Дайджест
25 Февраля 2011 года

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION DIGEST No. 512

February 21, 2011

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

CPJ report “Attacks on the Press in 2010” published

In New York February 15, the international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) presented its report “Attacks on the Press in 2010”, surveying media and journalists’ working conditions in more than 100 countries of the world and citing data on the journalists killed or kept in custody.

Describing the situation in Russia, the authors pointed to top two developments; one was the passing into law of a bill giving the Federal Security Service (FSB) “broad detention powers in measure that targets critical media”. GDF president Alexei Simonov told CPJ that the law was bound to intimidate government critics because it “brands as extremists all those who disagree with the government, those who stand up against authorities”. Also, the report acknowledged “some progress in journalist murder probes”, but warned that “attacks continue with impunity”.

The impunity problem was specially stressed in the CPJ survey which listed Russia among the countries where most journalist killings remain unpunished. Other blacklisted nations include Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Columbia, Afghanistan and Nepal, where the media face still worse threats.

CPJ expressed concern over Russian authorities’ failure to duly investigate crimes against the press – not only the much-discussed killings of Anna Politkovskaya, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Natalia Estemirova and Anastasia Baburova but also crimes committed in different regions of the country. CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon pointed to “persistent negative trends” as regards the observance and protection of journalist rights. He welcomed “the very positive statements” by Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the federal Investigative Committee, about the reopening of probes into the 19 unsolved journalist killings to which the CPJ delegates pointed. Simon described it as a “positive development” but refrained from “making assessments until they walk the talk”.

According to CPJ, “journalists were not killed in Russia for their reporting in 2010”. The Glasnost Defence Foundation, however, looks at it from a different angle because some journalist deaths last year looked very much like killings linked to the victims’ professional work (for details, see Digest No. 486, Digest No. 477, Digest No.478). “For international organizations, the death of a journalist on duty is one confirmed by the law enforcement agencies,” A. Simonov said. “We don’t trust law enforcement as much as they do, so our statistics have always been different and will continue to differ from theirs. Today, we are not certain about at least two or three journalist deaths.”

 

RUSSIA

Saratov Region. Newspaper remains under pressure

Continued from Digest 511

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Efforts to fire Balashovskaya Pravda editor-in-chief Olga Aidarova have continued in the city of Balashov, Saratov Region.

It all began last October, when Tatyana Savrasova, acting head of the Balashov District administration, decreed Aidarova’s dismissal – a move that the regional Labour Inspectorate later found flagrantly wrong and unlawful. In mid-November, Aidarova was reinstated in her former job, only to be fired again by the same T. Savrasova in December, when administration head Boris Shamin was away “on a sick leave”.

…Despite a law court’s ruling to have the unlawfully sacked editor reinstated (see Digest  No. 511), the district administration has not given up efforts to get rid of O. Aidarova. First, they challenged that ruling before a higher-standing court, and then they attempted to fire the editor again February 16. “They failed only because Aidarova was on a sick leave at the time,” the GDF correspondent was told by Balashovskaya Pravda deputy editor Andrei Karnaukhov, whom O. Aidarova had appointed to act in her stead until she recovers.

The administration then appointed its own nominee to perform as BP acting editor-in-chief, promising new serious problems to the newspaper staff.

The GDF will follow the developments closely.

 

Maritime Region. Gunshots fired at journalist’s apartment give rise to no criminal proceedings

Continued from Digest 499

By Anna Seleznyova,
GDF staff correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

As we reported earlier (см. Digest No. 499), the windows of the Nakhodka apartment of journalist Valentin Politayev came under gunfire by unknown attackers last autumn. Commenting on that incident, the journalist said at the time, “I’m sure that will be written off as ordinary hooliganism, and the crime will remain unsolved.”

He turned out right.

 

The police were in no hurry to open a criminal case. Finally, they instituted legal proceedings under Article 213 of the RF Penal Code on charges of hooliganism. Eventually, however, V. Politayev’s status was re-qualified from the victim’s to that of an eyewitness, and on February 17 the journalist was officially notified that V. Serebryakova, an investigator at the city police department, had declined to start a criminal case.

Politayev was not surprised by the way things had turned out. He had already gone through similar police negligence in January 2002: after two unknown men had clubbed him brutally, the law enforcers had likewise insisted that the attackers were “ordinary street hooligans”.

 

Sverdlovsk Region. Regional police chief meets with public activists

By Vladimir Golubev,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Mikhail Borodin, head of the Sverdlovsk Region Interior Department, has finally agreed to meet with activists who staged a rally of protest against the killing of Yevgeny Ilyushchenko, a video engineer with Universal Video Studios, by police major Pavel Miroshnikov who was in a state of intoxication. The activists also demanded the dismissal of police spokesman Valery Gorelykh and the forming of a new body of the Public Council under the city police department.

The meeting was held behind closed doors, with the number of participants reduced to regional human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Merzlyakova, human right defender Kirill Formanchuk, City Without Drugs Foundation vice-head Yevgeny Malenkin, and the murdered engineer’s widow and brother.

Borodin said he hoped that the investigation of Ilyushchenko’s killing would be unbiased but stressed he would not interfere personally in the Investigative Committee probe. He also expressed condolences to the victim’s family.

As regards the activists’ demand to fire police department press spokesman V. Gorelykh “for systematic lies circulated on behalf of the police”, Borodin said he would be ready to discuss matters of public interest with the head of the regional Journalists’ Union and to “strengthen” his department’s press service.

He agreed with the demand on setting up a new public council and said he would consider the five candidates to be nominated by the human rights defenders.

Activists hope that the broad public repercussions caused by Ilyushchenko’s killing will not allow the case to grind to a halt in the police corridors and enable them to establish public control over police performance. At present, P. Miroshnikov is kept in a pre-trial prison on homicide charges (Article 105 of the RF Criminal Code).

 

Chelyabinsk. Regional Ministry of Culture unwilling to share information with journalists

By Irina Gundareva,
GDF staff correspondent in Urals Federal District

Following a Novy Region news agency publication about the disappearance of valuable exhibits from local museums, the Ministry of Culture in the region of Chelyabinsk “forgot” to invite agency reporters to a recent news conference. Novy Region journalists reacted by posting the following statement on their website:

“The pattern of government-media relations in the Chelyabinsk Region has been indicative of some negative trends of late. There is a feeling that ‘government servants’ have been seeking to hide themselves from their ‘masters’ behind as high and thick walls as possible, and been making no secret of their intention. They keep at arm’s length not only ‘ordinary people’ (as the bureaucrats like to call citizens, evidently hinting at their own ‘exclusive’ status) but also media reporters.

“Only ten years ago, a journalist could request comments from virtually any administration official; today, even the least significant government agency has a press service via which it communicates with the general public. As a result, the number of press secretaries grows, while the volume of information available to the public shrinks. Press spokesmen take the liberty of personally deciding which category of information is of public interest and which isn’t. Asked to comment on some emergency situation, they will say they have no information about it, meaning no such incident ever happened at all. They will not stir a finger to provide reporters with the kind of information they need.

“Normally, a press spokesman’s reply to most questions would be ‘I don’t know.’ Probably, this strikingly odd attitude should be attributed to the incompetence of those spokesmen’s bosses who increasingly often prefer to hush up a problem than to tackle it. It looks that this is fully true for the regional Ministry of Culture to whose head, Mr. Alexei Betekhtin, the journalists are addressing this open letter.”

The authors urge the minister to answer a number of questions, including what may have prevented him from inviting reporters to attend his latest news conference. Why restrict journalists’ access to a conference summing up the results of a trip to a festival?

Besides, they want to know why the minister’s report of February 2009 mentioned over 22,000 museum pieces lost – but only 10,000 pieces a year later. Where are the other 13,000 exhibits? Have they been found? Are they being searched for? How many of them have been lost irrevocably? Has anyone been held liable for wasting museum property like this? How many criminal cases have been opened, if any, and against whom?

The Novy Region news agency asked the minister to consider this an official inquiry.

 

St. Petersburg. Prosecutor’s office gives purely formal reply

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

The establishment by the city administration of the budget-financed Sankt-Peterburg TV network has been left unnoticed by the prosecutor’s office which did not bring any protest even after finding a conflict of interests in the actions of a high-ranking administration official.

As we have reported, executive authorities in St. Petersburg launched a TV network of their own and appointed the Press Committee head to lead the new company. He willingly left his administrative position and promptly told a news conference that his TV network was to receive RUR 60 m before the end of 2010 – from the city budget, to be sure. The only “but” was that the tender for budget financing had not yet ended by that time, in which Sankt-Peterburg was anyway not eligible to participate because it had not yet obtained a broadcasting license. But that’s when “the big guns” represented by Vice-Governor Alla Manilova, herself a former journalist, were put up to explain that the money was disbursed as “an advance payment” – for would-be merits, evidently.

So the new television network started operating in October 2010 – financed with taxpayers’ money and broadcasting with another entity’s license. It got one of its own at the very end of last year.

Meanwhile, activists of the local branch of the Yabloko party filed an inquiry with the city prosecutor’s office, questioning the legality of all those schemes. Significantly, the law enforcement agency supposed to defend the interests of the state and its citizens agreed that the actions of Mr. Zinchuk, the former Press Committee head turned the new network’s director, were indicative of a conflict of interests, according to Aleksandr Shurshev of Yabloko’s youth wing. However, the prosecutors said that it was impossible to get him held liable because he had had a fully free hand to act as an administration official, with “no obligations or authority restrictions” assigned to his job position.

Nor did the prosecutor’s office find any violations of the rules of bidding for city budget allocations, except for a “misprint” in the dates of the tender – a “mere trifle”, really!

 

Samara Region. Better a lean peace than a fat victory

By Viktor Sadovsky,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

A civil law dispute in the Bolshe-Glushitsky District, Samara Region, has ended in an amicable settlement reached between editor Olga Dubrovina of the local newspaper Stepniye Izvestia (SI) and the district administration.

The conflict flared up in October 2010, after local businessman Aleksandr Gribenik was elected head of the district administration. Never known to show a biased attitude towards SI before, he nevertheless attempted to take the newspaper under control on the pretext that the district administration was registered as its founder. Dubrovina tried hard to explain that in line with the Russian constitution, the media are independent in their editorial activities and that putting administrative pressure on them is against the law. Yet the district leader continued to pressure the publication economically by ordering an unplanned audit of SI’s financial position. The audit resulted in a number of critical remarks voiced.

Based on those remarks, and in violation of the RF Labour Code and Accounting Law, Gribenik reprimanded the editor for her “poor financial performance”, although it was the chief accounting officer who was actually to blame for that.

Dubrovina challenged that sanction in court, and the district authorities agreed the reprimand had been issued in respect of the wrong person. After the administration cancelled its reprimand, the editor withdrew her civil claim.

 

Samara. Editor awarded moral damage compensation

By Viktor Sadovsky,
GDF staff correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Oktyabrsky District court in Samara has satisfied a legal claim lodged by Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev, former editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta v Samare (NGS), against the RF Finance Ministry in connection with the seizure of the newspaper’s office equipment in May 2008 on charges of suspected use of unlicensed software.

That resulted in the media outlet’s operation brought to a standstill. The investigation lasted inordinately long, and the editor was required to give a written pledge of staying in town which he several times failed to observe, finding himself declared wanted by the police. In the long run, Kurt-Adzhiyev was tried, found guilty of using counterfeit software and sentenced to a fine of RUR 15,000.

Both the editor and his lawyer Irina Khrunova first got that “wrongful and unfair” sentence cancelled in view of procedural errors and then all legal proceedings against Kurt-Adzhiyev terminated altogether. The editor then filed a legal claim demanding moral damage compensation which he estimated at RUR 446,300. Federal Judge Lyubov Leshchenko satisfied his claim partially, reducing the claimed compensation amount to RUR 430,000, which sum the plaintiff found acceptable.

What the editor is concerned with is that the said amount will be paid to him from the state budget, not from the pockets of the ill-performing justice officers.

 

BELARUS

European Parliament head urges Minsk to release Polish journalist

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has urged Belarussian authorities to release Gazeta Wyborcza correspondent Andrzej Poczobut, who is also a member of the Poles’ Union of Belarus which has never been recognized by official Minsk.

“I urge Belarussian authorities to immediately release Andrzej Poczobut from detention,” Buzek said. He sees the 15-day arrest to which Poczhobut was sentenced as “an attempt by Minsk to put pressure on fellow citizens who dare to think differently and openly speak their mind.”

“The European Parliament resolutely condemns the targeting of activists of the Poles’ Union of Belarus and other civil society and minority group associations,” Buzek said, wishing Poczobut to be strong and rely on Europe for support.

In line with a Minsk court decision of February 11, Andrzej Poczobut is to spend 15 days under arrest for “active involvement in mass unrests and chanting anti-government slogans” in Minsk on December 19, 2010.

The journalist himself noted that he could not possibly chant any slogans because he was busy in his Minsk office permanently dispatching news updates to his editor in Warsaw.

[REGNUM news agency report, February 14]

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Some statistics cited

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

 

 

OUR PARTNERS

Statement by Sakhalin Region Journalists’ Union Board

ATTN: S.A.Besschasny, Sakhalin Region Prosecutor
V.A. Belotserkovsky, Sakhalin Region Interior Department head
A.V. Khoroshavin, Sakhalin Region Governor

Aleksandr Chernega, the editor and publisher of the local newspaper Paramushir-Vesti and a member of the Severo-Kurilsk Municipal Assembly, was brutally beaten by unidentified attackers in Severo-Kurilsk on February 3 and hospitalized with a broken arm and numerous lacerated wounds on his face and neck.

Chernega is known in Severo-Kurilsk as an independent-thinking person, public activist, and 7-year-long editor of the newspaper Paramushir-Vesti sharply criticising local and regional authorities. This is not the first time he is targeted and intimidated by unknown persons.

His beating gave rise to criminal proceedings. But we know all too well how difficult it may be to investigate this kind of case, let alone take it all the way to court. Nevertheless, the Union Board hopes that law enforcement in Severo-Kurilsk, overseen by the regional police and prosecutor’s office, will succeed in tracking down his attackers and bringing them to justice.

The regional branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union is concerned that journalists have been attacked with impunity in different parts of Russia. Since we do not want anything of the kind happening in our region, we hereby urge you to take the investigation of this case under personal control.

Signed by:
L. Kasyan, President, Sakhalin Region Journalists’ Union Board
Board members: L. Avericheva, O. Vassilyeva, N. Bondareva, A. Dvorkin, L. Stepanets, V. Semenchik, V. Bubnov, S. Romanov

 

Director of Media Rights Defence Centre receives RJU award

We are happy to announce that Galina Arapova, director and senior legal expert of the Media Rights Defence Centre, has been honoured with a special award of the Russian Journalists’ Union for distinguished work to defend media rights.

At an annual Press Ball in Moscow February 11, Golden Pen Awards-2010 were handed not only to media workers but also to a group of those helping Russian journalists and media outlets in their professional activities by defending their rights and liberties. One special award, “For Defending Professional Community Interests”, went to G. Arapova.

“It’s not for the first time that an RJU award is given to a media lawyer, and we think it very important that many helpers of journalists are being honoured this year,” RJU Secretary Nadezhda Azhgikhina said.

The Media Rights Defence Centre is a non-profit organisation whose main function is to defend journalists’ rights, provide legal consulting for journalists, explain Media Law intricacies to them and expand the opportunities for journalists and society as a whole to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and the unhindered gathering and dissemination of information.

The Media Centre’s lawyers annually help dozens of media outlets in different Russian regions, and represent journalists’ and ordinary people’s interests during court hearings of socially important cases involving infringements of freedom of expression. The Centre has successfully handled Russian journalists’ cases that are under consideration in the European Court; four of a total of 20 such cases have already been won.

For details about Media Centre activities, see www.mmdc.ru

 

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.
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 organisation in the event of any Digest-sourced information or other materials being used.

Contacts: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992 Moscow, Russia.
Telephone/fax: (495) 637-4947, 637-4420, e-mail: boris@gdf.ru, 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