Дайджест
2 Сентября 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 488



EVENT OF THE WEEK
Elements of reputation at close quarters
 

RUSSIA
1. Sverdlovsk Region. Fire-related information classified
2. Sakhalin Region. News agency director accused of arbitrary behavior
3. Perm Region. Journalists’ opinion not asked
4. Chelyabinsk Region. Head of Journalists’ Union at law with journalists
5. St. Petersburg. Press spokesman reprimanded for hampering reporter’s work
6. Moscow Region. Journalists barred from local council meeting

UKRAINE
Police links editor’s presumed killing with his professional activities. Continued from Digest 487
(see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/756#ukr )

GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION
Some statistics cited

ANNOUNCEMENT
Charity concert to help families of victimized journalists
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EVENT OF THE WEEK

Elements of reputation at close quarters

Hearings of a business reputation protection claim launched by the Moscow city police department against the newspaper Noviye Izvestia opened at the Khamovniki District court August 27.

The claim was lodged in the wake of last January’s series of publications citing residents of the Rechnik township as saying they had been beaten by the police.

There is nothing new about police beating and insulting citizens. One ruffian, a police warrant officer in St. Petersburg, charged with what was described as “action in excess of his authority”, got away with only a reprimand from his superiors. So any talk of police reputation undermined by Noviye Izvestia is irrelevant, as additionally shown by the fact of a high-ranking police commander’s using thieves’ cant during a news conference (for details, see http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/756#tema ). Therefore, instead of trying to defend their pretty soiled reputation in court, they had better resort to simpler and more effective methods, like stopping to beat and humiliate people, and stopping to take bribes. Or is that really beyond their powers?

At last Friday’s court hearings, the defendant’s representative made four motions – on challenging the judge; reassigning the case to another region’s judiciary; allowing the use of photo and video cameras to enable live coverage of the proceedings in the Internet; and calling as co-defendants the Rechnik residents whose statements were quoted in the contested publications. The court turned the first two motions down but satisfied the other two.

The next hearing is due September 23 сентября. The GDF will be closely following the developments.

Meanwhile, Viktor Biryukov, chief spokesman for the Moscow police, has promised to erase a shameful tattoo (the notorious “thief’s seal ring”) from a finger on his left hand…
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RUSSIA

1. Sverdlovsk Region. Fire-related information classified

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

The situation with forest fires around the villages of Bayanovka and Vsevolodo-Blagodatskoye near the city of Severouralsk has grown really absurd: all new data about the fires have been classified, and earlier information is being thoroughly “glossed over” and “embellished” by police officers.

When a Kommersant-Ural correspondent called the Severouralsk fire-brigade headquarters to request the latest news, he was told that “as of today, no official comments will be available” and that all fire-related information can only be requested from the press service of the Emergency Situations Ministry’s regional branch in Yekaterinburg.

“When information starts to be dosed out, it means the problem really exists,” said Kommersant-Ural editor Ella Bidileyeva, noting that it was not for the first time during this fire-hazardous summer that information was being hushed up. “When the village of Vizhai got burned down in the region’s north, we called the boarding house where fire victims were taking temporary shelter, and local employees frankly admitted they had been ordered not to meet with the press. They also said the victims hadn’t brought along any personal things. So it’s a big question whether the evacuation had been as smooth as it was reported.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Severouralsk have been seeking to “scale down the level of anxiety” by editing information already published. Specifically, Mikhail Pesterev of the website Severouralsk-online.ru was told two weeks ago to edit out a report about the fire emergency in Bayanovka where 700 residents were packing things to flee from the fire raging just 300 meters from their village. The report said evacuation was unlikely because most rescuers had already left the place.

According to Pesterev, shortly before midnight a man came to his house identifying himself as the district police inspector, to question him in connection with the publication and to warn him he might be held liable “for fanning the panic”. The journalist tried to explain that the report had been reprinted from the Ura.ru website with due reference to the source, but the police officer required him to submit written explanations. “I removed the report from my website that night, and now the site is temporarily inaccessible,” Pesterev said.

In Yekaterinburg, official resistance prevented reporters’ trip to the Visim national park where a fire had broken out. First, authorities required coordination with the local administration, then with the regional fire headquarters – until a long-awaited rain removed the issue from the agenda. Naturally, the reporters were told: “Oh, you should have simply contacted the press service!” No doubt, but for that “aid from the heaven”, the trip would have still been under coordination at some upper level of the bureaucratic vertical.


2. Sakhalin Region. News agency director accused of arbitrary behavior

By Olga Vassilyeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Irina Chaika, director of the Reporter news agency based in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, has not paid anything to its staff for several months. The journalists were in no hurry to report this outrage to the prosecutor’s office or state labor inspectorate knowing all too well they might only hope to receive the official minimum salary mentioned in their work agreements – but not the much larger “shadow” earnings. That was exactly what Chaika counted on, never missing a chance to mention her “family ties” with Russia’s prosecutor general and hinting that “You will never find the truth anyway – no one will ever dare to disobey my orders!” Her agency has no articles of association, no list of responsibilities, no work schedule, and no model contract for conclusion with freelance reporters…

When the agency’s editor-in-chief, Daniil Pankstyanov, tendered his resignation in view of the chronic non-payment of salary, the director tore his application and threatened to fire him in the event of his failure to report to the office, which she did shortly afterwards. The editor complained to the state labor inspectorate and filed a legal claim with the city court of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk demanding reinstatement and the full payment of wage arrears to him. The case ended in an amicable settlement, with the court requiring the agency director to reinstate Pankstyanov in his former position and pay him the RUR 20,000 that was officially due to him. Now, two months later, he has never received even that sum. The bailiffs extended the term of the verdict’s execution at the defendant’s request. The state labor inspectorate, too, imposed a fine on the Reporter agency and its head, and has had to double it in view of non-payment. The former editor-in-chief again appealed to the bailiffs and went to court demanding full wage payment (adjusted for inflation) by Chaika, as well as compensation for his non-used leave from work and for moral damages …

Another employee, following suit, proved bold enough to complain to the labor inspectorate which then initiated a prosecutor checkup of the agency’s performance.

Although a comparatively young news agency, Reporter has already earned itself a bad reputation. Professional journalists are unwilling to cooperate with it because its news bulletins are outrageously illiterate and dull, mostly featuring official press releases.

The author of this report, too, attempted to cooperate with that news agency some time ago – and has never received pay for two exclusive materials. Just as colleagues had warned me, when the pay day came, Irina Chaika suddenly became non-accessible – either on the phone or personally. I am reluctant to complain to the prosecutor’s office or file a lawsuit – the game’s not worth the candle…

As a result, directors like Chaika thrive at others’ expense while casting a shade on the journalistic profession.


3. Perm Region. Journalists’ opinion not asked

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Usolsky District court, meeting a prosecutor’s request, has taken a decision that might set a precedent for all district and village media to be guided by. It required the head of administration of the village of Troitskoye to have the local newspaper, Usolskaya Gazeta, annually publish the municipal budget’s details. The higher-standing regional court considered the village leader’s protest but left the first-instance court’s decision unchanged.

The problem is that the Federal Law “On the General Principles of Local Self-Government in the Russian Federation” does not prescribe a special procedure for updating residents on local authorities’ decisions via the media. That is why village administrations have seldom gone beyond ordering three newspaper issues reflecting their decisions – one for the files, another to be posted on the billboard at the entrance to the administration headquarters, and a third one for the village library. That, in their view, is a good way to make the power system “transparent” – and no one will ever claim they are in breach of the law. Yet the Troitsky village charter states in black and white that the local leaders MUST inform the residents about official decisions via Usolskaya Gazeta. In defiance of that, the village head used to send only one copy of each document to the local library – until the prosecutor decided it was time to act…
 
To be sure, people need to be informed about authorities’ decisions and actions, and not only through library files. The charters of many villages provide for official document publishing in local newspapers. But each such publication must be paid for from the local budget which, however, makes no provisions for the purpose. For example, the Troistky village budget’s publishing on the pages of Usolskaya Gazeta has never been paid for. The number of villages in the Usolsky District alone is six, in Permsky District – twenty-one, and in Kungursky District – nineteen, with only ONE municipal newspaper released in each of the districts! What kind of newspapers are they doomed to be, and who will ever subscribe to or read them if they start publishing budgets, charters and other village regulations? And, most importantly, who will pay for those publications if the village budgets fail to allocate the money?

The staffers of Usolskaya Gazeta were never asked what they think about it all...


4. Chelyabinsk Region. Head of Journalists’ Union at law with journalists

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

A major scandal is about to break out in the Chelyabinsk Region’s journalistic community. Vladislav Pisanov, head of the regional branch of the RF Journalists’ Union, member of the ruling United Russia Party’s (URP) Political Council and the party’s nominee for a seat on the regional Legislative Assembly, as well as the editor and supervisor of thirty newspapers issued by the URP throughout the Chelyabinsk Region, intends to file a legal claim against the opposition website UralDaily.ru which he accuses of libel.

The question is why. Because of a series of publications that are much more critical than what other media have dared to publish? Actually, with 98 percent of the regional media fully controlled by the authorities now, they have generally refrained from any criticism of official performance, fearing they may be excluded, bought up, denied distribution services, or else lose their toughly pressured – intimidated – advertisers.

The facts cited by the opposition website are true to life. We quote:

“In our latest publication we told the readers Pisanov had been dismissed as editor-in-chief of United Russia-Urals. That’s because his newspaper is dull, unpopular and generally impossible to read. Even the regional URP leaders got finally bored with it, as well as with Pisanov’s other pot boilers.

“Both these facts are easy to check. The latest issue’s imprint says the editor-in-chief is no longer Pisanov – it is his wife. The matter is that Pisanov’s numerous tabloids, up to 30 in number, are a kind of family business – an instrument for grabbing as much money as possible without caring much for quality. This quality is very low indeed.”

UralDaily.ru also appealed to Mr. Motovilov, Pisanov’s boss:

“How much did you pay this botcher and his wife for issuing a newspaper that was tucked into our mailboxes at our own expense? Can you imagine anyone in one’s right mind starting to read deep into this trash after seeing a couple of headings about a ‘kind heart’ and a ‘noble heart’ (Thanks heaven, not ‘a heart of gold’!) and a couple of notes about veterans (who would allegedly be supported and taken good care of)? What kind of stuff is that? Where is anything interesting, eye-catching? Your party is generally disliked by ordinary people – and here you are, this tasteless and vapid propaganda leaflet into the bargain!”

The UralDaily.ru publication cited a few more facts that are fresh on journalists’ memory in the South Urals. The website asked Pisanov:

“As head of the Journalists’ Union, did you ever rush to defend a journalist or a media outlet? Did you come out in defense of the staff of GazetaChel.ru whom Valery Alyoshkin, an oligarch and URP member, had fleeced of their salaries? Did you ever try to protect freedom of expression in the Chelyabinsk Region? Did you ever call Vadik Yevdokimov [gubernatorial chief of staff – Editor.] to give him a good dressing-down for his boorishness – after he told lady journalists that they “made themselves up nicely in the morning but forgot to switch on their brains”? Did you tell Yurevich [Chelyabinsk Region governor – Editor.] he shouldn’t close his inauguration ceremony to the press?”

In conclusion, the website appeals to the local URP leaders:

“Fire him now – he is unable and unwilling to work! He only pretends to be a big shot feeling free to sue fellow journalists. Fire Pisanov, his wife and his son – and give us a call! We will tell you how to make good websites. If need be, we will even write a good article – specially for you!”

For the full text of the UralDaily.ru publication, see http://uraldaily.ru/obshchestvo/2779.html .

GDF editor’s comment:

We feel this is a clear case for discussion by the Public Collegium on Bills of Complaint Against the Press.


5. St. Petersburg. Press spokesman reprimanded for hampering reporter’s work

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

It has taken half a year to get the Kirovsky District administration’s press secretary sanctioned for hampering a journalist’s work.

It all began March 12 when the district administration press spokesman, Grigory Shapovalov, banned Novaya Gazeta reporter Andrei Voronin from a sitting of the Urban Development Committee without explaining the reasons why.

After the Kirovsky District court found Shapovalov’s actions unlawful, Voronin appealed to the administration to get the press secretary held answerable. At long last, district leader Alexei Kondrashev sent the journalist a message of apology informing him that “G. Shapovalov has been reprimanded for improper fulfilment of his official functions”.

It would seem justice has been done. Yet the sanction is definitely too light to make the press secretary change his work style.


6. Moscow Region. Journalists barred from local council meeting

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

In the town of Voskresensk near Moscow last week, a crew of reporters for the television company Iskra VEKT was barred from attending a local council meeting that was to discuss an important matter – candidacies for the acting city mayor (the previous city head is under investigation on bribery charges).

Appalled by this gross violation of their professional rights, the reporters appealed to the regional Journalists’ Union and Glasnost Defense Foundation for consulting, and produced a TV story reporting the incident and citing JU head Natalia Chernyshova as saying that the officials barring reporters from an otherwise open meeting had breached several federal laws at once. The journalists also intended to file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office.

However, the TV story they showed caused the council head, Vladimir Bormashov, to describe the incident as a misunderstanding and pledge he would never meddle in the journalists’ work again. He has ever since walked the talk, according to Iskra VEKT.
________________

UKRAINE

Police links editor’s presumed killing with his professional activities. Continued from Digest 487 (см. http://www.gdf.ru/digest/item/1/756#ukr )

The police have actually no doubts that Vassily Klimentyev, editor of the Kharkov-based newspaper Novy Stil, is dead, city police chief Alexander Barannik said. According to him, the investigators have checked and rejected six of ten versions of what happened to the editor.

Specifically, they ruled out the possibilities of his having gone abroad or got in a road accident – checkups showed differently. Nor are they thinking that Klimentyev might decide to hide away and fake his disappearance to set up some high-ranking officials he had criticized. The version of his having got drowned was found equally inconsistent.

The police checked all of Klimentyev’s writings and instituted criminal proceedings based on one critical story, Barannik said without specifying which story he was referring to. Yet that is deemed to be the most likely reason for his disappearance – he must have been kidnapped and killed in connection with his professional activities.

The law enforcers maintain the killing may have been ordered by one of those against whom Klimentyev had gathered compromising evidence.

[Novosti TV agency, Kharkov, August 26]
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GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

Last week, the Glasnost Defense Foundation was referred to at least 15 times in the Internet, including at:

http://newtimes.ru/articles/detail/25778/
http://www.civitas.ru/news.php?code=9501
http://www.polit.ru/analytics/2010/08/25/nim.html
http://uraldaily.ru/obshchestvo/2796.html
http://www.ifex.org/russia/2010/08/25/murdered_gunfire/
http://www.newizv.ru/news/2010-08-26/132157/
http://www.novayagazeta.spb.ru/2010/62/7/
http://kalmyki.ru/content/view/163/62/
http://www.newizv.ru/news/2010-08-27/132257/
http://www.newizv.ru/news/2010-08-27/132263/
http://www.ifex.org/russia/2010/08/27/criticism_banned/
http://www.newizv.ru/news/2010-08-30/132321/
http://www.lenta.cjes.ru/?m=8&y=2010&lang=rus&nid=10606
file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/%D0%91%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%81/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/MESTZM55/%D0%9F%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%8C%D0%BC%D0%BE.html#doc29701
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ANNOUNCEMENT

Charity concert to help families of victimized journalists

A charity concert involving the New Russia state symphony orchestra conducted by Yuri Bashmet will be held to mark International Journalists’ Solidarity Day.

The music and poetry show to be presented at the Hall of Columns of Moscow’s House of Unions by the RF Journalists’ Union and the Government of Moscow is to raise money for the charity fund supporting the families of journalists who were killed or crippled while performing their professional duty.

The show begins at 7 p.m. September 8, 2010.

For tickets, please call the JU headquarters (637-3547) or the Central House of Journalists (691-0987).

____________________________________________________________________________

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 .

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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