11 Марта 2010 года


Journalist and writer Ivan Stepanov murdered

1. Republic of Dagestan. Yet another reporter covering street protest detained
2. Perm Territory. Life according to underworld rules
3. Chelyabinsk Region. ZlatTV: apple of pre-election discord
4. Rostov Region. Election committee head orders confiscation of newspaper’s print run
5. Republic of Karelia. Journalists complain to Strasbourg

Some statistics cited

Censorship capitalized


Journalist and writer Ivan Stepanov murdered

By Marina Meteleva,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Ivan I. Stepanov, a journalist and writer, a very nice person and a good and reliable friend and colleague, has been killed in the town of Khilok, Trans-Baikal Territory. The rascals who murdered him must have thought that the renowned veteran journalist, who used to vigorously defend the rights of peasants, railroad workers and all downtrodden and desperate people in general, had accumulated “heaps of gold” over his lifetime…

“We talked on the phone after lunch on February 23,” writer Gennady Bogdanov, the owner of the Express-Tipografiya printing house in Chita, says. “We discussed his latest book that had been prepared for publishing (I. Stepanov’s third book about Trans-Baikal working people), and he said he was going to his dacha later in the day to think and work quietly…”

The “dacha”, a wooden house in Engels Street he had inherited from his mother, was used by the Stepanov family largely in summertime (they also had a three-room apartment in downtown Khilok), although in winter, too, they would occasionally go there to warm up the house and stay overnight. Ivan’s wife was in town with her granddaughter that day, and he decided to spend the night at the dacha.

His friends and relatives say shortly before he had had his gas pistol stolen – a useful and pretty expensive thing, by today’s estimates. Khilok being a small town, the Stepanovs sent word around the neighborhood about the theft, promising a reward for any information or the return of the pistol. That must have been the main lure for the killers who had thought according to their primitive logic: “If they are offering a reward, they must have lots of money.” When a 28-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman knocked, Stepanov did not hesitate to open the door. The “conversation” ended in several dozen (sic!) knife stabs in his face and chest…

At 2 a.m. a neighbor saw clouds of smoke belching from Stepanov’s house at several spots at once. He called a fire brigade and the police. The fire was extinguished, and the host’s burnt body was found in the kitchen. The police were not in a hurry to qualify that as homicide: it was a holiday, after all, so the man might have had one too many, fallen down and dropped a cigarette butt carelessly… The victim’s broken-hearted daughter tried to persuade them her father could not possibly have had an accidental fall that would result in such horrific wounds as he had.

Criminal proceedings were instituted as late as March 2, after she had called the regional prosecutor’s office in Chita. The local investigators were ordered to look into the case carefully. They found a suspect on the same day, according to Zoya Nekrasova, spokesperson for the Trans-Baikal Investigative Department, and detained him on homicide charges under Article 105.1 of the RF Criminal Code. “The investigation continues, we are working out the details,” Nekrasova said.

It is always a tragedy when a person dies suddenly, especially when a person full of life and energy and cherishing great creative plans dies at the hands of killers. It is even a worse tragedy if such person is your colleague, a brilliant journalist, and a member of that old school of “real good” district reporters. People of my generation, who joined the team of Zabaikalsky Rabochiy staffers in the late 1980s, were enormously proud to learn about their new feats. “Did you hear Stepanov having words with the district Communist Party leader? That’s something to remember, indeed!” He never hesitated to rise up in defense of a right cause. He knew his home district like the back of his hand and liked its residents – kind, generous, hardworking people. But the Honorary Citizen of Khilok, Merited Culture Worker of the Russian Federation and staff correspondent of Zabaikalsky Rabochiy did not know that, next door to those, people of an entirely new generation had already been born, to grow up in line with the principle “I’ll sell my soul for a dime” – a generation of greedy, cruel, heartless villains…


1. Republic of Dagestan. Yet another reporter covering street protest detained

By Dmitry Florin,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Law enforcers in Makhachkala have dispersed an unauthorized rally organized by relatives of the persons detained as suspected killers of Adilgerey Magomedtagirov, chief of Dagestan’s Interior Ministry.

While curbing the action, the police used force: according to eyewitnesses, police officers beat protesters with rubber clubs. They also detained some journalists covering the rally – specifically, Murad Muradov, a reporter for the weekly Novoye Delo. He was released a couple of hours later but the confiscated memory stick from his photo camera was not returned.

2. Perm Territory. Life according to underworld rules

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The city of Berezniki has been swept by a wave of scandals related to mayoral and Duma elections and the performance of local media.

Late on February 15, the police confiscated the print run of the newspaper Inaya Gazeta – Gorod Berezniki (IGGB) without a court decision or a prosecutor’s office warrant – i.e., in violation of the law. The newspaper’s founder V. Kovbasyuk and editor-in-chief G. Guseva instantly filed complaints with the prosecutor’s office, the Investigative Committee, the local branch of RosKomNadzor [federal service supervising the sphere of public communications], the human rights ombudsman, and the regional police chief, and posted reports about the unlawful police action on all media websites that they found available.

Local authorities, in the first place RosKomNadzor, are insisting the newspaper publishers have not shown any particular respect for the law, either. IGGB had not been released for more than a year, and in 2009 a judicial authority stripped the newspaper of its registration at RosKomNadzor representation in absentia, since not a single IGGB representative had been sent to attend the court hearing. The owner, V. Kovbasyuk, later protested that decision and issued (in January 2010) a print version of the IGGB online edition, causing the registrar to record that in a protocol as a crude breach of the law. Two more print numbers followed, this time with omissions concerning output data, which fact was again reflected in a protocol.

So, throughout January and February, some people kept unlawfully issuing the newspaper, and other people kept unlawfully confiscating it. Finally, on March 1 the (lawbreaking?) IGGB founder was reported to have failed to retrieve the regular issue’s print run from the printing house.

As a commentary to V. Moseyev’s report, we are publishing an excerpt from an open letter, “A Clandestine War”, written and circulated via the Internet by V. Potekhin, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Berezniki Vecherniye:

“Since mid-February, Valery Kovbasyuk, the founder of the newspaper Inaya Gazeta-Gorod Berezniki, and Galina Guseva, editor-in-chief of its print version, have been sending appeals to all thinkable authorities, complaining about restrictions on democratic freedoms and an outrage of lawlessness in Berezniki. Complaints and accusations of that kind always stir up the journalistic community and draw close attention from the controlling bodies… Vassily Moseyev, the head of the Perm branch of the RF Journalists’ Union, whom I respect very much, having looked into the story about the release of a print version of IGGB, told colleagues that that is not journalism, that is political technology scheming. I think he is right. It will be very regrettable if Russia’s journalistic community believes Kovbasyuk. I would add: what he is engaged in is not simply political technology scheming at someone’s orders; it is a shameful and dirty kind of activity that is unacceptable to any decent person.”

3. Chelyabinsk Region. ZlatTV: apple of pre-election discord

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Ural Federal District

Journalists of the municipal television company ZlatTV in Zlatoust are finding themselves hostages of pre-election intrigues.

With mayoral and local self-government elections in the offing (due March 14), a serious struggle has unfolded for TV air time as a means of influencing the electors’ choices. According to official reports, the TV company staff appealed to Zlatoust Mayor Alexander Karavayev and Chelyabinsk Region Governor Pyotr Sumin to protect them against pressure from their own management – namely, ZlatTV director Alexei Kazantsev, former press secretary to ex-Mayor Dmitry Migashkin. The authors complained of the management having made a muddle of the company finance, with official salaries paid along with money envelopes handed out through the back door, with budgetary funds vanishing without a trace and with staffers required to additionally work on the local radio station housed in the same building. The governor’s press secretary, Ilya Ananyev, has confirmed the receipt of the appeal and promised that due response measures would be taken.

The former mayor of Zlatoust, Mr. Migashkin, was replaced by the regional authorities for unsatisfactory performance along all lines. He agreed to resign and even promised not to engage in politics again, but then changed his mind, nominated himself for election to the city council and even set up a People’s Salvation Committee. It is about the activities of this committee, i.e. of absolutely sham opposition having zero support among the city residents, that Migashkin has been telling tales for hours on ZlatTV.

Still as the active mayor, he repeatedly tried to lay hands on the TV network via his press secretary. In January 2009 a specially established unknown company “suddenly” won the municipal tender for the right to produce local TV shows, which triggered a big scandal that had to be settled with the prosecutor’s office’s assistance. The municipal company staffers were left alone but insistently advised to join the newly established studios.

Meanwhile, the incumbent mayor, too, has been eager to get ZlatTV under control to keep pace with his rivals. A. Karavayev initiated the founding of a new company, ZlatMedia Group Ltd., which will take part later this month in a tender similar to that won by the “dark horse” studios a year ago. So the collective complaint about ZlatTV managerial malpractices seems to be well-timed.

ZlatTV deputy director Anatoly Marmyshev was surprised to hear my question about the appeal: “We didn’t write anything of the kind and know nothing about it.” Other staffers were reluctant to speak. Some said they had not signed any appeal, others complained they had grown dead tired of that pre-election fuss, particularly attempts to turn journalists into private PR experts. They said all they want is to be left alone to work normally.

4. Rostov Region. Election committee head orders confiscation of newspaper’s print run

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The March 4th issue of the regional newspaper Nashe Vremya (NV) featured an article, “Celestial Beings Live in Volgodonsk”, reporting that five members of the crime ring Olimp (Olympus) had been registered as candidates for seats on the City Duma.

On the same day Mr. Polyakov, head of the territorial election committee, sent to the city police headquarters a message demanding that the 1,500 copies of NV brought to Volgodonsk for distribution among subscribers be confiscated as instruments of “unlawful canvassing”. A copy of the message was sent to the local branch of the national press distributor Pochta Rossii.

Neither the police nor the postal service rushed to fulfill the order which two days later was canceled by the election committee itself, with a warning to NV about the inadmissibility of breaching the law “On the Basis Guarantees of Citizens’ Franchise”.

Meanwhile NV editor-in-chief Vera Yuzhanskaya has told the GDF correspondent that sturdy young men looking like typical gangsters stopped postmen in the street and went around the neighborhood in search of that newspaper issue which they offered to purchase. The Glasnost Defense Foundation will keep a watchful eye on the developments in Volgodonsk.

5. Republic of Karelia. Journalists complain to Strasbourg

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

For the first time ever in Karelia, the newspaper Novaya Kondopoga (NK) has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights to challenge a number of court decisions passed in respect of the newspaper and one of its authors in violation of several international law provisions.

The conflict dates back to February 2008 when NK published an article titled “A Show for Simpletons” which summed up the essence of a court ruling passed on the case of I. Tsymlyakov, then head of the State Technical Supervision Inspectorate, who was in at the time for a very real term of imprisonment for machinations. The newspaper pointed out that the ruling had not yet come into full legal force. I. Tsymlyakov later appealed against it and got away with a suspended three-year term, which fact, too, was duly reported by NK.

Nevertheless, thinking that Novaya Kondopoga had breached his constitutional right to the presumption of innocence, Tsymlyakov sued the newspaper and won the case in court, with RUR 30,000 awarded to him in moral damage compensation payable by NK and the article’s author.

The newspaper, in its turn, went through all the judicial channels protesting that decision and, having failed to find full justice at home, appealed to the European Court for protection. The journalists are convinced the said decision violates the principle of freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. One, the article was about a public figure (head of a state inspectorate), which category of persons the European Court had designated as the subjects of increased tolerance to criticism – a principle to be observed by the Russian courts, too, as “a must”. Two, the publication raised a socially important problem – the need to actively resist unlawful practices in view of the growing crime rate; and the author’s evaluative statements were backed with quotes from the files of a specific criminal case – the one opened on charges against I. Tsymlyakov. Besides, NK kept reporting on each subsequent court decision passed on his case, including the one mitigating punishment for the accused. The information contained in the publication was accurate as per the moment because the primary court ruling had indeed been passed by that time.

In view of all of the above, Novaya Kondopoga is fully justified in trying to defend its rights, including through appeals to the European Court. The legal follow-up of the complaint has been organized by Karelia’s Journalists’ and Media Rights Defense Center led by Elena Paltseva, with assistance from the republican branch of the Journalists’ Union of Russia.


Some statistics cited

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



Censorship capitalized

Olga Vassilyeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The words “governor” and “government” are now written with the capital letter G [contrary to the established norms of Russian spelling – Translator.] in the press releases of the Media Policy Department of the Sakhalin Region Administration. This novelty was introduced earlier this year by Deputy Governor Georgy Ivanov. Moreover, administration officials, far from acknowledging their illiteracy, have actively tried to impose it on others. G. Ivanov even called a meeting of newspaper editors to insistently recommend that they change the accepted spelling rules.

Some journalists are giggling at this new fit of servility; others are referring to Rossiyskaya Gazeta where the words  “governor” and “government” are only capitalized in official documents, whereas in ordinary texts they continue to be written in lowercase letters, as prescribed by the rules. But since not everyone is ready to hold to principle, the novelty has been slowly but steadily infiltrating into the press…

Journalists have already asked Governor Alexander Khoroshavin via the media some questions concerning personal modesty. For example, why be so pompous about his appearing in public? The regional leader’s cortege drives him to work in the morning with wailing sirens; his presence at public events is always announced as if it were Heaven’s blessing…Things like that hardly add to the governor’s public image; rather, they cause many people to feel sour. Still fresh on Sakhalin residents’ memories are the times when Khoroshavin’s predecessors were seen going about the city on foot, stopping time and again to talk to people. Wouldn’t it be wiser to warn his overzealous subordinates against undue expression of their deference to rank? The governor answered he pays little attention to cajolery, and as regards flashlights and sirens, he just cannot afford getting stuck in a traffic jam – his time is too precious.

Those unclever demonstrations of servility are only little touches to the generally deplorable picture of relationships between the media and executive authorities in the region. Censorship not only exists – it is as harsh as ever. The media in which the regional administration is a co-founder are censored through to the last word prior to printing or going on the air. If a media outlet happens to be on the list of the opposition media, it will be crossed out from the mailing list, and its reporters will not be invited to cover any public events. That is the way the newspaper Argumenty Nedeli used to be treated for a long time, and now the website Sakh.com has fallen into disfavor because its chat forum remains an islet of freedom where people can speak their mind about the administration’s performance. According to some sources, during a recent visit to Sakhalin by a high-ranking Moscow official, even the police chronicle was clipped out from that day’s issue of Gubernskiye Vedomosti – not to spoil the “nice and pleasing” picture being demonstrated to the guest.

Georgy Ivanov and the Media Policy Department he is in charge of have made sure any unauthorized communication of administration officials with reporters is impossible. All government sittings to discuss socially significant issues, such as the region’s social and economic performance, are now held behind closed doors, with the journalists at best allowed to watch the proceedings on TV in the lobby. Naturally, they are shown only what the authorities want them to see, and any prompt interview (until recently, a norm) is now out of the question. First, you have to file an inquiry with the ministry which will then coordinate it with the Media Policy Department, which in its turn will decide which questions to answer and which to leave unnoticed.

Occasionally, really odd things happen. During a recent press briefing preceded by G. Ivanov’s warning that no question time would be allowed, Sakhalin Construction Minister Elena Ivashova read out a statement, made sure its copies were handed out to the journalists, and went away leaving the reporters to wonder why gather them at all instead of sending around those copies by e-mail if she was unwilling to answer questions on a “burning” topic – the construction of an Ice Palace in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the subject matter of serious confrontation between the Construction Ministry and Antimonopoly Service over a whole number of violations of the rules of bidding for construction work contracts and suspected action in collusion by administration officials and building company managers.

Administrators generally are afraid of making a “wrong” statement that may cause the Kremlin to think the actual situation in Sakhalin is not as serene as it is described in official reports citing smoothed-out statistics that show pension rises without linkage to soaring prices, tariffs or transport fees. It looks as if the governor cares much more about his image in the eyes of Moscow than in the eyes of regional residents.

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