Дайджест
10 Ноября 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 544

7 November 2011

RUSSIA

Krasnodar Region. Zhivaya Kuban web portal changes hands

By Victoria Tashmatova, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

As announced a few days ago, the web portal Zhivaya Kuban has changed hands. The new owner’s name and the worth of the deal are to be kept confidential in line with the terms of the agreement. Unofficial sources say the popular independent website was purchased by entities controlled by the Krasnodar Region administration. Its former owner Boris Maltsev said his successors have pledged to preserve the status quo, not to interfere in the editorial policy, and let Nina Shilonosova retain her post of editor-in-chief.

However, regular visitors soon spotted increased activity by the newly appointed moderators who are “now in charge of the website content”, as Shilonosova stated. Specifically, reports by a member of the Ordinary People Association about 75 apartments in the Chistiye Prudy residential complex that allegedly belong to the family of the late Vice-Governor Murat Akhedzhak have been edited out, together with a critical article about corruption within the regional Health Department exposed by the prosecutor’s office in the course of an inspection of its purchase of expensive tomographic scanners.

Actually, less than a week after it changed hands, the Zhivaya Kuban website started losing its popularity rapidly. It seems the new owner, the regional administration, does not care at all that the content control system it has imposed is bound to slash the number of website visitors.

Khabarovsk. Journalist barred from attending open court hearings

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

Hearings have begun in the Zheleznodorozhny district court in Khabarovsk of the resounding criminal case of Prof. Anatoly Ivanov, former chief of Far Eastern Railways, who is charged with beating student Andrei Nemtsov to death in broad daylight. When Irina Kharitonova, correspondent for the Khabarovsky Ekspress newspaper, informed Judge Nazarova’s secretary of her intention to attend that day’s hearing, she was sent to Court Chairman Sergey Olesik for authorisation. Finding that wrong, the journalist stayed in the corridor to wait for the court proceedings to begin. However, some 15 minutes later Ms Nazarova, the judge in charge of Ivanov’s case, personally directed Kharitonova to the court chairman’s office, where press spokeswoman Olesya Pleshkova told her that “in line with the Media Law, a reporter wishing to attend an open court sitting must notify the court chairman of this in writing seven days prior to the sitting”.

“I told her she was mistaken,” Kharitonova said. “There has never been any such clause in the Media Law and cannot be, ever. Since Pleshkova insisted on my writing a prior application, I asked her to show me the document which says I must do that. She spent 10 to 15 minutes trying to find one in her computer and then suggested I should walk downstairs from the fifth floor to the lobby to look for the form I needed among the sample forms hung out on the walls.”

As a result, when the lady journalist thought she had persuaded the spokeswoman to let her attend the sitting at long last, the courtroom turned out locked, since the hearings were in progress already.

Perm Region. Local RJU branch complains to Legislative Assembly about administrative pressure

Olga Loskutova, head of the Perm Region branch of the Russian Journalists’ Union, has sent the chairman and members of the regional Legislative Assembly an open letter complaining that candidates for seats on the Assembly are finding themselves unable this year – for the first time ever – to publish their campaign material in the municipal press or on radio and TV.

“The reason is that editors of those media have been secretly instructed by the governor, with confirming phone calls from local administrations, to refrain from involvement in electioneering in order to prevent undesirable candidates or parties from publishing their campaign stuff in the local media,” the letter says.

“Judging by the mood of media head-managers, these recommendations will be implemented, since the municipal media are heavily dependent on the regional government and local self-governments for financial assistance,” O. Loskutova further says in her message. “This ‘pre-election silence’ will not only restrict the people’s right to receive accurate and timely information updates but will also block candidates’ access to print and online media, and deprive media outlets of the opportunity to earn extra money. The few media head-managers who may be bold enough to disobey have every reason to expect problems – from termination of financial support to sackings.”

The open letter also points to the inadmissibility of methods employed in the Perm Region to achieve the desired political effect, and asks the parliamentarians to take the system of municipal media funding under special control and look into each instance of a media outlet’s being targeted for showing civil responsibility.

The message was discussed and approved by a meeting of chief editors of municipal media in the Perm Region.

Kostroma. Bureaucrats insist on seeing their orders obeyed

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

Moy Gorod Kostroma (MGK), an independent newspaper established less than half a year ago, is already finding itself under administrative pressure, according to its publisher Albert Stepantsev.

Earlier this month, for example, a lady official at the regional administration’s Security Department called the newspaper office demanding that a disclaimer be published in the wake of a critical story about her department. Otherwise, she said, the department head would sue MGK for libel. Asked which particular statements they found libellous, she could not cite any, while refusing to send an official claim to clear things up.

“I don’t see any reason to publish a disclaimer,” MGK chief editor Ruslan Tsaryov said. “We are an independent newspaper and we don’t fear intimidating phone calls from whatever government agency may feel angry. Besides, the department representative failed to explain what’s wrong with our publication. My general impression is that the Kostroma bureaucrats are used to seeing their instructions promptly carried out by local journalists. But that’s the way they feel about it. As for us, we are guided in our work only by effective legislation, not by any kind of oral or secret directives. And we aren’t afraid of going to court because we know we’re right.”

Journalists said it is not the first time local authorities are trying to put pressure on the independent newspaper, which has been released since June. The city printing house, for example, refused to publish MGK’s second issue because of alleged “economic difficulties”; since then, the newspaper has had to be printed in Yaroslavl.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in October 2011

Attacks on journalists – 6 (Vladimir Gushchin, cameraman, Vologda State TV/Radio Company, Vologda; Yuri Kosorotov, cameraman, Vesti-Ryazan TV company, Ryazan Region; Andrei Tsarkov, freelance journalist, Tver; Andrei Ryssev, reporter, Kogita.ru web publication, St. Petersburg; Sergey Avdeyev, correspondent, Vedomosti Ural web portal, Yekaterinburg; Pyotr Kovalev, reporter, Interpress news agency, St. Petersburg).

Instances of censorship – 5 (Novokuibyshevsky Vestnik newspaper, Samara Region; Nevskoye Vremya newspaper, St. Petersburg; Zhivaya Kuban news portal, Krasnodar; Kazarma-blog website; Tsentralnoye Televideniye TV show, Moscow).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 2 (Nikolai Kirillov, Vechernyaya Ryazan newspaper, Ryazan; Yevgeny Koltsov, editor, Vesti Okhanska newspaper, Perm Region).

Illegal sacking of editor or journalist – 2 (Marina Yeliseyeva, editor, Tarskoye Priirtyshye newspaper, Omsk Region; Oksana Makeyeva, director, Tomsk State TV/Radio Company, Tomsk).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 10 (film crew of Lithuania’s National TV Channel One, detained in Kaliningrad; Ruslan Alibekov, photo correspondent, Chernovik newspaper, and Boris Alibulatov, cameraman, Makhachkala Internet TV, both detained in Makhachkala; film crews of Vecherny Sochi and EFKATE television companies, both detained in Krasnodar Region; Yelena Kostyuchenko, Novaya Gazeta correspondent, Moscow; Vladimir Kantemir, editor, Vechorka newspaper, Chita; Vera Kichanova, Novaya Gazeta author, Moscow; Yevgeny Feldman, Novaya Gazeta correspondent, Moscow; Pavel Smolyak, editor, Shum web magazine, St. Petersburg).

Legal claims against journalists and media, registered – 22, worth a total of 16,995,000 roubles.

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) – 28.

Threats against journalists and media – 4 (Andrei Tsarkov, freelance journalist, Tver; Yevgenia Timofeyeva, correspondent, URA.ru news agency, Yekaterinburg; Veniamin Dmitroshkin, Grani.ru correspondent, Ryazan Region; Natalia Fonina, correspondent, Arsenyevskiye Vesti newspaper, Vladivostok).

Refusal to print (or distribute) media – 1 (Vechorka newspaper, Chita).

Closure of media – 2 (Sol web newspaper, Perm; Kultura newspaper, Moscow).

Withdrawal (purchase, seizure) of print run – 5 (Spravedlivaya Rossiya and Pravda v Altaiskom Kraye newspapers, both seized in Barnaul, Altai Region; Spravedlivaya Rossiya newspaper, seized in St. Petersburg and Ryazan; Pora newspaper, Irkutsk).

Interference with media operation - 1 (Primorsko-Akhtarskiye Vesti newspaper, Krasnodar Region).

Interference with web publications – 1 (Bankfax website, Barnaul).

Release of duplicate (i.e. rival) newspapers – 4 (Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, Amur Region; KPRF na Altaye newspaper, Altai Region; Vecherny Pervouralsk newspaper, Sverdlovsk Region; Kommunisty Amura newspaper, Blagoveshchensk).

Confiscation of or damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 5 (TV camera of Volograd TV/Radio Company, Vologda; video cassette of Vecherny Sochi TV Company, Krasnodar Region; TV camera of film crew of Vesti-Ryazan TV show, Ryazan Region; Dictaphone machine of Andrei Ryssev, correspondent for Kogita.ru web newspaper, St. Petersburg; photo camera of Pyotr Kovalev, correspondent for Interpress news agency, St. Petersburg).

Other forms of pressure or infringement of journalists’ rights – 21.

***

Some statistics cited

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

 

OUR PUBLICATIONS

Flaws of “online justice administration”

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

When the Justice Ministry announced that Russia, following in the footsteps of other civilised countries, was introducing an online system of justice administration, lawyers and journalists were the first to welcome it heartily. According to the project initiators, all court decisions throughout the country are now to be posted on the relevant websites, giving the journalists a degree of access to information that will guarantee the release of unbiased, cross-checked and truthful media reports, rather than those based on guesswork and rumours. All would be really nice if the system operated without a hitch. Unfortunately, it has not…

Some time ago, I happened to learn from my own sources that a foreign-based company had sued Russia’s Federal Customs Service for damages and been awarded an impressive amount of compensation. Since top customs service managers confirmed that fact but declined to provide details, I started searching for the relevant court decision in the Moscow Arbitration Court’s database. That’s where it turned out that finding it was impossible, unless you knew the case file number.

The Arbitration Court website’s document search system is devised so that you cannot enter the database even if you type in the full names of the plaintiff and defendant organisations. “The system isn’t perfect indeed,” court spokeswoman Yulia Iudina acknowledged, noting that “anyone is free to comment on its quality” and that “technical flaws are not the sole measure of the openness of justice administration”.

Yet they are to a considerable degree – I’ve been trying in vain for several months now to find a court decision that I need to write an article on a topic of considerable interest to many Russian businessmen.

I did leave my comment on “the system’s quality” on the court website, typing it into the box supposed to secure the delivery of my message to Court Chairman Sergey Chucha in person. But I am not sure it will reach the addressee, given this kind of “system flaws”…

One other thing that I am interested in learning is how much the taxpayers had to pay for those flaws – that is, for the faulty software package purchased by the Arbitration Court – and whether these information access restrictions were not imposed deliberately.

Man convicted for life fails to get 100,000 in moral damage compensation for having been defined as “vagabond”

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm has turned down a legal claim by Denis Karakov, a triple killer convicted for life, of moral damage compensation from the Dosye 02 police newspaper for publishing what struck him he a “smearing” report about him.

On 25 September 2009, in the section “Judicial News”, the police weekly featured an 11-line note about the sentence passed by the regional court in the resounding case of Karakov, then 27, who had murdered three persons in the town of Chusovoi. He was jailed for life, and his four accomplices were sentenced to imprisonment terms of 8 to 16 years. Serving his time in the Ivdel penal colony in the Sverdlovsk Region, Karakov sued the newspaper for describing him as a “vagabond” at a time when he was officially registered as a resident of the town of Gremyachinsk, Perm Region.

He claimed that the “inaccurate report” disparaged his human dignity. “The publication produced a surprising and even shocking effect on people who knew me well, and caused me to feel humiliated,” Karakov wrote in his legal claim. “I was compelled to put myself right with my relatives and friends by explaining to them that a mistake had been made.”

The plaintiff demanded a newspaper copy featuring a disclaimer, and 100,000 roubles in moral damages. An inmate of a tight-security penal colony, he also expressed readiness to personally attend hearings of his civil case. “Oral testimony in court may be able to better convey the moral suffering they inflicted on me,” he said.

The district court did not find any reason to satisfy his claim. As it turned out, the regional court’s ruling of 28 August 2009 had qualified him, considering his way of life, as a “person with no fixed abode”, which characteristic he had not challenged before the law-established deadline as his case was being reviewed in the RF Supreme Court. To save page space, the journalists had used the accepted Russian abbreviation of that phrase which is tantamount to “vagabond” or “tramp” in English translation. In her ruling passed 19 October this year, Judge Larissa Pershina said that since the police newspaper’s definition of Karakov’s social status was identical in its content and meaning with the relevant phrase in the court sentence, it was not disparaging or humiliating in respect of Karakov.

He may challenge the court’s refusal to satisfy his legal claim. A notice to that effect was sent to two addresses at once – the Ivdel colony and the Yekaterinburg pre-trial detention centre where Karakov had been temporarily brought for questioning on suspicion of involvement in other crimes as well.

 

OUR PARTNERS

Guild of Linguistic Experts on Documentation- and Information-Related Disputes (GLEDID) reports on its performance this year

Russian linguistics knows of numerous expert studies of controversial texts by Russian language experts, among them members of GLEDID, the Guild of Linguistic Experts on Documentation- and Information-Related Disputes established in Moscow in 2001.

Between 1 January and 31 October this year, GLEDID analysts carried out in Moscow and in different regions of Russia over 230 studies of disputed texts of print, broadcasting and online media reports at the request of courts and investigation agencies, and on contract with legal entities and individuals.

Statistics say that the number of media-related conflicts and legal claims lodged against media, far from decreasing, has steadily increased, as proven not only by GLEDID’s own conclusions but also by data at the disposal of one of our long-time partners, the Glasnost Defence Foundation’s Monitoring Service.

Typologically, the disputes that required GLEDID expert opinion over the first ten months of 2011 can be classified as follows:

- about 45% of the total were media report texts giving rise to civil claims in defence of honour, dignity and business reputation filed by individuals (in line with Article 152 of the RF Civil Code);

- nearly 15% of all expert opinion requests were connected with legal entities’ business reputation protection claims filed with courts of arbitration (Article 152 of the RF Civil Code);

 - up to 7-8% of all expert studies involved finding out whether or not disputed texts contained verbal signs of actions punishable under Articles 129 (“Libel”) and 130 (“Insult”) of the RF Criminal Code, which still have not been de-criminalised – a measure deemed long overdue;

 - an alarmingly high percentage of cases (24-25%) involved court rulings and determinations on, as well as different party requests for, linguistic studies in the context of Article 282 of the RF Criminal Code regulating liability for instigation of inter-ethnic, racial or religious enmity, and Federal Law FZ No. 114 “On Countering Extremist Activity”. It should be noted in this connection that just a few years ago, in 2006-2008, requests for this category of studies were notably fewer and did not exceed 12% of the total.

Well-justified concerns about increasingly serious problems in the area of fighting extremism have been voiced not only by law enforcement officials but by journalists too. At this new point in this country’s history, when manifestations of extremism and xenophobia in the political, economic, social, religious and other spheres have grown increasingly widespread, national linguistics feels obligated – by providing professional assessments prepared by socially active and socially responsible scholars – to meet this challenge of time and learn to employ sophisticated modern methods of analysis that need to be discussed and introduced into everyday practices on the basis of mutual respect and trust among scientists, judges, barristers, investigators and human rights activists.

GLEDID sees it as one of its major tasks to participate – together with other civil society institutions, notably the Glasnost Defence Foundation – in the efforts to monitor cases where government authorities, law enforcement agencies, business groups and regional elites target journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and artists for publications that are deliberately presented as “extremist” in revenge for the identification and exposure by their authors of law violations and abuses (e.g. corrupt practices) committed by such government officials, businessmen and others, and for the targeted persons’ daring to show their active civic position and to criticise authorities.

It may be added that during the period under review, widespread public opinion differences as to the meaning of the terminological word combination “social group” as applied to enforcement of Article 282 of the RF Criminal Code led GLEDID to explore the issue of how a professional linguist should competently reply to judges and investigators’ frequent questions about disputed texts allegedly indicative of someone’s intent to instigate “social enmity”, e.g., toward the police, other law enforcement agencies, or municipal and regional authorities (administrations), none of which, in the view of some Russian experts, make up a social group either collectively or individually.

These and other matters are to be discussed during the series of scientific and practical seminars and round tables planned by the GLEDID management for 2012, and on GLEDID’s renovated website (www.rusexpert.ru), to be available as of January next year.

GLEDID Board Chairman Mikhail Gorbanevsky, Ph.D. (Philology),

Professor, Full Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences

Karelia Journalists’ Union holds third web-based seminar

New media development in Russia’s Northwest

The Journalists’ Union of Karelia (JUK), jointly with the Barents Press international journalistic association, has held the third in a series of its regular web-based seminars, this time focusing on new media development trends in Russia’s Northwest. As usual, the seminar attracted journalists from Karelia and the regions of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk. Modern technology enabled them to come together in virtual reality to clearly see and hear one another while discussing and comparing developments in their respective regions lying far apart in real life.

JUK President Anatoly Tsygankov delivered the main report, “New Media as a Channel for Information Exchanges and Communication”, giving a general overview of online journalism development trends. Website editors and individual bloggers then shared their achievements and discussed ways of tackling problems that appear to be common to all, like ill-behaving chat forum participants, uncivilised rivalry in the information area, limited technical capabilities, and external attempts to censor web content. Blogger I. Lukyanov drew considerable attention describing his experience of online campaigning in social networks last spring while running for a seat on the Petrozavodsky City Council. Other interesting stories were told by A. Lopatkina, project manager of the “Web Club of Friends of Novaya Kondopoga Newspaper”, and lawyer Y. Paltseva, who also offered some practical recommendations to networking journalists and bloggers.

 

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

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, Svetlana Zemskova  – lawyer, Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy  – translator.

 

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