4 Августа 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 530

August 1, 2011


Chief presidential spokesman gunned down in Dagestan

By Magomed Magomedov,
GDF staff correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Garun Kurbanov, head of the Dagestan President’s Information Policy and Press Office Department, was shot and killed in Makhachkala on July 28.

At about 8:30 a.m., as Kurbanov was walking from his house in Mantashev St. toward a service vehicle parked nearby, a silverfish VAZ-2114 pulled over, from which two unidentified men got out. One of them fired several rounds from a submachine gun at Kurbanov, then at his driver Ismail Ismailov, killing both. Investigators later found thirty-two 5.45-mm cartridge cases at the scene of the crime.

The attackers managed to escape. Police efforts to intercept them instantly were in vain. Investigators are studying eyewitnesses’ testimony and recordings made by six security cameras fixed on nearby buildings. They have started legal proceedings under Articles 105 and 222 of the RF Criminal Code (“Homicide” and “Illegal keeping of firearms”).

A few hours after the killing, Dagestan’s President Magomedsalam Magomedov called an urgent conference to demand that the perpetrators be tracked down as soon as possible. “Garun Kurbanov was one of the most principled and honest citizens of Dagestan. We believe he was murdered in connection with his official performance, his public speeches and his (negative) attitude toward extremists. This is a lesson for all of us to learn, the law enforcement agencies in the first place,” the president said adding that he would closely follow the investigation process.

Dagestan’s Chief Investigator Alexei Savrulin and Internal Affairs Minister Abdurashid Magomedov told the president about the course of investigation and agreed that Kurbanov’s assassination might be linked with his government activities and his rejection of extremism. However, local media and analysts say other versions need to be checked too – for example, the “economic” one, whereby Kurbanov might be killed in connection with the large international economic forum underway in Dagestan, which is supposed to present the republic to potential foreign and Russian investors as a territory that is safe for investing money. Kurbanov’s murder obviously disproves those assertions.

Another version links the killing with the pending reorganisation within the Dagestani government. The head of state reportedly signed a decree July 28 on uniting the Information Policy and Press Office Department, Press and Public Communications Committee and smaller media-regulating bodies into a single agency that was to be led by Kurbanov. The new body was supposed to pursue an efficient anti-extremist strategy. But then, according to people who knew him well, Kurbanov planned to retire from government service and switch to internet TV projects…



Krasnodar Region. Journalist attacked in Anapa

By Victoria Tashmatova,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

Vyacheslav Martynov, an observer for the newspaper “Anapa” and husband of the same newspaper’s editor-in-chief Yekaterina Martynova, was attacked and beaten near his own house July 26.

As he was leaving for his office in the morning, two sturdy young men met Martynov on the staircase between the second and third floors, pushing him off his feet and starting to beat and kick him on the head and chest. The victim attempted to protect himself with a leather briefcase. The attackers were scared away by neighbours who had heard the noise of the fight on the stair landing.

Martynov’s wife immediately reported the incident to the police. She said her husband never had any household or property disputes with anyone; so she links the beating with his professional activities – specifically, with his critical publications about municipal administration attempts to privatise municipal property in the resort city of Anapa at dumped prices, as it had done with a former municipal store, the Pobeda cinema and concert hall, and a children’s sanatorium in Pionersky Avenue.

Shortly before the attack, the newspaper had been subjected to administrative pressure. The municipal Property Management Department unilaterally withdrew from an agreement of indefinite duration under which it had managed the office space used by the media outlet, and charged more than RUR 700,000 from it in rent. Besides, the administration unofficially barred reporters from attending its meetings, offering them instead to refer to press releases issued by the city Media Relations Department.

The police have instituted legal proceedings under Article 116 of the RF Criminal Code “Infliction of light bodily damage”). After Martynov undergoes a forensic medical examination, the attack may be re-qualified and the charges laid against his assailants may be toughened, the newly appointed city police chief, Andrei Terekhin, said.


Republic of Kalmykia. Sudden intrusion into newspaper office

By Natalia Severskaya,
GDF staff correspondent in Central Federal District

Valery Badmayev, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Sovremennaya Kalmykia, has reported an incident that occurred in Elista a few days ago. Lawyer Sergey Burgustinov burst into the newspaper office, swearing and threatening to “kill everyone here”. He drove journalist Vyacheslav Ubushiyev out of the office, then seized several newspaper stacks (about 2,000 copies) and carried them away in his car.

The lawyer’s intrusion came in the wake of a 30 June 2011 publication entitled “Boorish Operatives”, which was based on a complaint to the investigative committee and prosecutor’s office by a man beaten up by criminal investigation operatives. One of the bully officers turned out to be son of the lawyer S. Burgustinov who represents Acting Internal Affairs Minister Batr Gindeyev’s interests in a lawsuit lodged against Sovremennaya Kalmykia.

The newspaper complained to the police about Burgustinov’s attempt to intimidate the journalists, and reported his theft of editorial property.


Omsk Region. TV company management closely watches suspended journalist

By Georgy Borodyansky,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The prominent sportswriter Mikhail Mandel, whom the Omsk public knows also as a long-time commentator of ice hockey matches in which the local Avangard team played, has been suspended from broadcasting for no evident reason. First, his popular TV show “On the Stands with Mikhail Mandel”, in which he answered sports fans’ questions live, was shut down to the utter disappointment of the viewing audiences, triggering a torrent of angry phone calls to the TV studios. Then his weekly radio conversations with celebrities in and beyond the sports world were terminated, together with his daily sports news roundups.

In an interview for the newspaper Kommercheskiye Vesti, Mandel linked his suspension with two circumstances – the reshuffle within the Irtysh State TV/Radio Company management and his becoming chairman of the company’s 67-member trade union. “After that, the pressure campaign began,” the journalist said, describing his predecessor as a “purely nominal” figure and a person who never defended employee rights in real terms in conflicts with the company management. “When the union members asked me as a veteran worker to become their leader, I couldn’t say no to them,” Mandel said.

“Today, I continue working on the Vesti-Sport Omsk show on Rossiya-2,” he went on to say, “but I actually perform only as a narrator, since they don’t let me attend sports competitions and they closely watch my work, insisting that I sit in the office from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. Actually, this is a kind of prohibition to practice: unless I attend competitions and mix with athletes directly, I’ll lose my qualifications. They’ve gone as far as setting up a video camera over my desk to make sure I stay at my workplace all day long. They watch every step I make and control everything I do.”

Irtysh Company staffers have urged Omsk Region human rights ombudsman Vassily Pronnikov and State Duma deputy Oleg Smolin to protect Mikhail Mandel from administrative pressure. They are preparing to send a similar appeal to All-Russia State TV/Radio Company (VGTRK) general director Oleg Dobrodeyev.


Krasnodar Region. News agency dragged into litigation

Continued from Digest 525

By Victoria Tashmatova,
GDF staff correspondent in Southern Federal District

The scandal over the Krasnodar Region vice-governor’s son, Mr Gromyko Jr., posing in an SS officer’s uniform before a photo camera has entailed a series of legal claims filed against the Zhivaya Kuban (ZK) news agency which posted those photo pictures on its web portal.

One such claim was lodged with the Sovetsky District court of Krasnodar by the Karasun administrative district prosecutor’s office, which insisted on removing the pictures from the agency’s website. Prior to that, on May 18, the prosecutors had urged ZK to take disciplinary measures in respect of the persons who had ventured to make those pictures public. In a reply message, ZK editor Nina Shilonosova asked the prosecutor’s office to call back its representation as “one issued without an in-depth study of the facts and not based on effective legislation”.

The first court sitting chaired by Judge Eleonora Platonova resulted in the hearings adjourned for an indefinite time. Specifying the charges advanced against the news agency, the plaintiff’s representative said, “They displayed a Nazi uniform”.


Khabarovsk Region. AmurMedia agency charged with breaching law

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

The IT and Public Communications Committee of the Khabarovsk Region administration has charged the AmurMedia news agency with “spreading rumours” – actually, with breaching Article 51.1 of the RF Media Law which says that “a journalist is prohibited – on penalty of disciplinary and even criminal liability – to spread rumours under the disguise of reliable information”.

AmurMedia was the first to report on bidding, announced on the regional administration’s website, for the right to create a new web portal. The terms and conditions included the requirement that the would-be portal “should be designed based on the www.whitehouse.gov website”, i.e. on that of the U.S. president. “It should be blue and green in colour to match the range of colours of the Khabarovsk administration’s official website. Thus, it should be a compilation of the two websites. The project will cost an estimated RUR 25 m,” the announcement said.

The officials did not like either the comparison with an overseas web portal or the very tone of the publication. They described the AmurMedia report as “rumours about a project slated for implementation”.

The journalists and their colleagues were puzzled. If they are required under the law (and prepared) to bear responsibility for each word they say or write, why not get the government officials who blamed a media outlet for violating this law held answerable for their groundless allegations?



GDF poll

A few days ago, President Dmitry Medvedev suggested discontinuing government support for the mass media. Speaking at a regular Russian-German forum, which was held in Hannover this year, the Russian leader said the media must exist independently, an Interfax news agency report said. He agreed, though, that financial support is vital to small media outlets’ survival but noted that subsidies put media in a dependent position: the media receiving money from regional administrations start defending the interests of those who feed them.

As is known, direct federal support for the media amounts to nearly RUR 200 billion per year, with the bulk of that sum spent on government-controlled media. Analysts say that together with grants and different indirect methods of support, federal authorities spend no less than RUR 400 billion a year on the fourth estate, not counting financial injections from the regional and local budgets.

The Glasnost Defence Foundation invites you to comment on President Medvedev’s proposal by answering the following questions:

(1) Are the Russian media in need of state support? Why?

(2) Do you think President Medvedev’s initiative to terminate government support for the media will ever be translated into a reality?

(3) To whose advantage and disadvantage is the Russian government’s practice of subsidising the media?


Some statistics cited



Jobless journalists go into felt boot business

By Marina Meteleva,
GDF staff correspondent in Siberian Federal District

Jobless journalists in the Transbaikal Region have registered a private felt boot manufacture and a company issuing a magazine for the regional elite.

Last December, the region’s sole public and political daily Zabaikalsky Rabochiy (ZR) dismissed a dozen staffers on the pretext of changing its status from a state unitary enterprise to a state autonomous institution. It was not lazybones and loafers who were fired but professionals with long records of work for ZR, and not because of their old age – at 40-45, a journalist reaches the peak of creative activity. Most of the dismissed workers were journalists with their own civic position, or mothers of small kids, or simply people unwilling to put up with substantial wage cuts.

Their subsequent careers were different: some moved to other media; others stayed unemployed. Two lady reporters, having waited for the established period of time on the labour exchange list of unemployed, registered a private enterprise to manufacture felt boots. They seriously plan to go into that business towards the winter, the more so frosts below -40oC are fairly common in Siberia. Another group of fired journalists established a company to promote innovative IT: with the help of programmers, they create websites and unite them into networks (at present they are busy working on a project that involves the free opening of websites for district newspapers), etc. A third group is actively developing public projects, like publishing a magazine (VIP-Zabaikalsky Krai) about successful regional projects, successful businessmen and problems the regional elite is supposed to tackle in politics, economics, culture and the social sphere. The release of the first issue of the magazine will be timed to the opening of the First Siberian Civic Forum in Chita on October 21.

The magazine’s goal is to shape a positive public image of the Transbaikal Region; highlight the qualitative standards of professions involving the successful promotion of innovations on federal and regional level; and attract investments to finance socially oriented projects. It should be noted that it is a charity project: proceeds from the ads placed on the first issue’s pages will be spent on the purchase of computers for the kindergartens that won in the regional and municipal competitions of pre-school educational institutions. Partners will be offered to speak at the Forum and advertise themselves on separate pages on the Forum’s and magazine’s websites. Information about charity project participants will also be circulated via the regional media.

Journalists in Chita have been saying in jest that if their ZR colleagues had been fired earlier, the region would long since have started to implement new media projects and -- to make felt boots to keep its residents warm…




Last year I informed you about my unlawful detention on July 30 near the headquarters of the Kaliningrad government in connection with a previous-day article in the newspaper Svetlogorye that criticised the Oktyabrsky District police chief. I was nabbed while shooting a video report about a one-man picketing action: pensioner Yuri Matsnev was holding a placard featuring portraits of the regional court chairman, regional police chief and head of the investigative department all placed behind bars.

Division deputy head Capt. Komandirov, then Sgt. Popov (armed with a submachine gun) rushed at me, hitting and stopping my video camera. They pushed me into a vehicle and drove me to the police station. District department chief, Klimov, personally registered my detention. Some captain, twisting my arm, dragged me into the guardroom. On the way, he gave me several blows and cursed my newspaper rudely. I was then searched and taken to the narcological dispensary for compulsory testing. Back at the police station, they took away my personal effects and kept me for five hours in a locked cell in a robber’s company, not letting me use the bathroom and not giving me any food or drinks. They made a forged protocol of administrative offence. While I sat in the cell, they erased all files from my camera’s memory stick. With their fake protocol in hand, they then brought me under guard to a justice of the peace.

I later managed to restore the erased video evidence which helped me prove in court that I had not sworn in public as was written in the protocol.

In December, the district court satisfied my legal claim to qualify the police officers’ actions as unlawful.

Today, on July 25, another district court partially satisfied my moral damage compensation claim, requiring Russia’s finance ministry and the Kaliningrad Region finance ministry to pay me RUR 20,000 each in moral damage compensation. I had waited a whole year for that to happen.

What remains to be done now is to get the guilty persons held liable under the law. Since September 23 last year, the investigative department has delayed action on my report of the crime. Law courts have already cancelled three unlawful refusals to open a criminal case, and a fourth one is under consideration now.

Neither the prosecutor’s office nor the police or investigative committee has shown any sympathy for a journalist subjected to arbitrary treatment, the less so any desire to help him get full justice done to him.

[Konstantin Rozhkov, editor, newspaper Svetlogorye]


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.

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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