Дайджест
23 Декабря 2010 года

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 504

December 20, 2010

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Tenth annual A. Sakharov Award “For Journalism as a Deed” handed

Participants in the Andrei Sakharov competition – 80 to 100 per year – are bold enough to have and express opinions of their own. Moreover, they seek to build up and expand the opportunities for other people to speak out and act. While the ruling elite’s arbitrariness generates discord in society, responsible journalism breeds popular trust. Independent journalists work to the best of their ability in society’s interests, whereas government policies – and the people’s reactions they necessarily cause – often have an opposite effect, leading to disunity. In this context, particularly in the longer-term perspective, exigent and responsible journalists have an especially significant role to play as an independent and competent minority.

The contest covers the whole of Russia, from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka Peninsula and from Syktyvkar to Nalchik and Grozny.

It was won in different years by people who are thought to be the pride of Russian journalism – Elvira Goryukhina, Anna Politkovskaya, Galina Kovalskaya, Otto Latsis and others.

This year, the winners of the Stalker Human Rights Film Festival and the Sakharov Competition were honoured at a single ceremony held in the Movie Hall of Moscow’s Central House of Journalists December 14.

The 2010 A. Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” went to Vladimir Voronov (Moscow) of the newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno. The group of nominees included Georgy Borodyansky (Omsk), newspaper Novaya Gazeta; Dmitry Florin (Moscow), website Novy Focus, Abakan; Natalia Ostrovskaya (Vladivostok), newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda; and Olga Bobrova (Moscow), newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

The group of finalists included Dayan Shakirov (Chelyabinsk), newspaper Chelyabinsky Rabochiy (posthumously); Pavel Gutiontov (Moscow), newspaper Delovoy Vtornik; Yuri Tutov (Moscow), Dosye Na Tsenzuru/ Index on Censorship magazine; Andrei Piontkovsky (Moscow), web publication Grani.ru; Igor Tsagoyev (Nalchik), newspaper Severny Kavkaz; Vassily Avchenko (Vladivostok), newspaper Novaya Gazeta; Izolda Drobina (Yekaterinburg), newspaper Novaya Gazeta; Irina Kizilova (Perm), newspaper Permskiye Novosti; Marina Zavadskaya (Vladivostok), newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti; Boris Vishnevsky (St. Petersburg), newspaper Novaya Gazeta; and Irina Gafarova and Roman Prytkov (Voronezh), newspaper Moyo.

The Jury awarded special diplomas to Georgy Ramazashvili (Moscow/Tbilisi); Index on Censorship magazine – for fighting restrictions on access to archives; the website of AltaPress Publishers’ (Barnaul) – for the action AltaGate; the Internet version of the newspaper Moyo (Voronezh) – for a series of reports by Irina Gafurova, Roman Prytkov and Vladimir Lavrov about last summer’s forest fires; and Dayan Shakirov (Chelyabinsk), newspaper Chelyabinsky Rabochiy (posthumously) – for a life given for the sake of journalism.

Diplomas were also given to the media outlets that published the writings of the winner and nominees.

Galina Sidorova, former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno, speaking about the winner of this year’s Andrei Sakharov competition, said, “I am proud I worked with Vladimir Voronov. He is a brave and courageous man who has been to many ‘hot spots’. He writes honestly and very professionally. He is absolutely fearless.” Voronov himself, having said thanks for the high appreciation of his professional efforts, remarked: “As it turns out, honest work is seen as an act of conscience now. That’s sad, really…”

 

RUSSIA

Rostov Region. Murder threat to journalist gives rise to criminal proceedings

Continued from Digest 499

By Anna Lebedeva,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

On orders from the prosecutor’s office, the Investigative Committee has instituted criminal proceedings under Article 119 (“Threat of murder”), Article 167 (“Deliberate damage to a person’s property”) and Article 130 (“Insult”) of the RF Criminal Code in response to repeated complaints filed with the Volgodonsk police department by journalist Natalia Shelimova and Vera Yuzhanskaya, editor of the newspaper Nashe Vremya (NV).

Last March, NV published Shelimova’s story analysing the pre-election situation in Volgodonsk. The author pointed to the active involvement in the election process of Yevgeny Kudryavtsev, head of the Olimp (Olympus) crime ring and a member of the ruling United Russia party, and of Alexander “Shoma” Prutsakov, deputy speaker of the city Duma, a leading member of the URP Political Council and, too, a prominent figure in the Olympus gang.

According to the police, Olympus is known to control a number of markets in Volgodonsk and adjacent districts, and to own several firms, a network of stores and trade pavilions, as well as processing plants, warehouses, parking lots and fuel stations. Besides, the group trades in alcohol, grain, cereals, cars and metal. Its leader Y. Kudryavtsev, known by his underworld nickname “Admiral”, has connections in the municipal administration and law enforcement bodies. On the eve of the latest election, the newspaper Pravda Chto which he controls featured a photo picture of Admiral standing next to President Dmitry Medvedev in Krasnaya Polyana.

After N. Shelimova published her story, unidentified persons left insulting leaflets in and around her house, repeatedly damaged her property, and threatened her with violence. The regional election committee labelled her article “unlawful” and the committee chairman urged the Volgodonsk police chief, Y. Sereda, to do everything to prevent the relevant newspaper issue from reaching the reader. Postmen delivering NV to subscribers were ambushed all across the city by unidentified hooligans who confiscated copies of the “wrong” newspaper number by force, but neither those attacks nor the threats addressed to the lady journalist gave rise to any criminal proceedings.

Finally, after the federal newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an article entitled “Atomic Group” December 17, the prosecutor’s office ordered the opening of a criminal case – not against specific individuals (who still remain unknown), but in view of three kinds of criminal offences committed in respect of Shelimova.

Meanwhile, the pressure exerted on the journalist has not shown any signs of subsiding. “She remains the target of a harassment campaign in the Internet,” editor Vera Yuzhanskaya told the GDF correspondent. “Police officers have said in personal conversations with Natalia that ‘no witness ever saw anybody flinging stones at her apartment’s windows, or smearing her door with paint and mud, or slinging dirt at her in the street,’ thus hinting that no crimes were committed against her at all. A few years ago, our newspaper sued Kudryavtsev’s paper Pravda Chto for libellous and insulting publications against our correspondent, NV and me as its editor-in-chief. We won that case in court, but neither Kudryavtsev nor his men have left us alone, as you can see.”

The Glasnost Defence Foundation will continue following the developments in Volgodonsk closely.

 

Sverdlovsk Region. Journalist threatened for criticism

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

After the Yekaterinburg-based newspaper Uralsky Rabochiy featured an article entitled “Residents of Kushva Compelled to Work Their Way Through Snow-Covered City Streets” December 7, its author Vladimir Gvozdikov was summoned by ex-Mayor Gennady Tregubov, who is currently a city Duma deputy, for a dressing-down.

“You dropped a few bricks by writing that story,” Tregubov said to the journalist in the presence of witnesses. “And by doing so you also let your children down, specifically your son Andrei.”

“What has my son to do with that?” Gvozdikov protested. “Children aren’t to be held answerable for what their parents do!”

Evidently, the former head of the city administration thought the publication undermined the public image of his own son, Alexander, the acting mayor of Kushva, on the eve of pending municipal elections. This manner of behaviour is quite typical of Tregubov: when he was at the helm, he would rush to sue newspaper editors for whatever critical story they might venture to publish – he accepted nothing but praise and always thought of himself (and now of his son, too) as an exemplary city leader. Local residents, however, thought differently and repeatedly staged protest actions and went on hunger strikes.

According to the author, the publication shed light on just a few of the numerous drawbacks in the municipal system of communal services. Curiously enough, in a telephone conversation with the Uralsky Rabochiy correspondent, Tregubov admitted the fact of his having reprimanded Gvozdikov for criticism and made a menacing statement in respect of the journalist’s family.

 

Transbaikal Region. District newspaper under pressure

By Marina Meteleva,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The staffers of the newspaper Znamya Truda (ZT) issued in the Krasnochikoisky District of the Transbaikal Region have sent an open letter to the regional governor, Legislative Assembly and municipal council urging them to stop the district administration head from putting pressure on their newspaper which has provided coverage of district and regional developments for 78 years now.

The municipal newspaper has been fully self-sufficient of late, earning enough to pay for the printing services and to the staff from its own budget. Readers have done whatever they can to support their favourite newspaper. The local administration has behaved differently. After it refused to subsidise the difference between the costs and the subscription price, the ZT circulation shrank drastically, since many found subscription at the new rate unaffordable.

The editor, who has devoted her entire life to ZT, tendered her resignation to prevent tensions with local authorities head from going higher up. As a precondition, she agreed with the district head that her vacancy would be filled through a competition in which her fellow staffers would be free to take part. Instead, he appointed an outsider, L. Vedernikov, a teacher of Russian and literature and a former methodologist at the district education committee. The new editor has never worked in the media and knows nothing about the editorial process. “So you’ll have to teach him!” the district leader told the staff at a general meeting.

“That’s nonsense – an editor-in-chief must a priori know more and have greater experience than the rank and file workers!” the journalists argued, very much dissatisfied by the district head’s failure to consider their own nominees – at least two veteran reporters might fill the editor’s vacancy well. Yet the choice was made in favour of a non-professional of a pre-retirement age… That decision “calls the production process stability and the newspaper’s entire future into question”, the journalists said. “We are totally frustrated. By the district leader’s logic, a teacher can run a newspaper, an agronomist can teach children, and a salesman can treat sick people. Yet we are convinced that each should do what one is professionally able to: a teacher should teach, a doctor should provide medical assistance, and a baker should bake bread. While we are busy teaching the new editor the basics of journalism, our newspaper may fall into full decay. So leave ZT to professionals! Otherwise, we will be ready to defend our position by any means allowed under the law – up to going on strike,” the open letter said.

 

Perm. Exhibition director convicted for attacking journalist

By Vassily Moseyev,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

On December 17, the Motovilikhinsky District court in Perm sentenced Danil Fadeyev, executive director of the Permskaya Yarmarka (Perm Fair) exhibition centre to a fine of RUR 3,000, plus as much in moral damage compensation, for an attack on journalist Roman Yushkov.

R. Yushkov is a prominent personality in Perm. He is editor of the human rights newspaper Za Cheloveka and a member of the RF Journalists’ Union, which fact gives a big headache to law enforcement commanders who cannot boast of seeing eye to eye with Roman on how mass public actions should proceed. Besides, Yushkov is a member of the local environmental movement, which line of activity is often reflected in his newspaper reports, too.

Last spring, activists of the organisation “In Defence of Animals” (ZZZ) came to an exhibition of hunting and fishing equipment wearing costumes of different animals – in protest against encroachments on wildlife. Roman, in costume of a bear, caused an outburst of aggression on the part of exhibition director Danil Fadeyev, who dashed towards Yushkov and started kicking him into the face (as he was down on his knees in line with the script). The journalist was left with a lacerated wound of his cheek. “I don’t see why he got as mad as that,” Yushkov commented. “He knew all too well I wasn’t in a position to fight back. I tried to reason with him, but in vain.”

Fadeyev later admitted in court he had been infuriated by “this intrusion into my exhibition centre”. He had attempted to give Yushkov a few more kicks at the time, but the journalist was already able to ward them off.

Justice of the peace Pankova qualified the attack on the journalist/ecologist as “necessary defence” and turned Yushkov’s legal claim down. But the district court of appeals cancelled that ruling and convicted Fadeyev under Article 116 of the RF Criminal Code (“Beating”). It had taken Roman Yushkov over 18 months to get full justice finally done to him.

 

St. Petersburg. Fighting for budget

By Roman Zakharov,
GDF staff correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The heads of district administrations were told at Smolny [the seat of the St. Petersburg government] December 2 they would shortly be given the authority to allocate funds in support of the district media. Until recently, that was a function of the municipal Press Committee, performed on the basis of competitive tenders. Although losing parties had certain claims to the way bids were invited, the competition proceeded in accordance with a fairly clear criterion: the cost of preparing, printing and distributing a certain print run in a particular district of St. Petersburg.

The bids have traditionally been won by the existing district media outlets. While being officially independent, the majority of them heavily depend on local authorities. As recipients of state budgetary injections, they are compelled to carry various official reports at the request of local administrations, i.e., to perform functions typical of the propaganda media.

The St. Petersburg Club of District and Municipal Media Editors held an emergency conference December 15 and – who would believe it? – complained to Governor Valentina Matviyenko. “The release of 18 district newspapers would be entrusted to only a small group of publishing firms,” the editors’ appeal said. “Easy to guess, this re-division of the media market would entail the closure of many popular district newspapers accompanied by imminent mass staff layoffs. A blow would thus be dealt to small business outlets, to which category of economic entities the newspaper offices belong.”

The appeal several times stressed the alleged “popularity” of existing district newspapers, and the “high level of professionalism” of their staffs (which point was proved, for some unclear reason, by reference to the grants they have received from the city budget).

Actually, however, the appeal was prompted by editors’ fear of losing their piece of the budgetary pie. The readers, in the final count, should not care at all who wins in this fight for money – either the 18 existing district newspapers or the three publishing firms seen as the most likely grant winners in the reformed media market environment. Both camps are defending their own selfish interests, rather than journalism or the interests of the readers. This is especially surprising to see in St. Petersburg, a megalopolis with a population of 5 m and with an extensive network of independent news channels, including online media.

Why support the district newspapers which no one reads? Why establish a publishing centre whose products will be much like those propaganda newspapers issued in Soviet times? Why invent media grants whose recipients are known in advance? Why organise a municipal TV network to be run by the incumbent Press Committee head?

 

BELARUS

Journalists beaten up in Minsk

Late on Sunday, December 19, Belarussian Interior Ministry troops dispersed a several thousand-strong rally held outside the Government headquarters in Minsk in protest against vote-rigging, Radio Liberty’s Belarussian Service has reported.

In the process, five opposition presidential candidates and several dozen protesters were detained. Besides, two cameramen for the Russia Today television network were injured while shooting the dispersal in Independence Square: police officers cracked down on them with rubber clubs. Cameramen Kharchenko and Filyayev were left with numerous facial and body bruises. According to Radio Liberty, the dispersal also resulted in the beating of three Russian, one Polish and one American journalist, as well as Natalia Radina of the Khartiya’97 Belarussian news agency. The group of victims includes REN TV’s Dmitry Tarkhov and Novaya Gazeta’s Irina Khalip, ITAR-TASS added. Besides, injuries of different gravity were received by Ruslan Gorbachev (gazetaby.com), Viktor Tolochko (BelTA), Ales Piletsky (Nasha Niva), John Hill (The New York Times), and photographer Andrei Lenkevich. TUT.by correspondent Konstantin Lashkevich, BelGazeta reporter Vadim Zamirovsky, and Moy Rayon photo correspondent Alexander Astafyev (of St. Petersburg) were detained. By the Belarussian Journalists’ Association’s estimates, over 20 journalists representing different media were beaten up during the rally dispersal.

The protest action in Minsk that involved, by different estimates, from 5,000 to 30,000 Belarussians, was triggered by the opposition candidates’ disagreement with electoral law violations during the voting.

[Based on Belorusskiy Partizan and ExpertCentre reports]

 

TRANSDNIESTER REGION

Novy Region correspondent jailed on espionage charges

The Supreme Court in the unrecognized Transdniester Republic has found Ernest Vardanyan, an observer for the Russian news agency Novy Region, guilty of espionage in Moldova’s interests and sentenced him to 15 years of imprisonment.

Vardanyan was detained by Transdniester security services in early April. A report he posted on his web blog shortly afterward said he was being pressured to give testimony “against critics of the incumbent government”. He said he was being beaten, and his wife and children were threatened with violence. He refuted the espionage charges and disavowed in advance whatever official statements he might be forced to make later.

In mid-May, the Transdniester Security Ministry published a video recording featuring Vardanyan confessing to espionage. He was shown as saying he had signed a contract with Moldovan secret services back at the time he was a student of a university in Kishinev. Since then, he had allegedly informed Moldova’s law enforcement about the Transdniester Republic’s internal policies.

Colleagues from Novy Region have described that as a “confession clearly made under pressure” and urged the public not to trust Vardanyan’s self-incrimination.

Kalman Mizei, EU special envoy to Moldova, has censured the Transdniester authorities’ actions. And Russia’s Ambassador to Moldova Valery Kuzmin has stressed that “administrative repression is not a method to deal with journalists”.

The trial over Vardanyan was held behind closed doors.

[Lenta.ru report, December 17]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

“Web Generation” media forum held in Sverdlovsk Region

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

The First Urals Media Forum “Web Generation” has been held in Verkhnyaya Pyshma, Sverdlovsk Region. A good half of the master classes, as well as the panel discussion, focused on IT technology.

Representatives of more than a hundred media outlets were offered to choose from a list of eleven topics for discussion at three forum venues. The group of speakers included prominent Urals journalists and professors of the School of Journalism of Urals State University, as well as renowned specialists from Moscow. Specifically, Vladimir Kasyutin, secretary of the Russian Journalists’ Union and editor-in-chief of Zhurnalistika I Mediarynok magazine, analysed the local newspapers’ and websites’ work with readers, offering colleagues to take note of the best practices.

Sverdlovsk Governor Alexander Misharin took the floor during the panel discussion to point out that the regional media provide generally unbiased coverage of the developments and are able to select the most interesting news items from the information flow. He acknowledged the need for authorities to promote dialogue with the press – as a minimum, because of the rapid growth of media audiences due to the development of the Internet.

“So far, Internet coverage has not exceeded 20 percent,” the governor said. “But in Yekaterinburg, the worldwide web is already accessible to 70 percent residents, and in two to five years’ time, I am sure, it will be available to all.”

The forum participants actively discussed the pending de-municipalisation of the district media, the long-awaited opening of a regional House of Journalists, the need to organise permanent retraining courses for journalists, and ways of safeguarding their personal integrity. But whatever the topic for discussion, the main theme – “Web Generation” – remained the focus of attention.

“The Internet today is number one rival for TV, rather than for newspaper reporters,” Vladimir Prokhorov, a professor at the Urals Federal University, observed, causing a vivid reaction among the attendees of his master class. “Any person, even a high school student, can install a web camera at home and open one’s own web blog to encourage debates over any matter of public interest, or provide real-time coverage of an event. Technically, the Internet already today allows holding conferences with experts and analysts online, without awaiting regular TV or radio newscasts.”

But the rapid development of the Internet community has also raised certain ethical problems: extremist and immoral web postings have caused concerns on the part of civil society which is only beginning to develop a general code of behaviour for bloggers.

“Forums of this kind are new to the Sverdlovsk Region, but our first experience can be called quite successful,” regional Media Union leader Alexander Andreyev commented. “Modern society has long been recognized as information-anchored, so this kind of corporate communication is essential to journalists in the Urals. I think not a single participant would have anything against this forum becoming a regular event.”

The forum programme also provided for some “shirt-sleeves mixing” and for a ceremony to honour the best professionals for their creative achievements. For example, the Journalistic Union’s honorary badges “For Meritorious Service to the Professional Community” were awarded to Vecherny Yekaterinburg observer Viktor Tolstenko and to your GDF correspondent, who is also a division head at the newspaper Uralsky Rabochiy.

 

OUR PARTNERS

CPJ special report published

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has made public a special report in New York on the killings of journalists in 2010. The authors of the report, released December 15, identified Pakistan as the deadliest place for journalists to report from, because of the chain of terrorist acts that took the lives of at least eight reporters performing editorial assignments in that country.

In all, at least 42 journalists were killed around the world this year, according to CPJ. Most of them died in attacks by suicide bombers and in armed street clashes. The percentage of online media reporters has been growing. Iraq, Mexico and Honduras also ranked high for journalism-related fatalities. Despite this year’s toll representing a notable drop from last year’s record figure of 72, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said, “42 deaths is still unacceptably high” and reflective of what he described as the “pervasive violence” journalists confront worldwide. “From Afghanistan to Mexico, from Thailand to Russia, governments’ failure to investigate crimes against the press contributes to a climate of impunity that ultimately fuels more violence,” Simon said.

The report stressed that about 90 percent of journalists’ killings have remained unsolved. The CPJ-led worldwide campaign against impunity “focuses on the Philippines and Russia, the two countries where the numbers of unsolved murders of journalists are the largest”. On the positive side, the report said that no journalists killed in connection with their work have been reported from Russia this year.

But of the 12 deaths of journalists registered by the GDF in 2010, at least three look very much like job-related murders. The reference is to the killings in Dagestan of Sultan Sultanmagomedov, Shamil Aliyev and Sayid Ibragimov (for details, see Digest 486, Digest 477)

The CPJ report also highlighted the following trends and details: nearly 40 percent of the victims were TV reporters. Earlier, press reporters had been the most victimised category of journalists. At least five journalists were reported missing in 2010: three in Mexico and one in each of Sri Lanka and Ukraine. This year’s death toll includes nine freelance reporters. Nearly 90 percent of the victims worked in regional media covering local problems. Over 60 percent had said before the death they were being threatened. Statistics show that physical violence is often preceded by telephone or e-mail threats.

 

Journalists’ Union commemorates colleagues who died on duty

An action in memory of murdered reporters was held at Moscow’s Central House of Journalists December 15.

Organised for the 15th time, the action brought together relatives and friends of journalists killed while performing their professional duty.

The mourning ceremony opened with an address by RJU President Vsevolod Bogdanov who said we will always remember each of our 330 colleagues who died, particularly because many of those deaths are still unsolved and the killers remain unknown and unpunished.

“We provide financial assistance to victims’ families and help their children get an education at Moscow State University or the Moscow Institute of International Relations,” Bogdanov said. “Many choose the journalist’s profession after graduation.”

John Crowfoot of the International Federation of Journalists said a virtual Memory Book has been compiled, featuring details about all Russian journalists who died a violent death.

Nadezhda Azhgikhina said most reporters find it much more difficult to work in the Caucasus than elsewhere in Russia. “In Dagestan alone, we’ve lost 12 colleagues, and many more in Chechnya,” she said.

In conclusion, the relatives of murdered journalists were shown excerpts from documentaries dedicated to Anastasia Baburova, Yuri Shchekhochikhin and Artyom Borovik.

[Caucasian Knot report, December 16]

 

This Digest has been prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF)

 

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

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.

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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