Дайджест
18 Ноября 2011 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 545

14 November 2011

 

TOPIC OF THE WEEK

Trans-Baikal Region: Campaigning for electors’ votes starts in earnest

By Marina Meteleva, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

On 5 November political parties in the Trans-Baikal Region, just as elsewhere in Russia, began campaigning for electors’ votes by unleashing an actual “information war”.

Local political analysts have noted that all the registered parties – for the first time in Russia’s modern history – were admitted to the election campaign and offered the chance to vie among themselves for a whole month by persuading electors through public debates, discussions, interviews and statements for the press to give them their votes at the 4 December parliamentary election. Each party was granted one hour of free air time on four federal TV channels and radio stations. Campaigning will also proceed in the print media, with participating media outlets required to give the competing parties 10% of their weekly page space.

While no appalling “black PR” practices have been reported in the region so far, the rivalry is in full swing already, and the use of administrative leverage has already been reported by campaigners in the Chita district and in the city of Mogoch.

Actually, there is nothing new about the ongoing election campaign, since “victorious” technology has more than once been tested during previous elections, the last time in 2008. A vertical of campaigning centres has been established again, based on administration subdivisions at all levels. The bulk of electioneering work is being carried out by administrations, not by electoral commissions. The media, notably online media, are indirectly campaigning for the nominees of only one political party.

Just as in previous years, United Russia’s campaigning is accompanied by numerous reports by regional officials on “successful solution” of a variety of problems and by presentations of administrations’ new plans, which are concurrently presented as United Russia’s own plans and pre-election pledges. Yet the Regional Electoral Committee, as before, is viewing all of these as “normal” practices.

 

RUSSIA

Omsk Region. Rural residents under “information blockade”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Media Law and Law on Political Parties are being flagrantly violated in the Omsk Region, the regional Communist (CP) and Liberal-Democratic party (LDP) leaders told journalists at a joint news conference after reaching agreement on “coordinated action to monitor the voting and vote counting processes” during the ongoing election campaign.

LDP leader Ian Zelinsky said he had already withdrawn from the agreement signed by the Regional Electoral Committee with all the political parties on 4 October, since the ruling United Russia party (URP), which performs as the agreement’s coordinator, has violated all of its main points, notably the one on equal campaigning opportunities for the URP and the opposition.

“All the opposition forces are under an information blockade today,” CP leader Alexander Kravets stated, explaining that not a single party except United Russia has had access to the main State-run television channels, with opposition candidates at best admitted to TeleOmsk-ACME, a channel broadcasting only to the city of Omsk and a few suburban areas.

This results in most of the rural residents (who make up half of the region’s 2-million population) finding themselves excluded from the campaign process and actually deprived of their electoral rights, Kravets said. Except those few who can afford installing satellite dishes, villagers only have access to Channel One and Channel 12 (otherwise known as the governor’s channel), while the local press replicates the viewpoints presented on TV. This partially accounts for a situation where the URP election performance in rural areas is generally better than in the city – 40% and 30% of votes collected, respectively.

Strange as it may be, this situation seems to fully satisfy the regional head, a member of United Russia’s Supreme Political Council, who has waged an information war with the city mayor for more than a year now. In the event of a URP failure in the regional centre, the blame for this can be pinned on the city leader, who can even be relieved of his duties, as Governor Leonid Polezhayev already did with the previous mayor, Valery Roshchupkin (whom he himself had nominated for the post just like the incumbent mayor, Viktor Schreider), eleven years ago when the Communists came out first in the presidential election in Omsk.

Republic of Karelia. District administration claims 100,000 roubles in moral damages from local newspaper

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

The Olonetskiye Sosedskiye Vesti (OSV) district newspaper has published an article entitled “Where Is Taxpayers’ Money Going?” that asked the district administration a few unpleasant questions, specifically about the cost of repairs of the district leader’s office and the level of local administration officials’ earnings. It also expressed bewilderment over the sale of a three-storey former outpatient clinic in the city of Olonets for the price of a two-bedroom flat. The publication gave rise to debates over potential corruption in the district administration, causing the latter to file a legal claim assessing the article as libellous.

Having read the claim, OSV staffers were surprised to find out that the plaintiff only challenged a few apparently harmless phrases, rather than the entire content of the publication. For example, district officials claimed hurt by having been addressed as “Herrushki” (see the explanations below); they also disliked the phrase “making as much dough as possible”. The Olonetsky district administration demanded a disclaimer and 100,000 roubles in moral damages from the story’s author.

It took five court sittings to complete the etymological analysis of the word “Herrushki” [plural diminutive of “Herru”, Karelian equivalent of “Master” or “Mr.” (cf. German “Herr”) – Translator.] Karelian being the native language in the Olonetsky district, which is by 70% populated by ethnic Karelians, it would seem such an address is quite normal. Yet the administration claimed hurt because the first part of the word “Herrushki” sounds pretty obscene in Russian and is used as a rude euphemism for “penis”. The journalists attending the sittings noted they had never heard so many curse words pronounced in court before.

Finally, the court turned down the administration’s claim in full. Moreover, the judge charged the defendant’s judicial expenses of 4,000 roubles to the plaintiff. The ruling has entered into full legal force.

Republic of Karelia. Petrozavodsk administration to change system of reporters’ admission to its headquarters

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Journalists have found it difficult to enter the Petrozavodsk city administration headquarters lately: to attend a committee or Council sitting or meet with a mayoral official, a reporter has been required to wait in a long line to get a one-time pass. Under the former system, security guards used to check with a list of accredited journalists and let journalists through at the show of their press cards.

The Board of the Journalists’ Union of Karelia, jointly with the Soyuz Legal Experts’ Partnership, has appealed to Petrozavodsk Mayor Nikolai Levin asking him to review the system of reporters’ admittance. A reply message received a few days ago said, “As of 1 November 2011, media workers will be admitted to the mayoral headquarters in accordance with a list (of accredited journalists) currently being compiled by the administration’s press service. To be let through, a journalist will have to show his or her ID.”

Thus the problem has been solved in a mutually acceptable way.

Rostov Region. Prosecutor’s office fines district newspaper

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

At the insistence of the prosecutor’s office in the Kasharsky district of the region of Rostov, a 100,000-rouble fine has been levied on the district newspaper Slava Trudu (ST), and a 4,000-rouble fine on its chief editor Yuri Pasekov, for “violations of the advertising law”.

Actually, the newspaper was only to blame for publishing an ad about the sale of medical equipment without a note that one should consult with a specialist prior to its use.

Charged by the prosecutor’s office with breaching the provisions of Article 14.3.1 of the RF Administrative Code, the newspaper and its editor were fined by the Rostov Antimonopoly Service Department.

“We will challenge this decision in the arbitration court,” Pasekov told the GDF correspondent. “Two years ago, our newspaper published an article criticising the district prosecutor’s office and its head. Since then, they’ve been on the alert for any minor flaw in our performance. At one time, they attempted to shut down our newspaper altogether. But we’ll keep on defending our rights and the rights of our readers who come to the ST office everyday bringing complaints and asking for assistance.”

Sakhalin Region. Struggle for access to information continues

See Digest 537

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

For several months now, the Sovetsky Sakhalin newspaper has been in correspondence with the Sakhalin Region administration seeking to find out how much money has been allocated for the repairs of the former Business Co-operation Centre where the administration is planning to move.

At first, Finance Minister Natalia Novikova said she could not answer the inquiry because “the budget regulations do not require the repairs of separate buildings or facilities to be specially reflected in the budget”, and recommended re-addressing the question to the apparatus of the governor and government’s chief of staff who must have ordered the repairs. The relevant department’s chief Nikolai Sinyavsky declined to reply because the inquiry failed “to reflect the author’s status of a journalist”.

The author, correspondent Larissa Pustovalova, is a journalist with a 35-year record of work in the media; during the last 13 years she has worked for Sovetsky Sakhalin. She is one of the region’s most prolific (publishing her writings in almost each newspaper issue) and prominent journalists, and winner of numerous regional and federal professional competitions. To be sure, she typed her inquiry on the official letterhead.

Behind the scenes, officials at the regional Information Policy Department frankly stated they would not provide any information at Sovetsky Sakhalin’s request because of its publications criticising authorities.

As already reported in the GDF Digest, the author of this story, too, was denied information about the disposal of budgetary funds. The bureaucrats at the time did not like my status of a freelance journalist.

The editor of Sovetsky Sakhalin complained about the information refusals to the regional prosecutor’s office which then required the governor to undo the injustice and provide the requested data. The government, for its part, challenged the prosecutors’ argumentation. The two branches have ever since continued exchanging written messages to prove each of them is right.

Meanwhile, another dispute over restrictions on access to information has been settled. As reported in Digest 533 of 22 August, Alexander Chernega, editor and publisher of the Paramushir Vesti newspaper, was long denied information about the level of earnings of Judge Denis Kondratyev of the Severo-Kurilsk district court. After repeated appeals to the judge himself, the regional qualifying college of judges, and the regional Justice Department, the “awful mystery” was finally unveiled, with the relevant data published on the district court’s website. As it turned out, the judge receives an average salary – nothing out of the ordinary – so why try to conceal it as long as he did?

The websites of the Kurilsky, Dolinsky and Okhotinsky district courts, as well as the city court in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, still do not feature any information regarding their judges’ earnings. The conclusion is simple: Seek and ye shall find!

Perm Region. Communist party candidate not expunged of conviction as arsonist

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

Viktor Begun, ex-mayor of the city of Osa convicted of organising and facilitating the torching of the home of local journalist Pavel Verenkin, is registered as the Communist party nominee in Precinct No. 23 for a seat on the Perm Region Legislative Assembly.

Late on 21 October 2008, in the middle of the mayoral race in Osa, a taxi driver saw the house of Verenkin, editor-in-chief of the KTV-Inform television channel, catching fire. He called the controller’s office to report the incident, and a fire brigade arrived early enough to extinguish the fire. The adult owners of the house turned out to be away that night; their son and daughter who were asleep did not suffer any damage. The police officers examining the site found traces of arson.

The arsonists were identified due to police eavesdropping on the telephones of Vladimir Batsin, a market director and council deputy from the city of Tchaikovsky; the relevant warrant had been issued by a court of law long before the incident in Osa. On 21 October, Batsin had a phone call from V. Begun asking him if he knew someone who might come to Osa “right now, tonight” to quietly burn the home of the TV channel director who had “left town for a while” and who “needs to think over a few things carefully and suffer a little” in connection with his support for Begun’s rival. Batsin pointed to Vivat-Trade manager Yevgeny Shibayev as the right man to do the job, for which he charged 5,000 roubles.

Toward the evening, Shibayev arrived in Osa, and Begun drove him in his personal Nissan Almera to Verenkin’s house. Shibayev poured inflammable liquid onto a house wall and struck a match. In the 26 October 2008 run-off election, self-nominee Begun gathered 60.61% votes, coming far ahead of United Russia’s nominee Sergei Generalchuk of LUKoil-Perm Ltd.

In the course of investigation, Shibayev confessed to the arson but changed his testimony during the trial in the Osa district court later. Begun denied his involvement and did everything to drag out the proceedings. After breaking his written promise not to leave town, he was arrested on 8 February 2011. Before the sentence was passed in the case, the two accused men paid Verenkin’s wife, the house owner, 300,000 roubles in material and moral damages. On 15 March, Begun was sentenced to a suspended two-and-a-half-year term of imprisonment and released from custody in the courtroom, and Shibayev to a suspended two-year term. On 19 April, the regional court in Perm confirmed the ruling which then entered into full legal force.

Begun attempted to challenge the city Duma’s termination of his office by its 10 May decision, but the district and regional courts found that decision well-justified, noting that “A person violating criminal legislation fails to meet the established moral standards”. That did not, however, detain the Communist party from nominating the ex-mayor of Osa, who is still on a 4-year probation and is required to register with the Law Enforcement Inspectorate once a month, for a seat on the regional Assembly. One of the candidates standing for election in the same precinct is Valery Sukhikh, head of the regional government and leader of the United Russia party branch in Perm.

 

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 PUBLICATIONS

Kostroma Region authorities continue pressuring independent newspaper

On 7 November, a district police inspector came to the office of Moy Gorod Kostroma (MGK), the regional centre’s sole independent public and political newspaper, to question the editor in connection with a complaint filed with the regional prosecutor’s office about a “libellous” story published by MGK.

The story in question, which was entitled “Special Department”, critically assessed the performance of the Kostroma Region administration’s Regional Security Department.

“Judging by the complaint, the Department questions the author’s doubts as to the expediency of establishing in the sparsely populated region of Kostroma an additional power structure like those existing only in Moscow and the Moscow Region, with its functions overlapping those of other controlling, among them law enforcement, agencies,” MGK editor Ruslan Tsaryov said. “Also, the article described some Department initiatives, specifically, on organising public prayers in places where road accidents frequently occur, as ‘absurd’. However, the author is fully justified in expressing his personal opinion, which in this case was based on facts cited in official documents – the Department Statute and reports made by senior Department officials at operative conferences in the governor’s office. I am sure if the complaint is given a comprehensive and unbiased study, a criminal case that may be opened, if any, is likely to be closed soon.”

The police inspector told the editor that the Regional Security Department operates on personal orders from Governor Igor Slyunyayev, on whose desk the controversial publication finally landed. This was confirmed to MGK general director Albert Stepantsev also by Department official Klara Vorobyova, who called the MGK office last week to demand a disclaimer.

On the very same day, OBEP (the regional police unit against economic crime) requested several accounting reports from MGK – allegedly, in response to a complaint filed with the police. They did not specify what kind of complaint it was or what about. The editor is now busy checking the lawfulness of the ongoing inspection and the requirements advanced in connection with it. However, there are reasons to believe that its actual goal is to find out who finances the recently established newspaper and who co-operates with it, in order to put pressure on those people in the future.

Pressuring undesirable media reporters, publishers and owners; inadequate reaction to critical publications; and the actual introduction of censorship in the Kostroma Region have become routine practices under Governor Slyunyayev. In the run-up to the December elections, media community purges seem to be viewed by the regional authorities as particularly important.

There have been precedents of government servants who happened to fall into disfavour with the regional administration or the governor in person being compelled to look for alternative jobs outside the Kostroma Region.

In July, the regional printing house, which directly depends on the regional administration, refused to print MGK right after the release of the pilot issue (printed in only 999 copies). At present, the newspaper is printed in Yaroslavl and has a circulation of 15,000.

For details, please call (4942) 63-72-11, (915) 194-56-71, or (953) 654-35-34. E-mail: chief@mgkostroma.ru

Albert Stepantsev,

General Director, Moy Gorod Ltd.

 

LETTER

From editor in Ivanovo Region (Central Russia)

TO: Glasnost Defence Foundation

Dear colleagues:

This is a request from the Ivanovo-Press public and political newspaper for your assistance in curbing unlawful actions by the Ivanovo Region government aimed to ban our newspaper’s distribution throughout the region.

Ivanovo-Press has operated since 1997 as the region’s sole independent newspaper. It has not received any financial support from either power structures or business groups. It has never published any libellous or “yellow press” stuff. Some of our publications, though, have criticised those at the helm – but can a newspaper be blamed for individual officials or parliamentarians getting involved in practices that result in serious criminal charges brought against them? In the wake of one such publication, we had the rent agreement with our media outlet unilaterally terminated in spite of our strict observance of all its terms and conditions.

…For the past 6 years now, the regional leadership has placed all kinds of barriers in the way of Ivanovo-Press’ distribution in the region. Settling the conflict in a civilised manner has proved impossible. Our appeals to the RF Public Chamber have been in vain. Although a court of law has acknowledged the lawfulness of our demands, these have produced zero impression on the regional administration.

We cover whatever topics and highlight whatever problems may be of interest to our readers, which is the main criterion we are guided by in our work. We raise issues that worry people and are pointed to by the President. By banning the sale of an independent newspaper, the regional authorities play into the hands of those trying to stifle freedom of expression.

Governor Mikhail Men has unlawfully used administrative leverage to pressure our newspaper, while constantly claiming he knows nothing about this.

Evidently struck by yet another fit of hatred toward Ivanovo-Press, he is again attempting today to ban our paper’s distribution in the region he is in charge of. One may only wonder how far he is prepared to go. And when will the governor start working for the benefit of the region, instead of targeting a newspaper he dislikes?

We very much count on your interference.

Sincerely,

V. Smetanin,

Editor-in-chief, Ivanovo-Press newspaper

9 November 2011

 

ANNOUNCEMENT

Human rights activists meet with journalists

At noon on Wednesday, 16 November, journalists and organisers of the Civil Observers campaign are to meet in the Press Café at the Central House of Journalists (8a, Nikitsky Blvd., metro station Arbatskaya). Accreditation certificates will be issued locally.

Civil Observers is a campaign launched in the run-up to December’s parliamentary elections.

The organisers’ first meeting with journalists will be held by the Russian Human Rights Movement Board, the GOLOS Association and the Moscow Journalists’ Union.

Russian citizens know that large-scale vote-rigging, government propaganda of the “leading role” of only one political party, and people’s exclusion from the election process have marked federal election campaigns in the past, as well as today. In this situation, each and every citizen is called upon to actively participate in election monitoring and to resist falsifications as vigorously as one possibly can.

Speakers will include political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin; GOLOS Association head Lilia Shibanova; human rights activists Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Lev Ponomarev, Sergey Kovalev and others. They will tell journalists what caused them to launch the Civil Observers campaign; what facts are at their disposal already; and in what way the ongoing campaign is supposed to be of help to society. The “first thousand” of electoral law violations already recorded by the GOLOS Association will be made public.

Journalists are invited not only to cover the campaign but also to actively participate in it, since only two categories of citizens – party representatives and journalists – are entitled to act as observers during the elections.

Participation in the Civil Observers campaign is a unique chance for members of Russia’s civil society to resist electoral falsifications and personally contribute to solving issues that are crucial to this country’s future.

Contacts:

GOLOS Association: (+7 495) 234-5939

Human Rights Movement Board: (+7 495) 697-5010

Moscow Journalists’ Union: (+7 495) 691-5490; (+7 495) 691-6486

For further details, please contact GOLOS’s Olga Novosad by calling (+7 909) 638-3305 or (+7 495) 234-5939, or by e-mailing a message to: press@golos.org

 

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, 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

Все новости

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