Дайджест
16 Августа 2012 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 578

13 August 2012

 

STORY OF THE WEEK

Roskomnadzor official in St. Petersburg comes out in support of censorship

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

Speaking at hearings in the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region on 7 August, an official of the regional branch of Roskomnadzor [federal agency overseeing the sphere of public communications] pointed to restrictions that the Personal Data Law imposes on the journalists. Mentioning a person’s name in the media is possible only with the consent of the person concerned, and once a report is published, the editor must, at such person’s request, delete all such personal data, the official said. Observers see this statement as an attempt to revive censorship and an encroachment upon freedom of expression.

Censorship is fully and absolutely banned in Russia (under Article 29.5 of the RF Constitution) as a guarantee of media freedom. A provision to the same effect, “Inadmissibility of Censorship” is contained in Article 3 of the RF Media Law.

 

This notwithstanding, politicians and government officials have called, time and again, for restoring censorship in one form or another. They have referred to so-called “preliminary” censorship (reconciling the content of would-be publications with authorised government agencies), as well as “follow-up” censorship involving sanctions for “wrong” content published.

Small wonder, therefore, that the regional Roskomnadzor official said in the arbitration court that the media are not entitled to mention one’s name without one’s consent. Significantly, this statement was made against the backdrop of a news agency’s publishing a specific judicial decision. One may as well note that this reference to the Personal Data Law made by the official, who is a lawyer by training, looked all the more irrelevant since the said law directly pronounces publication of official documents, including court decisions, as an exception, meaning that deleting the personal data of key trial participants (plaintiffs, defendants, the accused, third parties, etc.) is not legally required.

Furthermore, the Roskomnadzor official insisted in the presence of the GDF correspondent that the media are obliged to delete a citizen’s personal data at his/her first request. He could not explain how this could possibly be done in the event of a newspaper report published or a TV/radio story already put on the air – he just said with regret that this, indeed, might be difficult to do. Clearly, he also failed in justifying his call for “follow-up” censorship (otherwise known as “punitive” censorship) by reference to any effective legal norm.

Hearing this kind of statements from a lawyer representing the agency supposed to enforce legislation regulating the media performance is indeed surprising. Unless his arbitrary interpretation of the relevant legislative provisions is refuted by higher-standing government officials and courts of law, the journalists will find themselves de facto unable to provide comprehensive and unbiased information of what goes on in and beyond this country.

 

RUSSIA

Editor in Kurgan Region disallowed to travel after winning legal claim against governor

By Vladimir Golubev, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

After the district newspaper Golos Tselinnika was awarded a diploma in the 4th National Competition “Information Space: Power-Society-Media” in the “Socially Important Projects” nomination, its editor Valentina Shepeleva was denied the opportunity to receive the award at a ceremony at the RF Federation Council, since the newspaper’s owner – the Kurgan Region Press and Media Committee (chairman – Denis Litovchenko) – decided that her trip to Moscow would be “inexpedient”.

Shepeleva has not been permitted to travel anywhere ever since she won a case in court against the regional governor. As the GDF reported last year, Kurgan Governor Oleg Bogomolov decreed to fire the editor on 19 August 2011 under Article 278.2 of the RF Labour Code without a notice or explanation. A court of law reinstated her later, but the authorities are still frowning at Shepeleva.

For example, the Press and Media Committee disallowed her trip to Yekaterinburg to attend a seminar on newspaper design organised by the Guild of Periodical Press Publishers. Sadly, the ban affected two other district newspaper editors from the Kurgan Region: “No one goes at all!” the officials said.

Meanwhile, the second prize won by Golos Tselinnika in a prestigious national competition once again showed that editor Shepeleva is a very good professional, which fact her employer will have to acknowledge sooner or later. The “Trans-Urals Backwoods” social project, which was submitted for the competition, is co-sponsored by Regional Duma Deputy Vladimir Menshchikov. The journalists and the MP plan to go around 25 godforsaken villages in the Tselinny District, each with a population under 200, to tell the readers how people live there. They are taking along community service officials, sales representatives, hairdressers, etc; organise competitions; plant trees to start would-be parks – a real feast for local residents! Some, though, do not seem to find this initiative all that amusing…

Journalist tried on “extortion” charges in Chelyabinsk

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Traktorozavodsky district court in Chelyabinsk has held the first hearing of the case of journalist Andrei Koretsky, who is accused of extortion under Article 163.2 of the RF Criminal Code. He is in for up to seven years in jail and a fine of up to half a million roubles.

Legal proceedings against Koretsky were started after the journalist received at home a large amount of money from a representative of the Kasli district administration head Aleksandr Korobeinikov. Audio and video recordings of the money changing hands gave the investigators reasons to believe Koretsky extorted money from Korobeinikov for stopping to publish critical materials about the district leader’s activities.

“Between March 2010 and 9 February 2011, Koretsky demanded that Korobeinikov, whom he knew personally, give him 400,000 roubles to prevent publication of smearing and other information that might seriously damage the victim’s rights and lawful interests,” the indictment said.

The journalist, for his part, insists that Korobeinikov owed him that money as a reward for running the would-be district head’s election campaign. The trumped-up charges were brought against him one year later, with no proofs of his guilt available, which means he can and must be acquitted in line with the presumption of innocence, Koretsky said, adding that he sees it all as an attempt to have him punished for criticism of the authorities.

His arrest was only a pretext for the closure of an opposition website featuring information about the poor performance of regional administrators, Koretsky said.

Moscow Helsinki Group member Alexei Simonov, Chairman of the Council on Glasnost at the Judicial Department of the RF Supreme Court, stood up for the journalist by providing a written (critical) assessment of his indictment.

Hearings are to be resumed on 30 August. The Glasnost Defence Foundation will follow the proceedings closely.

United Russia activist’s legal claim against blogger turned down in Chelyabinsk

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

The Sovetsky district court in Chelyabinsk has turned down a legal claim in defence of honour and dignity, lodged by Aleksandr Galkin, leader of the youth wing of the United Russia party (MGER), against political scientist and university lecturer Andrei Lavrov, who allegedly spread “smearing” information about him in his web blog. The plaintiff demanded a disclaimer and 100,000 roubles in moral damages from the defendant.

In the form of a free and easy “kitchen chat”, Lavrov described in his blog a MGER-adopted scheme to extort money from students with different levels of income. He had learned about it from angry students whose names the blogger declined to disclose. The scheme was in effect throughout the period between the parliamentary and presidential elections (December 2011 - March 2012).

Four months later, Lavrov was summoned to court to defend against Galkin’s legal claim. He had to turn to experts and lawyers for help and to waste time attending court hearings regularly. Both parties presented linguistic expert conclusions. Galkin, specifically, claimed hurt by Lavrov’s calling him “an efficient manager”. This “reduces the basic functions of the leader of a regional branch of MGER to, and compares them with, those of a financier or a business manager,” Galkin’s expert pointed out.

A few days ago, having considered all the findings presented by experts, the Sovetsky district court rejected Galkin’s honour-and-dignity protection claim. The plaintiff did not rule out he might challenge this decision in a court of appeals.

Reporter in Murmansk Region punched in face for refusing to erase photo images

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

The annual gathering of bikers in the Murmansk Region ended sadly for some of those who covered it. Specifically, Denis Prokopenko of the M51.ru news portal was taking pictures of the proceedings with his cell phone. He did not photograph sport events alone. Toward the end of the competition some young fans had got so drunk that an ambulance had to be called to help them. All those scenes, none too pleasant – a dead drunk teenager, the arrival of the ambulance, a public scandal – were recorded by the reporter.

The organisers of the bike show, who did not seem to care much about the helpless state of the intoxicated guy or the scandal that followed, got really concerned over the photo images in Prokopenko’s cell phone. Bike show director Mikhail Kraplya demanded that the journalist erase the images from his camera’s memory stick. The reporter refused to, saying he was fulfilling an editorial assignment. A few of Kraplya’s friends popped up instantly, saying that the reporter had better do what he is told to, rather than continue the conflict. Prokopenko pretended to erase the images, which only made his opponents still angrier. They punched him in the face, then took away his phone and destroyed the memory stick. Kraplya warned the journalist against reporting the beating to the police, since his eyewitnesses would insist, if need be, that Prokopenko himself was to blame – they might even show the “bruises” he had allegedly left on their faces. After this humiliating speech, Kraplya told the reporter to get lost.

The journalist’s beating was not the sole incident in need of investigation: a few minutes later, a teenager who took the risk of arguing with the show organisers got it hot, too.

The editors of the M51.ru are preparing a report to the police.

Millions of media roubles vanish into thin air in Omsk

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

After a cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the regional governor’s replacement in Omsk, new cabinet officials have discovered evidence of a strange transaction with a TV company, made by their predecessors.

Regional lawyers and economists submitted to the prosecutor’s office for scrutiny the findings of a check-up of the sale of the OTV-3 television company in 2011, when the regional administration led by Governor Polezhayev had a controlling interest in that company. This controlling stock was put up for auction after the-then President Dmitry Medvedev pointed out in his address to the Federal Assembly that regional administrations should get rid of assets – such as mass media – that did not directly pertain to their range of duties. Of a variety of media controlled by the regional authorities, only one TV channel was selected for privatisation, which had felt relatively free to provide truthful coverage of local developments because more than a fourth of its stock was owned by the independent news agency KP-Master.

Early last year, the channel was sold for a suspiciously modest amount – 24 million roubles – to a little-known businesswoman from neighbouring Novosibirsk. That was a real bargain for her: shortly afterward she resold the television company to the owners of REN-TV for 120 million roubles.

The new governor Viktor Nazarov, inaugurated on 30 May this year, initiated an inspection of the legality of transactions involving regional assets, made over the last three years of the previous governor’s term. The sale of OTV-3 was among such transactions.

There are reasons to believe the auction was not fully fair: “some of the potential bidders may have found themselves under pressure, which resulted in the company’s sale at the initial price, five times cheaper than its market value,” the regional administration reported on its web portal on 10 August.

The materials gathered and analysed by specialists have now been submitted to the prosecutor’s office, which is to find out who in person was responsible for the tens of millions of roubles underpaid into the regional budget as a result of the unfair deal.

 

BELARUS

Journalists detained at police station in Vitebsk for several hours

Journalists Olga Starostina and Denis Mikhailov were detained in downtown Vitebsk on 9 August while preparing a TV story about parliamentary elections, the Belarussian Journalists’ Association reported on its website.

The journalists were detained by plain-clothed men, who drove them to the Zheleznodorozhny district police headquarters to keep them there for several hours while a protocol was being made about their work without accreditation as a foreign media agency (BelSat TV Channel). Also, Starostina was lectured on the inadmissibility of using her camera in the city centre because of an official ban.

“I see it as an attempt to intimidate me,” she said. “Evidently, they are seeking to block independent media coverage of the elections.”

[BelaPAN news agency report, 9 August]

 

KAZAKHSTAN

Journalist ruthlessly beaten near Astana

Ularbek Baitailak, a journalist and National Archives manager, was ruthlessly beaten near his home in a suburb of Astana late on 7 August – most likely, around midnight – and dispatched by an ambulance to hospital with serious injuries toward the morning.

“He contributed reports to the newspapers Dat and Tortinshi Bilik (“The Fourth Estate”), and to Altyn Tamyr magazine,” his colleague Zangar Karimkhan of The Ult Times newspaper said. “The attackers must have thought he was dead, so they left him alone in the street – still worse, they put stones over him.”

Baitailak was placed in the Traumatology Clinic in Astana.

[Adil Soz Foundation report, 9 August]

 

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Maritime Roskomnadzor department confers with journalists

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

The Maritime Region Roskomnadzor Department has held a conference with the editors and journalists of local media, to inform them that the number of print media in the region has been shrinking while that of news websites growing; that no censorship is practised; that alleged extremist activity cases are handled by the police, and so on.

Until recently, Maritime media were numerous – much more numerous than in neighbouring regions. But their number has been rapidly shrinking: from 562 registered in 1009 to 431 in 2010, 386 in 2011 and only 375 this year. More than 60% of the terminated media outlets were closed by their own founders; many ceased to be released de facto, causing Roskomnadzor to go to court to have their registration cancelled. Of course, new media outlets have emerged too, with 49 of them registered in 2009, 39 in 2010, 41 in 2011 and only 19 this year so far. There are media established specially in support of election campaigns; those are short-lived: they can be suspended for a year, then resume operation, etc. Local supplements to federal newspapers have grown numerically, as have bulletins carrying commercial ads.

“Media owners have attempted to play tricks, printing the main publication in one printing house and a supplement (with a different circulation and different number) in another, which actually means we deal in that event with a totally different newspaper,” Roskomnadzor unit head Sergei Tretyakov commented. “We’ve been telling editors if they want to release a supplement, it must not have separate output data. We’ve seen a respectable Vladivostok-based newspaper starting to issue a supplement with a different circulation and different number – that is, to release another, unregistered, newspaper. The editor of one newspaper that issued this kind of a supplement for youth had to pay a fine for that. Claims about ‘the urgent need to publish additional information beyond the agreed volume’ won’t be accepted, ever.”

“The number of news web portals has been growing,” Tretyakov said. “Existing media regulations have adopted new terms, such as ‘TV channel’, ‘radio channel’, etc.; many media have launched their own websites and network publications. Many print media have websites of their own, which by 99% have no media status.”

In addition to not observing existing output data requirements, many editors fail to submit the mandatory copy of each newspaper issue to the Federal Press Agency and the Chamber of Books, Roskomnadzor pointed out.

Asked by journalists how many instances of censorship have been registered since 2008, Tretyakov said his agency does not deal with those issues – the question should be addressed to the prosecutor’s office.

Journalist Anastasia Popova noted she had moved to the newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti after finding herself censored by the previous newspaper’s editor. “Censorship is an offence against society which the authorities treat as a mob of imbeciles,” she said. “If there is an official agency supposed to enforce media regulations, I don’t see why it should act as a nitpicker in respect of media editors and journalists instead of stepping in to curtail socially harmful behaviour of those in power.”

Andrei Ostrosvky, editor of Novaya Gazeta vo Vladivostoke, asked Tretyakov what would be his agency’s reaction to his deciding to publish, for example, Pushkin’s “Tale About a Priest and His Hired Hand Balda” – wouldn’t the poem fall under the category of “extremist” or “terrorist” publications?

“A publication can be qualified as extremist only by a court of law – we don’t have the relevant powers,” the Roskomnadzor official answered. “We send materials out for professional linguists to check whether or not they contain extremist statements. In the Maritime Region, Roskomnadzor has never once asked a court to qualify a publication as extremist – we’ve only seen media mentioning extremist organisations without a special note that they are such, which is ‘a must’ in this kind of cases.”

Naturally, the conferees discussed law violations committed by the media, Arsenyevskiye Vesti among them, in the process of election campaigning.

“Yes, our newspaper was listed among the violators,” Popova acknowledged. “We may indeed have done something wrong by placing under [film director Stanislav] Govorukhin’s statement about Putin’s ‘building a normal civilized system of corruption in Russia’ our call on electors to ‘vote for normal, civilized corruption’.”

The issue of Internet chat forums was high on the agenda. Asked what is to be done with “wrong” comments on media website forums, Tretyakov said, “Roskomnadzor scans the websites registered as media” (as noted above, most media’s websites have no media status). As regards apparently extremist comments, agency specialists send the chief editor a notice saying that unless such comments are removed within the next 24 hours, the media outlet will be officially warned. Also, they report to the police, who then start the search for the author of the extremist comment. That is why journalists once again reminded their readers that the responsibility for chat forum postings will be borne by them, not by the newspaper, which will not be able to protect them from prosecution for extremism.

 

NEWS FROM PARTNERS

2012 A. Sakharov competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience” continues

The Jury continues accepting works submitted for the 2012 Andrei Sakharov Competition “Journalism as an Act of Conscience”. The submission deadline is November 1.

The Andrei Sakharov Award “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” is conferred on journalists for publications reflecting the authors’ active life stands consistently translated into their highly professional work, and for defending the values Dr. Andrei D. Sakharov used to defend during his lifetime.

The materials submitted for the competition should have been published between October 15, 2011 and October 15, 2012 in Russian print and Internet-based media. Candidates for the award may be nominated by editorial boards and individual Russian citizens.

All materials must be submitted in print or electronic format (on diskettes or CDs, or as e-mail messages sent to fond@gdf.ru or boris@gdf.ru). Print versions shall be mailed to: Glasnost Defence Foundation, 4, Zubovsky Boulevard, Office 432, 119992, Moscow, Russia, with a note: “Andrei Sakharov Competition ‘Journalism as an Act of Conscience’”.

Contact phone: (+7 495) 637-4947.

Journalists’ Union, Moscow Conservatoire to hold charity concert

On 8 September, which is International Journalists’ Solidarity Day, the Secretariat of the RF Journalists’ Union and the Moscow State Conservatoire will stage a concert at the Conservatoire’s Grand Hall at 13, Bolshaya Nikitskaya St. in memory of the journalists who died performing their duty.

Taking part in the concert will be the “New Russia” State Symphony Orchestra directed by Yuri Bashmet (conductor – Anatoly Levin; soloists – Yekaterina Derzhavina and Alexei Volodin); and prose writer and poet Dmitry Bykov.

The orchestra will play Symphony No.5 by D. Shostakovich and Mozart’s Concerto for Two Claviers; and excerpts from Bykov’s poems “A Chilly Day’s Warm Night” and “The Twelfth Ballad” will be recited.

The concert begins at 7 p.m.

Tickets can be booked until 20 August in the booking office at 11/13, Bolshaya Nikitskaya St.; after 20 August – in the Grand Hall’s booking office at 13, Bolshaya Nikitskaya St. (admittance through the Grand Hall’s private entrance).

All the proceeds from the concert will be directed in support of murdered journalists’ families.

Contact phones: (+7 495) 637 23 95, (+7 495) 637 22 60

 

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitoring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.

Contacts:

Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 432, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or 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