Za Cheloveka publications by a group of experts, among them linguists, lawyers and sociologists, yielded the conclusion that the newspaper raises sensitive problems at which the authorities connive. Why exert pressure on a media outlet if none of those problems in the area of either economic or interethnic relations in the district has been solved a whole year after the notorious fistfight in the café?

2. Murmansk. Two local TV new networks switched off

By Elena Larionova,
Chair, Barents Press Association

Two popular television networks, TV-21 and TNT-Blitz, stopped broadcasting in Murmansk just before the evening news show on December 23.

The owner of the cable networks wants to raise the monthly rent rate to RUR 500,000, which is 170 times more than the previous rate.

“Half a million rubles is an amount allowing the cable network operator to simply close any local TV channel at his own discretion and to the detriment of the viewers,” TV-21 director Svetlana Soldatova commented. Her colleague from TNT-Blitz, Marina Shuvalova, said: “We requested a budget estimate or some other economic justification why we should pay as much as that and why our two TV channels are so expensive in terms of maintenance. We were told no budget estimate would be provided.”

The two lady directors see the newly established payment rate as inordinately high, signaling not an ordinary economic dispute but an attempt to oust TV-21 and TNT-Blitz from the regional center’s media market.

The conflict has some political underpinnings as well: the cable network owner is actually behind yet another television channel, Arctic-TV, which actively intrudes in the region’s political life on the side of one of the power-thirsty groups.

With TV-21 and Blitz no longer operating, many viewers in Murmansk have lost the opportunity to watch Russia’s federal channels CTC and TNT which used to share the frequency range with the two closed local networks.

Some journalists see this as the introduction of censorship in Murmansk. “We hope the relevant bodies, among them the Russian Journalists’ Union, the Glasnost Defense Foundation and the RF Prosecutor’s Office, will look at the problem closely,” says an official statement posted on the switched-off channels’ websites.

Yuri Berger, general director of the Murmansk Multiservice Networks, is resolutely against looking at the conflict from that angle. “We are a commercial company that cannot afford operating at a loss,” he says. “The management and owners of the two channels should refrain from speculating on this story: we did not take them off the air or meddle in their editorial policies. We are simply defending our economic interests. The two channels are still beaming to the rest of the region, and Murmansk residents can continue watching them by using technical capabilities other than cable networks.”

3. Arkhangelsk Region. Fire in opposition newspaper office

By Tamara Ovchinnikova,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District

A fire broke out in the office of the independent newspaper Velsk-Info in the town of Velsk, Arkhangelsk Region, on December 24.

The old wooden mansion, a historical monument, in the downtown part of Velsk, also houses a souvenir store. Velsk-Info shares its rented offices with the democratic movements Vazhsky Krai and Solidarnost.

At about 6 a.m., a security guard began to smell the smoke, and soon the alarm went off. A fire brigade spent three hours fighting the fire and heavy smoke. The police have launched an investigation but no official versions or comments have so far been available.

In June 1999, during the Cyril Day Festival, unidentified persons broke the windows and threw several Molotov cocktails inside the Velsk-Info office. The incident was investigated at the time by the prosecutor’s office and special services but no suspects were identified.

4. Republic of Dagestan. Municipal newspaper editor dismissed

By Saida Sultanova,
Director, RD Media Rights Defense Center

In the Novolaksky District of Dagestan, editor Ulyana Akayeva of the municipal newspaper Golos Vremeni, was first dismissed on October 5 this year but reinstated under a court decision of November 24.

But as early as December 8 the newspaper founder sacked her again without letting her release a single issue and effectively barring her from the production process. In Akayeva’s view, that was because of her principled stand in the struggle against the founder who hinders the publication of certain materials.

The founder also appealed against the primary court decision restoring the editor to her former post.
5. Yekaterinburg. Journalists reacting to police rudeness

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

The rate of crime within Interior Ministry bodies has been growing at a fast pace lately, causing the media to ring the alarm bell despite vigorous resistance on the part of police commanders who have been putting pressure on journalists and media outlets venturing to report facts of arbitrary behavior, corruption and the unjustified use of force by police officers.

The newspaper Uralsky Rabochiy, too, fell into disfavor after Valery Gorelykh, press secretary of the city police department, using very undiplomatic language, demanded that the journalists “stop smearing” his colleagues, etc.

Hearing a statement as rude as that made in public, the staff of the media holding Uralsky Rabochiy sent an open letter to Dmitry Polyanin, president of the regional branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union, and Alexander Andreyev, leader of the regional department of the all-Russia public organization MediaSoyuz, requesting a legal evaluation of the police spokesman’s statement. If the boorish colonel were not brought back to his senses this time, other police commanders, big and small, might feel free to start talking that way to our colleagues tomorrow.

Both journalistic associations answered our messages.

A. Andreyev said the regional MediaSoyuz department would send official complaints to its head office in Moscow, the Sverdlovsk Region Public Chamber, and the Ural branch of the federal Public Communications Ministry.

D. Polyanin suggested that Col. Gorelykh take a dare from Vecherny Yekaterinburg observer Viktor Tolstenko and stand before the Grand Jury’s trial of honor.

“A good idea,” V. Tolstenko commented. “I as a journalist and a reserve officer of the Russian army am ready to stand before the court of honor confronting a police officer who is a journalist by training, too, to defend, in the presence of Grand Jury members, the Russian reporter’s right to freedom of expression. Hopefully, our verbal duel will be useful in terms of this country’s further progress toward democracy.”


Journalist Gennady Pavlyuk died

The prominent Kirgiz journalist Gennady Pavlyuk died in the city hospital of Almaty, Kazakhstan, early on December 22.

The news agency Fergana.ru expresses heartfelt condolences to our colleague’s family and friends.

As we have reported, G. Pavlyuk was brought to the hospital in a comatose condition with numerous traumas on December 16 after unidentified persons had pushed him down from the sixth floor of an apartment block with his arms and legs tied up.

The law enforcement bodies in the former capital of Kazakhstan have instituted criminal proceedings on charges of a homicide attempt (which will evidently be now re-qualified as homicide).

Preliminary investigation shows the journalist had arrived from Bishkek, Kirgizia, earlier that day and checked in at Hotel Kazakhstan from where he later drove away in a car with an unknown young man. A couple of hours later he was found fallen out of a rented sixth-floor flat in an apartment house in Almaty where investigators later found a roll of Scotch tape and the victim’s jacket and notebook PC case.

In different years, Gennady Pavlyuk was head of the Kirgiz offices of the newspapers Argumenty I Fakty, Komsomolskaya Pravda and Bely Parokhod. Before this year’s end he was planning to launch a website and a new newspaper, Ata-Meken. Under the pen name Ibrahim Rustambek he repeatedly criticized Kirgizia’s government.

Omurbek Tekebayev, leader of the opposition party Ata-Meken, has told Fergana.ru that he met with G. Pavlyuk last week.

“He had not changed his plans or said anything about his intention to visit Kazakhstan. He might have been tricked into going to the neighboring country for his killers to remain above suspicion,” Tekebayev said.

Over the past two weeks, several journalists and politicians have been attacked in Kirgizia. During one day alone, Russian political scientist Alexander Knyazev, ex-member of the Security Council and a personal friend of former President Askar Akayev, Bolot Zhanuzakov, and journalist Alexander Yevgrafov were beaten up in Bishkek. A few days later, the Osh-based newspaper Osh Shamy received some threatening messages with an enclosed submachine-gun bullet.

[Fergana.ru report, December 22]


Opposition newspaper office raided

Unidentified persons have raided the office of the opposition public and political weekly Sakartvelo da Msoplio (“Georgia and the World”). Late on December 18, they stormed into the office and stole computers and other equipment where the newspaper’s information databases were stored.

“The robbers carried away the office telephones and tore off the wall sockets which they must have themselves bugged earlier. They also stole journalists’ notes and personal things. This act of vandalism is definitely an attempt to punish us for our journalistic activities. The blame for it lies wholly with the Georgian government and President Mikhail Saakashvili in person; clearly, it is in their interests to try to intimidate us and freeze our newspaper’s operation,” the staffers’ open letter says.

According to the same sources, the robbers also ravaged the office of the non-governmental organization “Historical Heritage” housed in the same building, and carried away all copies of the new book “A Zone of Lawlessness” issued by the NGO and presented to the public on December 10.

This is not the first raid on the Sakartvelo office. The previous one was on February 26 this year, shortly after the newspaper’s opening its headquarters in downtown Tbilisi, close to the State Chancellery.

“The newspaper was established by a group of Georgian journalists with a view to ending the information blockade organized by Georgian authorities after the events of August 2008. We will give extensive coverage to political, economic and cultural developments in Russia and other ex-Soviet countries – an absolute taboo for the official media and a very important theme for the million-odd Georgians who live and work in Russia and across the CIS. Thanks to the Internet, the many-thousand-strong Russian-speaking population of Georgia will have a feeling of involvement in public activities,” Sakartvelo editor Irakly Todua said presenting his newspaper at a ceremony in June 2009.

The weekly Sakartvelo da Msoplio and its online version were founded in Tbilisi in February 2008. The newspaper is issued in Georgian and the online version in Russian and Georgian. It is an opposition media outlet openly criticizing the incumbent government and President Saakashvili in person.

[Novy Region news agency report, December 21]


Some statistics cited

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



Two NGOs officially warned by Justice Ministry

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

The Main Justice Ministry Department for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region has found the activities of two NGOs – the Regional Press Institute (IRP) and the Media Freedom Development Institute (IRSI) – to be at odds with their articles of association and Russian legislation. The two organizations officially warned by the ministry are widely known to be human rights watchdogs in the areas of journalism and freedom of expression, respectively.

The checkups preceding the issuance of the warnings were rather long and involved the study of all possible documents, such as grant proposals. The resulting acts say that IRP and IRSI activities are not consistent with their proclaimed purposes and federal law. The list of claims included both ridiculous arguments (such as only an educational establishment with a government license can use the word “institute” in its name) and very serious ones, such as charges of not paying taxes on grants received in 2006 (i.e., prior to the passing of legislation changing the procedure of tax payment on grants awarded by foreign foundations, organizations and governments); or of extending the sphere of activities of non-for-profit partnerships (which status both organizations have in accordance with their registration certificates) to cover individuals and legal entities that are not members of those partnerships.

While acknowledging the relevance of some ministry claims, the two organizations disagreed with the general conclusions of the inspection because most charges are deemed unfair. That, however, did not stop the controlling body from issuing official warnings to both. Commenting on the situation to the GDF correspondent, IRP director Anna Sharogradskaya said: “The Department must be thinking that our organization acts wrongfully by working in the interests of society and not only in its own interests or those of its partners. Naturally, we will continue challenging both the inspection results and the warnings issued as unfair. Initially, we will try to persuade the ministry; it that does not help we may go to court.”

Thus, by using any formal pretext for interpreting effective legislation the way they like, Justice Ministry officials at grassroots level actually continue to exert pressure on those NGOs which refuse to sing the praises of incumbent rulers and are not afraid of assessing their performance critically. Significantly enough, the Department itself has declined to answer the GDF correspondent’s question concerning the warnings issued to IRP and IRSI.

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

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