4 Марта 2010 года


Memories of “Boy Who Cried Wolf” parable brought back…

1. Perm Territory. Editor reinstated in his position. Continued from Digest 462
2. Yekaterinburg. Officials adopt “new approach” to press
3. Altai Republic. Newspaper Listok’s print run bought up in Chemalsky District


Appeal by NIT television network staff

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in February 2010

1. Freedom “zeroing”
2. Local authorities and media 

Committee to Protect Independent Press set up in Krasnoyarsk Territory


Memories of “Boy Who Cried Wolf” parable brought back…

We have been told yet another story about “a crime solved”: an anonymous source with the law enforcement agencies said they have identified the killer of the Chechen human rights activist and journalist Natalia Estemirova. “The investigators know who the killer is,” he told the Interfax news agency, adding that the suspect is yet to be detained. The suspect’s name, naturally, was not mentioned, just as the name of the person who had ordered the crime, because “he still remains unknown”. Some crime solving, isn’t it?

N. Estemirova’s colleagues accepted the news without enthusiasm, which is quite understandable: too many times have we heard already about different crimes solved, with no one ever brought to justice for that… The reasons are clear: the police either went after the wrong suspects, or else did not attempt to track them down at all, preferring to “appoint” someone at hand to be tried as the alleged killer, as was the case with the murder of Alexei Sidorov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Tolyattinskoye Obozreniye (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/567#theme ). If they did catch the real killers and the case went all the way to court, it would fall apart there because the investigators had acted clumsily and could not prove the suspects’ guilt, after all – suffice it to recall the court hearings of the murder cases of Dmitry Kholodov, Paul Khlebnikov or Anna Politkovskaya…

Therefore, human rights defenders and journalists have every reason to feel pessimistic, although the law enforcers’ wish to show off their zeal in view of the pending combings-out within the “force” agencies is well understandable, too.

As it turned out shortly afterwards, the announcement of Estemirova killer’s identification had been premature, to put it mildly. Oleg Orlov, head of the human rights center Memorial, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station: “After the news was broken about the killer’s alleged identification, my colleagues contacted members of the investigation team looking into that murder case, only to hear them deny that the killer’s name was known.”

Hadn’t our law enforcers better get busy working really hard instead of likening themselves to the shepherd boy from the old parable who kept crying out “Wolf!” just for fun?


1. Perm Territory. Editor reinstated in his position. Continued from Digest 462

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Oleg Borisenko, the unlawfully fired editor-in-chief of the newspaper Krasnokamskaya Zvezda, was reinstated in his former position by a court decision of February 25, with RUR 10,000 payable to him in moral damage compensation.

As we have reported, on January 19 Dmitry Markelov, head of the Krasnokamsky District administration, issued Order No. 02-kn on the early termination of the work agreement with Borisenko under Article 278.2 of the RF Labor Code (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/696#rus4 ). Oleg protested that order in court and his legal claim was satisfied.

It should be noted that the Glasnost Defense Foundation stepped in to defend our colleague by sending D. Markelov a message pointing to his flagrant violation of employment legislation.

2. Yekaterinburg. Officials adopt “new approach” to press

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

Administration officials in Sverdlovsk Region have adopted a new manner of meeting with media reporters: instead of traditional press conferences after socially significant events, they have been practicing so-called “approaches to the press”.

Naturally, the goal is to avoid the need to answer sensitive questions: during an “approach”, you can pretend not to have heard a reporter’s question (or “I didn’t catch”, or “Let’s talk it over later”, or “Please contact my press secretary”, etc.). This kind of communication for VIPs is convenient inasmuch as they can select a reporter from a “loyal” or dependent media outlet to talk to, being sure no “awkward” questions will be asked. “We are open to the press,” they will say, and close a topic’s discussion the moment they will think the most appropriate.

Significantly enough, government agency press services have grown overcourteous lately: no more denials of information – but please await an official reply on a letterhead, stamped and sealed as prescribed under the law.

The press secretaries’ position is easy to understand, though: failure to please their bosses at this difficult time may mean finding themselves kicked out into the street, where scores of young and ambitious PR specialists, brand-new university diplomas in hand, are waiting for the faintest chance to get a well-paid job with any government agency whatsoever. As a rule, those “young lions” are of little help: they may take years to get taught how to work efficiently…

3. Altai Republic. Newspaper Listok’s print run bought up in Chemalsky District

By Sergey Mikhailov,
City of Gorno-Altaisk

Part of the print run of the newspaper Listok has been bought up in Chemalsky District, Altai Republic. According to a source citing retail sellers, the print run was purchased by Mr. Ermilov, editor of the district newspaper Chemalsky Vestnik, who is also the chief canvasser for N. I. Nechayev, a candidate for a seat on the republic’s Legislative Assembly (Precinct No. 18).

The print run must have been purchased in connection with a publication in the local supplement titled “Chemal Draws Close Attention from Neighboring Region’s Crime Rings”, which hinted at candidate Nechayev’s former links with the underworld.


Appeal by NIT television network staff

Dear colleagues,

The NIT television channel, one of Moldova’s largest private TV networks, has been finding itself the target of unprecedented pressure from the authorities. The disfavored company is on the verge of closure, with criminal charges filed against it and the staff ousted from the premises they have rented for more than 10 years. The reasons are clear: the company is unwilling to “sing in unison” with those at the helm.

NIT has operated since 1998, ranking second in terms of territorial coverage after the public television network Moldova-1, and one of the first in popularity rating.

The incumbent rulers (the so-called Alliance for European Integration uniting four liberal parties – LP, LDPM, DP and AMN) have been pressing on NIT along several lines at once, aiming at its full closure, for two major reasons: (1) the network takes the liberty of critically assessing the situation in Moldova, and (2) many of its programs are broadcast in Russian.

As regards the first, NIT is indeed the sole channel giving the floor to the opposition – to all political and civil groups dissatisfied with the ruling regime – and to authorities for purposes of replying to criticism. Government officials participate in TV debates, and their position is always reflected in news stories.

As for the second, our network strictly abides by the law, and the number and length of our broadcasts in the national (Moldovan) language has long exceeded those in Russian; moreover, films and other programs in Russian are dubbed in Moldovan, as required under the law.


Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in February 2010

Attacks on journalists – 1 (Farida Kurbangaleyeva, news presenter, Vesti TV show, Moscow).

Instances of censorship – 3 (media in Berezniki, Perm Territory – twice; Tynda TV, Amur Region).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 2 (Sergey Kryukov, freelance journalist, Ulyanovsk; The New Times magazine, Moscow).

Detention by police, FSB, etc – 3 (Yegor Skovoroda and Konstantin Krupnitsky, reporters, Liberty.ru, Moscow; Veniamin Droshkin, correspondent, Grani.ru, Moscow).

Legal claims against journalists and media, registered – 20, worth a total of RUR 35,620,201.

Earlier claims against journalists and media, considered – 11, satisfied – 8, total amount of moral damage compensation charged – RUR 210,000.

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 28.

Threats against journalists and media – 1 (Andrei Chelnokov, chairman of Novosibirsk Region branch of Russian Journalists’ Union and editor of newspaper Sibir–Moment Istiny, Novosibirsk Region).

Refusal to print or distribute media – 1 (newspaper Orlovskaya Iskra, Orel).

Closure of media outlets – 11 (Kariera magazine, Moscow; newspapers Zelyoniye Stranitsy, Konkurent, Porabotayev, Bryansky Pensioner, magazines Transporter and Virineya-Bryansk, radio show Vesyolaya Volna – all in Bryansk Region; newspapers Atlantida-Perm, Avto Servis Perm and MK v Permi – all in Perm Territory).

Confiscation, purchase or arrest of print run – 3 (newspaper Noviye Kolesa, Kaliningrad; newspaper Inaya Gazeta, Perm Territory; newspaper Listok, Altai Republic).

Interference with web publications – 6 (website Ingushetiyaru.org; website Natsbol.ru; website Limonov2012.ru; website of Far Eastern Consulting Center; website of newspaper Vedomosti; website Forum.msk.ru).

Release of duplicate (rival) newspapers – 1 (newspaper Krasnoye Znamya, Komi Republic).

Confiscation of, or damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 2 (computers of BNKomi news agency, Syktyvkar; computers of news agency Pravoslaviye na Severnoi Zemle, Arkhangelsk).

Administrative pressure (sudden inspections by sanitary, fire, tax-collecting and other services) – 3 (newspaper Stepnoi Krai, Saratov Region; radio station Puls Radio, Buryatia; newspaper Golos Sharyi, Kostroma Region).

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists’ rights – 34.


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



1. Freedom “zeroing”

By Alexander Yakhontov,
City of Penza

In Penza in mid-2000, the editors of four regional newspapers signed a statement expressing their concern over some negative trends in the region, including growing pressures on the media and ever more widespread corrupt practices. Although the document did not cite a single name, 26 (sic!) regional-level administration officials considered the statement ruinous to their honor and dignity. (It is still not clear why their number was 26.) Having “suffered” in silence for the following six months, they then suddenly rose as a team to file legal claims against the authors. The impulse for ministry heads, department chiefs and rank-and-file specialists to start proving their chastity as unanimously as they did, as it was openly acknowledged in court later, had been imparted to them by their bosses. The judiciary, quite predictably, did its best to be nice to peers from the executive branch. But the European Court of Human Rights subsequently found the “Penza-style” system of justice administration unlawful.

Actually, Penza does not care a hang about how Strasbourg feels about it. Judge Tatyana Yelagina, who so brilliantly defended the administrators’ honor and dignity, has ever since toured a score of regional seminars to lecture on how to apply Russian legislative norms. And as far as independent, quality journalism is concerned, it has at best been recalled time and again with a nostalgic note by visitors of local chat forums on the Internet. That, in sum, seems to be the main result of freedom of expression “zeroing” in Penza Region. If in the late 1990s, five to seven regional newspapers were bold enough to more or less convincingly criticize the authorities and pool efforts in resisting the official pressure, today there is virtually not a single media outlet for which there are no “taboo” themes or personalities “beyond criticism”. But even that is not a guarantee of peace and harmony, as shown by the recent sacking of the head of the region’s number one government newspaper, Penzenskaya Pravda. The true reasons for his dismissal were not announced but, the way most local journalists look at it, his newspaper must have selected the “wrong” target for criticism.

The fattest blot on freedom of expression was left at the end of this past decade by a new regional structure, the RosKomNadzor [federal agency supervising public communications] department. It so happened that the regional governor, whose directives, assessments, official visits and participation in various public events had been the chief fueling source of news roundups, fell out of the focus of media attention for a few months. He actually vanished without a trace, although insiders – but not the media – were in the know of the reasons for his long absence at the regional economy’s helm. But as soon as the most inquisitively-minded reporters sent word around about the governor’s undergoing a course of medical treatment, they were instantly warned by RosKomNadzor about their having abused freedom of expression. Evidently, the alarmed readers should have been told instead: “The governor is away. He has been away for only a few months. Why worry – you didn’t elect him, after all. And don’t you ever try to ask us – we won’t tell you anything anyway!”

It is during this “blessed” decade that most district newspapers in Penza Region “voluntarily” forfeited their status of media founders, acquiring instead a wise “big brother” represented by the Regional Media and Printing Department which started to send down directives concerning media plans, together with lists of “key words” recommended as reference points in covering topics of social importance.

The Penza governor is now calling on the media to “more actively” expose corrupt practices. Naturally, no one is rushing to launch independent investigations, since memories of the “freedom zeroing” years, when authorities skillfully pressed independent journalists out of the media area, are still too fresh on people’s minds. The regional prosecutor’s office, for its part, overcoming its hesitation, has finally resolved to dump onto newsrooms a whole heap of facts of corrupt behavior of local officials at different level – from the heads of village self-governments to district leaders to city mayors to regional first vice-governors.

That is the history of the past decade: freedom of expression “zeroing” has led to appalling full-scale corruption, of which the editors of four regional newspapers warned the public as early as ten years ago. Where are they now – those four newspapers?

2. Local authorities and media 

By Yuri Chernyshov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

February gave journalists in Saratov a reason for expressing professional solidarity: the Yershovsky District authorities urged Marina Puchkova, editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Stepnoi Krai, to resign voluntarily. It went as far as the regional Press and Information Minister Vladimir Shutov joining the discussion of claims to the editor on the part of the district leader Yuri Shirokov and municipal administration head Mikhail Kalinin. On February 3, the minister visited the district in the company of Gennady Telegin, his deputy in charge of work with territories, and Lydia Zlatogorskaya, chair of the regional branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union.

The press minister noted that, “in accordance with our articles of association”, any claims to the editor-in-chief should be coordinated personally with him in the first place, the more so Marina Puchkova “is a member of the United Russia Party’s Political Council and a well-known and respected personality in the district”. He met with Shirokov and Kalinin to “draw their attention to the impossibility of making independent decisions on the issue concerned”. The minister also said his agency “is fully satisfied with M. Puchkova’s performance: the newspaper is good and stable, with a circulation of 4,600. Should it find itself in need of assistance, the Press Ministry would definitely find the resources.”

On February 10, the editors of ten district newspapers across Saratov Region appealed to M. Kalinin and Y. Shirokov to express their indignation at the potential sacking of their colleague M. Puchkova. “As editor-in-chief, Marina Puchkova has shown her worth as a good professional and a journalist ready to defend her civic position enjoying a high degree of respect among the staff.”
Supported by the regional RJU branch and Press Ministry, the authors of the appeal warned the two administration officials against breaching the terms of the founding agreement and promised to defend the Stepnoi Krai editor – and in her person, all the local newspaper editors and staffs – against arbitrary treatment by local rulers.
The district officials, in their turn, sent the press minister a list of “accusations” against M. Puchkova. The 10-item document, which has been posted on the Vzglyad-Info news agency’s website, may be interesting to all, reflecting the amazingly low level of legal awareness in Russia’s remote provinces:

“Dear Mr. Shutov,

“This is to inform you that the quality of work of the municipal newspaper Stepnoi Krai has notably deteriorated over the past three years, in the view of deputies of the district Legislative Assembly, district administration, Yershovsky District residents and the general public. We took a closer look at the situation, trying to identify the underlying reasons. The way we see it, the main problem is the low level of professionalism shown by the editor-in-chief Marina Puchkova, who had never worked as a journalist before her appointment to lead this newspaper. Analysis of her performance during the second half of 2009 and the beginning of this year yielded the following conclusions:
1. The newspaper is overfilled with stories reprinted from other sources, including the Internet, which is evidence of the low professional level of the staff and the editor.
2. Over the past six months, the newspaper has featured only 3 short reports about the district economy. It looks as if there are no operating industrial, construction or agricultural companies of different forms of ownership in the district.
3. Reports on rural developments have been very scarce (only 2 over the past six months), although rural residents make up the majority of subscribers.
4. During the jubilee year, not a single story about the Great Patriotic War has been published.
5. Almost nothing has been reported about working people (3 short stories over the past 7 months).
6. The newspaper features very few materials written by its staffers, including the editor-in-chief and executive secretary.
7. The newspaper is overloaded with information of minor importance about the performance of executive government, police and the prosecutor’s office. Some stories are nothing but undisguised and primitive PR stuff.
8. The length of many reports is incompatible with the news-making occasion.
9. The makeup is bad and the use of fonts – awful. Some pages are not illustrated at all while others are crammed with photo pictures.
10. There are no permanent rubrics.”

Heated debates over this document have swept Saratov websites, with special attention given to Items 7 (about the work of administrations, police and prosecutors being deemed to be of “minor” importance) and 8 (to be sure, the authorities would like to think their administrative malpractices are anything but “news-making occasions”). Clearly, it was criticism of the district rulers’ inefficiency that made them as angry as they are.

Journalists believe it is because of the content of those reports that the editor is now facing the prospect of being sacked. The story is not yet over, and its outcome may have consequences going far beyond the district scale.


Committee to Protect Independent Press set up in Krasnoyarsk Territory

The need to protect the independent press in Krasnoyarsk Territory arose with the emergence of media uncontrolled by the government authorities, but until recently each media outlet’s staff finding itself pressured by those at the helm has defended its freedom all by itself. A precedent was needed of people who treasure the principles of democracy and freedom of expression pooling their efforts in defense of the independent press.

This precedent was created by authorities’ attempt to launch bankruptcy proceedings with a view to returning Russia’s oldest newspaper, Krasnoyarsky Rabochiy, to state control. Human rights activist Nikolai Klepachev then initiated the setting up of a Committee to Protect the Independent Press involving regional parliamentarian Valentina Bibikova, Professor Lev Endzhiyevsky, writer Anatoly Zyabrev and construction engineer Viktor Borovik, along with several company heads, businessmen and journalists. The committee members are old-time friends of the famous regional newspaper, and they are strongly motivated to defend Krasnoyarsky Rabochiy’s independence in the first place.

The Committee intends to make public facts of infringement of journalists’ rights, help settle media-government disputes, and lobby for the adoption of a regional program of economic support for the independent media. The prominent Krasnoyarsk-based journalist Alexander Koksharov was elected chairman of the new committee.

[Web portal Krasrab.ru]

GDF commentary:

A branch office of the Glasnost Defense Foundation led by Gennady Prokoporsky operated in Krasnoyarsk some time ago. Having received no support from the city’s independent media, it was compelled to close.

There was another story about an attack by that organization’s former lawyer Alexander Gliskov on the independent newspaper Krasnoyarsky Rabochiy. In view of our own experience of work in Krasnoyarsk Territory – not too successful – we would recommend that the committee be named not a Committee to Protect the Independent Press but a Committee to Protect Press Independence, because we are afraid there is no independent press as such there, although certain elements of independence can be found in many media outlets across the region.

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.
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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