Дайджест
25 Августа 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 487

TOPIC OF THE WEEK
Moscow police claims to have been “abused” by newspaper

RUSSIA
1. Rostov Region. Administration officials shirk contact with the press
2. Sverdlovsk Region. Local newspaper denied access to information for criticism
3. Yaroslavl. Newspaper denied accreditation
4. Perm Region. Court turns down two “expensive” legal claims against newspapers

UKRAINE
Editor reported missing

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION
Some statistics cited
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TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Moscow police claims to have been “abused” by newspaper

It was this particular term – with opprobrious underworld connotations – that Viktor Biryukov, chief press spokesman for the Moscow police, used explaining the reasons for a business reputation protection claim lodged against the newspaper Noviye Izvestia (NI).

The claim’s filing followed last January’s series of NI publications citing complaints by residents of the [now partially destroyed] village of Rechnik on the outskirts of Moscow about law enforcers’ outrageously rude behavior. Specifically, the police claimed offended by the following phrases: “I saw police officers beating my wife…”; “They pulled my husband out into the street, beat him and pushed him into a bus… He came back bleeding”; “I ran out of the house to see four OMON [special police] officers pushing a lady neighbor into a bus… They gave me a chopping blow on the back of my head”.

It should be noted that a week later the newspaper offered the “insulted” law enforcers to exercise their right of reply by publishing a letter (signed by the same V. Biryukov) stating that “the law enforcement officers did not do anything unlawful in respect of the residents”. But even that failed to satisfy the police command because the publication did not bear the title “Refutation”. So they filed a claim in defense of their business reputation – obviously, to uphold the tradition and give it to be understood once again that any criticism of the law enforcers’ poor performance would entail negative consequences for the press.

It seems, though, that the police are not really caring much about their reputation: fresh on people’s memories are the numerous tough detentions of street protesters along with reporters covering those protests. Adding to this feeling is the very text of the legal claim admitting that the police-villagers standoff in Rechnik in Moscow’s district of Krylatskoye was followed by “approximately (sic!) 15-20 persons brought to the police station for questioning”. They did not even bother to count the exact number of detainees! Five more, five less – who cares? People’s unwillingness to come into ANY contact with the police for fear of repression has been growing.

Noviye Izvestia editor-in-chief Valery Yakov does not expect this legal claim to improve the police image in any way. “Their claim came as a surprise to us,” he said. “Many of those who suffered at the hands of policemen during that conflict are ready to testify in court reiterating their reproof.”

Meanwhile the Russian Lawyers’ Association “For Human Rights” has sent President Dmitry Medvedev a message expressing their concern over “an attempt to ban criticism of the law enforcement agencies in the media” and urging him to personally interfere and tell the RF Interior Ministry to withdraw its claim against NI.

Hearings of the claim are scheduled to open at the Khamovniki District Court August 27. The Glasnost Defense Foundation will be closely following the proceedings. If need be, we are ready to offer Noviye Izvestia whatever legal support they may require.
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RUSSIA

1. Rostov Region. Administration officials shirk contact with the press

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

Nine months is a sufficient period of time for bearing and giving birth to a baby – but not for getting an administration official to reply to a journalistic inquiry.

They have grown very good at giving the runaround to any information-requesting reporter. “You submit your questions in writing and wait for a reply,” they will habitually tell you, knowing all too well that the requested figures and facts are needed without delay.

This undermines the quality of journalism considerably – but nothing doing. Since last November, the newspaper Bolshoi Rostov has been asking the Rostov Region’s Territorial Development Ministry for an interview. Its written questions were submitted long ago, followed by scores of reminding phone calls, but all in vain. Now Minister Vladimir Kirgintsev was too busy, now his lady assistant due to prepare the main points for his would-be interview was sick. Each time she recovered, she would discover heaps of other work waiting to be done… It went on like that for months, until the regional governor was recently replaced together with a group of other officials, among them the minister of territorial development. Now the newspaper is to start it all over again – submit questions to the new minister and proceed with innumerable coordinating phone calls.

Our leaders, generally, prefer to keep the press at arm’s length. The same newspaper’s reporter was recently barred from a conference held by the regional Housing and Communal Services Deputy Minister Yuri Tambovtsev – and this despite a really burning matter, water supplies to the drought-stricken villages, being on the agenda. Even the journalist’s accreditation with the regional administration did not help – the officials were stubbornly unwilling to share information with the public.

Those at the helm keep the secrets of their agencies, big and small, very carefully. This tradition in Russia is several centuries old, and the rulers seem to feel quite comfortable behaving the way they do.


2. Sverdlovsk Region. Local newspaper denied access to information for criticism

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Journalists of the newspaper Chas Pik from Verkhnyaya Pyshma, Sverdlovsk Region, have been barred from access to information – in their view, because of their critical assessments of the local administration’s performance. In this connection, they have sent a letter of protest to the local municipality head and Duma speaker Nadezhda Mamayeva, with copies to Sverdlovsk Region Governor Alexander Misharin, Prosecutor Yuri Ponomaryov and Federal Inspector Viktor Minenko.

“At a time when information about pending and effective Duma decisions continues to be provided to reporters for two rival newspapers – municipal Krasnoye Znamya and corporate Za Med, we are insisting that technical problems are out of the question; clearly, we are being denied information deliberately,” the journalists said.

Since, in accordance with existing regulations, Chas Pik is accredited with the Duma apparatus, the mayor’s actions seem inexplicable. “Who gave you the right to segregate media? And based on what criteria have you been doing that?” the journalists wondered.

Evidently, Mayor Mamayeva is guided by a desire to exclude the independent media of which Chas Pik is one – a newspaper with a circulation of 3,500, which is fairly impressive for a small district center.

The Duma apparatus refused to comment on the situation on the pretext that the sole official authorized to discuss the matter was away on holidays.


3. Yaroslavl. Newspaper denied accreditation

By Victoria Kobets,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

The newspaper Zolotoye Koltso (ZK) has been denied accreditation to cover an international conference dedicated to the 1000th anniversary of Yaroslavl. “Until recently, we had few problems meeting with high-ranking leaders,” the journalists said commenting on the authorities’ decision.

The official notice cited the banal shortage of seats in the conference room as the reason for the denial – a claim that is difficult to believe because the event is to be held at Arena-2000, a super-modern sports complex that seats 9,000 spectators.

Significantly enough, the number of conference organizers includes the regional administration whose relationships with ZK – never particularly warm – have been growing ever more strained of late. 


4. Perm Region. Court turns down two “expensive” legal claims against newspapers

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

Two “expensive” honor-and-dignity protection claims filed against Perm-based media have been rejected by local courts.

One was filed against the weekly Argumenty I Fakty-Prikamye (AIFP) by Rauzalia Mamatova, former chief bailiff of the Bardymsky District, who demanded RUR 300,000 in moral damage compensation for what she described as a “smearing” publication.

Back in June 2008, AIFP carried Yuri Tokranov’s article titled “Toiling for the Bailiff”. It was not until 18 months later that Mamatova suddenly decided to claim offended, and in February 2010 she proposed a draft refutation text she would like to see published by AIFP to disprove its statements about her “dipping into the state till” and “requiring subordinates to work in her vegetable garden under the threat of being fired”. As she insisted that the newspaper apologize to her “for publishing unchecked and libelous information”, she evidently hoped AIFP and its author may have lost the documents they had referred to two years before. But the Motovilikhinsky District Court of Perm established that “the publication contained word-for-word quotes from press releases by the Perm Region Investigative Department and Federal Bailiff Service, as well as reprints from other press sources” and turned Mamayeva’s legal claim in full with reference to the relevant provisions of the RF Media Law.

More recently, Sergei Kulbikov, a member of the Ecological Salvation Committee of the City of Berezniki, filed a legal claim against another newspaper, Bereznikovsky Rabochiy, demanding a refutation and RUR 1,000,000 (sic!) for a “libelous” publication.

He claimed offended by S. Danchenko’s article about the dumping of polluting agents into the Kama River and its tributaries – specifically by a passage that described him as a “jobless historian knowing little about ecology” and a non-professional interpreting very serious environmental issues rather thoughtlessly. The City Court of Berezniki decided that the phrase “jobless historian” cannot be deemed to damage the plaintiff’s honor or dignity inasmuch as “it does not assert that he breached the law, committed a dishonest act, behaved wrongfully or unethically, or did anything improperly or negligently”. Since Kulbikov himself had admitted in a televised interview that he was “not an expert in waste dumping” and had not received any special education in that line, the court turned his legal claim down.

Dissatisfied with the primary courts’ decisions, the two plaintiffs appealed to the higher-standing regional court which considered their protests a short time ago, leaving them unsatisfied.
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UKRAINE


Editor reported missing

Vassily Klimentyev, 47, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Novy Stil, has been reported missing in Kharkov, Ukraine. Police started searching for him after his family filed a report that he had not returned home August 11. Early in the morning, according to the police, he had been seen leaving his house and driving away with an unknown man in a silvery car of foreign make.

Klimentyev’s friends, however, say he is known to have set out to take photo pictures of the countryside residence of a high-ranking regional tax-collecting official in the afternoon on August 11, and shortly afterwards his cell phone went silent.

His colleagues maintain Klimentyev’s disappearance is connected with his professional activities. The newspaper Novy Stil has a reputation for investigating corrupt practices in the local judiciary, police, prosecutor’s office and tax inspection. The editor himself repeatedly wrote critical stories about high-ranking force agency officials in Kharkov.

According to Radio Liberty’s Ukraine correspondent Vladimir Ivakhnenko, four days after Klimentyev’s disappearance the police instituted criminal proceedings on charges of calculated murder, and soon found his cell phone in a boat on Pechenezhskoye Reservoir near Kharkov. Scanning the reservoir and adjacent area for his body has so far yielded no results.
 
The authorities have offered a reward of UAH 20,000 (approx. USD 2,500) for any information revealing Klimentyev’s whereabouts. The investigation is personally supervised by Ukraine’s Interior Minister Anatoly Mogilyov and Kharkov Region Governor Mikhail Dobkin.

[Based on Radio Liberty report]
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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/2010/08/20/sultanmagomedov_killed/
http://media-day.ru/mixed/4103/
http://www.lenta.cjes.ru/?m=8&y=2010&lang=rus&nid=10286
http://www.newizv.ru/news/2010-08-19/131728/
http://tltgorod.ru/news/theme-5/news-6003/
http://www.grani.ru/Politics/Russia/m.180877.html
http://cogita.ru/kolonki/yurii-vdovin/yurii-vdovin-tak-nas-derzhat-pod-kolpakom

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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.
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Editor-in-chief: Alexei Simonov

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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