Дайджест
19 Августа 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 486

TOPIC OF THE WEEK
Dangerous area to report from

RUSSIA
1. Perm Region. Court turns down legal claim against newspaper
2. Sverdlovsk Region. Journalists cherish new hopes
3. Tyumen Region. “You write about those whom we need!”
4. Trans-Baikal Region. Arbitration court takes journalists’ side

UZBEKISTAN
Russian journalist on trial

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION
Some statistics cited

OUR PUBLICATIONS
1. Saratov joins Strategy 31 action
2. Blogs, re-transmitters and different rules of the game
___________________

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Dangerous area to report from

Magomedvagif (Sultan) Sultanmagomedov, editor-in-chief of Makhachkala-TV and former Islamic Education Division of Dagestan’s Religious Board of Muslims, was killed in Makhachkala August 11.

His car came under submachine-gun fire opened by unidentified persons at the crossroads of Shamil and Akushinsky Avenues, according to Radio Liberty. He was taken to hospital where he died of the gunshot wounds he had received. The attackers escaped in a black Vaz-21014 car.

That was not the first attempt on Sultanmagomedov’s life. Early on November 18, 2008, a bomb planted at the turn of Kazbekov St. and Akushinsky Avenue was set off, leaving a few holes in his car driving by. The driver and passengers only received a contusion and several light injuries and were discharged from hospital later in the day (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/230#rus1). Sultanmagomedov took over as Makhachkala-TV editor after his predecessor, Abdullah Alishayev, was shot a killed September 2, 2008 (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/252#top ). Both were ideological opponents of Wahabiism. The police have launched an investigation on charges of attempted murder and illegal keeping of ammunition and explosives, but no progress has so far been reported.

Over the past few months, Dagestan has become Russia’s most dangerous place for journalists to report from. Shamil Aliyev, the founder and head of the radio stations Priboy and Vatan and the TNT-Makhachkala television network, and his bodygyard Saidmagomed Ubaidullayev, were shot and killed in May 2010 by unknown criminals who fled the scene of the crime. Yet another person was wounded (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/734#rus1 ). A few days later, Sayid Ibragimov, director of the local television channel TBS, was killed in the Sergokalinsky District (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/736#rus1 ). Before that, in August 2009, Malik Akhmedilov, a correspondent for the republican newspaper Khakiqat (Truth), was murdered in Makhachkala, and crews of reporters for REN-TV and TV-Makhachkala were attacked by unknown persons in Derbent in October (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/656#rus8 ). Still earlier, in February 2008, Zaur Gaziyev, an observer for the weekly Svobodnaya Respublika, and TV host Ruslan Gabibulayev were beaten up in Makhachkala; in March, Dagestan TV/Radio Company president Gadzhi Abashilov was killed (см. http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/252#top ); and in November, Gadzhimurad Sagitov, deputy editor of the independent newspaper Novoye Delo, was beaten up (see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/230#rus2 ). Since then, only the Abashilov case has gone all the way to court, only to be returned for additional investigation.
_____________

RUSSIA

1. Perm Region. Court turns down legal claim against newspaper

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Perm Region Court of Arbitration has turned down a legal claim lodged by PermKapitalStroi Ltd. against the newspaper Na Rodnoi Zemle.

The newspaper featured a front-page photo report about procrastination with the construction of a high school in the village of Siva. Specifically, it charged the contractor, PermKapitalStroi, with “dragging out and poorly organizing the project work” and “lagging 8 to 9 months behind the approved schedule”. Those problems were discussed at a working meeting held by the district administration head Y. Kabanov, but the contractor disagreed with the newspaper’s assessments and demanded a refutation, pointing to problems with the project financing. After editor M. Badyanova refused to refute the publication, the contractor decided to sue, claiming a refutation and the payment of judicial costs in the amount of RUR 4,000.

The court found that the underlying passages were the author’s “personal evaluative judgments concerning a number of controversial issues” and turned the claim down with reference to Article 29 of the RF Constitution, Article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention, and Article 47 of the RF Media Law.


2. Sverdlovsk Region. Journalists cherish new hopes

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

After five years of uncertainty, media workers in the Sverdlovsk Region have again been given reasons to hope they will have a Journalists’ House of their own.

Paradoxically, one of Russia’s largest journalistic communities has no place to hold professional meetings and actions in Yekaterinburg. Ex-Governor Eduard Rossel, who recently resigned to become a member of the Federation Council, had repeatedly promised to assign a separate building for the House of Journalists but never walked his talk – unlike his colleague Pyotr Sumin from the neighboring region of Chelyabinsk.

A glimpse of new hope shone after Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkady Chernetsky pledged to help and, as a first step, offered the journalists a few rooms in the Uralsky Rabochiy media holding building, promising to finally resolve the matter next year.

Although he had already given similar pledges five years before but had not stuck to his word, the journalists are hoping he will this time.


3. Tyumen Region. “You write about those whom we need!”

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Amidst a heated mayoral race in Surgut, journalists employed by the media financially dependent on the government of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District are finding themselves pressured hard.

According to the Ura.ru news agency, Anatoly Vats, who is running for head of the city administration, has been replaced as editor of the newspaper Surgutskaya Tribuna belonging to the media holding Novosti Yugry.

Besides, unofficial sources say City Duma deputy Igor Yarosh, who is also general director of SurgutInformTV, was recently summoned to Khanty-Mansiysk and told not to cooperate with mayoral candidate Roman Markov, deemed to have fair chances of winning the race. It is still unclear whether Yarosh will obey or not. And most recently, Maria Lebedeva of SurgutInterNovosti TV Company was forced to resign after a series of video reports about Markov.

Local analysts see this as clear administrative pressure from the Autonomous District capital which fears that an “inconvenient” candidate may win in the mayoral elections.

[Based on Ura.ru news agency reports]


4. Trans-Baikal Region. Arbitration court takes journalists’ side

By Marina Meteleva,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

In Chita, the local energy company TGK-14 has filed legal claims against the news agency Chita.ru, journalist Yegor Zakharov and economist Yevgeny Kasyanov, demanding RUR 1,000,000 in moral damage compensation for a “smearing” and “libelous” publication.

The plaintiff urged the news agency to refute five phrases in an interview with Professor Kasyanov titled “Regional Authorities Connive at Energy Sector Disintegration”.

Yet the defendants produced analytical materials, media reports and transcripts of TGK-14 head-managers’ own statements describing their methods of “shaking debts out of non-payers” and acknowledging the growth of energy rates and the fact of the company’s working at a loss. As a result, the court turned the claims down.
______________


UZBEKISTAN

Russian journalist on trial

A trial over Parlamentskaya Gazeta correspondent Vladimir Berezovsky commenced in Tashkent August 10. The defendant is facing libel and defamation charges advanced against him in the wake of his postings on the Vesti.uz – a website not registered as a media outlet but opened by Berezovsky with a view to carrying more information about Russia’s foreign and home policies.

The hearings were held at the journalist’s home apartment where the judge, prosecutor, defense lawyer and secretary arrived in view of doubts concerning the truthfulness of the defense lawyer’s statement that his client was ill and in need of hospital treatment.

Based on expert conclusions by officials of Uzbekistan’s Communications and Information Agency, the prosecution is accusing Berezovsky of “libel capable of fanning interethnic and intergovernmental hostility” and “misinformation of the republic’s population”. It is not clear which particular publications caused the authorities’ dissatisfaction.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, Public Chamber and Journalists’ Union have come out in the journalist’s defense, insisting there are no elements of crime in his behavior. RJU President Mikhail Fedotov, for one, said that “Vesti.uz only carries news materials covering social and political developments in the CIS countries. Those are not Berezovsky’s own writings but stories reprinted from other media”. Besides, it is absolutely unclear whom in particular the journalist “belied” or “insulted” – there is no victim in the case.

[Based on Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Uzmetronom.com and Utro.ru reports]
___________________


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.lenizdat.ru/a0/ru/pm1/c-1092107-0.html#1
http://www.lenta.cjes.ru/?m=8&y=2010&lang=rus&nid=10006
http://www.specletter.com/obcshestvo/2010-08-11/rynda-bet-v-nabat.html
http://www.lenizdat.ru/a0/ru/pm1/c-1092207-0.html
________________

OUR PUBLICATIONS

1. Saratov joins Strategy 31 action

By Yuri Chernyshov,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Saratov has been turning into an active supporter of Strategy 31 – an action in defense of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution proclaiming people’s right to hold, without prior notice or official permission, peaceful gatherings like the “meeting of old friends” that took place near the monument to Nikolai G. Chernyshevsky July 31 for the third time since the beginning of this year. Wondering if a rally was going to be staged and hearing “no” in reply, the police did not prevent a dozen defenders of the Constitution from discussing whatever matters they thought important. Action participants felt pretty calm about importunate plain-clothed persons, who refused to identify themselves, taking their photo pictures – they had got accustomed to that. It seemed the authorities, too, had begun getting used to Article 31 of the RF Constitution being applied directly.

A few days later, on August 5, people gathered around the inset stone in Revolution Square on which a monument to victims of Stalinist repressions is to be built someday. The action was staged by participants in the events of 20 years ago, when United Democratic Movement activist Yevgeny Korolkov had put up the Freedom Tent over which – for the first time in the USSR – the old Russian tricolor was hoisted, to be adopted, nearly a year later, as the official flag of the Russian Federation. It was still a year before the USSR map was changed… The stone in Revolution Square was laid down two months later, on September 30, featuring a plaque that described its designation. After several subsequent attempts to have the stone removed, the authorities only managed to have the plaque torn off.

In 1990, pickets around the Freedom Tent had called, among other things, for compliance with the resolution of the Congress of RSFSR People’s Deputies which prohibited the heads of Councils at all levels to combine their offices with any other jobs. Today, this may seem a trifling matter. But in those days, it was an act of civil disobedience showing that people were no longer willing to hail whatever decision the Communist Party might take. Still more importantly, it showed that it was the people who were to decide their own future, and executive authorities were only needed to implement the people’s will. Therefore, picketers were bold enough to demand that the EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE “hire security guards to protect the action participants, set up a first-aid medical station and organize meals twice a day” (sic!).

Today, it is difficult to acknowledge how hopelessly undemocratic the situation has grown since that time. Participants in the August 5 action noted ironically that any – be it even the most innocent – gathering allowed under Article 31 of the Constitution might be risky. If the status quo were preserved, a gathering of three or more persons deciding to have a drink in the pub might be labeled “an unauthorized rally passing a political decision”. Still, the activists resolved to set up an organizing committee to urge the municipal administration to order, at long last, putting up a monument to signal their denunciation of the mass repressions under Stalin.


2. Blogs, re-transmitters and different rules of the game

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

The regional authorities in Chelyabinsk have summed up the preliminary results of a permanent – taxpayer-financed – PR campaign to improve the administration’s public image.

A recent round table focused on openness to the media – a topic suggested by the White House in Moscow. As it turned out, government officials sincerely believe that a journalist’s primary function is to be the ruling elite’s mouthpiece “transmitting government ideas to the people”, as mayoral assistant Dmitry Yeryomin put it.

But the rulers are complaining that the journalists “distort everything”, are unable to deliver the government message to the public adequately, and, worst of all, they “cannot draw a generalized picture of the situation”. The latter point puzzled many conference participants. Are the authorities trying to turn the media into an ordinary “re-transmitter” by blocking any attempts to analyze things critically, while at the same time demanding analysis and generalization? Isn’t it time they finally decided what they want in real terms?

Sergey Zyryanov of the UrAGS Institute in Chelyabinsk said that with the government-established “dosed” system of information sharing, the media policy is easy to manage. His personal experience shows that the current pattern of government-media relations is such that the media are required to stress the ruling elite’s best achievements as hard as possible while pushing its blunders and miscalculations into the background.

Alexander Dragunov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Yuzhnouralskaya Panorama (which has so far been financed from the regional budget), said the system of government-media relations boils down to who pays whom. “If the authorities pay, you are to do as you are told,” he said. “If they don’t, that’s a totally different matter.” The editor blamed the media for being unable and unwilling to see the positive elements of government performance and for ignoring many newsworthy events generated by the administration – a thing his own newspaper never does. Hardly had the new governor announced his regional development plans when Panorama rushed to open a hotline to discuss them.

Vladimir Strelnikov, editor of the newspaper Glagol, pointed to the problem of different rules of the game existing in the media market. “Those rules for me and for the newspapers issued by Guberniya Publishers’ are different,” he said. “Why should we private media owners pay for, say, Rossiyskaya Gazeta or other official pro-government publications?” He denounced the government practice of fully or partially subsidizing certain media outlets, thus giving them zero incentive to develop, and called for cancelling the selective state system of media financing so that all could compete in a market environment trying to win the reader.

“The authorities are concerned about only one thing today – how to look as nice as they can,” said political scientist Alexaner Podoprigora. “Therefore, many media start singing the rulers’ praises, which is against the interests of society and the independent media. Power must be transparent, and government officials must provide comments at reporters’ requests.”

Journalists are compelled to think twice before publishing critical stuff. As regards local newspapers, it is totally impossible to criticize a mayor or district administration head. Thus the media have been losing their role, and journalists have been growing redundant.

As one of the latest fashion trends in the South Urals, having taken many regional media under control through budgetary injections, government officials are turning their attention by the score to the web blogs. They have started web diaries (no meaningful information, only bombastic and well-worn clichés entered by their press secretaries and system administrators) to claim they have become “a lot more open to the public”. The goal is to show off and get a couple of compliments from the ruling party on the eve of elections…

____________________________________________________________________________

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.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, fond@gdf.ru
To be crossed out from the Digest list of subscribers, please e-mail a note to fond@gdf.ru .

Все новости

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