Дайджест
17 Мая 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest Nos. 569-570

7-14 May 2012

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Opposition actions in Moscow: Reporters habitually detained along with protesters

The opposition actions staged in Moscow on 6-9 May were accompanied by detention and beating of media reporters.

Force was used against journalists in Bolotnaya Square, Tverskoy Boulevard, Pushkin Square, the Patriarch’s Ponds, near the Novokuznetskaya, Tretyakovskaya and Kitai-Gorod metro stations, in the square in Novinsky Boulevard, in Chistoprudny Boulevard, and near Nikitskiye Vorota and the cinema Udarnik.

At times, police behaved in a civilised way, not quarrelling with reporters and refraining from beating them (according to journalist Georgy Ramazashvili, “the police officers were quiet and polite, and didn’t detain me long”); they even released several detainees from vehicles en route to the police station. But during the detention, they often used brutal force, and several journalists got beaten up. Specifically, Grigory Nekhoroshev, deputy editor of the newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno, received a club blow on the head on 6 May; Lenta.ru correspondent Ivan Kolpakov was hit in the face by a policeman; Moscow News correspondent Vadim Kantor got the back of his head smashed with a rubber club; Grani.ru photo correspondent Yevgenia Mikheyeva took a blow on the head and got her camera broken; Grani-TV reporter Dmitry Zykov received blows in his stomach and an eye. Gazeta.ru’s Yevgeny Shipilov suffered the most: police officers pushed him onto the ground and proceeded to beat him with clubs; after a severe blow on the head, the journalist lost conscience.

The list of reporters detained during the protests is even longer. Lenta.ru journalist Alexander Savelyev was detained after the dispersal of the Bolotny Square action; police escorted him into the paddy wagon as he was reporting from Bolshaya Ordynka Street.

Alexander Alyoshin of the Russian News Service was apprehended near the Kitai-Gorod metro station on 7 May. “They detained me without explaining why – just picked me at random from amid the crowd for a document check-up,” he said. “I showed my passport, but they told me to shut up and pushed me into the paddy wagon.”

Ilya Barabanov of The New Times was detained on the same day in Tverskoy Boulevard, where activists of the For Fair Elections movement were holding a peaceful action against Putin’s third inauguration.

Kommersant’s Alexander Chernykh was nabbed during an 8 May rally in Chistoprudny Boulevard that brought together several hundred protesters.

Roman Popkov, an observer for Osobaya Bukva, was detained during the “peace stroll” along Novinsky Boulevard on 9 May.

All in all, more than 50 journalists were detained on 6-9 May. Their number, apart from those mentioned above, included Grigory Tarasevich, science news editor at Russkiy Reporter magazine; Ilya Krasilshchik, chief editor of Afisha magazine; Filipp Dzyadko, chief editor of Bolshoi Gorod magazine, along with four staffers – Alevtina Yelsukova, Yuri Ostromentsky, Irina Kaliteyevskaya and Svetlana Reiter; Roman Volobuyev, chief editor of GQ magazine; Ivan Davydov, columnist at Lenta.ru; TV anchor Ksenya Sobchak; Forbes Russia editor-in-chief Andrei Babitzky; Tikhon Dzyadko of the Ekho Moskvy radio station; Dozhd TV channel reporters Ksenya Batanova and Timur Olevinsky; Voice of America correspondent Roman Asharov; Filipp Bakhtin, ex-editor of Esquire magazine, along with his successor Dmitry Golubovsky; freelance journalist Maria Lipkovich; Kommersant correspondent Maxim Kvasha; Lev Rubinstein of Grani.ru; Lev Gershenzon, unit head at YandexNovosti; Alexandra Astakhova and Oleg Salmanov of the Vedomosti newspaper; military correspondent Arkady Babchenko; freelance reporter Alexei Belenkin; Gazeta.ru’s Alexander Artemyev; Sergei Minenko of The Moscow Times; Yezhednevny Zhurnal editor Alexander Ryklin; Kevin O’Flinn, cultural news editor at The Moscow Times; journalists Viktor Shenderovich, Alexander Mnatsakanyan, Karina Kabanova, Artyom Vassilyev, Yelizaveta Vassilyeva and Alina Kirilova, all of Dozhd TV channel; Veniamin Dmitroshkin of Grani.ru; Polina Bykhovskaya of Slon.ru; Darya Bashkirova of Kommersant-TV; Grigory Nekhoroshev of Sovershenno Sekretno; and freelancer Georgy Ramazashvili. Newsru.com’s Maxim Blant got detained twice, and Kirill Mikhailov (Reggamortis1) – four times (sic!).

It looks like detentions and beatings of journalists covering protest actions have become a routine practice. This, however, is well understandable: how else could the authorities possibly try to deter the press from reporting about street protests?

 

EVENT OF THE WEEK

FH Global Press Freedom Report: Russia on par with Zimbabwe

On the eve of World Press Day, the international NGO Freedom House released its “Freedom of the Press 2012” report.

The FH analysts made their assessments based on such criteria as freedom of speech; the degree of government control over a country’s media; the working conditions the journalists enjoy; the incidence of use of violence against reporters; and the economic and political situation in the country. As a result, the 197 countries under study were divided into three groups: those where the media are free, partly free and not free. The first group includes 66, the second 72, and the third – 59 countries.

The press freedom situation is the worst in North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, Cuba, Syria, China and Burma, and the best in Finland, Norway and Sweden. The group of leaders also includes Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Andorra, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

A sizeable part of the report is dedicated to Russia. This country again hit the list of countries with not free media, moving just one point up in the index, from 173rd to 172nd place which it now shares with Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe.

Freedom House attributes this slight improvement to broader use of the Internet, social media and satellite television in Russia. The mobilising and educational potential of these new media vividly demonstrated itself after last December’s parliamentary elections, the report says. New media in Russia showed that, “when amplified by traditional mass media, they can be quite effective at disseminating news of government abuses and mobilising civic action against illiberal regimes”. “Other authoritarian powers – such as Russia, Iran, and Venezuela – resorted to a variety of techniques to maintain a tight grip on the media, detaining some press critics, closing down media outlets and blogs, and bringing libel or defamation suits against journalists,” the index says. Besides, the media environment in Russia “is characterised by the use of a pliant judiciary to prosecute independent journalists, impunity for the physical harassment and murder of journalists, and continued state control or influence over almost all traditional media outlets”.

Dr. Ivan Zasursky, head of the New Media and Theory of Communication department at Moscow State University’s School of Journalism, agreed with the FH assessments. Pointing to a balance struck between traditional and web-based media worldwide, he noted in an interview for Kommersant that “in Russia, the authorities have always tightened the screws on freedom of expression; but while they’ve done this to the maximum degree as regards some traditional media, they haven’t actually achieved any tangible results in the Internet, and they hardly ever will.” Notwithstanding this “absence of pushback” in Russia, “any talk of improvement is still premature,” Zasursky said.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, described the press freedom situation in this country as “a far cry from normal”. “But it has changed so much recently, particularly in the past year, that giving Russia 172nd ranking is unprofessional to say the least,” he said. “Over the past few months, Russia has taken a decision to establish a public TV channel; decriminalised its Criminal Code articles on libel and defamation; and ruled that interference with a journalist’s lawful professional activities will entail more severe punishment – up to six years of imprisonment. All those are very serious steps taken by President Medvedev at our Council’s initiative.”

In the view of Vsevolod Bogdanov, president of the RF Journalists’ Union, “the general situation is fairly complicated, because the main focus in today’s journalism everywhere, including online and print media, is on informatics, not on political writing which appeals to a person’s soul.”

Arkady Babchenko, a former correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, believes the FH rating reflects the media situation in Russia more or less objectively. “We are watching a strikingly paradoxical situation today,” he said. “On the one hand, media freedom has been actually killed in this country. Prominent media personalities have no access to the influential media anymore. On the other hand, the authorities feel so strong and self-confident that they allow bloggers and regional media to say and write whatever they wish, since a journalist’s word isn’t worth anything anymore. But as soon as one reaches a point at which he becomes capable of doing a journalist’s job in real terms – educating and enlightening people, and providing them with unbiased information – that’s where censorship instantly arises… Yes, in the last five years or so they’ve stopped firing gunshots at journalists. Today, they are doing it ‘the simpler way’: journalists Kashin and Milashina, for example, were not killed – they were ‘only’ beaten up severely. Maybe this is a reason why Russia was given a higher rating.”

Of the other ex-Soviet countries, the media were classified as free in Estonia (22nd ranking), Lithuania (40th), and Latvia (54th); partly free in Georgia (111th), Moldova (115th), and Ukraine (130th); and not free in Armenia (149th), Kyrgyzstan (155th), Tajikistan (171st), Azerbaijan (172nd), Kazakhstan (175th), Belarus (193rd), Uzbekistan (195th), and Turkmenistan (196th).

 

RUSSIA

Police “know-how” for dealing with critically-minded journalists (Ryazan, Central Russia)

Three staffers of the Ryazan office of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (NG) were attacked by three unidentified assailants in the city centre late on 2 May. NG chief editor Alexei Frolov, his deputy Roman Sivtsov and columnist Sergei Yezhov, while suffering some bodily harm, offered active resistance; moreover, they managed to detain the attackers and hand them over to a police patrol.

The subsequent course of developments turned out strange indeed. The police told the journalists they would take the detainees to the Sovetsky district police headquarters. “But as we arrived there to file a report, the police officers said they had released the attackers en route; they did not explain why,” Yezhov said.

They recognized one of the assailants, the NG journalists said, identifying him as the same young man who had attempted to disrupt a news conference in the Ryazan office of the Golos Association [a watchdog group monitoring compliance with electoral law] last December. This time, the attack must have been linked with the privatisation of five municipal industrial plants in Ryazan, the victims believe. The thugs evidently targeted Yezhov, an organiser of picketing protest actions and leader of the regional branch of the Other Russia party, who suffered the most and had to turn to the regional clinic for medical assistance – he had a concussion, Frolov said.

Yezhov officially reported the beating to the police, and Novaya Gazeta demanded a thorough investigation of the assault and explanations as to why the attackers had been released. At that point, the story took quite an unexpected turn.

Late on 4 May Yezhov was detained by the police while taking a train to Moscow to hand over to the presidential administration a stack of public activists’ signatures under a petition to have Ryazan Governor Oleg Kovalyov replaced. The journalist was taken to Police Station No. 1 – to suddenly turn from a victim into a hooligan: he was charged with inflicting light bodily harm on one of the participants in the 2 May attack. Someone named Maxim Chernov had officially reported as much to the police…

In the long run, Yezhov was released with a written pledge not to leave town.

The incident in Ryazan cannot but cause bewilderment: first, NG staffers come under an attack and get beaten by assailants who then miraculously – or rather, at law enforcers’ will – get away with it, although one of them was identified. Finally, it turns out the journalists themselves were to blame! What for, one may wonder – for offering resistance to the hooligans? Or just for being free-thinking individuals taking the liberty to publish “the wrong kind of reports” in their newspaper?

 

NG staffers see the latest assault on their colleagues as a carefully pre-planned provocation. “We think the attack is connected with NG journalists’ professional work and political views,” says a statement posted on Novaya Gazeta’s website. “We believe this is a clear instance of police juggling with evidence, resulting in a victim’s status changed to that of a suspect.”

Prosecutor’s office starts checking up on reported threats against journalist’s family (Samara, Volga)

See Digest 568

By Natalia Severskaya, GDF correspondent in Central Federal District

The previous Digest edition reported on threats coming to the family of Darya Grigoryan, an observer for the web newspaper Park Gagarina (PG), after her husband’s posting in the Internet photo pictures of cars parked on sidewalks and at pedestrian crossings, thereby endangering the safety of people crossing the street.

After PG reported the threats to the police and published a relevant story in the Internet, it received an official reply from Yuri Sliva, acting head of the regional Investigative Committee, who said the inquiry had been “forwarded, in accordance with investigative jurisdiction, to the Interior Ministry’s Chief Administration for the Samara Region”.

The regional prosecutor’s office, too, has started a probe into the circumstances. “Your report has been accepted for checking; based on the findings, due measures of prosecutor response will be ordered,” the office’s spokeswoman Natalya Tsoi informed Park Gagarina.

Officers of the regional police department have stayed in close contact with her and her family during the past few days, Grigoryan said in her turn.

The GDF will keep a watchful eye on the developments in Samara.

Accuracy of newspaper’s report on office-abusing bailiff confirmed four years after (Perm Region, Volga)

See Digest 487

By Mikhail Lobanov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The regional court in Perm has confirmed the convictive sentence passed in the case of Rauzalia Mamatova, former chief bailiff of the Bardymsky District, who was charged with coercing her subordinates into free work on her personal farm. But four years ago Mamatova filed a legal claim against the newspaper Argumenty I Fakty-Prikamye (AIFP), demanding from it 300,000 roubles in moral damages for publishing information officially provided by investigators.

Journalist Yuri Tokranov’s article “Toiling for the Bailiff” of 4 June 2008 “impudently smeared me in the eyes of the public, encroached upon my honour, dignity and business reputation, and did not contain a single word of truth,” Mamatova said at the time, demanding a disclaimer, apology and moral damage compensation from AIFP.

Judge Anna Slavinskaya of the Motovilikhinsky district court in Perm established on 9 April 2010 that the controversial publication contained “word-for-word quotes from press releases by the Perm Region Investigative Department and Federal Bailiff Service, as well as reprints from other press sources”, and turned Mamatova’s claim down in line with Article 57 of the RF Media Law, while additionally pointing out that in citing official sources of this kind journalists are not required to cross-check the accuracy of any underlying facts and shall not be held liable for circulating such information. After the regional court in Perm confirmed that ruling on 10 August 2010, it came into full legal force.

On 26 April this year, a court of appeals drew a line also under criminal proceedings started against Mamatova as early as 5 December 2007, confirming as fair and well-grounded the Chernushinsky district court ruling of 28 March 2012, which pronounced the former bailiff guilty of office abuse, depriving her of the right to perform as an executive official for 3 years. The court thus confirmed the accuracy of AIFP’s 2008 report about Mamatova’s unlawfully compelling her subordinates Albert Imaikin, Ramil Gafarova and Gulfina Mukhametova to spend their working hours planting and harvesting potatoes and tedding hay on their lady boss’ personal farm.

Regional ex-MP’s legal claim against newspaper turned down again in Khabarovsk

See Digest 529

By Olga Vassilyeva, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

A legal claim lodged by Khabarovsk MP and United Russia party member Alexander Shishkin against Grand Express Publishers’ and journalists Konstantin Pronyakin and Irina Kharitonova has been turned down for the second time. The claim was first lodged in the wake of the newspaper Khabarovsky Express (KE)’s 13 April 2011 publication “Presidential Envoy Ishayev’s Power Tree”, and accepted by Judge Olga Dorozhkina of the Central district court in Khabarovsk right on Soviet-era Press Day, 5 May.

As we have reported, apart from Shishkin, four more people frowned at KE’s publication – former Far Eastern Military District commanders Viktor Novozhilov and Viktor Chechevatov; former regional police chief Vyacheslav Baranov; and Yuri Khrizman, head of the Dalspetsstroi state-run special construction company (with whom an amicable settlement has now been concluded). All of them filed their claims, citing one another word for word, with one and the same court on one and the same day, each demanding half a million roubles in moral damages from the newspaper. Their interests were represented in court by an expensive Khabarovsk-based defence lawyer, Yuri Kuleshov.

For the first time, Shishkin, then an active State Duma deputy, saw his legal claim turned down in August 2011, which decision he challenged before the higher-standing regional court. The latter cancelled the ruling and returned the case for review by a different panel of judges on the pretext that the first-instance court had failed to establish whether or not KE was a legal entity. The plaintiff’s newly-hired defence lawyer Lyudmila Yeliseyeva, who stepped in to replace her colleague Kuleshov, cited, among others, this argument as a reason for cancelling the first decision: “Shishkin’s interests in the first-instance court were represented by defence lawyer Kuleshov, who is a reputed specialist in criminal law, meaning that Shishkin (with his civil law case) failed to receive qualified legal assistance from him.”

The plaintiff’s refusal to settle the conflict amicably, as the defendants had suggested in a bid to skirt a new protracted litigation, gave rise to new proceedings that ended in the journalists’ full victory. Shishkin himself did not attend a single court sitting throughout the process.

Reciprocal moral damage claims by Omsk governor and human rights activist both turned down

See Digest 566

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The retirement of Governor Leonid Polezhayev after more than 20 years at the Omsk Region’s helm has been marked with the Oktryabrsky district court’s passing a decision on his legal claim against Valentin Kuznetsov, a pensioner and human rights activist. As reported earlier, the regional leader claimed half a million roubles in moral damages for a statement Kuznetsov had made while addressing a protest rally: “Polezhayev must be prosecuted for ruining the (region’s) industry and agriculture and for subjecting residents to economic genocide.”

Investigation continued for more than six months. In December 2011, the district court turned the governor’s claim down in full, causing Polezhayev to appeal to the regional court, which returned the case for review in January. The elderly but energetic pensioner reacted by filing a counterclaim to demand compensation not only for the moral and physical damage he had suffered attending all those court sittings, but also for the losses he had personally incurred as a result of Polezhayev’s “economic reform” which had turned him from a mechanic into a human rights defender. He had had to resign as leading engineer and inventor first at Sibzavod, an industrial plant that assembled tractors and seeding machines, then at Elektrotochpribor, a plant that produced electric meters (both were stopped under Polezhayev). It took Kuznetsov quite a long time persuading the plant managers to pay what was due to him and to 1,500 other laid-off workers. Yet he claimed much less – only 100,000 roubles – from the governor in moral damages.

Nearly 30 witnesses appeared in court to testify in the rights defender’s favour. They cited numerous facts about rural districts falling into full decay under Governor Polezhayev. The court upheld any Russian citizen’s, including Kuznetsov’s, right to publicly assess government officials’ performance and suggest potential sanctions that one thinks they deserve. The governor’s claim of a disclaimer of Kuznetsov’s public statement and of moral damage compensation from the pensioner was again rejected in full. But the activist’s counterclaim against Polezhayev was turned down, too.

If is unclear whether the governor, whose term expires on 30 May, will appeal against the latest court ruling again. As regards Kuznetsov, his political ambitions are as high as ever. “I am prepared, if need be, to go all the way to Strasbourg,” he told the GDF correspondent.

 

GLASNOST DEFENCE FOUNDATION

Conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in April 2012

Deaths of journalists – 1 (Ramazan Novruzaliyev, chief accounting officer, Dagestan news agency, and blogger, Republic of Dagestan).

Attacks on journalists – 11 (Yelena Milashina, columnist, Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Moscow Region; Anastasia Grigoryeva and Ella Znamenskaya, reporters, and Anastasia Deyeva, photo correspondent, Zhukovskiye Vesti newspaper, Moscow Region; Alexei Rassolov, journalist, Printsip newspaper, Moscow Region - twice; Andrei Novichkov, correspondent, Grani.ru, Moscow Region; REN TV film crew, Bryansk; Alexei Rulnov, journalist, Dvoinoi Ekspress newspaper, Yekaterinburg; Maria Ruzina, freelance journalist and blogger, Leningrad Region; Ruslay Gereyev, journalist, Nastoyazhcheye Vremya weekly, Republic of Dagestan).

Instances of censorship – 7 (Skopinsky Vestnik newspaper, Ryazan Region; Vysota 102.0 news agency, Volgograd; Kultura TV channel, Moscow - twice; Russkiy Sever-Belorizets newspaper, Vologda Region; NTV channel, Moscow; media in Chelyabinsk Region).

Criminal charges against journalists and media – 3 (Dmitry Shipilov, freelance journalist, Kemerovo; Maxim Yefimov, freelance journalist, Republic of Karelia; Oleg Leontyev, correspondent, RIA Novosti news agency, Krasnoyarsk).

Unlawful sacking of editor/journalist – 2 (Irina Vassilyeva, editor, Novocherkasskiye Vedomosti newspaper, Rostov Region; Fatima Magomedova, journalist, KBR state TV/radio company, Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria).

Detention by police, FSB, etc. – 11 (Andrei Petrov, cameraman, Dozhd TV channel, Moscow; Ruslan Alibekov, photo correspondent, Chernovik newspaper, Makhachkala, Dagestan - twice; Yulia Guseinova, press secretary, Russian Barristers’ Association “For Human Rights”, Moscow; Channel One and REN-TV film crews, Moscow; Pavel Semyonov, correspondent, Ridus news agency, St. Petersburg; Pavel Shabanov, journalist, Russkiy Sever-Belorizets newspaper, Vologda; Olga Pashkova, deputy editor-in-chief, Yezhednevny Zhurnal, Moscow; Ella Znamenskaya, correspondent, Zhukovskiye Vesti newspaper, Moscow Region; Oleg Leontyev, correspondent, RIA Novosti news agency, Krasnoyarsk; Mansur Mirovalev, journalist, Associated Press, Moscow).

Refusals to provide information (including bans on use of audio recorders and video/photo cameras; refusals to provide accreditation; restrictions on admittance to official events held by government bodies, industrial enterprises or state institutions) – 29.

Threats against journalists and media – 8 (Aksana Panova, chief editor, Ura.ru news agency, Yekaterinburg; Marina Andryushina, senior media adviser to chief investigator of Kaliningrad Region; Novy Region news agency, Yekaterinburg; Andrei Novichkov, correspondent, Grani.ru, Moscow Region; Sergei Reznik, freelance journalist and blogger, Rostov-on-Don; Darya Grigoryan, journalist, Park Gagarina web publication, Samara; Vitaly Titov, founder of Mangazeya news agency, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region; Dmitry Florin, Radio Liberty correspondent, Moscow).

Refusals to print (or distribute) media – 2 (Skopinsky Vestnik newspaper, Ryazan Region; Konkurent newspaper, Vladivostok).

Withdrawal, purchase or seizure of print run – 2 (Osetiya-Svobodny Vzglyad newspaper, Vladikavkaz; Russkiy Sever-Belorizets newspaper, Vologda Region).

Interference with Internet publications – 6 (Vysota 102.0 news agency, Volgograd; AiF-Ural, MK-Ural and Trud na Urale websites, Urals; Novy Region news agency; Pravda UrFO web newspaper, Urals).

Release of duplicate (i.e., rival) newspapers – 1 (Moy Rayon newspaper, Omsk).

Confiscation of or damage to photo, video or audio apparatus and computers – 2 (PC of Maxim Yefimov, freelance journalist, Republic of Karelia; video camera of Alexei Rassolov, freelance journalist, Moscow Region).

Administrative pressure (unplanned inspections by sanitary, fire or tax inspectors) – 5 (Nastoyashcheye Vremya newspaper, Makhachkala, Dagestan – 4 instances; Chas Pik newspaper, Sverdlovsk Region).

Other forms of pressure or infringement of journalists’ rights – 24.

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Erecting monument in memory of Dagestani journalists who died on duty: Selective approach

By Magomed Magomedov, GDF correspondent in North Caucasian Federal District

Dagestani President Magomedsalam Magomedov 5 May signed Decree No.78 “On Perpetuating the Memory of Dagestani Journalists Who Died”, which envisages the construction of a monument to republican journalists who died while performing their “civil and professional duty of fighting extremism and terrorism”.

Dagestan’s journalistic community, however, has mixed feelings about this decree. The need for such a monument has been discussed for quite a long time – but from the angle of commemorating not only the journalists who died in the fight against extremism and terrorism, but also those killed in different circumstances that still remain unclear because no due investigation of these cases has ever been carried out.

Biyakai Magomedov, chief editor of the Dagestani newspaper Chernovik, sees the presidential decree as “a provocation”.

“According to our sources, when the document requesting the erection of a monument to journalists was submitted to the presidential administration, it clearly stated that the project was meant to pay tribute to all of our colleagues who died tragically,” he said. “But having gone through the office of Dagestani State Secretary Takibat Makhmudova, the document was changed, and then endorsed by the president and published in its ‘anti-terrorist’ edition. The way I look at it, those who prepared the draft text of the decree, simply set the republic’s president up.”

 

About two dozen journalists have been killed under different circumstances in Dagestan since 1991, and barely a third of them can be listed among those who died fighting terrorism and extremism. If viewed in the light of the presidential decree, all the other journalists, whose personal courage and professionalism remain unquestionable, appear not to deserve commemoration. For example, the late two Ministers for Ethnic Affairs, Religion, Information and External Relations, Magomed-Salikh Gusayev and Zagir Arukhov; ex-Director of Dagestan State TV/Radio Company Gadzhi Abashilov; ORT correspondent Ilyas Shurpayev; newspaper Istina’s executive secretary Malik Akhmedilov; Chernovik founder Khadzhimurad Kamalov and other late journalists belong within this category of “the unworthy”.

 

Chernovik staffers are now busy establishing a Khadzhimurad Kamalov Fund, which will not only support young talent but will also finance the construction of an alternative monument – one that would pay tribute to all colleagues who died performing their professional duty, Biyakai Magomedov said.

Governor-elect in Omsk encourages media to tell “whole, even if bitter, truth”

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The Omsk Region’s governor-elect intends to rely on media assistance in bridging the gap between the ruling elite and ordinary people.

Speaking at his first news conference on 10 May, the new regional head (to be inaugurated on 30 May) made several pretty surprising statements concerning his vision of relationships within the government-press-population triangle – nothing nearly like what the journalists used to hear from his predecessor Leonid Polezhayev during his 22-year tenure as governor.

Only with the help of independent media, the new governor said, will the administration be able to strike and maintain constructive dialogue with society, since lack of such dialogue is fraught with public protests. Therefore, all the regional media (about 500, taking web publications into account) have to be “equal and equidistant from power”.

Actually, Nazarov’s statements were anything but sensational, considering President Medvedev’s 30 November 2010 address to the Federal Assembly, in which he called on the regional authorities to get rid of non-core assets, among them newspapers. But none of the governors except Nazarov has so far been heard repeating those presidential words. In fact, Nazarov went even farth1er. “Journalists must write and show the truth, however bitter it may be,” he said. “Distortions and political orders are inadmissible.” It is this kind of truth that the Omsk residents need, Nazarov added, following up with a completely revolutionary idea, “The people need to understand they are not being ruled – it’s they who rule in real terms.”

As an example of an “impermissible gap between power and the people” Nazarov pointed to Vladimir Putin’s re-inauguration, during which all Moscow seemed to have died out.

As one of the first things to do, he will liquidate turnpikes near administration buildings, the new governor said. The Omsk Region residents look forward to some real change.

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

CPJ report names 10 most censored countries

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international NGO defending journalists and media worldwide, released its “Ten Most Censored Countries” report on 2 May, in which Belarus and Uzbekistan feature next to Equatorial Guinea, Burma, Saudi Arabia and Cuba. The “worst of the worst”, as regards media censorship, are Eritrea, North Korea, Syria and Iran.

The 10 most restricted countries employ a wide range of censorship techniques, “from the sophisticated blocking of websites and satellite broadcasts by Iran to the oppressive regulatory systems of Saudi Arabia and Belarus; from the dominance of state media in North Korea and Cuba to the crude tactics of imprisonment and violence in Eritrea, Uzbekistan, and Syria,” the document says. Besides, “one trait they have in common is some form of authoritarian rule. Their leaders are in power by dint of monarchy, family dynasty, coup d'état, rigged election, or some combination thereof… Indeed, disputed legitimacy of leadership is at the heart of censorship and media crackdowns in many places.”

In Uzbekistan, the report says, there are no independent news agencies. Freelance reporters working for foreign agencies are subject to prosecution. “Internet access to independent news websites and online broadcasters is blocked, as are some keywords and topics on individual Web pages. Foreign journalists are denied visas and accreditation.”

In Belarus, Lukashenko’s “wide-ranging anti-press tactics have included politicised prosecution of journalists; imprisonments; travel bans against critical reporters; debilitating raids on independent newsrooms; wholesale confiscation of newspapers and seizure of reporting equipment,” the CPJ points out. Journalistic work without state accreditation is banned, and the TV companies are either state-owned or state-controlled. “In 2010, Lukashenko signed a law to censor the Internet and created an agency to implement the law… Shortly after it was created, the agency blacklisted independent and opposition websites. Public access to the Internet requires a government-issued ID, which allows the KGB to monitor users,” the report says.

“To determine this list, CPJ staff judged all countries according to 15 benchmarks. They included blocking of websites; restrictions on electronic recording and dissemination; the absence of privately owned or independent media; restrictions on journalist movements; license requirements to conduct journalism; security service monitoring of journalists; jamming of foreign broadcasts; blocking of foreign correspondents. All of the countries on the list met at least 10 benchmarks,” the report says.

Full text

 

Kostroma prosecutor’s reply to GDF inquiry

In January, Albert Stepantsev, general director of the newspaper Moy Gorod-Kostroma (MGK), complained to the Glasnost Defence Foundation that his media outlet, which had operated only for six months by that time, had been subject “to incessant inspections by different controlling agencies; furthermore, suspicious characters identifying themselves now as OBEP [task police force against economic crime] servicemen, now as prosecutors, started calling and going round the offices of advertisers to tell them MGK had not paid the taxes, was facing numerous legal charges, and that they should immediately cease co-operating with us” (for details, see Digest 554). The GDF filed an official inquiry with the prosecutor’s office in Kostroma, Central Russia, and recently received an official reply – as it often happens, purely formal and uninformative – the text of which is featured below:

“This is to inform you that your appeal, forwarded to the city prosecutor’s office in Kostroma by the regional prosecutor’s office, has been considered, and the facts you cited have been checked.

“As established, on 2 November 2011 Operative Investigative Unit No. 1 of the RF Interior Ministry’s Agency against Economic Crime and Corruption (hereinafter, Unit 1) received orders from S. I. Kolesov, director of the Regional Security Department, to check MGK’s reported attempts to evade paying taxes on the cash proceeds this public and political newspaper had received from retail sales of its issues featuring commercial ads.

“Unit 1 officers launched a probe, in the course of which they asked MGK General Director Albert Stepantsev to provide notarized copies of his company’s accounting books (Account Form 50, with data for 1 June-11 November 2011). Stepantsev refused to provide the said data on the pretext that our request was ‘ungrounded’ and that ‘an inspection is not a reason for disclosure of this kind of information’.

“On 11 November, officers of Unit 1 asked Stepantsev again to provide copies of the above-mentioned documents.

“In line with Article 13.1.4 of the Federal Law ‘On the Police’ (No.3-FZ of 7 February 2011), any official conducting an inspection under Articles 144-145 of the RF Code of Criminal Procedure is entitled to request copies of documents and other requisite information from public associations, organisations and individual citizens. Consequently, Unit 1 officers’ repeated requests for MGK to supply the data they needed for inspection-related purposes were perfectly lawful and not subject to any measures of prosecutor response.

“The Kostroma Investigative Committee is currently investigating alleged attempts to interfere with lawful professional journalistic activities in light of Articles 144-145 of the RF Code of Criminal Procedure.

“A copy of your appeal has been sent to the Investigative Committee for purposes of taking your arguments into consideration.

“In the event of finding this reply or the above-described decisions irrelevant, you may challenge them before the higher-standing prosecutor’s office or a court of law.”

[Signed: Kostroma Deputy Prosecutor V. A. Polupanov]

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