Дайджест
25 Марта 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 470


TOPIC OF THE WEEK
U.K. Foreign Office reports on human rights worldwide

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Elections: no attacks on journalists reported

RUSSIA

1. Kaliningrad. Prominent journalist and blogger killed
2. Rostov Region. Post-election situation gives rise to concerns
3. Rostov Region. Consumer Rights Defense Leagues loses another case in court. Continued from Digests 454, 463
4. Trans-Baikal Region. Administration official elected human rights ombudsman

ARMENIA

Legislators toughen sanctions for interference with journalistic activities

BELARUS
Police raids office of Khartiya’97 website

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION
Some statistics cited

OUR PUBLICATIONS
All across Russia from Moscow…

OUR PARTNERS
Poll “Public Relations: Media Credibility Rating” being held in Arkhangelsk Region

DIGEST MAIL




TOPIC OF THE WEEK

British Foreign Ministry reports on human rights worldwide


British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Human Rights Secretary Baroness Kinnock presented in London on 17 March the annual report on human rights in the world. In his foreword to the report, D. Miliband said Britain considers human rights defense as a key factor in its diplomatic practices and international politics.

The document identifies 22 nations as “countries of concern”: Afghanistan, Belarus, Burma, China, Columbia, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Iraq, the Korean People’s Democratic Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

A separate chapter is devoted to Russia as a country where the human rights situation is “very serious”, as shown by the fact that 28 percent of complaints filed with the European Court of Human Rights are against the Russian Federation.

The authors are appalled at the growing number of attacks on human rights defenders and journalists, among them the killings of Novaya Gazeta journalist Natalia Estemirova of the Chechnya branch of NGO Memorial; Zarema Saydullayeva and Alik Djabrayilov of the humanitarian organization “Let’s Save the Generation!”; defense lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Novaya Gazeta reporter Anastasia Baburova. They are also concerned over the general situation in the North Caucasus where, alongside increased criminal pressure on journalists, cases of abduction have been growing in number. The document says the law enforcers’ failure to duly investigate crimes against journalists or bring those responsible to justice, coupled with government pressure on the media, have generated increased self-censorship among the journalists.

The British Foreign Office urges Russia’s leadership to conduct full, unbiased and efficient investigations and “bring those involved to justice in trials”. At the same time, the authors of the report warn the Russian authorities against using anti-extremism legislation indiscriminately because the recent amendments to that legislation “still provide an opportunity to restrict political dissent and they can be applied to protect public officials against criticism in a way that is contrary to international standards”. The report also calls attention to the poor living conditions of prisoners, racial discrimination and maltreatment of ethnic minorities.

On the positive side, the document stresses the fact that President Medvedev has signed amendments to the 2006 NGO law that simplify registration and accounting requirements and limit the number of audit checks for NGOs, which is seen as “a step in the right direction”, although “restrictions remain tight for foreign NGOs operating in Russia, or those receiving foreign funding”.
______________

EVENT OF THE WEEK

Elections: no attacks on journalists reported


The previous edition of the GDF Digest raised concerns about problems come across by media workers during the recent elections in different regions of Russia (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/715#event ).

Information about election-related scandals is still coming in. According to the Regnum news agency, the Kotlas printing house in Arkhangelsk Region has refused to print – on the pretext of “technical problems” – a number of the newspaper Znamya canvassing for one of the candidates for the head of Krasnoborsky District administration. The authorities are reported to have attempted, prior to the issue’ signing for printing, to have the story edited out. And in Sverdlovsk Region, Vladimir Mostovshchikov, the regional election committee head, issued a ban on the use of photo and video cameras at the polling stations, according to the Ekho Moskvy radio.

Novaya Gazeta has reported that in Krasnodar Region, one of the election committees not only prohibited reporter Yevgeny Titov to take pictures but also attempted to confiscate his video camera. A police officer nearby “calmed down” Titov by saying that “this man just doesn’t want to be videotaped”. In Rostov-on-Don, according to the KPRF.ru website, United Russia party observers and an election committee seized the documents of a reporter for the newspaper Donskaya Iskra and had him detained by the police.

In Tymen Region on the voting day, the prosecutor’s office received several appeals to safeguard media workers’ rights, Regnum reports. But the complaints filed by the editors of the newspapers Trudovaya Tyumen and Kommunist Tyumeni were turned down, since the prosecutors thought the journalists had been barred from the polling station and prohibited to use their photo cameras quite lawfully. At the same time, the prosecutor’s office warned one polling station head against repeated violations of federal electoral legislation.

What comes as a really pleasant surprise is that no reports of attacks on media workers during the latest elections have come up until now.
____________

RUSSIA

1. Kaliningrad. Prominent journalist and blogger killed


The prominent journalist and web blogger Maxim Zuyev, who had been reported missing, was found dead in Kaliningrad on 18 March with several stab wounds to his neck and body. Criminal proceedings have been launched on homicide charges under Article 105.1 of the RF Penal Code, a spokesperson for the regional Investigative Committee told the RIA Novosti news agency. It has been established that the journalist had rented the flat where his body was found for about a month, together with an expensive car of a foreign make.

The police say M. Zuyev was seen for the last time on 13 March. He used to be a local media community celebrity – a reporter for the newspapers Kaliningradskaya Pravda and Strana Kaliningrad, one of the region’s first promoters of the Live Journal (kenig.livejournal.com), a moderator for the journalistic society “Koenigsberg”, and the organizer of the web competition “The Amber Cobweb”.

According to some reports, during the past few months M. Zuyev gave up journalism in favor of a private business, moved to another city and only occasionally came back to Kaliningrad to visit his parents.



2. Rostov Region. Post-election situation gives rise to concerns

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The latest election campaign in the Don River area was tumultuous, with as many as forty heads of city and district administrations elected. The struggle of candidates in the Cossack capital Novocherkassk was particularly heated: General Volkov, who had long since lost his popularity, attempted to retain his post at any cost, relying for support on the leaders of the local and regional branches of the United Russia party. The municipal newspaper Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti, under pressure from the mayor, published a score of “working people’s” letters of support for Volkov. However, a closer look at those letters revealed the fact that their alleged authors, workers of the city’s largest industrial plants, had never actually written anything of the kind. To crown it all, Volkov ordered that his “pocket” newspaper publish an article smearing Gazprom – an article signed by someone else and not paid for from the general’s election fund.

The reason was that the Novocherkassk power plant owned by Gazprom had nominated its own candidate for the mayor’s post. But the local election committee refused to register that nominee, just as another one, nominated by another industrial giant, the Novocherkassk electric locomotive plant – allegedly because the two candidates (both United Russia party members) had conducted their signature-gathering campaigns in violation of the established rules. The result was quite unpredictable – a Communist party nominee won a landslide victory. So the Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti editor Irina Vassilyeva was right refusing to publish the anti-Gazprom article written by the former mayor’s team: it would have been she, not the retired general, who would have been held answerable for the defamatory publication.
 
After the elections, power in many cities and district across Rostov Region changed hands. Life shows this is often followed by reshuffles in the local media, and “old” municipal newspaper editors and TV company directors get replaced with new administration heads’ appointees. Some, among them Proletarsky District leader Bakhtiyarov, even established newspapers of their own, denying the former district newspapers any further financial support and stripping them of the municipal media status (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/18/328#pub ). Ever since then, there have been two local newspapers in the Proletarsky District, each with a circulation of 2,000. But now that a new district head has been elected, which of the two will be named “the main one”? Whom will the district administration choose to support?

The Glasnost Defense Foundation will closely watch the development in the cities and districts where elections were held recently.


As this Digest edition was being prepared, the newly elected head of the Konstantinovsky District administration, Boris Khlopyanikov, was reported to have fired the district newspaper editor Maria Zolotaryova on the pretext that he had “promised the post to another person”. Actually, she would be replaced anyway because municipal newspaper editors are employed only until the end of the term of office of the relevant district administration head. After 27 years of work in the newspaper Donskiye Ogni, Maria is finding herself out in the street, with almost zero chance of re-employment…



3. Rostov Region. Consumer Rights Defense Leagues loses another case in court. Continued from Digests 454, 463

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

After the newspaper Novaya Taganrogskaya Gazeta (NTG) carried a series of articles about apparently unlawful activities of the Taganrog Consumer Rights Defense League whose inspectors had pressed hard on small business outlets, such as shops and trade kiosks, the League reacted by lodging a business reputation protection claim against NTG (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/671#rus5 ) which, however, was turned down in court. The “consumer rights defenders” then filed another legal claim pointing to the newspaper’s failure to fulfill some minor requirements concerning its output data, etc. (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/698#rus2 ).

The city court of Taganrog found the League’s claim ungrounded and turned it down, too.



4. Trans-Baikal Region. Administration official elected human rights ombudsman

By Marina Meteleva,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The post of Trans-Baikal Region’s first ever human rights ombudsman has been assigned to a former administration official.

The regional Duma gave the post by a majority vote to Nikolai Kargin, former chief of the regional administration’s State Service and Personnel Policy Department.

The voting took place on 17 March, with 36 of a total of 41 deputies casting their ballots for Kargin who was sworn in later that day, pledging to “defend the human rights and civil liberties and honestly fulfill my duty in line with the Russian Constitution and other legislation, the Charter and laws of Trans-Baikal Region, and in accordance with [my personal sense of] justice and fairness.”

N. Kargin told journalists that, “as a gubernatorial nominee supported by the regional legislators, I am closely tied to the authorities and believe I should work in close cooperation with them”. According to him, he was elected because he had put forward a program that the deputies found good. “As the ombudsman, I will focus on integrating human rights defenders into power bodies to collectively defend human rights,” Kargin said.

Commented Vitaly Cherkasov, president of the Trans-Baikal Human Rights Center: “I think the deputies elected a ‘convenient’ ombudsman. It was not accidental that Speaker Anatoly Romanov, opening the discussion of candidacies, had said a new government structure was about to be established, and Governor Ravil Geniatulin had added that he would set tasks before that structure. So it looks like the region’s top-ranking leaders are viewing the office of the human rights ombudsman as an appendage to executive and legislative power, not as a self-sufficient and independent controlling body.” Nevertheless, Cherkasov said he hopes for the Human Rights Center’s constructive cooperation with the ombudsman in the interests of the regional people.





ARMENIA

Legislators toughen sanctions for interference with journalistic activities


By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The National Assembly in Armenia passed after the second reading on 17 March a law amending the republic’s Criminal Code so as to tighten liability for meddling in journalists’ work.

Now Article 164 of the Code stipulates that “interference with a journalist’s professional activity or coercing him/her into the circulation or refusal to circulate information shall be punishable by a fine of 200 to 400 minimum salary amounts; the same offense committed by a government official abusing his/her official position shall be punishable by a fine of 400 to 700 minimum salary amounts, or an up to 3-year term of imprisonment, or by the same term of imprisonment with deprivation of the right to engage in certain types of activity for 3 years. The same offense aggravated by the use, or the threat of use, of violence endangering a journalist’s or his family’s life or health shall be punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison.”

The Assembly also passed after the second reading a bill concerning information sources. Article 16 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, “Publicity of Trials”, listing the situations when trials may be held behind closed doors, gained one more paragraph (Item 4) that allows closing court hearings at the request of a media organization or an individual journalist in the event of their having to disclose an information source to the court.




BELARUS

Police raids office of Khartiya’97 website


A police raid on the office of the website Charter97.org [maintained by the human rights organization Khartiya’97] has resulted in computers confiscated and editor Natalia Radina beaten up.

A group of police officers and plain-clothed men stormed into N. Radina’s rented apartment (used as the website office) on the pretext of looking for someone named Igor N. Svobodin.

They searched the place and seized all the computers and other office equipment. The search was led by Leninsky District police department investigator Alexander V. Chui. One of the policemen punched N. Radina in the face when she demanded his ID.

At about the same time, police stormed into the home apartment of journalist Irina Khalip and her husband Andrei Sannikov, leader of the European Belarus party, and searched it.

Earlier, politician A. Sannikov and journalists I. Khalip, Svetlana Kalinkina, Marina Koktysh and others had been summoned for questioning.

[Khartiya’97 report, March 16]




GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited


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

http://www.ifex.org/russia/2010/03/18/election_threats/
http://www.vdvsn.ru/papers/vs/2010/03/18/79412/
http://www.civitas.ru/news.php?code=8747
http://media-day.ru/mixed/2580/
http://media-day.ru/mixed/2586/
http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/166601/
http://www.lenizdat.ru/a0/ru/pm1/c-1087121-0.html#1
http://www.ruj.ru/2010/100315_9.htm
http://media-day.ru/mixed/2625/




OUR PUBLICATIONS

All across Russia from Moscow…


By Tatyana Sedykh,
editor-in-chief, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye
village of Vanino, Khabarovsk Region

Why did the Investigative Committee in Rostov Region attempt to question Anna Lebedeva, the GDF staff correspondent in the Southern Federal District, in connection with her appeal to President Medvedev to take a closer look at the case of Peter Vince, the founder and board member of the Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as a Deed”? She was not the sole person to wonder about that.

As it turns out, the long hands of Russia’s Interior Ministry have reached our remote Far Eastern Region as well. The investigators of the police department in the village of Vanino – several thousand miles from Moscow – were told by their commanders to find out why a provincial journalist should appeal to the country’s president asking to help someone named Peter (for details about the P. Vince case, see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/703#top ; http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/703#pub1 ; http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/75#event ).

Captain Pavel Sukhanov of the village police department visited the office of the newspaper Moyo Poberezhye to have the following conversation with me as editor-in-chief:
 
- I will ask you a few questions and request written explanations about your appeal to the President of Russia.
- What do you need my explanations for?
- As a minimum, to get some information about Peter.
- Well, you can get that information from your Moscow colleagues. As for me, I wrote a private letter to the President to tell him my personal life story of a citizen, journalist and businesswoman. I can’t understand why Peter Vince cannot be protected against arbitrary treatment and harassment. Why did I write that letter? Because I am a laureate of the award established by Peter Vince.
- Who is harassing him?
- My letter to the President explains everything in detail. You have read my letter, haven’t you?
- Well, yes… I was ordered to.
- I don’t know how you will report on the fulfillment of those orders – I really can’t see why you should be given orders of that kind at all. It was not your police department or the Interior Ministry that I appealed to – I appealed to the country’s president as the guarantor of Russia’s Constitution. Whatever should a district police department have to do with it – or how could it possibly influence the outcome? So I won’t give you any explanations at all. If the President chooses to interfere and help change the situation for the better, of which he may inform me in writing, I will definitely write him back to express my appreciation. I think he may want to put a few questions to Interior Minister Nurgaliyev, who, in turn, may want to talk to his subordinates conducting this case – but not to police officers from the far-off village of Vanino.
- Okay, but let’s return to Peter …
- Don’t let’s return to him. I have already explained everything. Let’s treasure each other’s time. I am looking forward to a reply – not from the Vanino police but from the President. What could you personally do to help Peter? Why come here to ask for explanations – you’ve got nothing else to do?
- Actually, I have loads of other work to do …

That marked the end of our conversation. To the credit of Captain Sukhanov, he was polite, did not put any pressure on me and had even told me at the very beginning that I had the right not to provide any explanations at all. I would like, in my turn, to ask – not the dependent captain but those at the Interior Ministry who are expected to fulfill presidential orders: “Why give that kind of orders to people who cannot cope with their direct duties even within a small district? Only to see those orders unfulfilled?”

A few days ago Dmitry Medvedev was reported to have held a conference on the fulfillment of his orders in 2009. This is what he said: “On the whole, I think, the situation looks pretty difficult in that regard because, although I as the head of state regularly receive fulfillment reports from the government, different regions and various organizations, those reports are generally not convincing. Pretty often, they are purely formal, indicating our respected colleagues’ desire to simply observe the deadlines saying they did so and so. But as it turns out later, they actually did nothing…”

I am glad to see the President is aware of the real state of things. Otherwise, in the wake of my conversation with Captain Sukhanov, I would have to write to him again – this time, to inform him that the brave police officers in Vanino, whom the ministry instructed for some unclear reason to look into the Moscow case of Peter Vince, have failed to disclose any of the seven crimes committed against me and my family. I would also tell him that local crimes generally remain undisclosed here. As a vivid example, the case of those unidentified persons who issued a duplicate (i.e., rival) issue of the newspaper Moyo Poberezhye in 2008 was closed only because “it is impossible to deliver the printing press from Vanino to Khabarovsk for forensic examination”. Brilliant, isn’t it? So what’s the use talking to them about Peter Vince?




OUR PARTNERS

Poll “Public Relations: Media Credibility Rating” being held in Arkhangelsk Region


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

Based on the results of a poll of editors and journalists of municipal, district, regional and federal newspapers, the organizers will attempt to identify positive trends and problems in the current pattern of media relations with press services – of business companies and government bodies (there will be two separate ratings). The questionnaires will be sent to more than 60 organizations across Arkhangelsk Region.

Journalists themselves will determine with which institutions, agencies, government bodies and companies it is easy and convenient to work, whose PR departments are the most efficient, which enterprises can be credited for their accessibility to the media, whose press releases will are the most informative, which organizations are the quickest in replying to reporters’ inquiries, and whose press conferences are the most interesting. It will not be the jury but people meeting with PR officers as part of their everyday work who will make estimates, which will add credibility to the survey’s findings.

The project’s organizers are the regional branch of the RF Journalists’ Union, the business weekly BIZNES-KLASS Arkhangelsk, and the news agency Regnum.




DIGEST MAIL

Dear colleagues.

My problem as editor of the newspaper Tatarskaya Gazeta (Republic of Mordovia) is pretty simple: not a single printing firm across the republic agrees to print my newspaper.

The newspaper has been released since 1997, rather irregularly, and used to be printed by the Ruzayevsky Pechatnik printing house. In late May 2008 года a regular issue (4 pages, black and white, 2,000 copies) lay shelved for more than a week despite printing house director Sergey Golikov’s repeated pledges that the issue would be ready soon. Finally, he said he was overloaded with other work. I requested the services of other printing firms – in Saransk, Kovylkino and Insara – but their head managers refused to help either, citing “too much work to do”.

In March 2009, implementing a judicial decision on publishing an official refutation, I made another issue of the newspaper and went to the printing house in Ruzayevka. The director again declined to print it but offered me a written acknowledgement of his inability to do that. Insara and Kovylkino were not available, either. On 25 March I went to Saransk, where Mordovia’s largest printing house, Krasny Oktyabr, is headquartered, and its deputy director, Mr. Moiseyev, agreed to print the issue. All the four pages were printed, I signed them, paid for the work and received the payment tickets. Since newspapers were printed there mainly in the evening and at night, they told me I could pick up the ready print run at 8:30 p.m. that day. But as early as at 4 p.m. they faxed me a message denying me their services. I went to Penza where my order was finally fulfilled.

The Krasny Oktyabr lawyer explained that the printing services had been denied because the interview with Faina Makarova on page 3 mentioned the name of Mordovia leader Merkushkin’s son. He said the printing house director, Mr. Gryzulin, had arrived after lunch to sign the long-term contract with my newspaper I had drafted. He asked to see the issue’s makeup and sent it to the presidential administration for approval. They told him not to print. The lawyer warned me that should I decide to sue, he would never acknowledge in court that the printing house director had committed an act of censorship.

A year has passed since then. The printing house has never apologized to me or returned the money for the unfulfilled order.

Sincerely,
Irek Bikkinin
Editor, newspaper Tatarskaya Gazeta




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 Yefremov – 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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Архив
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